Herbal supplements and other therapies may be harmful to patients with chronic kidney disease. On the other hand, following a kidney-friendly diet is the best home remedy of all.

People living with chronic kidney disease (CKD) may be tempted to try home remedies to alleviate symptoms or slow the progression of the disease. Unfortunately, these supplements may actually be harmful, especially if they contain certain minerals that impair kidney function.

The best at-home remedy for CKD patients, particularly those undergoing dialysis, is a diet designed to promote good renal function. A nephrologist and a nutritionist can help patients choose foods that enhance kidney health, but here are some at-home remedies that should be avoided.

Don’t Try This At Home

Managing CKD comes down to avoiding potentially damaging minerals and other substances that may end up doing more harm than good. In short, herbal supplements and marijuana may be risky for CKD patients.

Herbal Supplements. Marketed as a cure for a variety of ailments, herbal supplements are not considered a viable treatment for CKD. That’s because many of these supplements contain minerals like potassium and phosphorus that, when taken in high doses, hinder renal function.

For example, feverfew, Shepherd’s Purse, and sassafras contain high levels of potassium. Likewise, phosphorus is found in American ginseng, bitter melon, and sunflower seeds. Creatinine supplements should also be avoided, since an elevated level of creatinine indicates CKD.

Herbal supplements may also interfere with prescription medications a CKD patient may take to control chronic conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes. Before taking any supplement, CKD patients should consult with their doctors to understand what effect the product may have on their kidney function.

Medical Marijuana. CKD patients frequently suffer from nausea, chronic pain, and low appetite. To counteract those symptoms, many turn to medical marijuana. However, a recent study concluded that marijuana use actually accelerates the progression of kidney disease. Researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York noted the study focused on subjects who smoked marijuana. The same results may not be seen in those who used a vaporizer or ingested the marijuana, though that’s yet to be determined. 

Eat Right — at Home. To keep their kidneys working properly, CKD patients should follow a kidney-friendly diet. A nutritionist can develop a meal plan that includes foods beneficial to the kidneys. In general, a diet low in sodium, protein, potassium, and phosphorus support renal health. 

Protein. While our bodies need protein to maintain our overall health, too much protein forces already damaged kidneys to work harder to process the nutrient through our system. A nutritionist can recommend how much protein a CKD patient can consume, but foods such as poultry, fish, eggs, and red meat should be limited on kidney-friendly diet. Instead, substitute those items with lower protein foods like bread, vegetables, fruits, rice, and pasta.

Potassium. Potassium strengthens our muscles, yet an excess of potassium can be harmful to kidneys. Therefore, foods high in potassium — bananas, avocados, tomatoes, and beans — should be avoided. In their place, CKD patients can eat cauliflower, white bread, grapes, summer squash, and strawberries.

Phosphorus. Phosphorus, a mineral, supports bone health. However, in patients with CKD, an excessive amount of phosphorus in the blood stream leads to brittle bones. To keep phosphorus levels low, CKD patients should eliminate whole grain bread, dark-colored colas, bran cereals, and nuts from their diet. Better choices are corn or rice cereals, unsalted popcorn, and light-colored sodas and lemonade.

Sodium. A high-sodium diet raises blood pressure, which, in turn, causes kidney damage. In addition to ditching the salt shaker, CKD patients must avoid processed meats (bacon, sausage, and lunch meats); canned soups and vegetables; and salty snacks. Frozen meals typically contain a high level of sodium, so CKD patients should carefully check the label to determine how much sodium is in the package. 

Caring for Your Kidneys

Southeastern Massachusetts Dialysis Group specializes in CKD and helping patients maintain renal function. Our staff advises patients on the best therapy for their individual needs and can provide guidance on dietary choices. CKD is a serious disorder, but with the proper medical treatment, patients can thrive for many years. Contact our office today for an appointment.