The increasing popularity of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen has parallels in the rise in kidney disease, which is now more common than diabetes.
“I see many new clients with musculoskeletal injuries who have been taking Ibuprofen every day over a period of months or years,” says Chiropractor John de Voy. “Most are unaware of how damaging Ibuprofen can be on the kidneys.”
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have been linked with kidney problems which, left untreated, could necessitate daily periods on a dialysis machine, the need for a kidney transplant, or premature death.
How anti-inflammatorys work
During inflammation following an injury, blood flow increases to the affected area as a result of vessel dilatation. White blood cells, or leukocytes, create a family of chemicals called prostaglandins that dilate blood vessels and promote leakiness, allowing proteins from the blood to spill into surrounding tissue which creates swelling around the injury.
To make prostaglandins, a compound called arachidonic acid is converted through the action of an enzyme called cyclooxygenase. NSAIDs, including aspirin and ibuprofen, work by inhibiting cyclooxygenase activity, thus reducing prostaglandin synthesis. With less prostaglandin, there is less inflammation.
Yet prostaglandins are responsible for many other necessary bodily tasks, tasks which are compromised when prostaglandin is reduced through habitual consumption of NSAIDs. Prostaglandins help protect the lining of the gut, they keep platelets working properly, important for blood clotting, and help maintain normal kidney.
NSAIDs can bring on two different forms of acute renal failure: hemodynamically-mediated; and acute interstitial nephritis. Both are directly related to the reduction in prostaglandin synthesis. Additional risk factors for NSAID-induced renal insufficiency are advanced age and associated use of diuretics.
Attacking your kidneys
Your kidneys contain a labyrinth of tiny filters that separate waste byproducts from the substances that the body needs, such as calcium, sodium, and water.
“Kidney disease is increasingly prevalent, not only because of the rising popularity of ibuprofen and other medications which tax the kidneys, but also due to the rise in type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure,” says John. Diabetes and high blood pressure can overload the precision workings of the kidneys, causing irreversible scarring and shrinkage.
The vast majority of people with kidney disease remain oblivious for years because organs can sustain damage for some time before symptoms appear. Even mild kidney problems can contribute to anemia, bone loss, worsened heart disease, and premature death. People over age 60 are especially vulnerable because they tend to take more medications, and because kidney function normally declines with age.
Early warning signs
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to ward off or rein in kidney damage, as well as early warning signs and tests to help early diagnosis. Watch out for stomach problems, including gut irritation, and abnormal bruising or bleeding such as from the gums, nose, digestive tract, vagina, faintness, dizziness, loss of consciousness, or rash, which indicate problems with blood clotting.
“The first and most obvious thing to avoid kidney disease is to monitor your use of anti-inflammatories,” says John. “Management of chronic pain should not rely on medications – these will cause more problems than they solve in the long term. Rather, physical therapy should as exercise, massage and chiropractic care are effective and natural, with no unwanted side effects.”
Key to preventing kidney damage is consuming a healthy diet and regular exercise to help lower blood pressure and avoid type 2 diabetes. Medications to lower high blood pressure or control diabetes are often necessary; ask your doctor for alternatives and seek advice elsewhere if these are not forthcoming.
Since research suggests that kidney stones may also damage the organs, it makes sense to prevent the painful crystals from forming; the most effective method is to drink plenty of water.
Slowing the damage
If you are diagnosed with kidney disease, lifestyle changes that help prevent the disease can also slow it down. Aggressively control high blood pressure with lower-than-normal targets. If medications are necessary, ACE inhibitors and ARBs are good choices because of their proven ability to protect the kidneys.
For diabetics, research shows that every percentage-point drop in the A1C blood test – a measure of blood-sugar control – can cut the risk of kidney disease and other complications by up to 40 percent.
Reduce your salt intake; kidney damage impairs excretion of those electrolytes, and reducing sodium intake can help lower blood pressure.
Limit protein in your diet; too much can overwork diseased the kidneys.
The kidneys are our body’s cleansers; like all filters, they will be destroyed prematurely if we put too much through them that ought not to be processed in the first place.