Sponsored by: Renadyl™

Kellsey Reed RDN, LDN

Herbal supplements have become a popular topic for those with CKD. Many websites claim that there are certain herbal supplements that can “cure” kidney disease. These claims have been proven false and are oftentimes more harmful than helpful for those with CKD. Before trying a new supplement or herbal tea, it is important to speak with your doctor and dietitian to ensure that it is the right choice for you. 

What are herbal supplements?

Herbal supplements have been used for many centuries and are typically derived from plants, oils, roots, seeds, berries, or flowers. Many herbal supplements come in the form of teas, tablets, oils, or extracts. A few examples of common herbal supplements are echinacea, ginkgo, and chamomile. The FDA does not regulate herbal supplements; therefore, their safety and efficacy are not typically regulated adequately. Many herbal supplements are also made with heavy metals, which can be harmful. 

How do herbal supplements affect the kidneys?

One of the main jobs of the kidneys is to filter out waste and toxins from the body. The kidneys are also responsible for helping with blood pressure control, making red blood cells, and keeping bones strong and healthy. When we eat food, excess nutrients from our food are typically filtered out of the body through the kidneys. When you take an herbal supplement, it can contain potassium, phosphorus, or other nutrients in excess. This can cause a buildup of extra potassium and phosphorus in the body and can contribute to high potassium or phosphorus levels in the body if you have CKD. Keeping potassium and phosphorus levels within a healthy range is so important when keeping your kidneys healthy. 

Some herbal supplements that contain potassium and/or phosphorus are:

  • Bitter melon
  • American ginseng
  • Dandelion root
  • Dulse
  • Stinging nettle
  • Feverfew
  • Pokeweed
  • Yellow dock
  • Borage leaf

For a complete list of herbal supplements to avoid with CKD, please visit the National Kidney Foundation website.

Herbal supplements can interfere with certain medications. Different herbal supplements can actually make your medications less effective. This is especially dangerous because many medications you might be taking for your CKD can help with blood pressure, blood sugar, fluid, potassium, or phosphorus control. Therefore, avoiding herbal supplements and adhering to your medication regimen when you have kidney disease are of the utmost importance. Herbal supplements can also cause unpleasant side effects like diarrhea, constipation, electrolyte imbalances, and blood pressure or blood sugar changes. 

What to do if you are thinking about taking an herbal supplement  

There are so many ways to manage CKD with lifestyle changes, nutrition, and medications. Herbal supplements have been shown to be harmful to those with CKD and should be avoided. If you are thinking about taking an herbal supplement, it is best to check with your doctor first. Many herbal supplements can be harmful to those with CKD and can interfere with medications by making them less effective. Managing CKD in a healthy way is so important, but oftentimes, herbal supplements can further worsen kidney health. Always be sure to check with your doctor and healthcare team first before taking any new supplements. 

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About the Author

Kellsey Reed is a kidney dietitian. She helps people with CKD learn to eat the foods they love so they can improve their kidney health and live their best life with CKD. As a registered dietitian who specializes in chronic kidney disease, she has been through extensive training to give you the best support and guidance possible. In her career, she’s seen the lack of support given to those with CKD and is on a mission to change that.

“I don’t believe in just giving you a one-page handout that says “eat this” and “don’t eat that”. I don’t believe in telling you to stop going out to eat! I don’t believe in having you cut out all the foods you love in order to manage your CKD! I believe in giving you all of the tools, resources, and support that you need to eat for your CKD with 100% confidence! I believe in helping you learn how to travel, go out to eat at your favorite restaurants, have a date night with your spouse, and celebrate holidays and birthdays with your family without stress, anxiety, or confusion!”

If you’re interested in learning more about Kellsey’s coaching program or the free resources she offers, go to her website: ckdnutrition.com. You can also follow along on Instagram or TikTok at: @ckd.nutrition.coach!


References

  1. https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/herbalsupp
  2. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/drugs/15829-herbal-supplements

*These statements have not been evaluated by the US Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Always consult with a qualified healthcare professional prior to beginning any diet or exercise program or taking any dietary supplement. The content on our website is for informational and educational purposes only.

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/drugs/15829-herbal-supplements

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