Many people go most of their lives without giving their kidneys a second thought, but once kidney function decreases, it's hard to think about much else. Your kidneys are responsible for filtering your blood and sending waste products out of your body through your urinary system. If your kidneys become damaged, they may have difficulty getting rid of waste products, which can build in your body over time and cause other ill health effects.
Whether you already suffer from kidney disease or just want to maintain the health of your kidneys, you may wonder if there are supplements you could take to enhance your kidney health.
Some supplements may support kidney health; you can learn more about them using our guide below.
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Unfortunately, kidney damage cannot be repaired once it has occurred, naturally or otherwise. The good news is that there are several ways to slow kidney damage, especially when it's only in its mild stages. Some ways to keep your kidneys as healthy as possible include:
A healthy and balanced diet can mean different things to everyone, but a healthy diet for your kidneys is generally high in vegetables and whole grains with smaller portions of protein foods. Those with kidney disease may also need to limit their sodium intake, which may mean cutting back on eating out or getting takeout and limiting frozen dinners and other prepared foods.
Phosphorus may be another nutrient to eat less of, but your doctor and registered dietitian help you determine how much phosphorus is acceptable for you to consume per day. Finally, you may need to either increase or decrease your potassium intake, as it can cause heart problems if too much accumulates in the blood.
If your kidney disease is far enough along, your doctor may refer you to a registered dietitian to create a diet plan that can prevent further damage to your kidneys and promote overall good health.
If your doctor has concerns about your kidney function, they may prescribe medications that address high blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, treat anemia, or relieve swelling. These medications can help you feel better or slow kidney damage once it has started.
It can be difficult to remember to take your medication as prescribed, but it's important to be consistent with your prescribed medications for the best results.
If you are suffering from adverse side effects from your prescription medications, it can be helpful to let your doctor know. They may recommend a different medication or lower your dosage.
Physical activity is great for your overall health, but it can also keep your kidneys stay healthier for longer by helping with weight loss or maintenance and getting blood pressure in the right range. There are several types of physical activity, but the best type is the one you enjoy the most and will perform regularly.
It is currently recommended to get about 30 minutes of aerobic physical activity most days of the week. Aerobic activities can include walking, swimming, dancing, and much more.
If you haven't been exercising regularly but would like to start, you should speak with your doctor about building an exercise routine that won't put your health at risk.
Besides the above actions for supporting your kidney health, some supplements may be recommended for those with kidney disease.
This is because some people with kidney disease have to change their diets, or they may have trouble eating enough to get adequate levels of certain nutrients. Some supplements that are recommended for people with kidney disease are:
Several B vitamins include B6, B12, folic acid, thiamin, and more. They are widely available in foods like whole grains, meats, eggs, mushrooms, and bananas. Your doctor may recommend you take a B vitamin complex if you also have anemia, which means you have a low red blood cell count.
Each B vitamin has its unique function, but you can find supplements containing several B vitamins in one dose.
Along with B vitamins, your doctor may also recommend iron supplements if you have anemia. Iron can help your body make the right amount of red blood cells, but it's important to only take iron supplements if your doctor recommends them. Iron can accumulate in the body and cause adverse effects like nausea, stomach pain, and constipation.
Vitamin D is an important nutrient for bone health, and it plays a critical role in many normal functions of the kidneys. If your doctor finds you deficient in vitamin D, they may recommend a supplement. You can take vitamin D in the form of tablets or injections, but it is best to only take vitamin D supplements if your doctor believes you need them.
Omega-3 PUFA (polyunsaturated fatty acids) is a common supplement recommended for people with coronary artery disease, heart failure, and more. Omega-3 PUFA may help reduce blood pressure and inflammation, which may benefit the kidney and overall health.
When your kidneys don't function as well as they used to, some supplements can cause more harm than good. Some supplements that should be avoided if you have kidney disease include:
Vitamin A is crucial for overall health, but it can build up in the body when taken as a supplement. Vitamin A toxicity can create skin irritations, eye dryness, blurred vision, headaches, muscle and bone pain, and so much more. Taking vitamin A supplements is generally not recommended when you have kidney disease.
Like vitamin A, vitamin E can also build up to toxic levels in the body because it is fat-soluble. This means it can be stored in fat cells instead of being excreted in the urine. Vitamin E toxicity only happens from taking too many vitamin E supplements, which can cause increased bleeding, weakness, fatigue, and more.
There may be some herbal supplements on the market that claim to help kidney health, or they may even advertise that they can reverse kidney damage. Herbal supplements can be extremely dangerous for those with kidney damage; some herbal supplements lead directly to kidney damage.
If you want to take any herbal supplements and you have kidney disease, it's important to speak with your doctor, as they may not only damage your kidneys more, but they can also interact negatively with some of your prescription medications.
Herbal supplements may seem harmless because they are available over the counter and are marketed as "natural alternatives," but they can cause many health problems from side effects and drug interactions.
If you decide that you'd like to try using supplements to help your kidney health, it's important to choose supplements that have been third-party tested.
This means that an agency outside of the supplement manufacturer has checked to ensure that the supplement company complies with good manufacturing practices and that the supplement contains what it says it does on the bottle.
The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate supplements because they are considered food products instead of drugs. As a result, some supplements may not contain the herbs or vitamins the bottle says it does, or they may not contain the amount listed.
ConsumerLab.com, NSF International, UL, and U.S. Pharmacopeia are four major testing companies. Each investigates different aspects of supplements, and there are some categories of supplements they may not test. In addition, each entity has a different retesting or spot-checking period to ensure the supplement manufacturers are still compliant.
Some supplements on the market may be generally safe and made by quality companies, but it can be difficult to sift through the numerous supplements and brands on your own.
As always, it can be helpful to speak with your doctor about whether or not they recommend supplements and if they have any brands they recommend that are third-party tested and safe for consumption.
When you have been diagnosed with kidney disease or are just not feeling like yourself, it's tempting to look into the world of supplements to see if there are any cost-effective and "natural" solutions.
While some supplements may be recommended for those with kidney disease, especially in the presence of anemia, it is recommended to only take supplements that your doctor recommends. This can help you avoid unpleasant or dangerous side effects and medication interactions and ensure that your kidneys are not damaged further.
Anemia in chronic kidney disease | NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Vitamin A troxicity | NIH: National Library of Medicine
Vitamin E toxicity | NIH: National Library of Medicine
Dietary supplements | U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Your kidneys & how they work | NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Eating right for chronic kidney disease | NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Staying fit with kidney disease | National Kidney Foundation
Vitamins and minerals in chronic kidney disease | National Kidney Foundation
Omega-3 fatty acids | National Institute of Health
Herbal supplements and kidney disease | National Kidney Foundation