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Natural Alternatives In Renal Health


Practitioners must be able to recognize and respond to kidney disease, which may range from mildly uncomfortable, to excruciatingly painful, to deadly.

The National Kidney Foundation reports that 26 million Americans— one in nine adults—have kidney disease, also known as chronic kidney disease (CKD), and many more are at risk.

The good news is that when CKD is found and treated early, steps can be taken to pre- vent its progression and complication. The bad news is that there are rarely any noticeable symptoms in the early stages, so CKD often goes undetected until it is trouble some.

More bad news: a recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) stated that the incidence of kidney disease in the United States has risen by 30 percent since 1994, and shows no signs of abating.

Globally, according to the World Health Organization, kidney disease and disease of the urinary tract cause 850,000 deaths every year. CKD is the 12th leading cause of death and the 17th leading cause of disability worldwide.

Even these numbers may be misleadingly low since people with CKD are at high risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD), and they are more likely to die of a heart attack or stroke than of CKD. Moreover, patients with CVD are at high risk of CKD, which may go unrecognized because of the similarity of symptoms between the two ailments.

Nevertheless, it is not CVD but diabetes that is the primary disease most often associated with CKD. Diabetic nephropathy is the leading cause of kidney disease in the United States. That’s because elevated blood sugars Over time can impair blood flow to the kidneys, causing damage. People with both type 1 diabetes (once called juvenile onset) and type 2 diabetes (once called adult onset, but now also increasingly common among preteens and teenagers) are at high risk for CKD and should be tested regularly.

Meanwhile, beyond the physical and emotional impact of CKD, there is also a huge financial burden. Patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) typically require dialysis three times a week or a kidney transplant to sustain life. The cost of dialysis is approximately $80,000 a year per patient. The total bill for the nation is about $30 billion annually, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Early CKD Detection 

On its website, Pennsylvania-based Kibow Biotech describes three major indicators that point to the presence of CKD:

• Creatinine is a chemical waste molecule that is generated from muscle metabolism.The kidneys filter out most of the creatinine and dispose of it in the urine. If kidneys are damaged and cannot work normally, the amount of creatinine in the urine goes down while its level in the blood goes up.

• Blood-Urea-Nitrogen (BUN) is used to aid in determining kidney functioning and usually is compared or obtained along with blood creatinine levels. If levels are high, it is often an indication of impaired kidney functioning. A BUN-to-creatinine ratio can help a health professional check for problems, such as dehydration, that may cause abnormal BUN and creatinine levels.

• Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR) of the kidneys is calculated by creatinine. This is important because as the blood creatinine rises, GFR falls and the kidneys’ capacity to clear wastes from the body diminishes. A high GFR (greater than 90) and the absence of protein in the urine indicate normal kid- ney function.

Natarajan Ranganathan, PhD, founder, owner and senior vice president of Kibow Biotech, said, “There may be no decrease in urine output, even with advanced CKD.General symptoms include fatigue, loss of appetite, frequent urination or fluid reten- tion, disturbed sleep, lightheadedness and decreased sexual interest and erectile dys- function, plus numerous other signals that are so non-specific that they could be signs of a wide range of other diseases. That’s why it’s important to order BUN and serum-cre- atinine tests, as well as a 24-hour urine col- lection (for assessing e-GFR values).” 

Renadyl is Kibow Biotech’s alternative treatment for kidney disease. Dr. Ranganathan describes it as a probiotic dietary supplement that metabolizes nitrogenous waste that has diffused from the bloodstream into the bowel. In basic terms, the company suggests the living microorganisms contained in Renadyl utilize nitrogenous waste as a nutrient. The more they consume, the more they grow and multiply, and the more effective they are at helping to maintain Healthy kidney function.

According to Dr. Ranganathan, Streptococcus thermophilus (KB 19), Lactobacillus acidophilus (KB 27) and Bifidobacterium longum (KB31), the three probiotic strains featured in Renadyl, have been selected because they have a “higher affinity” for nitrogenous wastes such as urea and uric acid.

The Kibow Biotech executive cited several completed clinical trials conducted with Renadyl, including a recent one featuring 46 outpatient participants with stage 3 or 4 CKD.

The patients were tested at five institu- tions in four countries over the course of six months. The researchers found that BUN levels decreased in 63 percent of the subjects, creatinine levels declined in 43 percent of the study sample and uric acid levels dropped in 33 percent. At the same time, 86 percent of all participants expressed a perceived substantial overall improvement in quality of life.

Meanwhile, Dr. Ranganathan asserted, “Renadyl cannot replace dialysis. It is not a drug, medicine or device. It helps to maintain healthy kidney function.” 

More on Probiotics 

Renew Life Formulas in Florida also favors a probiotic approach to dealing with kidney disorders. Leonard Smith, MD, a board-certified general, gastrointestinal (GI) and vascular surgeon who serves as the company’s medical adviser, said, “The gut connection to the urinary tract is most obvious with regard To the crossover of bacterial flora that can occur from the GI tract to the urinary tract, especially in women. This most commonly occurs with the ascension of pathogenic bacteria from the anal area to the vagina and then to the urethra and up to the bladder creating an infection.” 

Dr. Smith said, “It has been shown that when women keep healthy levels of Lactobacillus in their vagina, the potential problem of vaginal or urinary infections from anorectal contamination with pathogenic bacteria is unlikely.” 

The Advanced Naturals line of digestive care products spearheads ReNew Life’s efforts in this area. Featured products include:

• Ultimate FloraMax Vaginal Balance 50 Billion is a once daily, extra-strength probiotic specifically formulated to support vaginal and urinary tract health. It contains 45 billion live Lactobacillus cultures and five billion live Bifidobacteria, mirroring the prevalence of Lactobacilli and lesser numbers of Bifidobacteria in the vagina. According to Dr. Smith, “The 10 strains in Ultimate FloraMax Vaginal Balance were chosen for their prevalence in the healthy vagina and urinary tract.”

• CleanseMax is a 30-day internal cleanse that supports the body’s seven channels of elimination. “CleanseMax Part I Supports the liver, lungs, lymphatic system, kidneys, skin and blood, and Part II supports cleansing of the bowel,” said Dr. Smith. Part I features a proprietary herbal blend of 14 herbs, including milk thistle seed, artichoke leaf, hawthorn berry and turmeric root.

• LiverMax is a two- part cleansing program that contains minerals, herbs and amino acids that have long been used to promote healthy detoxification and cleansing of the liver. Part I contains herbs, minerals and amino acids that support healthy liver detoxification, while Part II contains ayurvedic herbs, which support healthy liver detoxification functions, said Dr. Smith.

Cleansing and detoxification are also high on the list of renal health options employed by Texas-based Biotics Research Corporation. Blogging on the company’s website, Rachel Olivier, MS, ND, PhD, said, “Toxins have the ability to interfere with the metabolism in numerous ways. They can overburden both the liver and kidney’s detoxification systems, promote insulin resistance, activate the stress response, interfere with thyroid function and increase inflam- mation—all of which in turn may contribute or lead to obesity.

Additionally, toxins can have a direct effect on the hepatic control of both lipid and glucose mechanisms, as well as on inflam- matory cytokines.” 

Recognizing that “toxic exposure is a fact of modern life,” she urged, “it’s essential to do a detoxifying cleanse at least once a year.” 

According to Dr. Olivier, Biotics Research’s Easy 3-Step Bio-Detoxification program contains two bottles of NutriClear, a multiple supplement formula in powder form, one bottle of whey protein isolate, and one bottle of Bio-Detox Packs, another proprietary multi-supplement blend, along with a shaker cup. Patients are advised to follow an “anti-inflammatory” diet, and consume the 10-Day BioDetox Kit as follows: With breakfast, two scoops of NutriClear, one scoop of whey protein isolate and one packet of Bio-Detox Packs; with lunch, one packet of Bio-Detox Packs; with mid-afternoon snack, two scoops of NutriClear and one scoop of whey protein isolate; and with dinner, one packet of Bio- Detox Packs.

Ready for Ayurvedic?

Washington-based Ayush Herbs Inc. is a firm that has been marketing herbal products, vitamins, minerals and enzymes to physicians for more than 20 years, and bases its formulations on traditional ayurvedic combinations.

According to company President Shailinder Sodhi, BAMS (ayurveda), ND, the company uses herbs grown naturally in the Himachal Pradesh region of the Himalayas, without the use of pesticides, Insecticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizers. “Our products carry certifications in organic and kosher practices, as well as ISO and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) good manufacturing practices (GMP) certifications,” Sodhi declared.

Two Ayush products are specifically aimed at kidney and urinary support— Rentone drops and Rentone caplets. Both contain many of the same herbal ingredients, including Didymocarpus pedicellata, an ayurvedic herb also known as pathar phori.In Sanskrit, the name means, “that which breaks stones,” according to Dr. Sodhi. He added that Saxifraga ligulata has a similar meaning, “the plant which breaks rocks in order to grow” and also has astringent, laxative, diuretic and lithotrophic properties, as does Tribulus terrestris. Ocimum sanctum (holy basil) is used here for immune system support and diuretic actions. Shilajit is an Asphaltum (mineral pitch) obtained in the Himalayan region is con- sidered a rasayana (adap togen).

In addition to managing the Ayush brand, Dr. Sodhi is a physician that operates the Ayurvedic and Naturopathic Medical Clinic in Bellevue, WA, together with his brother Virender Sodhi and his sister-in-law Anju Sodhi.

Panchakarma (PK) is one of the treatment regimens they employ to bring aggravated doshas into balance and to flush out accumulated toxins, known as ama, using natural elimination routes such as the intestines, sweat glands and the urinary tract.

According to Dr. Sodhi, the benefits of PK treatments include: lowered diastolic blood pressure, reduced free radicals (which, he said, are the leading cause of all disease, cancer and death), reductions in bad cholesterol, lower toxic lipid peroxide levels, decreased rates of platelet clumping and lymphatic congestion, and decreases in 14 major toxic and cancer-causing chemicals from body tissues (including heavy metals, pesticides and other hazardous environmental chemicals).

Honing in on Homeopathy 

With U.S. headquarters in Pennsylvania, Seroyal opens the door to another branch of complementary and alternative medicine—homeopathy. Among its products aimed at renal health are the following:

• Genestra brand HKI Renal Drops—a homeopathic organotherapy preparation synergistically formulated to support, balance and restore kidney function.

• Genestra brand TKI—a renal complex that provides a combination of vitamins, herbs and kidney tissue extract, specifically formulated for the support of the kidneys and urinary system.

• UNDA brand Chelidonium—contains a combination of specific homeopathics syn- ergistically formulated to promote hepatic, renal, lymphatic and intestinal detoxifica- tion and drainage.

• UNDA brand Prunus Amygdalus Root Bark—helps with certain symptoms of arte- riosclerosis, especially those associated with renal damage.

Company literature explained the Biotherapeutic Drainage line focuses on the “emunctories,” organs or ducts that carry wastes out of the body. Seroyal said its products offer a gentler alternative to detoxification, which “has the potential to ‘push’ the body, working towards the upper limits of elimination capacity in order to remove blockages.” Instead, Biotherapeutic Drainage works at an intracellular and extracellular level “within the normal parameters of elimination capacity.” 

The Biotherapeutic Drainage brand includes a specific product aimed at liver and kidney, plus adrenal support, and another that targets urinary tract support.

The Wheelwright Approach 

Jack Tips, ND, PhD, Chom, CCN, heads up Austin, TX-based Apple-A-Day Natural Health Services, which relies on the discov- eries and teachings of A.S. Wheelwright (1918-1990).

According to Dr. Tips, “Renal health care starts with the correct amount of pure water—not too much, not too little.Nutrition supports the kidneys, and the kidneys require amino acids for their tissue integrity. Large protein chains, such as soy or high-protein supplements, can damage the kidneys because the kidneys must filter the blood.” 

In his view, “Alternative kidney care is well founded on the principles of nutrition that supports the kidneys as functional tissues and avoids ‘non-foods’ that damage the kidneys, e.g. soft drinks, sugar, genetically modified foods, excessive ‘large chain’ or ‘heat-altered’ proteins.” 

Looking toward the future, Dr. Tips added, “Nutritional therapeutics is evolving quickly based on sound, scientific research that demonstrates the role of foods and herbs as containing the ingredients that support kidney health.” 

Ingredients available from Apple-A-Day include the following:

• K (Kidney) and Ks (Kidney-s)—botanicals and nutrient factors based on the work of master herbalist A.S. Wheelwright featuring Amazonian herbs, amino acids, vitamins, and essential oils.

• KDIR (Fluidren)—botanicals from North and South America that, according to herbal tradition, provide a mild diuretic effect.

• Water Tonify and Water Sedate—herbs from the Chinese tradition, vitamins and minerals that support the “Water Element” of the Constitutional 5-Element theory.

Practitioners’ Views

Like many in the natural health field, Jenna Henderson, ND, started out as a patient. In 1993, at the age of 22, she was struck with a rare kidney disease, focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS). After three years trying desperately to save her organs with mainstream medicine, she was told that dialysis was imminent. At that point, Henderson sought an answer in alternative medicine.

Although the damage to her kidneys was extensive, she was able to prolong the time before dialysis was necessary by changing her diet and using natural supplements.

While on dialysis, Henderson searched for ways to gain more energy, protect her heart and reverse bone loss. Although information wasn’t readily available, she did her own research and found a protocol that worked.

All around her in the dialysis clinic, patients were suffering, and many of them died. “What would it take to make information about alternative kidney care easily available?” she thought. “How much more effective could I be if I had the proper educational background?” 

Today, having earned an ND degree at the University of Bridgeport, Dr. Henderson operates a practice called Holistic Kidney. Seeing patients in New York City and consulting worldwide from her Danbury, CT headquarters, she treats all of the following conditions: diabetic nephropathy; dialysis care; hypertension; nephrotic syndrome; kidney stones; lupus; FSGS; minimal change; membranous Nephropathy; IgA nephropathy; polycystic kidneys; nephritic syndrome; Alport’s; crescentic nephritis; vasculitis; Wilm’s tumor; renal cell carcinoma; Fanconi’s; nephrosis; recurrent kidney infections; age-related kidney decline; uremic syndrome; and post transplant care.

Dr. Henderson believes quality of life is possible for all kidney patients. “If caught early, it is possible to reverse some damage and heal the kidneys,” she said. “Even with advanced kidney disease, we can often maintain the function and avoid dialysis.” 

For those on dialysis, Holistic Kidney strives to optimize their health, give them energy and avoid long-term damage to the heart and the bones. For those with a transplant, Dr. Henderson warned, “Cancer prevention is paramount,” noting that as many as 80 percent of kidney transplant patients are at risk of developing cancer.

“We can also help the transplant patient cope with side effects of immuno suppressive therapy. Most patients report feeling better within the first week of treatment,” she said.

Henderson and Eric Yarnell, ND, are sep- arated by 2,400 miles, but in some respects both have walked the same path.

Dr. Yarnell, a 1996 graduate of Bastyr University, where he is now an assistant professor in the department of botanical medicine, also has his own practice, Northwest Naturopathic Urology, in Seattle, WA.

Blogging extensively on his website (www.dryarnell.com), he tackles such subJects as the value of alternative diagnostic test procedures, IgA nephropathy and the passing of kidney stones.

Dr. Yarnell takes issue with the standard medical practice of relying on serum creatinine testing to screen for kidney disease. He stated, “This test becomes abnormal far too late in the process to do much good.Measuring albumin in the urine is a simple, cheap test that detects problems far earlier, when a lot more can be done to prevent them from worsening or even reverse them.” 

Regarding IgA nephropathy, Dr. Yarnell cited several studies showing that high doses of fish oil can help decrease the severity of the disease. He also said herbal medicines may play a role, noting the success he has had using such herbs as Lespedeza capitata (round-head lespedeza) leaf and flower, Rheum palmatum (rhubarb) root (used at a low-dose to prevent diarrhea) and Parietaria judaica (pellitory-of-the- wall) herb.

Turning to kidney stones, Dr. Yarnell said, “Few things are as painful.” Following naturopathic principles, he favors the use of spasmolytic herbs like cramp bark (Viburnum opulus), blackhaw (Viburnum prunifolium) bark, wild yam (Dioscorea villosa) root, khella (Ammi visnaga) seed and Lobelia inflata (lobelia) leaf and seed.According to Dr. Yarnell, “The latter two are quite potent with some potential for side effects if used incorrectly, and thus should only be used when supervised by a practitioner with experience using these herbs.”

Healthy Take Aways

The National Kidney Foundation reports that 26 million Americans— one in nine adults—have kidney disease.

When CKD is found and treated early, steps can be taken to prevent its progression and complication.

The living microorganisms in probiotic dietary supplements can consume nitrogenous waste, thereby helping to maintain healthy kidney function.

The benefits of panchakarma (PK) treatments include: lowered diastolic blood pressure, reduced free radicals (which are the leading cause of all disease, cancer and death), reductions in bad cholesterol, lower toxic lipid peroxide levels, decreased rates of platelet clumping and lymphatic congestion, and decreases in 14 major toxic and cancer-causing chemicals from body tissues (including heavy metals, pesticides and other hazardous environmental chemicals).

Homeopathic formulations may offer a gentler alternative to detoxification, which has the potential to “push” the body.


Apple-A-Day Natural Health Services, 
(512) 328-3996, www.jacktips.com 

Ayush Herbs, (800) 925-1371, www.ayush.com

Biotics Research Corporation, (800) 231-5777, www.bioticsresearch.com 

Holistic Kidney, (888) 472-9594, www.holistic-kidney.com 

Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), www.jama.com 

Kibow Biotech, (610) 353-5130, www.kibowbiotech.com

National Kidney Foundation, www.kidney.org 

Northwest Naturopathic Urology, (206) 834-4100, www.dryarnell.com 

ReNew Life Formulas, (800) 830-4778, www.advancednaturals.com 

Seroyal, (888) 737-6925, www.seroyal.com

Systemic Formulas, (800) 445-4647, www.systemicformulasmedia.com 

World Health Organization, www.who.int