March is National Kidney Month, and to start off this HWB social media month, we thought that a brief discussion on kidney health would be a great way to start! The kidneys are an amazing pair of organs that cover a huge scope of key functions in the body. Our kidneys are crucial life sustaining organs which perform many of the main functions to keep our blood clean and chemically balanced.
Some of the more important functions they perform are:
1. They filter the blood to get rid of waste products of metabolism.
2. They keep the electrolytes (sodium and potassium being the most important) and water content of the body constant.
3. They secrete a number of essential hormones such as renin which keeps our blood pressure under control, and also Erythropoeitin another hormone that is secreted by the kidney, and acts on the bone marrow to increase the production of red blood cells.
Unfortunately for many, kidney health can be a chronic challenge. Often times issues with kidney health can also impact other systems as well such as our cardiovascular system (or vice versa) and our endocrine system. In the following article on Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD), we will review the physiology behind the disease as described by western medicine sources, and also comment on commonly used herbs, supplements, and dietary/lifestyle measures that may potentially support better kidney function for individuals with PKD.
The following information is not meant as a substitute for advice from your medical doctor, nor is it meant to replace any current prescription medications. As with all of our articles, if you are suffering from a current health issue, please speak with an appropriate practitioner. Also, please do not self dose on herbal remedies as not all herbs are appropriate for an individual based off of their current needs.
We hope you enjoy this article on Polycystic Kidney Disease.
Understanding Polycystic Kidney Disease
The above image is anatomy of a kidney with Polycystic Kidney Disease
According to Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, Polycystic Kidney Disease, or PKD is “any of several hereditary disorders in which cysts form in the kidneys and other organs, eventually damaging kidney tissue and function”. PKD is considered a hereditary disorder with two types. The first is considered autosomal recessive when the disease appears in childhood, and the second is considered autosomal dominant when it appears in adulthood (commonly over the age of 30). In both cases, this systemic hereditary disorder is characterized by the formation of cysts in the cortex and medulla of both kidneys. Small cysts lined by tubular epithelium (which play an active role in renal inflammation) form and the surrounding normal kidney tissue is compressed and progressively damaged which leads to the eventual damaged/destruction of the tissue. In the case of PKD, the damaged tissue stimulates the body’s protective inflammatory response due to the renal injury, thus beginning the chronic inflammatory cycle.
Individuals with early PKD are often without symptoms until later in life but generally show evidence of high or elevated blood pressure from the approx. age of 20 and onward.
In adults, this hereditary disorder has a prevalence of approximately 1 in 1000 individuals.
This is a hereditary genetic disorder most often passed down in families. Rarely, a genetic mutation can occur spontaneously so that neither parent has a copy of the mutated gene.
Individuals with a strong positive family history of ADPKD and no cysts detected by imaging studies can undergo genetic linkage analysis for additional evaluation.
When your Doctor diagnosis PKD:
“A person is considered to have PKD if three or more cysts are noted in both kidneys and there is a positive family member with autosomal dominant polycystic disease (ADPKD)” – Ferri’s Atlas and Text of Clinical Medicine
The diagnosis is usually based on family history, clinical and laboratory findings, and ultrasound examination, only your MD can diagnose PKD.
Symptoms of PKD:
Laboratory Findings in PKD:
Complications of PKD:
Dietary and Lifestyle Suggestions for PKD:
Always consult an appropriate practitioner before starting new dietary changes, dietary needs will differ with each individual. This list is not a complete dietary needs list, this is not a treatment plan.
Supplement Suggestions for PKD:
Always consult an appropriate practitioner before taking new supplements, do not self-dose. This list is not a complete supplementation list, this is not a treatment plan.
Herbal Suggestions for PKD:
Always consult an appropriate practitioner before taking herbs, do not self-dose. This is not a complete herbal list, this is not a treatment plan.
About the Contributor
Petra Sovcov holds a Doctorate of Natural Medicine (DNM) with a focus on Herbal Medicine (CHT) and is a current faculty member at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition Nutrition. She is a new member on the HWB Board of Directors, and has been a member of HWB since 2014. She currently runs the HWB Mahonia Chapter for the greater Vancouver BC area and coordinates the community free clinic. She is also the owner of Healing House Natural Wellness Centre, a multi-modality center located in BC Canada. For more info please visit the site, or follow her on Instagram @healinghouseherbal
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