How to beat CKD: The science

Improving kidney function if you have CKD isn’t a simple matter, here’s some help from traditional sources.

How to beat CKD
How to beat CKD

The extent to which any of us can ‘beat’ chronic kidney disease (CKD) is very much a personal journey. When I started to explore how to improve my kidney function, my first goal was simply to stop the decline. As my eGFR has increased, so have my goals. I’m currently working on a strategy to reach an eGFR of 75 (I’m now at 69 having risen from 53).

Central to this journey has been reading research papers and listening to the experience of others. Let me share some findings from a scientific paper, Current Approaches in the Management of Chronic Kidney Disease: A review by  Khan, Nasiruddin and Haque. This isn’t the best paper I’ve read on the subject, but it is one of a handful that lists traditional and alternative treatments that would be worth discussing with your doctor. I have derived great benefit from Danshen, also known as red sage (the scientific name is Salvia miltiorrhiza). The study states that

Botanical medicine can be used to delay the need for dialysis by treating the causes and effects of renal failure. 

With the exception of red sage, I haven’t used any of these substances as treatments. I present them here merely as a resource for anyone looking for signposts and not as recommendations. I do drink nettle tea for my general health and consume turmeric as a regular part of my diet.

green leaves in clear glass cup

The plant name comes first, the common name(s) in brackets:

  • Salvia miltiorrhiza (red sage, Chinese sage, tan shen, or danshen)
  • Ginkgo biloba (ginkgo, maiden hair tree)
  • Rheumofficinale (rhubarb)
  • Perila frutescens (bhanjira, ban tulsi, bhanjira, bhangra, jhutela)
  • Cordyceps sinensis (caterpillar fungus)
  • Curcuma longa (tumeric)
  • Beta vulgaris (chard)
  • Crataegus (hawthorn, thornapple, May-tree)
  • Astragalus membranaceus root (Milkvetch, locoweed, goat’s-thorn)
  • Tripterygium wilfordii
  • Ligusticumwallichii
  • Glycyrrhiza (liquorice root)
  • Urticadioica (stinging nettle seeds)
  • Orthosiphon stamineus (Java tea)
  • Centella asiatica
  • Capsicum

In due course, I will be writing about the science that supports or discourages the use of these plant products. In the meantime, I’d welcome feedback from anyone with personal experience of any of the above. Always remember to consult your doctor if you are considering to take any supplement or homely remedy.

Initial treatments for CKD

Three brilliant tips for anyone looking to increase their kidney health and raise their eGFR score.

herbal treatments for kidney disease
Alternative approaches to treating CKD

So why go to the trouble of blogging about the treatment and management of CKD? My own story is that a routine check-up revealed I had an eGFR of 59 in September 2019, by December the eGFR had fallen to 54, it bounced back to 63 in February and by the beginning of lock-down in 2020, my score was 69. I still have protein in my urine and so I know my kidneys are damaged. But how do I account for this turnaround? The first thing I did is to improve my knowledge of CKD. My own doctor’s care provided me with the necessary data to understand something of my condition but I wanted to know more.

My first job was to trawl through the scientific literature to explore the current thinking in the treatment and management of stages 2 and  3a of CKD. Whilst I acknowledge the power of western scientific approaches to medicine, I’m particularly interested in natural treatments and beneficial lifestyle changes. Based on the preliminary research (and conversations with my doctor) I created a plan to help my kidneys.

The three initial steps that I took were:

  • ensuring I was properly hydrated at all times
  • reducing my consumption of animal products
  • starting to drink red sage tea

I will elaborate on each of these three measures in my next blogs, but at this early stage, I want to stress that I consider these three changes instrumental in raising my eGFR rate from 54 to 69. I know I still have kidney problems, the level of albumen in my urine is proof of that. But as a starting point, this course of action appears to have delivered some welcome benefits. Even if these changes turn out to be short-term or simply a placebo effect, I think anyone suffering from CKD will agree, increasing the filtration rate by almost 30% in a great start.

So what does this mean for you? Each of us that has experienced poor kidney function is likely to have a relatively unique profile. The factors contributing to CKD may include blood pressure, prostate health, diet, level of stress, level of hydration and physical fitness. Point is your conditions are different to mine, so you will have to do some research into areas that you can most easily influence. I will be sharing more information, advice and tips, but I want to start you off thinking about what you can do to improve your kidney function, if only by 1%!


What is Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)

A summary of CKD causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatments

chronic kidney disease
Symptoms of chronic kidney disease may pass unnoticed at the outset

The information provided here is offered as a general guide; if you suspect that you might have kidney disease, you should talk to your doctor in the first instance.

CKD – A Global Problem

The first point to make about chronic kidney disease (CKD) is that it is a global health problem. The number of people suffering from CKD is currently estimated to be 900 million. Annual deaths from CKD may be as high as 1.5 million (at the time of writing the full impact of COVID 19 on people suffering from kidney disease is unknown). The point is that if you have been diagnosed with CKD, you are not alone, there are a lot of people out there in the same boat. The vast majority of CKD deaths are linked to high blood pressure and diabetes.

Causes and Symptoms

According to the NHS website, the causes of CKD can include the long term effects of high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, infections and inflammations (glomerulonephritis), polycystic kidney disease, blockages that cause problems in the flow of urine (enlarged prostate, recurrent kidney stones) and certain kinds of medication. A key point to bear in mind is that lifestyle changes might improve these contributory factors and therefore CKD.

In the very early stages of CKD there are often no visible symptoms, that’s why CKD is often picked up by blood or urine tests during medical checkups. The most common noticeable symptoms include general tiredness and shortness of breath, swelling of the ankles and blood in the urine.

Chronic Kidney Disease Diagnosis

There is a formula that is used to calculate the amount of creatinine your kidney can filter out of your blood, it’s called the estimated glomerular filtration rate (GFR). If your GFR score is too low it can indicate CKD. In addition, a urine test can measure the ratio of albumin and creatinine (ACR) in the urine. Together the GFR and the ACR provide insight into possible problems with kidney function. If disease is suspected a scan or even a biopsy may be used to confirm the blood and urine test results.

Currently, estimated GFR is used to categorise the severity of kidney function.

  • Stage 1 – A GFR above 90 but other signs of possible problems (G1)
  • Stage 2 – A GFR between 60 and 89 but with signs of possible problems (G2)
  • Stage 3a – A GFR of 45 to 59 (G3a)
  • Stage 3b – A GFR of 30 to 44 (G3b)
  • Stage 4 – A GFR of 15 to 29 (G4)
  • Stage 5 – A GFR below 15 (G5)

Treatment of CKD

Several lifestyle changes may be recommended as part of a plan to protect your kidney function such as; losing weight, regular exercise, stopping smoking and reducing alcohol intake. There is medication available to help control high blood pressure. And for people at the advanced stages, kidney dialysis or a kidney transplant might be recommended by a doctor.

Welcome to Well Kidney

Got problems with your kidneys? Want to hear from people who are finding solutions?

Your kidneys are your responsibility
Take personal responsibility for your health

Hello, I’m please you’ve visited the blog, particularly if you or someone you know is suffering from kidney problems.

There is a range of different reasons why our kidneys don’t work as well as they should. The older you get the more common it is to suffer from poor kidney health. Although this can be described as a ‘natural’ part of ageing, it isn’t necessarily the case and there are many things we can do to maintain and even improve kidney function throughout the lifecycle. The goal of this blog is to share information that might be of use to people on the journey to the best possible kidney health.

Who am I?

My name is Stephen, I am in my 50s and I suffered from chronic kidney disease (CKD) for several months at the start of 2020. The fact that my measured kidney function increased by 30% over a three month period is the reason why I’m sharing my experience here. In addition to following the advice of my doctor, taking all the necessary tests and talking to a Consultant Nephrologist I also did some personal research. I have friends and relatives that suffer from kidney disease, most strictly follow standard medical advice. But one has researched the scientific literature and accumulated a lot of useful information; he has seen a reversal in his condition. As a science trained researcher, I also wanted to find some answers about my health and of course, I hoped to find help above and beyond what was available through the my health care providers.

After about two weeks of sifting through the links and papers my friend suggested, I started to develop an understanding of what was happening to me and the potential treatments available. I must stress that I have followed the advice of my doctor in every detail. However, this has been supplemented by actions which have been inspired by my own investigations. These include lifestyle changes, natural remedies and a little joined-up thinking. I know my kidney function is still less than optimal but my last global filtration rate (GFR) score was 69, that places me in the ‘normal’ range for my age. On the basis that it appears that I and several other people I know are doing something right, I’m going to share:

  • The action I have taken
  • The highlights of the research I discovered
  • Information shared with me by friends and relatives
  • Experiences of people suffering (and recovering) from chronic kidney disease
  • Any relevant anecdotal or scientific data that might be of use to people with poor kidney health.

The information contained on this blog is for information purposes only, no medical advice or recommendations can be provided, please check the disclaimer.