The Edema Problem
You may have found that your legs and ankles have a tendency to swell. You are not excreting water properly and the excessive amount retained in your system causes you to swell and become "waterlogged." Consequently, you may have been told to drink as little water as possible. This method of treatment, fortunately, went out with the bustle.
Water, it has been found, is not the culprit in edema. It is salt (sodium chloride), or rather, the sodium part of the salt which is causing the trouble. For some reason, diseased kidneys, in certain cases, lose their ability to excrete sodium. Sodium attracts and holds water to it so that the body becomes sodium and waterlogged. And we have edema.
In mild cases of edema, just the elimination of white salt in cooking or
on-the-table seasoning will do the trick. In more severe cases, a stricter
degree of sodium restriction may be necessary—though you had best let a
competent naturopath or doctor decide this for you.
The body uses its sodium stores as an alkaline reserve: they keep the slight alkalinity of the blood by "neutralizing" acid wastes. If these stores are missing a full-blown case of acidosis can easily be the end re suit. As a matter of fact, especially during the hot weather months, if you should perspire a good deal, it's not a bad idea to increase your usual sodium intake to compensate for the amount lost in perspiration. Fortunately for us hard workers (and even harder perspirers!), sodium is a very common element. It's found in nearly all vegetables, especially the green leafy ones, so that if your vegetable intake is adequate, so will be your sodium intake. A deficiency of it, if the diet is varied, is pretty rare—unless brought on by medication.
A deficiency is rare, that is, if the organism is working properly. However, diseased kidneys not only lose their ability to excrete sodium. In some cases, the opposite is true: they lose their ability to retain both sodium and chloride and these are lost in the urine. This loss must be made good in some way.
The average American diet will provide 5 to 15 grams of sodium chloride (salt). Approximately 6 to 10 grams of chloride and 4 grams of sodium will usually be excreted in the urine. However, only 2 to 3 grams are really necessary to maintain a normal concentration of these two elements in the blood plasma. (The normal concentration of sodium chloride in the blood is from 580 to 620 mg. per 100 cc. of plasma.)
If you have suffered from any form of kidney ailments in the past, periodic urinalyses and blood analyses will help you detect whether you are excreting or retaining abnormal amounts of sodium. And they will help you decide on a tailor-made program to suit your particular case.
Complications of Edema
In any case, edema is a serious condition not to be taken lightly. Not only does the additional water you are carrying around in your tissues add to your weight and swell your legs; it places a terrific strain on your heart and blood vessels which have to work against the increased pressure. Furthermore, gastrointestinal edema interferes with digestion and absorption, preventing your body from using the nutrients which are necessary to your overall health and so, naturally affects your kidneys. As a matter of fact, gastrointestinal edema, in many cases, may very well cause the anemia which so often accompanies kidney disorders. No edema is nothing to be sneezed at. If you've been called "piano legs," don't worry so much about your appearance worry about your health!
Salt is not the only substance which may cause your kidneys trouble. Modern man's environment is full of such pitfalls. Salt, pepper, mustard, spices, alcohol, arsenic residues on tobacco, lead, mercury, carbon tetrachloride and the many other chemicals so often indiscriminately added to our foods or polluting our environment can damage or plays havoc on already damaged kidneys. All these must be avoided if your kidneys are to recover from the repeated insults given them.
Remember that as you get older, your liver is less and less able to handle toxic material and "detoxify" it. Your kidneys may be called upon to handle substances which they are not accustomed to encounter. If they are weak and ailing, they may not be up to it.
Infections, especially of the upper respiratory tract (i.e., tonsillitis, pharyngitis, sinusitis, grippe, colds), can overstrain your kidneys. During an infectious process of this sort, your body manufactures antibodies which are apparently irritating to delicate kidney membranes. If your kidneys are weak these antibodies will not only irritate—they will damage. In addition, the fever which is usually a part of the infectious process burns up body proteins at a greater rate than normal, thus adding to your kidneys' excretory work.
So, to regenerate your kidneys you have to avoid streptococcal infections and fevers. To some people this may sound like trying to avoid death and taxes, but it really isn't as difficult as all that. The best way to avoid these infections is not so much by keeping out of their way— that's pretty impossible, nowadays!—but by building up your body's resistance to them. And so we've come to part two of our program: supplying the tools for regeneration.