In today’s article I want to talk to you about chronic renal failure; what it is, what causes it, the best blood tests, and a whole lot more. However, today I want to do something a little different, I want to break it down into an A to Z guide so you can quickly reference the major key topics – so in that way you have a valuable resource to refer back to in the future.
Chronic renal failure is an interesting condition, it affects 2 out of every 1,000 people in the United States; 11% of all deaths in Australia are due to, or associated with, renal failure; 20 to 30 percent of people with diabetes will develop kidney disease; 1 in 9 adults have a minimum of one renal failure sign or symptom; it is one the quickest growing diseases in the world… yet it is still largely not a condition that many understand, or have been appropriately informed about.
But before I go into any specifics with this condition, I wanted to quickly define exactly what I am referring to when I say “Chronic Renal Failure”. For the purposes of this article, chronic renal failure means any disease of the kidneys that causes diminishment of kidney function, as shown by an estimated Glomerular Filtration Rate test (eGFR). In contrast, the term “End Stage Renal Failure” only describes kidneys that have a kidney function of less than 15%.
The Ultimate A-Z Guide To Chronic Renal Failure
A is for Alkaline
Alkalinity is an important concept to understand and implement when dealing with chronic kidney failure. Alkalinity is a must for your body’s tissues to survive and thrive. In fact, your body will do anything it can to keep your blood pH in the narrow window of 7.35 to 7.45pH – your body will literally break down its bones for the calcium contained within them to keep your body alkaline!
Normally however, keeping the acid/alkaline balance within your body is the job of the kidneys. When your kidneys begin to diminish in function so too does their ability to excrete the acid and maintain the alkalinity in your blood. Therefore eating an alkaline diet is the best way to protect and improve the health of your kidneys.
To add further strain on already strained kidneys, many of today’s lifestyle choices are acid forming as well as changes to our environment:
- Diet: e.g. alcohol, sugar, coffee, red meat, grains
- Chemicals: e.g. industrial chemicals, cleaning products, paint, makeup and cosmetics
- Heavy metals
- Excess exercise
- Sedentary lifestyle
For more information on alkalinity and the alkaline diet, please see my article here.
B is for Blood tests
I cannot emphasise how important it is to get your blood regularly tested. A blood tests helps in the following ways:
- Monitors the progression of your condition
- Tracks that your treatments are working
- Informs you of any abnormal developments in your health
- Allows you to tailor your diet to suit your needs e.g. potassium, phosphorus, sodium, vitamin D, and calcium levels
- By knowing the current state of your body, and understanding that state, you’re better equipped to make positive changes. It is shown people feel more in control and are more likely to make the changes when they understand their condition and all facets related to their condition.
- It will show you your current percentage of kidney function
The best blood tests to assess your renal failure are:
- Estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR)
- 24hr creatinine clearance
- Kidney biopsy
Please see my article here for a detailed description of each test in chronic renal failure: Top 7 Kidney Tests To Measure Your Kidney Function
Other important tests include: Potassium levels, Sodium levels, Phosphate levels, Vitamin D levels, Calcium levels, Parathyroid hormone levels, and Hemoglobin levels.
C is for Causes
Chronic renal failure is, and can be caused by the following factors:
- Diabetes: the number one most common cause
- High blood pressure: the second most common cause
- Glomerulonephritis: the third most common cause
- Alport’s Syndrome
- Auto-immune diseases: e.g. Lupus
- Connective tissue disease
- Pharmaceutical drugs: NSAIDs, analgesics, antibiotics, gout medications, diuretics.
- Exposure to hydrocarbon solvents
- Heavy metals
- Infections: particularly strep, viruses, and heart infections
- Kidney stones
- Liver cirrhosis
- Oxalate deposits
- Polycystic kidney disease
- Prostate disease
- Reflux nephropathy
D is for Diagnosis
Knowing what has caused your kidney disease is undoubtedly the most important element to know when treating kidney disease. This is because, your cause, is the “fuel” of your renal failure; take away the “fuel” and there is nothing left to promote further deterioration of your condition.
Therefore for your health and wellbeing proper diagnosis is essential.
“Treat the person, not the disease, treat the cause, not the symptoms.”
To receive a high standard of diagnosis (assessment) I recommend seeing both a doctor and a naturopath. This many sound over the top, but both practitioners come from very different medical backgrounds, and will therefore observe very different things about the state of your health and your condition.
Your doctor is the best person to have your routine blood tests completed with (usually free of charge under your country’s medical system), however your naturopath will be able to assess other areas of your health, via functional pathology tests, live blood analysis, iridology, tongue and nail diagnosis, comprehensive wellness questionnaires, and in-depth case history taking.
In this way you have the very best of what the world has to offer, and the best assessment of your health; giving you the knowledge, and therefore power, to make valuable changes in your life and health.
As part of your medical assessment the blood work will tell you what stage of renal failure you are in. This is based on the eGFR test: (The best test to measure your kidney function.)
Here is a brief analysis of each of the five stages:
• Stage 1 with normal or high GFR (eGFR > 90 ml/min)
• Stage 2 Mild CKD (eGFR = 60-89 ml/min)
• Stage 3 Moderate CKD (eGFR = 30-59 ml/min)
• Stage 4 Severe CKD (eGFR = 15-29 ml/min)
• Stage 5 End Stage CKD (eGFR <15 ml/min)
E is for Electrolytes
Electrolytes are some of the most important elements of our physiology, but you may know electrolytes by the more common names potassium and sodium.
These seemingly rudimentary minerals are more important than you could possibly imagine, not just because they are some of the key nutrients that you need to monitor to make sure their levels become not too high in chronic renal failure, but because of their beneficial action in the body. These minerals work at either side of a cell’s wall, and essentially form an internal capacitor in the body (much the same way a capacitor works in the battery of your car). The end result is that these two minerals make it possible for your body to create energy and electrical impulses.
One third of the body’s energy is used to keep potassium and sodium in the correct place around a cell wall.
In relation to chronic renal failure however, as mentioned, these minerals can become elevated to dangerous levels in the blood if not properly addressed. Dietary changes are the best method to reduce high levels of both of these minerals, but it needs to be mentioned that not all people with renal failure do, or will get high levels of either of these minerals. Significance? Always perform a blood test to measure your potassium and sodium levels.
I wrote a great article here detailing the recommend daily allowances for both of these minerals: http://www.kidneycoach.com/1089/renal-diet-top-7-tips-for-renal-failure/
F is for Fluid
Fluid is an important consideration for those with chronic renal failure for a number of reasons:
- As the kidney function begins to diminish, so too does their ability to filter blood and produce urine. Therefore, fluid intake needs to be adjusted so to not drink too much; as this would cause excess fluid and high blood pressure if not addressed. As a general rule, drink the equivalent of your 24 hour urine output volume, plus an additional 600 mls.
- The right type of fluid needs to be drunk when suffering chronic kidney failure too. Sugary drinks, coffee, alcohol, and artificially sweetened drinks are a big no-no for kidney disease as they literally poison the kidneys.
On tip number 5 of my article on a healthy renal diet, I talk in more detail of the importance of getting your fluid intake right.
G is for Groups (Support)
It is very important for your health to be connected with those that you love and those that can provide you support. Clinical studies prove that those that are in need, no matter what that “need” is, always do better when they have a friend or group to talk to and lean on.
Even though it isn’t so easy to do when things are rough, stay connected. Don’t fall off the map. Call your local council to see whether they have local support groups in your area for people with chronic renal failure. If you can’t get out and about (personal interaction is best), try the many online forums and share your life, knowledge, and wisdom with others.
Here is a list to peruse:
- http://www.facebook.com/kidneycoach (My Chat Group!)
- http://www.facebook.com/pages/National-Kidney-Foundation-Inc/35677414105 (National Kidney Foundation)
- http://www.facebook.com/pages/Kidney-Disease-Diet-ideas-and-help/205812862786832 (Mark Rosen’s Kidney Page)
H is for Hemodialysis (and Peritoneal dialysis)
Dialysis is an important and necessary treatment when kidney function falls below 10% (aka End-Stage-Renal-Failure).
Essentially dialysis takes over the majority of functions that the kidneys once performed, namely: removal of waste products (e.g. creatinine and urea), excess fluid, and minerals. Unfortunately dialysis cannot replace the kidney’s role of hormone and enzyme production. Hormones include: calcitriol, erythropoietin, and the enzyme rennin; which aid in bone health maintenance, red blood cell production, and blood pressure regulation.
Dialysis is possible via two very different methods of filtration:
Hemodialysis: Utilises a large machine stationed in hospitals, that for the “average” kidney patient, requires 3-4 visits a week, for 4-5 hours at a time.
Peritoneal dialysis: A home based alterative, which uses the patient’s own digestive lining (peritoneum) to filter an “exchange” of fluid four times a day. The whole process of draining and filling one exchange of fluid takes 30-40 mins. The bag of “exchange” fluid usually contains: chloride, sodium, lactate, bicarbonate, and glucose.
I is for Isoflavones
Isoflavones (daidzein and genistein) and lignans (matairesinol, secoisolariciresinol) are naturally occurring nutrients (phytonutrients) found within plants. They are shown in studies to have the ability to moderate (reduce) proteinuria, preserve renal function, and slow down the progression of chronic kidney failure.
You can find these little miracles in berries, soy bean, soy bean products, legumes, rye, flaxseed (aka linseed), seeds, broccoli, pumpkin, garlic and zucchini. But for a therapeutic dose I always recommend that you buy them as a supplement.
J is for Juicing
Juicing is such a wonderful an inexpensive solution to help breathe life into damaged kidneys. I know of people who have cured their chronic renal failure just by juicing alone. (I not advocating juicing as a sole treatment here, but it can help).
The great thing about juicing is that you can devour a large amount of vegetables and fruit in one sitting, which ordinarily you could not if you were to eat them whole. Not only this, but the very act of juicing helps unlock the nutrients contained within the vegetables and fruit (that can at times pass right through you when eaten whole).
There really is no right or wrong way to juice, but there are definitely some tips that will help you getting off on to the right foot. If you would like to get off on the right foot, please see my article here.
K is for Keeping a Journal
Write it down! Get it out of YOU! The frustrations, joyful moments, heartaches, wins, tears, happiness, all need to be expressed. Especially the negatives ones.
When we hold on to something, even when just a thought-form or emotion, we retain that thought-form. The very idea of “holding onto something” means you have not released it. You may have forgotten about it, but it doesn’t mean it is not there.
One way to make sure that you release the day’s “garbage” is to write it down. And if it was a really crappy day you might want to burn it afterwards!
Some of you may be saying right now “whatever”, but think about this, the most famous of mathematical calculations points to the fact that we are all energy.
E=MC2 (Where E is energy, m is mass, and c is the speed of light in a vacuum). This formula indicates that energy is inseparable from mass, and mass inseparable from energy.
Or another way to demonstrate this is the fact that every single thing in our world is made up of atoms (energy). Our basic building blocks maybe cells, but if you break down cells far enough all you will find is atoms.
The only reason we cannot see the energy that we are, is simply because you are vibrating / resonating at a low frequency, causing the perception of a solid state. Are you still with me here? I hope so. Because this fundamental fact tends to be completely overlooked in our lives, and especially in our health care system.
What energy/thoughts are you holding on to? Further that… what energy/thoughts are you projecting out to the world?
L is for Lipoic Acid
Lipoic acid is a nutrient that works wonders on kidneys; it helps improve the energy of the kidneys, protects the kidneys from further damage, and balances blood sugar to treat diabetes (the number one cause of kidney damage). It also helps to detoxify heavy metals that can cause big problems for the kidneys. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and spinach are natural sources; however I recommend that you source lipoic acid as a supplement to achieve an effective therapeutic dose.
Lipoic acid is that good I had to write an entire article on it and its relationship with kidney failure here :-): http://www.kidneycoach.com/346/lipoic-acid-super-nutrient-for-kidney-disease/
M is for Mindset
I touched on the importance of having a positive mind in section K (K is for Keeping a Journal), but I am going to keep persisting until it sinks in 😛
There has been nothing more influential towards creating positivity and negativity in my life, than my own thoughts. But it is not just me that this holds true for, it is also true for you, whether you believe in it or not.
Buddha was conscious of this fact, and thus dedicated his life on teaching others to harness the mind, and to still the mind.
“The mind is everything. What you think you become.” Buddha
“What you think about you bring about” Anonymous
“Where attention goes energy flows” Anonymous
“What the mind can conceive and believe it can achieve” W. Clement Stone
There are many techniques to achieve a positive mindset, but I believe the most important step is to first disassociate yourself from your mind. Once you become aware that you are NOT your thoughts… you have started the process.
Great tips for a positive mindset are:
- Tai Chi
- Journal writing
- Reading books on the subject matter e.g. The Power of Now; A New Earth; The Law of Attraction: The Basics of the Teachings of Abraham.
I also have written two articles that I think would be beneficial for any one with chronic renal failure:
- Top 5 Tips To Stay Positive With Kidney Disease
- The Daily Disciplines: Simple Ways For Creating Success In All Areas In Your Life
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