(UTI, Kidney Stone, Kidney Failure, Interstitial Cystitis, Incontinence, Cancer)
The renal system or our urinary system operates as our “sewage treatment plant.” While filtering blood, it removes bodily toxins and waste products through urine formation and excretion. The urinary system anatomy is a duct and tube network existing to create and eliminate urine.
This makes the urinary system our most underrated body system. Most often ignore it, allowing damage to compile until it’s too late. No health optimizer wants to find themselves in a place of attachment to a kidney dialysis machine for life.
So support your urinary system so it can continue to support you.
Primary Urinary System Tasks
- Blood pH regulation
- Blood pressure regulation
- Blood volume regulation
- Calcitriol (Vitamin D active form) synthesis
- Electrolyte management (bicarbonate, calcium, chloride, phosphate, potassium, sodium)
- Red blood cell production via the kidneys
- Waste product storage and removal (urea and uric acid)
Primary Urinary System Organs
- Kidneys: Form urine through blood filtration.
- Ureters: Passes urine to the bladder
- Bladder: Stores urine and then moves it to the urethra.
- Urethra: Eliminates urine to the outside of the body.
Urination occurs voluntarily through nervous system coordination with the endocrine and circulatory system. In the elderly, infants, and those with neurological impairment, urination can be an involuntary reflex.
The endocrine system controls the urinary system through aldosterone, and the antidiuretic and parathyroid hormones.
A healthy urinary system produces 27 to 67 ounces of urine depending on fluid intake and kidney function.
Expanding most of the urinary system, including the bladder, renal pelvis, and ureters, the urothelium, or transitional epithelium, is the unique urinary tract lining. Contrary to the epithelial lining of other organs, the urothelium expands and flattens.
Nephrologists typically treat kidney diseases, while urologists see patients for urinary tract diseases. Gynecologists may take female patients with urinary incontinence.
Other diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension, can cause kidney disease. Diabetes can directly affect urination because of peripheral neuropathy from poor blood sugar control.
Either acquired or hereditary urinary dysfunction can cause urinary system diseases.
Common Urinary System Tests
We use blood and urine tests to determine healthy kidney function. We detect excessive kidney leakage of protein with urine tests to discover of kidney damage.
Ultrasounds and CT scans are used to view kidney diseases, stones, tumors, or other structural issues. We can take a kidney biopsy to further test for kidney disease.
- Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN)
Normal BUN levels are 7 to 20, as BUN rises with kidney dysfunction. The measurement gives us the amount of blood nitrogen from urea waste.
- Glomerular Filtration Rate(GFR)
A normal GFR is 90 or higher, with a GFR less than 60 a kidney dysfunction sign. We calculate GFR from serum creatinine using age and gender and adjusting for African American descent. While GFR decreases with age when below 15, there is a high risk for dialysis or kidney transplant.
- Serum Creatine
Through normal wear and tear on body muscles, creatine is a waste product, with age, body size, and race differing blood-levels. Levels greater than 1.4 for men and 1.2 for women can show early kidney dysfunction, with the level rising as kidney disease progresses.
- Creatinine Clearance
This test shows the number of waste products the kidneys are filtering by the minute, comparing a 24-hour urine sample to creatinine blood levels.
We use this more specific dipstick test, (chemically treated strip), for those with a high risk of kidney disease, diabetes, or hypertension to detect the amount of albumin protein in the urine. The doctor will order this test or the albumin-to-creatinine ratio if the proteinuria test is negative.
This involves basic dipstick and microscopic urine sample testing. Detecting excess amounts of bacteria, blood, protein, pus, and sugar, the strip changes color. We can identify an array of urinary system disorders, including bladder infections, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, and kidney stones with urinalysis.
- Urine Protein
Ordered as part of urinalysis or with a separate dipstick test, proteinuria is an excessive amount of protein in the urine. If the test is 1+ or more, one can request a more specific dipstick test such as microalbuminuria testing or quantitative measurement such as an albumin-to-creatinine ratio. A normal albumin-to-creatinine ratio (ACR) or UACR, is less than 30 mg/g.
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has a valuable calculator to calculate your GFR.
Common Urinary Disorders
- Cancers (bladder, kidney, ureteral, urethral)
- Incontinence (inability to control urine flow)
- Interstitial cystitis
- Kidney stones
- Kidney failure
- Urinary tract infections
Common Urinary Symptoms
- Abdominal, lower back pain, or pelvic pain
- Bloody or pinkish urine (hematuria)
- Cloudy colored urine
- Chills and fever
- Frequent urination
- Odor causing urine
- Overall lack of wellness
- Sexual intercourse pain
- Urination burning or pain (dysuria)
- Urine leakage
- Urgent urination need
- Unknown weight loss
Seek Immediate Medical Attention for The Following Symptoms
- Fever (greater than 101 degrees F)
- Lack of urine production
- Severe abdominal, lower back, or pelvic pain
- Severe nausea and vomiting
Kidney Harming Drugs (When Used Long-term Even in Healthy Individuals)
- NSAID’s (Non-steroidal Anti-Inflammatory drugs)
This effect amplifies when taking diuretics (water pills) or ACE Inhibitors.
OTC painkillers: aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen.
Prescription painkillers such as Celebrex.
Combining these with caffeine can further kidney harm.
3. ACE Inhibitors
The immune-stimulating Chinese medicinal plant, astragalus, shows notable proteinuria decreases in a few studies. It appears to prevent kidney infections in those with depressed kidney function.
Astragalus offers us effective effects for idiopathic membranous nephropathy, which damages the kidney blood vessels. Nephrotic syndrome recurs after cessation of astragalus intake, while a return to complete nephrotic remission returns after restarting astragalus therapy.
We see proteinuria clinical effects in several kidney disease studies using dosages of 15 grams per day. Patients with nephrotic syndrome kidney infections experience 38% reductions with 7.5 to 15 grams of daily astragalus after three to six months.
#2 Aged Garlic Extract
One of the most well-studied and proven nutritional supplements, garlic supports the urinary system in a variety of ways. With beta and calcium channel blocking, diuretic, vasodilating, and ACE inhibiting actions, garlic can significantly lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
Garlic delivers benefits to all metabolic disease markers, including elevated lipids and blood sugar often found in kidney disease patients. Inhibiting E. coli, responsible for 90% of urinary tract infections, garlic is an effective antibacterial.
In another study, we find the effects of allicin garlic’s active compound to be comparable to the prescription drug Losartan in patients with chronic kidney disease. These findings appear to be in alignment with garlic’s positive effects on nitric oxide and blood circulation.
Aged garlic extract manufacturers claim their products to be many times stronger than raw garlic. Limited evidence shows oil-based garlic supplements might be toxic to the body.
Study-based dosages range from 400 to 600 mg two times a day.
#3 Vitamin D3
Kidney disease patients experience greater levels of vitamin D deficiency, which is already a common deficiency worldwide. Recent coronavirus COVID-19 studies are leading us to believe there is an associated risk with lower expression ACE2 expression with significantly higher adverse disease outcomes.
Studies support vitamin D3 supplementation decreasing elevated calcium in chronic kidney disease, which supports the dysfunction of multiple organs. Insufficiency or deficiency is common following renal transplantation. High dose vitamin D able to prevent posttransplant bone loss and acute kidney damage in sepsis-induced kidney injuries.
Vitamin D also proves itself effective in protecting against diabetic kidney disease from kidney injuries.
An emerging debate is whether the existing 20 to 50 ng/ml vitamin D blood levels are sufficient. Many are suggesting 50 ng/ml to 70 ng/ml might be a more effective blood testing range.
For the average person with limited sun exposure, this would mean a minimum of 5,000 IU or 125 mcg of vitamin D3. For protection against arteriosclerosis, many supplements combine K2 with D3.
Finally, emerging data reminds us vitamin D3 intake requires sufficient magnesium levels, which is another already common deficiency worldwide.
#4 NAC (N-Acetyl-Cysteine)
As the prodrug to l-cysteine N-Acetyl-Cysteine (NAC), acts as a prodrug to L-cysteine, the primary of three precursors to the “master antioxidant”, glutathione. Supplementation of NAC restores glutathione in the body.
Over 30 clinical studies analyzed NAC kidney-protective effects for kidney injuries, before or after kidney surgery, and with kidney disease thyroid complications. The bulk of these studies highlight the effectiveness of NAC as a treatment possibility for acute kidney disease.
This should not surprise us as we find NAC in hospitals worldwide as an essential medicine. Administered in an IV or intramuscular injection in hospital settings, NAC reduces major organ damage.
NAC in clinical studies prevents kidney failure in surgery, trauma, and thyroid cases.
We see daily doses in the 1,000 to 2,000 mg range. Other forms such as NACET, S-acetyl-glutathione, and sublingual glutathione might offer greater bioavailability.
Curcumin, the active turmeric compound assists in kidney protection because of its potent anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant actions. With positive effects on the primary inflammatory cytokines, IL-1, IL-6, TNF-Alpha, it is not surprising curcumin delivers kidney disease protection.
Providing an array of benefits for those with metabolic diseases, such as improved circulation with nitric oxide, NOS3; eNOS, homocysteine, fatty liver disease, cancer, while lowering inflammation, curcumin is a viable renal-protective supplement.
The biggest challenge with curcumin is its low bioavailability. Recent breakthroughs in delivery technology are allowing this ancient plant to become clinically effective.
Selecting the correct curcumin at the correct dosage is critically important to realize its clinical effects. See our guide to proper curcumin selection.
In vitro studies find hibiscus extract effective against E. coli, responsible for 90% of urinary tract infections, (UTIs). In another study we see it blocking eight bacterial strains and equally effective to prescription medications.
Because of its diuretic and vitamin C effects, hibiscus can be effective against UTIs because it flushes fluids with urine, thus simultaneously eliminating bacteria. There is evidence hibiscus lowers the incidence of catheter-related urinary tract infections.
While not as effective as D-mannose for UTI’s, it is common for supplement manufacturers to include hibiscus and sometimes the lesser effective cranberry in their formulas.
In a few studies, we see hibiscus effective against recurrent and treatment-resistant bacterial strains, along with lowering the recurrence of infections.
Some believe hibiscus can relieve kidney stones, but the evidence does not seem to support this.
Along with garlic, hibiscus is arguably the best overall supplement for weight loss and metabolic disease, which is common in those with chronic kidney disease.
The study dosages range from 450 to 2700 mg per day in clinical trials. Some studies show some support using three cups of hibiscus tea, but overall the extract appears to be the more effective route of administration.
With a chemical structure very similar to glucose, D-mannose is a naturally occurring form of sugar. A clinical trial reveals it to be equally effective to the antibiotic, nitrofurantoin.
In vitro studies show D-mannose blocking bacteria from adhering to bladder walls, causing bacterial elimination during urination. Another study shows over 300 women experiencing equal effectiveness with a daily dose of 2 grams of D-mannose as a common antibiotic used to prevent UTI recurrence.
Much like hibiscus, D-mannose shows effectiveness against multi-drug treatment-resistant bacterial strains.
D-mannose was as effective as antibiotics at preventing UTI recurrence after 6 months. Studies use doses of 1.5 to 2 grams as much as 3 times per day.
Cocoa shows enormous potential for kidney diseases. Its effects on nitric oxide and circulation are sizable. We see cocoa increasing oxygenation of kidney tissue, even in healthy individuals.
The ability of cocoa to improve blood vessel structure and function carries over to its urinary system protection. The flavonoids in cocoa give it its clinical effect.
One recent study even shows kidney patients being able to avoid heart failure with daily cocoa consumption.
As a drink or an extract, organic products can be worth the cost. Raw cacao is even more potent than cocoa, delivering as much as 50% more antioxidants. If one is experiencing kidney stones, they should avoid cocoa.
#9 Potassium Citrate
Potassium citrate, found in lemonade, limeade, and other citrus juices, performs well against chronic kidney stones. Citrate in the urine may prevent calcium from binding with other substances to form stones.
B vitamins, (B1 thiamine, B2 riboflavin, B3 niacin, B6, and B12) can also be useful against kidney stones. B6 may be of particular aid to those with high urine oxalate levels. Vitamin C, vitamin D3, and cod liver oil can increase kidney stone formation in some. Calcium may help or hurt dissolving kidney stones.
Increasing fluid intake, weight loss, with a healthy low animal protein diet, can help dissolve kidney stones or lower the risk of their recurrence. Oxalate-rich foods, such as beets, chocolate, nuts, rhubarb, and spinach are stone-forming foods. Phosphate-rich compounds, such as colas, can also cause kidney stones.
Use fresh-squeezed juices or products with no added sugar. One should use extreme-caution with potassium supplements, especially if one is on a potassium-raising medication, such as an ACE Inhibitor, ARB, or NSAID. The juice route treatment is preferable, as it increases fluid intake.
Top 9 Notables
Quercetin, resveratrol, cranberry, pterostilbene, birch leaf, buchu leaf, goldenrod, horsehair, juniper berry, gravel root, nettle leaf, java tea, green tea, EGCG, cinnamon, cassia, Ceylon, turmeric, grape seed, blueberry, berries, greens, Vitamin A, B-complex (B1 thiamin, B2 riboflavin, B3 niacin, B5 pantothenic acid, B6, biotin, B9 folate, B12), vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, calcium, selenium, copper, iron, omega-3 (algae oil, cod liver oil, fish oil, krill oil, DHA, EPA), zinc, algae, seaweed, citrus, vinegar, hydrangea, sambong, potassium-citrate, pumpkin seed, beets, spirulina, dietary fiber, prebiotics, probiotics, parsley, cilantro, chamomile, mint, rosehip, ginkgo Biloba, Uva Ursi, bearberry leaf, Boswellia, l-methionine, myrrh, glutamine, dandelion, moringa, alpha-lipoic acid.
Best Kidney/ Urinary System Supplements:
Kidney Oxygenation: Cocoa
Kidney Nutrient: Vitamin D3
Kidney Stones: Potassium Citrate
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