Care for Kidneys
There are, of course, more forms of kidney disorders than the ones we've discussed in this website. Furthermore, doctors recognize even more subdivisions of the forms discussed. But despite this ability to name and categorize, the medical profession is still at loggerheads as to the cause and treatment of Bright's disease.
Their much revered medical textbook of Cecil & Loeb ruefuly notes:
"In 1836 Richard Bright wrote: 'It is, indeed, an humiliating confession that, although much attention has been directed to this disease for nearly ten years. . . yet little or nothing has been done toward devising a method of permanent relief, when the disease has been confirmed, and no fixed plan has been laid down as affording a tolerable certainty of cure . . .'"More than a hundred years later we must amplify this apology of Bright with the equally humiliating confession that we, today, cannot cure the disease. Furthermore, the mechanism of its progression or spontaneous healing (our italics) remains obscure . . ."
Such an admission of failure is hardly in keeping with the tone of our title nor with the pages of nature's path . . . nor with Nature, herself. We would not have included it had not those two words "spontaneous healing" been sandwiched in. For it is this miraculous self-healing power of the body which has proven to be the only real basis for rational therapy—even though some medical textbooks choose to ignore it.
Despite this aura of uncertainty which clouds their chapter on kidney disease, most medical circles hold that nephritis can usually be traced to the presence of a "hemolytic (i.e., blood destroying) streptococcal infection—something as ordinary as tonsillitis, pharyingitis, sinusitis, grippe, scarlet fever, rheumatic fever and even the common cold! These infections give rise to certain antibodies in the Wood which are thought to be irritating to the delicate membranes of the kidneys.
This is a lovely theory but—the doctors admit—it does not explain two things: on the one hand, how come these infectious diseases do not always result in Bright's disease and, on the other, why are there cases of Bright's disease without any demonstrable proof of such preexisting infection?
Obviously, these exceptions do not fit
in with Koch's germ theory
of disease which holds that the germ must be present
in every case of the disease if it is to be named as the cause.
The "pre-existing" infection in kidney disease may be considered a
"triggering factor" but it cannot be considered the primary one. The
fact remains that strong, healthy
kidneys will defend themselves; weak
ones will be victims to the
"In the absence of specific therapy the treatment of nephritis must be largely symptomatic (i.e., directed towards sur-pressing symptoms) . . ."
The 'Sit-Tight' Theory
But, when the disease has become "latent" or "chronic" these doctors advise you to sit tight until such time as signs of the disease return. Then they will continue to treat the symptoms.
"In the latent stages of chronic nephritis," say Cecil & Loeb, "there are not therapeutic indications other than warning the patient against over-fatigue and ridding him of obvious foci of infection, particularly in the upper respiratory tract. Certainly, dietary restriction is not indicated."
And, meanwhile, the patient continues along the wrong course that earned him the kidney ailment in the first place.
It's in the dietary aspect of the treatment for kidney disease that most doctors disagree—as a recent symposium on "Nutrition and the Kidney" in the
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition will bear out. It's also where we disagree most with Cecil & Loeb.
In cases of acute disease, it's imperative to attend immediately to those factors which will quickly affect vital organs and prove fatal. In critical moments it's foolish to philosophize about the advise-ability of long-term treatment. Long-term treatment cannot work on a dead patient.
Long-term and Systemic
But, when the course of a disease is chronic—as is the usual course of kidney disease in the adult—it's the height of folly to sit back and wait to treat another crisis, another set of symptoms. We insist that the treatment of chronic kidney disease—as of all chronic disease— is long-term and systemic, designed to allow Nature to build the overall health of the body as well as of the affected parts.
And so, in regenerating chronically weakened kidneys, there are several factors which you should consider:
1. Your kidneys' work load must be lightened wherever possible so that they are given the chance to heal themselves;
2. You must maintain protein balance to keep up your general health but, on the other hand, you must avoid autointoxication from protein end products which may be retained in the blood because of your ailing kidneys' inability to excrete them;
3. You must correct the anemia and malnutrition which frequently accompany kidney ailments because of loss of appetite, vomiting, etc., for the sake of your overall health;
4. You must correct any edema or dropsical condition because of its effect on nutrition and vital organs but, on the other hand, you should drink liberal quantities of fluids because of your kidneys' lessened ability to form and excrete a concentrated urine;
5. You must alleviate or correct the high blood pressure which accompanies most forms of Bright's disease because of its effect on the kidneys and other vital organs.
Now, let's consider each of these separately.
Easing your kidneys' work load.
Many factors can increase your kidneys work: nutritional imbalance, starvation, lack of water, hard physical work or vigorous exercises and extremes of temperature. For example, just recently, Drs. Frederick Sargent and Robert E. Johnson, of the Department of Physiology of the University of Illinois, in an investigation conducted for the United States government, studied the effect of these different factors on the kidneys of 211 healthy young men. Each man was studied for an average of 41 days. These doctors were able to note the following: 1. Ketonuria (an excessive amount of ketone bodies in the urine resulting from excessive fat breakdown and leading to acidosis) can easily come about as a result of a high fat diet, or by complete fasting or starvation (when only water is taken in the diet), by exposure to cold and by hard work.
2. Protein in the urine—one of the first signs of kidney disorders—can be produced by an imbalanced diet, by vigorous exercise and by exposure to cold.
3. Blood and casts in the urine can be caused by a pure carbohydrate diet or by
complete fasting or starvation and, if the predisposition exists, it can be accentuated by moderate exercise.
4. A combination of chronic dehydration (lack of water) and a diet containing over 75 grams (approx. 2% oz.) of protein per day, will increase the amount of urea and other waste products in the blood.
5. Balanced diets, even though containing less calories than what is considered the "minimum daily requirements" by the National Research Council, very rarely produced any changes in the urine.
If these factors can produce such changes in the work of the healthy
kidneys of young en, imagine the damage they may cause to older,
weakened kidneys. Remember that tissue healing is materially delayed as
one grows older. It is foolish for you to cause your weakened kidneys
any unnecessary work, especially when the factors affecting them are so
easy to control. Remember it's much easier to guard yourself against
The classical treatment of bed rest and salt restriction for diseased kidneys, then, does not go far enough. Dr. T. Addis, a leading authority on kidney disorders, in more recent years, re-emphasized the importance of rest for ailing kidneys through a diet aimed at minimizing their excretory work. Addis reasoned that, since urea excretion increases with increases in the protein intake, the work of the kidneys was directly related to the amount of protein ingested.
Experimenting with rats, Addis showed that if 75% of the animal's kidney tissue was removed—a situation somewhat similar to an attack of acute nephritis in the human—the amount of urea in their blood increased progressively when the amount of protein in their diet was increased. Furthermore, the survival rate of these rats increased progressively when the protein in their diet was decreased.
Later workers (Fahr and Smadel) reported that rats with nephritis improved or recovered on a low protein diet but worsened and died on a high protein diet. Some doctors have objected to
plying these findings to human nephritis, but Addis has stated that "his clinical experiences of many years" seemed to confirm the need for protein restriction. Other recent studies by him, as well as by Camara, Reimer and Newburgh have shown that the work of the kidneys with normal or diseased kidneys increases with increases in the protein intake.
The findings in these studies do not come as a surprise to a Naturopath. As early as thirty or forty years ago, Professor Ehret, Louis Kuhne, Dr. Lindlahr, Dr. Benedict Lust, warned of the dangers of high protein diets, especially for diseased kidneys.
Most doctors today accept the need for protein restriction during the acute stages of adult nephritis but they disagree as to its value during the convalescent stage. Addis, however, in agreement with Ehret, Kuhne, Lindlahr, Lust, insists that it is necessary if complete healing is to take place.
In his treatment of the acute phase of nephritis, Addis recommends that only l/2 ounce of protein (or approximately 1/5 of the minimum daily requirements set by the National Research Council) be allowed in the diet. After the acute phase has been passed, you can increase the amount to 1 to 11/% ounces of protein (or approximately 50% of the minimum daily requirements). After that, you should not take larger amounts until repeated urinalyses show that complete healing has apparently taken place.
• Avoid high protein diets but be sure your daily menu includes the minimum requirements of the essential amino acids. These are less than what you think.
• Avoid salt if you suffer from edema (dropsy). This can have grave consequences not only on your kidneys but on your heart and blood vessels as well. Only two to three grams of sodium chloride daily are needed to maintain normal blood levels of these elements.
• Avoid hot spices and chemicals added to your food and in your environment. Your liver may no longer be able to handle them and the burden is passed on to your kidneys.
• Avoid dehydration. Your kidneys have to work more when urinary volume falls below 2/2 quarts during a 24 hour period. Make up for excessive losses of water through perspiration by increasing your fluid intake.
• Avoid infections, especially of the upper respiratory tract. The antibodies your body manufactures to fight off the infection can irritate delicate kidney membranes.
We discussed at great length what you could do to minimize your kidneys' work
load and so help them to get well. One of the points made was that infections, especially of the upper respiratory tract, further strained weak kidneys and so had to be avoided at all costs. The best way to do this, as we all know, is to build up body resistance. And this brings us to the second aspect of our program: providing your kidneys with tools for regeneration.
The first tool needed for building resistance to infection is vitamin C. Studies have shown that vitamin C is a veritable jack-of-all-trades when it comes to affording the body protection from disease.
Vitamin C acts as an over-all detoxifying agent, making whatever foreign substances enter the body from a virus to a chemical or a drug harmless, apparently, by simply combining with it. (Please note that even if the only drug you take is aspirin, it will increase your need for vitamin C since the vitamin will combine with the aspirin to detoxify it.)
Doctors have given vitamin C in massive therapeutic doses for such illnesses as meningitis, polio, virus pneumonia and other infectious diseases with amazing success. But massive dosing is one thing (and should only be tried under the care of a naturopath or physician) and prevention is another.
The first step in preventing infection is to saturate the tissues with vitamin G and then maintain them saturated with adequate daily amounts. The National Research Council recommends a minimum of 75 mg. of vitamin C daily for the average adult male and 70 mg. for the average female.* But illness and even such environmental factors as contact with toxic chemicals can increase your requirements enormously. Since very large amounts of natural vitamin C can be taken without harm—once the tissues are saturated, the excess is excreted—it would be a good idea to take two or three times this amount daily and double the dose when you know you've been exposed to infections or bad weather or if you've allowed yourself to become overtired.
The pregnant and nursing woman should increase these amounts to 100 and 150 mg. respectively, according to NRC recommendations.
Sources of Vitamin C
The best sources of vitamin C are, as everyone knows by now, the citrus fruits: oranges, lemons, grapefruits and limes. Those unfortunates who do not take well to the citrus fruits will be able to find sizeable quantities of this vitamin in the following fruits and vegetables: broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, chards, collards, endives, kale, kohlrabi, mangoes, mustard greens, papayas, parsley, green peppers, spinach, turnip greens, watercress. The tropical fruits, acerola cherries and guavas, are even richer than the citrus fruits in vitamin C. Rose hips are also a very good source.
The best way to have these fruits and vegetables is raw, either whole or, preferably, in raw juice form. Unfortunately, most people feed most of their vitamin C to their kitchen walls or else they spend their money on wilted or processed foods already deficient in this vitamin. Vitamin C is very fragile. It's easily destroyed when it comes in contact with oxygen. Its next greatest enemy is heat. For example, 100 gms. of kale, a high vitamin C food, contains 115 mg. of vitamin C in its fresh, raw state. After it's been cooked it contains only 51 mg. This is true of the other vitamin C foods. From 50% to 60% of their C value can be lost by cooking or lack of refrigeration. The terrible habit housewives have of squeezing orange juice hours before it's to be drunk may very well be responsible for more colds than there is tea in china. Besides fighting off viruses, drugs and chemicals, vitamin C also helps the body utilize certain other nutrients. Calcium, for example, is not used properly in the calcification of bone when there is a vitamin C deficiency. However, even more important to us at this moment is that vitamin C (ascorbic acid), because it is an acid, enhances the body's absorption of iron. This leads us to the next phase of our regenerating program: the correction of anemia (apparent or hidden) which is nearly always part of the clinical picture in kidney disorders.
Water and Renal Work
Your fluid intake will also affect your kidneys' work. Under normal conditions, your kidneys' work load is least when the urinary volume (the amount of water you pass) in a 24-hour period is 2l/2 quarts. Your kidneys' work increases at a rapid rate when the volume falls below this figure. Furthermore, diseased kidneys lose their ability to concentrate urine and so require more water per gram of metabolic wastes than do normal, healthy kidneys. As the disease progresses, so do the water requirements.
Hot weather and hard work should be reflected in your fluid intake. During periods when you lose lots of water through perspiration, your kidneys, to maintain the proper water balance in your body (one of their jobs), will be forced to excrete less water than normally, though the amount of wastes they must excrete remains the same. They will be forced to, that is, unless you compensate for the water lost through perspiration by increasing your fluid intake. Your natural thirst mechanism will let you know you need more water. If you have already weak kidneys, be sure you heed its warning. As a matter of fact, don't wait for it. Be sure to drink at least ten glasses of liquid daily.