An HSI member named Ron asks: "Is there any remedy for loss of some kidney function?

An HSI member named Ron asks: “Is there any remedy for loss of some kidney function?

What supplements help kidney health?”

Needless to say, kidney malfunction is a very serious health condition, so I assume that Ron is under a doctor’s care. And Ron’s first question should only be fielded by a physician who understands the cause of Ron’s kidney problem, how long the condition has been present, family medical history and other important variables.

The second question is somewhat simpler.

Albumin is a protein that transports various substances in the blood stream. When too much albumin is excreted in the urine, it’s a clear sign that the kidneys may be in trouble. In the e-Alert “Take 2” (7/28/03), I told you about a study that showed how regular intake of vitamins C and E may help lower albumin excretion rate (AER).

A low-protein diet is also recommended to protect at-risk kidneys. And although kidney stones are not necessarily indicative of kidney disease, research shows that a low-protein, low-salt diet offers better protection against kidney stones than the traditionally recommended low-calcium diet. Managing blood sugar levels and blood pressure is also crucial.

In a 2004 Health eTips e-letter, a reader whose mother had chronic kidney failure asked Jonathan V. Wright, M.D., about using a supplement called chitosan.

Dr. Wright: “Chitosan is most popular for its effectiveness as a weight control supplement. It is extracted from the shells of crustaceans, such as shrimp and crab, which means that if your mother has an allergy to shellfish, it’s not an option for her. If not, however, she may want to consider it. A study published a few years ago clearly showed a benefit to dialysis patients who took chitosan. Half of the 80 study participants took 1,450 milligrams of chitosan, three times daily for 12 weeks; the other half didn’t take any chitosan. After the study period, researchers reported that the patients who took chitosan reported less fatigue and shortness of breath, and improvements in appetite, sleep, and feelings of physical strength. Their kidney function also appeared better, and they suffered from less severe anemia – a common problem in those with chronic kidney failure. And there were no significant side effects reported.”

One word of caution: HSI Panelist Allan Spreen, M.D., tells me that chitosan blocks absorption of fat in the intestines, so extended use may also block intake of essential fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins. So before using chitosan, Ron should consult with his doctor.