The word asparagus originates from the Greek word for stalk or shoot. When it comes to the medicinal properties of Asparagus and one does a Goole search you are likely to come across two main different types of Asparagus.
The first one is the common Asparagus Officinalis, the one you will find in the supermarket, you know the one you grill and serve with a nice piece of fish? The one that makes some people’s pee smell strange, more on that later. Then there is the Ayurvedic medicinal version also known as Shatavari or botanically known as Asparagus racemosus.
In this article, I want to focus on Asparagus officinalis, the one you will find in the supermarket and its potential benefits for those diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease. Shatavari looks very similar to your common garden variety Asparagus and shares many of the same medicinal qualities, but I want to give you information on this amazing common vegetable that you can easily pick up from your supermarket and add to your diet as often as you want or need, depending on if you can handle potentially stinky pee.
So let’s dive deeper into this amazing vegetable and find out why it might be something useful to add to your diet if you have renal disease.
Asparagus is high in Fibre
Asparagus is naturally high in fibre, with ½ a cup of Asparagus containing 1.8gms of fibre, which is about 7% of your daily needs.
Studies show that people who consume a high fibre diet are more likely to have lower blood pressure and healthier cholesterol levels. With heart disease being one of the leading causes of chronic renal disease, having good amounts of fibre in your diet can be helpful in keeping your cholesterol levels in check.
Maintains Homocysteine Level
Elevated homocysteine levels are associated with increased risks of developing cardiovascular disease, cardiovascular disease as I am sure most of you know and as I have previously mentioned, is associated with an increased risk of developing kidney disease. Therefore anything that keeps homocysteine levels down and in a healthy range is a huge bonus, especially if we don’t have to take an extra pill to do it!
Asparagus is naturally high in B vitamins and B vitamins play a role in maintaining something called the methylation cycle. When the methylation cycle functions as it should homocysteine levels are kept within a healthy range and don’t build up, if we don’t get enough B vitamins, especially folate and B12 in their activated forms then this can lead to elevated levels of homocysteine. In turn, homocysteine is believed to lead to endothelial cell damage, a reduction in the flexibility of the blood vessel walls and an alteration of the process of haemostasis. Elevated homocysteine levels may also lead to an enhancement of the detrimental effects of the risk factors associated with things like high blood pressure, smoking, and elevated cholesterol as well as promoting the development of inflammation in the body and cardiovascular system.
Several diseases including renal failure, aging, menopause and diabetes can cause a moderate elevation in homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is primarily cleared via the kidneys, so any changes or damage to kidney tissue, such as what occurs in renal disease, may then cause homocysteine levels to rise further causing a vicious cycle. Increasing one’s intake of things like folate and B12 is one way to help reduce elevated homocysteine levels and thus hence reduce the risks associated with elevated homocysteine levels which is why adding folate-rich asparagus to your diet might just be useful.
Reduces Blood Pressure
Eating asparagus has been documented as herbal medicine to reduce elevated blood pressure. According to the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, the bottom part of the stem of the asparagus shoot may help to reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
The study specifically mentions that it has to be the bottom part of the stem consumed to get its pharmacological action, most people throw this part of the plant out, otherwise known as the cladophylls, which is thrown out as this is the woody hard to eat part of the stem. However, if you don’t mind a little extra chewing, consuming this part of the asparagus plant is where you will find rich content of various bioactive compounds, including flavonoids, sterol–saponins, oligosaccharides, and carotenoids and it is these constituents that are thought to be associated with the reduction in blood pressure seen within the clinical trial.
A study published in 2011 on rats showed that after they consumed asparagus there was a significant reduction in their fasting blood glucose levels compared to the rats who did not eat the asparagus.
The same study also showed an improvement in insulin secretion as well as an improvement in the prevention and management of early-stage diabetic nephropathy.
Since diabetes is one of the leading causes of kidney disease, adding asparagus into your diet might help to reduce blood sugar levels, improve insulin production and prevent early damage caused to the kidneys by diabetic nephropathy.
Anti Oxidant Properties
Asparagus has been evaluated for its ability to act as a radial-scavaging agent, which is scientific speak for antioxidant. Studies showed that the vegetable had the ability to significantly reduce the absorbance of DPPH radicals showing that asparagus has potent antioxidant activity. Antioxidants, as we have previously spoken about in other blog articles, help to support a healthy immune function, keep inflammation under control and reduce tissue damage. All very useful actions when supporting those diagnosed with chronic kidney disease.
Asparagus is also a rich source of rutin, which is a flavonoid that possesses strong anti-inflammatory properties and is used to treat hemorrhoids and prevent clotting of blood. It enhances the permeability of capillaries, strengthens the blood vessels, and protects them from becoming fragile. Rutin also prevents the hardening of arteries by reducing the viscosity of blood and helps in easing elevated blood pressure, reducing cholesterol, and maintaining cardiovascular health.
Due to the vegetable’s diuretic properties, the consumption of asparagus increases the frequency and volume of urination. This helps to detoxify and flush the toxic waste out of the body. The diuretic properties of asparagus are attributed to the amino acid asparagine which is found naturally in the vegetable in low concentrations. Diuretics are often used in kidney disease and cardiovascular disease to lower blood pressure, help flush toxins and reduce bloating. The small amounts of asparagine found in asparagus make it a gentle diuretic without all the side effects that some people experience when taking pharmaceutical diuretics in much higher doses.
Prevention of Kidney Stones
Eating Asparagus changes the calcium, oxalate and phosphate levels that normally contribute to kidney stone formation. Studies have shown that the consumption of asparagus reduced the levels of these ions in the urine while increasing the urinary concentration of magnesium which is considered to be an inhibitor of kidney stone crystallization formation. Since the ions that contribute to the formation of kidney stones are reduced and magnesium that then prevents stone formation is increased, asparagus is an excellent addition in reducing the formation of kidney stones in the urinary tract.
This same study also showed that the consumption of asparagus reduced high serum creatinine levels.
Why Does Asparagus Make My Pee Smell Weird?
When asparagus is digested asparagusic acid gets broken down into sulphur and ammonia containing byproducts. These volatile chemical compounds actually help the body detoxify. So when you pee you are smelling these byproducts and toxins being secreted.
Additional Health Benefits of Asparagus
Asparagus has also been shown to have the additional actions on the body:
- Weight Loss
- Neuroprotective – in diseases like Alzheimer’s, Huntingtons’ and Parkinson’s disease
- Digestive – Can improve digestive health
- Improves hormonal balances – good to support a healthy pregnancy, menopause and PMS
- Sexual Tonic – Helps to improve libido and virility
How Do I Add Asparagus To My diet?
I find the easiest way to add asparagus is to simply steam or grill it and serve it on the side of the main meal. I do this personally 1-2 times a week as I Love the taste. If I had Kidney disease I would be increasing my consumption to 2 – 4 times a week.
No toxic effects or mortality were observed with doses ranging from 50mg/kg to 1g/kg for four weeks.
Contraindications and cautions
There are no long term negative effects from eating asparagus in moderate amounts
Asparagus may has diuretic effects and may positively affect diuretic drugs such as chlorothiazide (Chlotride). Caution is advised.
So there you have it, what an amazing vegetable asparagus is! When you start to really get into researching foods as we do here at the Kidney Coach, you realise how the saying food is medicine is really very true! We have the ability to make any meal we eat one that becomes medicine for the body instead of poison. So which one will you choose?
If you have found this article useful please share it with your friends and family or head over to our Facebook page and leave us a comment.