According to the American Kidney Fund, approximately 37 million Americans have kidney disease. Individuals in the early stages of kidney disease often do not present any symptoms, making these conditions difficult to identify. (2) Healthy kidneys, two bean-shaped organs found below the rib cage on either side of the spine, are essential to filtering waste and water from your blood, as well as removing waste and excess fluid by producing urine. (3)(15) Lifestyle modifications, including diet and dietary kidney supplements, can support your kidney health and may help prevent chronic kidney disease.
What is chronic kidney disease?
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is an umbrella term for any condition resulting in kidney damage and reduced kidney function over time. CKD may progress through five stages over time, and can eventually lead to stage five, known as end-stage renal disease (ESRD). ESRD is characterized by total kidney failure and requires dialysis treatment or a kidney transplant. (17)
Chronic kidney disease stages
The stages of chronic kidney disease include:
- Chronic kidney disease stage 1, which is characterized by kidney damage, normal kidney function, and persistent elevated protein in the urine for at least three months
- Chronic kidney disease stage 2, which is characterized by kidney damage, mild loss of kidney function, and persistent elevated protein in the urine for at least three months
- Chronic kidney disease stage 3, which is characterized by mild to severe loss of kidney function
- Chronic kidney disease stage 4, which is characterized by severe loss of kidney function
- Chronic kidney disease stage 5, which is characterized by kidney failure that requires dialysis or organ transplant (17)
The following table outlines the characteristics of each chronic kidney disease stage.
Chronic kidney disease causes and risk factors
There are several causes and risk factors for chronic kidney disease, including:
- Certain autoimmune conditions (e.g., Goodpasture syndrome, lupus nephritis) (16)
- Certain infections (e.g., urinary tract infections) (14)(16)
- Certain genetic disorders (16)
- Certain medications (e.g., acetaminophen, aspirin, lithium) (5)
- Diabetes (3)(16)
- Dysbiosis (imbalanced intestinal microbiota) (9)
- Family history of CKD (3)
- Heavy metal poisoning (16)
- Hypertension (high blood pressure), damaged blood vessels (7)(16)
- Moderate to heavy alcohol intake (27)
- Smoking (7)
- Overweight and obesity (3)
Signs of chronic kidney disease
Individuals with CKD may not experience or notice any symptoms, particularly in the early stages. Advanced-stage chronic kidney disease symptoms include:
- Chest pain
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty sleeping
- Dry skin
- Increased or decreased frequency of urination
- Itching and numbness
- Muscle cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
- Reduced appetite
- Edema (swelling) of the feet and ankles
- Weight loss (18)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that approximately half of individuals with severely reduced kidney function who are not receiving dialysis are unaware they have CKD. (3) Specific urine and blood tests that assess kidney damage and filtration rate are used to identify CKD. (3)(26)
CKD has been associated with certain health complications, such as anemia, depression, stroke, increased risk of infections, and imbalanced mineral levels in the blood. (3) Individuals with CKD are also at an increased risk of premature mortality associated with cardiovascular disease and cancer, making it critical to address CKD as early as possible. (26)
How to improve kidney health
Although certain risk factors for CKD may be beyond your control, you can reduce your overall risk by managing conditions that may contribute to CKD and implementing healthy lifestyle changes. (14) Additionally, chronic kidney disease treatment may include certain lifestyle and dietary interventions.
1. Lifestyle for kidney health
For CKD prevention, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends quitting smoking, limiting alcohol intake, and working with your healthcare practitioner to achieve a healthy weight. (14)
Did you know? Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) use has been associated with acute kidney injury. Speak with your healthcare provider to understand the benefits and risks of any medications. (25)
2. Exercise and kidney health
Research has demonstrated several benefits of physical activity for individuals with CKD. A recent meta-analysis found that aerobic exercise is associated with improved cardiorespiratory function, exercise duration, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels, and quality of life in patients with CKD. (20) Physical activity can also contribute to prevention by improving metabolic risk factors, which may support healthy kidney function. (24)
3. Kidney health diet
Specific dietary patterns that may prevent and address kidney disease include the Mediterranean diet (4) and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. (21) Both of these diets involve a low to moderate intake of protein, which has been associated with delaying the progression of CKD. (4) One meta-analysis identified healthy dietary patterns that were associated with lower mortality rate in individuals with CKD. The evidence suggests that the best foods for kidney health include vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains, and cereals, all of which are excellent sources of dietary fiber. Foods to avoid with chronic kidney disease include red meat, salt, and refined sugars. (11)
Kidney health supplements
Outlined below are several supplement ingredients that have been shown to improve kidney problems. It’s important to note that the National Kidney Foundation has identified a list of dietary supplements that may be harmful for individuals with CKD, including supplements containing potassium, phosphorus, and several medicinal herbs. (19) If you’re a patient interested in using supplements for chronic kidney disease, we always recommend consulting with your integrative healthcare practitioner first.
1. Alpha lipoic acid
Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is an antioxidant that may help address one of the complications seen in kidney disease, cardiovascular disease (CVD). A randomized controlled trial in patients undergoing hemodialysis found that ALA supplementation may increase the activity of certain antioxidant enzymes that protect against oxidative stress and oxidative disorders, including CVD. (12)
Andrographis paniculata, commonly referred to as andrographis, is a medicinal herb that contains andrographolide and arabinogalactan proteins, two active components. Animal studies suggest that these components may reduce hepatic renal (liver kidney) alcohol toxicity. This means there may be potential for andrographis to protect kidneys against the harmful effects of alcohol. However, further research is needed. (23)
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Moringa oleifera, a plant native to India, has nutrient-dense leaves that are used for their therapeutic properties. Research in animals suggests that moringa may prevent kidney problems, as moringa-supplemented diets were found to decrease blood levels of urea and creatinine (waste products). (6) Additionally, animal studies demonstrate that moringa leaf extract may protect against kidney toxicity caused by acetaminophen, a common over-the-counter medication known as Tylenol or Paracetamol. (10)
N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is an amino acid and a precursor to glutathione, a major antioxidant in the body that targets oxygen radicals. (13) A four-month trial assessed the effects of NAC supplementation in patients undergoing hemodialysis. The findings suggest that NAC may benefit hemodialysis patients by reducing oxidative stress and improving outcomes of uremic anemia, a complication of CKD. (8)
Scientific literature suggests that dysbiosis is associated with increased urea toxin levels that may accelerate CKD development. One meta-analysis assessed the effects of probiotic supplementation for at least four weeks on individuals with CKD. The analysis concluded that supplementation may protect the intestinal barrier by reducing levels of a urea toxin called p-cresyl sulfate and increasing the levels of interleukin (IL)-6, (9) a signaling protein that has been shown to promote the growth and regeneration of cells lining the intestines. (28)
Resveratrol, a polyphenol found in berries, grapes, and peanuts, exerts antioxidant, cardioprotective, and kidney-protective activity. In animal models, resveratrol has been shown to protect against various kidney problems including drug-induced injury, diabetic neuropathy, and hyperuricemic injury (from elevated uric acid levels). (1) Researchers propose that resveratrol may target the inflammation and oxidative stress associated with CKD progression, but clinical trials are needed. (22)
The bottom line
CKD commonly goes unnoticed and as a result, is left untreated. You can support healthy kidney function and reduce your risk of CKD by implementing the dietary and lifestyle changes outlined above. Consider working with an integrative healthcare practitioner to develop your individual wellness plan.
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- Albertoni, G., & Schor, N. (2015). Resveratrol plays important role in protective mechanisms in renal disease – mini-review. Jornal Brasileiro de Nefrologia, 37(1), 106–114.
- American Kidney Fund. (n.d.). Kidney disease. Retrieved from http://www.kidneyfund.org/assets/pdf/kidney-disease-statistics.pdf
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, February 7). Chronic kidney disease basics. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/kidneydisease/basics.html
- Chauveau, P., Aparicio, M., Bellizzi, V., Campbell, K., Hong, X., Johansson, L., … Carrero, J. J. (2017). Mediterranean diet as the diet of choice for patients with chronic kidney disease. Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation, 33(5), 725–735.
- Ghane Shahrbaf, F., & Assadi, F. (2015). Drug-induced renal disorders. Drug-Induced Renal Disorders, 57–60.
- Gopalakrishnan, L., Doriya, K., & Kumar, D. S. (2016). Moringa oleifera: A review on nutritive importance and its medicinal application. Food Science and Human Wellness, 5(2), 49–56.
- Haroun, M. K., Jaar, B. G., Hoffman, S. C., Comstock, G. W., Klag, M. J., & Coresh, J. (2003). Risk factors for chronic kidney disease: A prospective study of 23,534 men and women in Washington County, Maryland. Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, 14(11), 2934–2941.
- Hsu, S.-P., Chiang, C.-K., Yang, S.-Y., & Chien, C.-T. (2010). N-acetylcysteine for the management of anemia and oxidative stress in hemodialysis patients. Nephron Clinical Practice, 116(3), c207–c216.
- Jia, L., Jia, Q., Yang, J., Jia, R., & Zhang, H. (2018). Efficacy of probiotics supplementation on chronic kidney disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Kidney and Blood Pressure Research, 43(5), 1623–1635.
- Karthivashan, G., Kura, A. U., Arulselvan, P., Md. Isa, N., & Fakurazi, S. (2016). The modulatory effect of Moringa oleifera leaf extract on endogenous antioxidant systems and inflammatory markers in an acetaminophen-induced nephrotoxic mice model. PeerJ, 4, e2127.
- Kelly, J. T., Palmer, S. C., Wai, S. N., Ruospo, M., Carrero, J.-J., Campbell, K. L., & Strippoli, G. F. M. (2016). Healthy dietary patterns and risk of mortality and ESRD in CKD: A meta-analysis of cohort studies. Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, 12(2), 272–279.
- Mahdavi, R., khabbazi, T., & Safa, J. (2019). Alpha lipoic acid supplementation improved antioxidant enzyme activities in hemodialysis patients. International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research, 89(3–4), 161–167.
- Mokhtari, V., Afsharian, P., Shahhoseini, M., Kalantar, S. M., & Moini, A. (2017). A review on various uses of n-acetyl cysteine. Cell Journal, 19(1), 11–17.
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease. (2016, October). Preventing chronic kidney disease. Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/chronic-kidney-disease-ckd/prevention
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (n.d.). Kidney disease. Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2016a, October). Causes of chronic kidney disease. Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/chronic-kidney-disease-ckd/causes
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2016b, December). Kidney disease statistics for the United States. Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-statistics/kidney-disease
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2017, June). What is chronic kidney disease? Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/chronic-kidney-disease-ckd/what-is-chronic-kidney-disease
- National Kidney Foundation. (2019, April). Herbal supplements and kidney disease. Retrieved from https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/herbalsupp
- Pei, G., Tang, Y., Tan, L., Tan, J., Ge, L., & Qin, W. (2019). Aerobic exercise in adults with chronic kidney disease (CKD): a meta-analysis. International Urology and Nephrology, 51(10), 1787–1795.
- Rebholz, C. M., Crews, D. C., Grams, M. E., Steffen, L. M., Levey, A. S., Miller, E. R., III, … Coresh, J. (2016). DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet and risk of subsequent kidney disease. American Journal of Kidney Diseases, 68(6), 853–861.
- Saldanha, J. F., Leal, V. de O., Stenvinkel, P., Carraro-Eduardo, J. C., & Mafra, D. (2013). Resveratrol: Why is it a promising therapy for chronic kidney disease patients? Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2013, 1–6.
- Singha, P. K., Roy, S., & Dey, S. (2007). Protective activity of andrographolide and arabinogalactan proteins from Andrographis paniculata Nees. against ethanol-induced toxicity in mice. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 111(1), 13–21.
- Stump C. S. (2011). Physical activity in the prevention of chronic kidney disease. Cardiorenal Medicine, 1(3), 164–173.
- Ungprasert, P., Cheungpasitporn, W., Crowson, C. S., & Matteson, E. L. (2015). Individual non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and risk of acute kidney injury: A systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. European Journal of Internal Medicine, 26(4), 285–291.
- Webster, A. C., Nagler, E. V., Morton, R. L., & Masson, P. (2017). Chronic kidney disease. The Lancet, 389(10075), 1238–1252.
- White, S. L., Polkinghorne, K. R., Cass, A., Shaw, J. E., Atkins, R. C., & Chadban, S. J. (2009). Alcohol consumption and 5-year onset of chronic kidney disease: The AusDiab study. Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation, 24(8), 2464–2472.
- Xue, X., & Falcon, D. M. (2019). The role of immune cells and cytokines in intestinal wound healing. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 20(23), 6097.
I want a drug that can improve my kidney function
Hi Abdulai, thank you for reaching out. Unfortunately, we are unable to provide any specific medical recommendations. It is always best to speak to your healthcare provider for the best options for your unique health needs. Wishing you a safe and healthy week ahead.
Hi, do you know any supplement that can lower phosphorus or a calcium binder?
Hi Mariyam, thank you for reaching out. Unfortunately, we are unable to provide any specific medical recommendations. It is always best to speak to your healthcare provider for the best options for your unique health needs. Wishing you a safe and healthy week ahead.
Hi Abdukai, I am not a doctor. You can meditate for at least 30 minutes twice a day and eat a kidney friendly diet. Of course all the other healthy body stuff as well; drink enough water, exercise (ti chi) and eat a healthy kidney friendly diet. Do that and whatever your doctor says. I hope this helps.
Thank you for helpful article. Is there any indication which probiotics are best?
Hi Cat, thank you for your comment! It’s best to speak to a qualified healthcare practitioner about what they would recommend for you and your individual needs.
What supplement(s) help with general kidney health and kidney cysts?
Hi Vaso, thank you for your comment! The Kidney health supplements section of this article goes over supplement ingredients that have been shown to improve kidney health. It is best to speak with a qualified healthcare practitioner about what they would recommend for you and your individual needs. Wishing you a great day ahead, Vaso!
Have a look at Niacinamide
Hey there, where would I find a list of supplements to avoid for people with CKD?
Or is that the list above?
Thank you for your comment, Eric! We unfortunately are unable to provide any advice for your condition as we are not registered medical professionals (just the technology that supports them!).You might find this article from the Probiotic Supplements for Kidney Health helpful. You can check out the full article here:https://fullscript.com/blog/probiotic-suplements-for-kidney-health , as always we recommended reaching out to your healthcare provider for the best suitable treatment plan for your needs.
Only a change in diet can help your kidneys function better. Include foods in your diet that help build up your kidneys. After about 3 weeks following these natural and holistic suggestions my husband was able to reverse his kidney disease, his quality of life returned and every one of the symptoms have gone.
How To Trait Kidney Problem
Thank you for your comment!
We unfortunately are unable to provide any recommendation on which vitamins would be best for you as we are not registered medical professionals. We do recommend reaching out to your healthcare provider for the best suitable treatment plan for your needs as everyone is unique!
If you have any more questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our Support team: https://bit.ly/3e5sTWS
Thanks for sharing this information with us.
Thanks for sharing!