I get asked a lot about creatinine; what is it, what causes high creatinine levels, and how to lower it naturally? It’s understandable, creatinine levels are looked upon as the best determining factor of the health of your kidneys, and is routinely tested for and discussed by your doctor.
But I must warn you, lowering creatinine SHOULD NOT be your ultimate goal, it is only secondary to the bigger picture… (keep reading to find out why).
So What is Creatinine?
• Creatinine is a waste product of the major energy metabolite creatine.
• Normal creatinine serum blood levels are:
– 0.6 to 1.2 mg/dl in males (53 to 106 umol/L)
– 0.5 to 1.1 mg/dl in females (44 to 97 umol/L)
• Creatinine is usually found in higher quantities (within the blood) in young adults, and lesser quantities in the elderly.
• Those with one kidney will have higher than “normal” levels of creatinine circulating in their blood (roughly 1.8 mg/dl or 160 umol/L).
• Creatinine can be tested for via a blood sample or via a urine sample. On its own a blood sample is more accurate than a urine sample, though combining them together to form what is called a creatinine clearance test (both blood and urine) is the most accurate test.
• High creatinine levels occur due to any number of diseases that cause the kidneys to shut down, including dehydration, shock, congestive heart failure, and bladder outlet obstruction.
• There are no definitive symptoms that are caused by high creatinine levels, though the following could be possibly linked: fatigue, shortness of breath, feeling dehydrated, and confusion.
Interesting stuff? Great! I hope you won’t be disappointed then when I say to you “let’s move on to the next section”, because you have learnt all there is (worth) to know about creatinine. I would like to tell you more about creatinine, but really that is all you need to know. That’s the crux of it.
What I would really like to discuss next is the substance that creatinine is a by-product of… creatine.
If you are a gym junkie, or know someone that is, you probably have come across creatine before. Creatine is touted by many body builders as the best natural substance for increasing energy reserves – especially for the explosive sports (because of its role in ATP production).
Creatine is naturally produced by the body and the majority of it is stored within the muscles (up to 95%). The body does this through the synthesis of the amino acids L-arginine, glycine, and L-methionine via the liver, and because the body can make its own, creatine itself is not essential in the diet. The dietary source of creatine however is any animal meat, such as beef, chicken, and fish, providing up to 1 gram a day of creatine for the typical “meat-eater”.
As previously mentioned, creatine has a key role to play in the production of ATP. This occurs in the most important energy pathway of the body, known as the Kreb’s Cycle, or the Citric Acid Cycle. The average human body uses over 2000mg of creatine a day to fuel this important biochemical pathway, for the purposes of producing the most vital energy source of the body.
… OK, so now that we understand a little more about creatine, and that creatine is a necessary molecule, we can now delve a little deeper into creatinine levels and how to lower them.
The Importance of Creatinine Levels
After many years’ study, and lengthy clinical trials, creatinine was found to be the best indicator of kidney function. Why? Well, there are a few reasons for this, and they are as follows:
1. Creatinine is produced at a relatively constant rate – (expect during strenuous exercise where it increases*)
2. Creatinine is mainly eliminated from the body via the kidneys.
3. Creatinine has virtually no reabsorption within the kidneys – meaning there is no recycling of creatinine back into the blood stream. Reabsorption would cause a skew in the results, making this molecule a poorer choice for assessing kidney function.
* Here’s a tip, next time you have your renal function checked make sure you abstain from any strenuous exercise beforehand as this will give you false decrease in renal function.
As you can see the very nature of this molecule and the way the body handles it make it a perfect choice to assess kidney function, but more importantly, I hope this demonstrates one important factor that I have been alluding to: Lowering creatinine levels should not be your end goal, because it is just a measure of kidney function, it is not the problem/cause of your kidney disease.
For example if there was a treatment to lower creatinine levels but it did nothing else, it wouldn’t be very beneficial treatment, right? Right. This is because you would still have under functioning kidneys, and as an example, possibly have high potassium, low vitamin D levels, and low haemoglobin levels.
So why write an article on how to lower creatinine levels naturally? Good question. Because I believe the real reason you typed in “creatinine levels” or “how to lower creatinine levels naturally” into Google (or however you made your way here) is that you REALLY want to improve and increase your kidney function. You probably don’t even really care about creatinine per se, you just want it to lower because it will indicate that your kidney health and kidney function is improving, and I right? I hope so.
7 Easy Ways to Lower Creatinine Levels (and Improve Kidney Function) Naturally
Alrighty here they are, what I have put together is some really easy tips you can put into practice straight away to help boost your kidney function, while having a direct impact on your creatinine blood levels.
1. Vegetarian Diet
By consuming a largely plant based diet you will be helping your body in a few distinct ways:
- Dietary sources of creatine and creatinine are only found within animal products, therefore you will be reducing the burden of “extra” creatine and creatinine circulating through your blood by eating a largely plant based diet.
- Clinical studies show that the consumption of red meat is detrimental to the health of kidneys, see my article here.
- Plant based diets have been shown to reduce all the major risk factors of kidney disease. E.g. diabetes, and high blood pressure (hypertension).
- Dairy products (milk, cheese, cream, yoghurt, ice cream, butter) have been shown in clinical studies to exacerbate kidney disease.
- Among many other reasons…
2. Avoid creatine supplements
Not only do high doses of this large molecule cause kidney problems (because of its large size it can cause the kidneys to swell), but by supplying the body with extra creatine, you will cause more creatine to be spontaneously converted to the by-product creatinine.
3. Avoid strenuous physical activity
Thereby decreasing the breakdown of creatine into creatinine.
4. Nettle leaf tea
Drink 1 to 2 cups a day. Nettle leaf tea is a simple yet powerful kidney tonic that can improve kidney function and reduce serum creatinine levels. (Tip: Double check that it is the leaf and not the root, the leaf is for your kidneys, the root is for male prostate disorders.)
5. Avoid the over consumption of Vanadium
Although very beneficial for the body, particularly for diabetes and blood sugar problems, over consumption of the mineral vanadium has been linked to increased blood creatinine levels (stay under 100mcg a day).
6. Alpha lipoic acid
This is a fantastic nutrient! And one that I recommend every kidney disease sufferer begin right away. It helps provide energy to the kidneys, it helps neutralise toxins to make them harmless to the body (so elimination does not damage the kidneys), it helps improve kidney function, and of course helps lower creatinine levels. If you would like to know more info on alpha lipoic acid, please check out my article here. I recommend a dosage of 300mg a day.
Chitosan maybe be better known for weight management, but believe it or not it has another trick up its sleeve. Chitosan supplementation in clinical studies reduced urea, creatinine and cholesterol levels in the blood, and increased haemoglobin production in patients with chronic kidney disease. I recommend a dosage of 1000-4000mg a day.
So there you have it, 7 great tips on how to lower creatinine levels naturally. I hope that these really help you. If you would like further tools to increase your kidney function and lower creatinine, then please sign up to my free kidney ecourse.
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