Q: Hi Liz! Can you tell me about our kidneys?
A: Yes. The job of our kidneys is to remove waste products from our blood, and regulate our water metabolism.
Q: I see. So, our kidneys are a filtration system, is that correct?
A: Yes, precisely. Our kidneys are responsible for filtering the bad stuff from our blood, and eliminating that bad stuff out of our bodies through our urine.
Q: What is kidney failure?
A: Kidney failure refers to the loss of function of our kidneys ability to eliminate waste and regulate water levels in our body. Interestingly, we can live with kidney disease, without even knowing it for a long time.
Q: Really? What do you mean?
A: Within our kidneys we have nephrons, which are essential in the filtration process of cleaning our blood, and keeping our bodies healthy. We have approximately 2.5 million nephrons in our kidneys. Interestingly, you can function normally with only 30% of those nephrons working.
Q: So you’re saying that you could have severe kidney damage with no symptoms?
A: Yes, that’s right. We can function normally, without experiencing symptoms when 70% of our nephrons within our kidney are not functioning, before we would experience any symptoms, or very few. In advanced stages of kidney disease, dangerous levels of wastes and fluids back up in your body.
Q: What are some of the symptoms of kidney failure?
A: According to the American Kidney Fund, symptoms may include itching, muscle cramps, nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, selling in the feet, change in urination – either more or less, trouble catching your breath and difficulty sleeping. Blood pressure is also controlled by the kidneys.
Q: Can we prevent and treat kidney disease?
A: Kidney Failure may be both prevented and treated with a plant based diet. And no wonder! Kidneys are highly vascular organs. Harvard researchers found 3 significant dietary risk factors for kidney decline in function: Animal protein, animal fat and cholesterol. Animal fat can alter the actual structure of our kidneys by clogging up the human kidneys shown in autopsies. Animal protein can have a profound effect on normal kidney function, what’s called hyper filtration, causing an increase workload of the kidney, and watch an increase pressure in the kidneys, but not plant protein. Plant protein does not have this effect.
Q: Wow! So, is it ok to eat plant protein?
A: Yes. Eggs, meat and dairy create high levels of acid which lead to tubular toxicity in our kidneys.
Q: How does fish, pork or poultry effect the kidneys?
A: Fish, pork and poultry is the worst! Eat a meal of tuna fish, and you can see the increased pressure on the kidneys go up 1-2-3 hours after the meal in both non-diabetics and diabetics. So, we are not talking about the effects decades down the road, but just hours after it going into our mouth.
Q: So, what about vegetable protein?
A: Yeah, so if instead of having a tuna fish salad sandwich you had a tofu salad sandwich that has the exact same amount of protein, what happens? No affect. There is no problem.
Q: Why does animal protein cause this overload reaction, but not plant protein?
A: It appears to be due to the inflammation triggered by the consumption of animal products.
Q: How do we know that?
A: Because if you give a powerful anti-inflammatory drug along with that tuna fish you can abolish that hyper filtration protein leakage response to meat ingestion. Then there is the acid load. Animal foods, meat, eggs and dairy, induce the formation of acid within the kidneys which may lead to tubular toxicity damage within the kidneys. Animal foods tend to be acid forming, especially fish, which is the worst, and pork and poultry. Whereas plant food tends to be relatively neutral or alkaline, base forming to counteract the acid, so the key to halting the progression of chronic kidney disease might be in the produce market, rather than the pharmacy.
Q: Have plant based diets been used to treat kidney disease?
A: Yes, and no wonder plant based diets have been used to treat kidney disease for decades. It can be clearly seen that by switching a patient on and off from a plant based diet to conventional based diet the kidney function goes up and down like a light switch based on what goes into their mouths!
About Dr. Liz Perry
Dr. Liz is a primary care provider with a Doctor of Oriental Medicine and a Master’s degree in Business Management from Harvard University. For over 22 years, Dr. Liz has worked as an international healthcare consultant, has traveled the world, and has written hundreds of published articles as a health journalist.