A human kidney processes about 200 quarts of blood and removes 2 quarts of waste products and extra water from the body every day. No wonder that its breakdown can cause a multitude of health problems. Let's have a look at the role played by some vitamins and minerals for kidney health.
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The essential B vitamins include B1, B2, B6, B12, biotin, pantothenic acid, niacin and folic acid. These may help in improving the healthy functioning of kidneys. A study conducted by the University of Warwick on patients with Type 2 diabetes found that B1 or thiamine especially plays an important role in preventing kidney disease.
High excretion of the protein, albumin, from the body in the urine is one of the telltale signs of kidney disease. The study showed that high doses of thiamine taken orally each day for three months decreased the excretion of the protein albumin and reversed early stage kidney disease in these patients suffering from type 2 diabetes.
Besides thiamine, folic acid combined with B6 and B12 supplements are often suggested for kidney patients since they are often lost during dialysis. Heart problems and high blood pressure put extra pressure on the kidneys. Homocysteine is a compound that increases an individual's chance of getting heart disease or stroke. These three B vitamins are believed to control the production of this compound and thereby improve cardiovascular health.
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This is another vitamin considered to be helpful, especially for people with type 2 diabetes. People with type 2 diabetes have high levels of albumin in their urine, a condition referred to as albuminuria. High levels of this protein increase the chances of developing chronic kidney diseases. Vitamin C helps in controlling the level of albumin in the urine and thereby reduces the risk of kidney damage.
Vitamin C has also been found to prevent kidney problems during a diagnostic test called angiography. During this test, a liquid dye is introduced for looking at the condition of blood vessels in various organs of the body, including the kidneys. This liquid dye can be harmful for the kidneys. Intake of vitamin C may prevent the harmful effects of this dye.
People who have a history of kidney stones should, however, avoid taking large amounts of this vitamin since it may cause a recurrence of these stones.
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We get vitamin D from sunlight, and plant and animal sources. These are converted into 25-vitamin D in the liver and then carried to the kidneys, where it is activated into its usable form, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D or calciferol.
When activated in the kidneys, this vitamin helps regulate the absorption of calcium and phosphorus. When you don't get enough vitamin D or if it is not converted into its usable form in the kidneys, levels of phosphorus and calcium may rise in your bloodstream. This puts extra pressure on the kidneys since these organs are responsible for flushing out excessive amounts of these minerals.
Vitamin D also plays a role in regulating the parathyroid hormone. Low levels of vitamin D may make this hormone incorrectly sense that there is not enough calcium in the bloodstream, which makes the body pull out the calcium from the bones and put it into the bloodstream. This will weaken the bones and make the individual prone to fractures whereas excess calcium in the bloodstream can deposit on the blood vessels, lungs, eyes, and heart. These calcifications on the various organs and excess amounts of calcium in the bloodstream can put excess pressure on the kidneys, which are forced to work harder.
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The Role of Minerals in Kidney Health
Potassium controls nerve and muscle function and keeps the heartbeat regular. It is also an electrolyte and helps in fluid control. Excessive fluids in the body can put extra pressure on the kidneys since it is responsible for flushing out excess waste and fluids from the body.
The kidneys also flush out extra potassium. In people with chronic kidney disease, potassium may build up to toxic levels and they may need dialysis to remove excess amount of this mineral from the blood. It is important for kidney patients to limit the potassium in their diet.
Levels of phosphate and calcium in the blood also affect the healthy working of the kidneys. Excess phosphorus is removed by the kidneys. If the kidneys are not functioning properly, phosphate levels can build up to toxic levels. This can cause an imbalance in the levels of phosphorus and calcium in the bloodstream.
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A Warning for Kidney Patients
Although these vitamins and minerals for kidney health can safely be taken by most healthy people, patients with chronic kidney disease should not take extra supplements of these without consulting a renal dietician. The kidneys of such patients find it hard to flush out excess amounts of these vitamins and minerals and these can build up to toxic levels in the bloodstream.
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Medline Plus: Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid) - http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/1001.html
University of Warwick (2008, December 17). Vitamin B1 Could Reverse Early-stage Kidney Disease In Diabetes Patients. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 12, 2011 http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081208092149.htm