If you have diabetes, sooner or later it’s likely to cause problems with your kidneys. In fact, it’s the leading cause of kidney failure. And even if you’ve got your blood sugar well under control, it still doesn’t mean that your kidneys are safe. Kidney failure can–and does–occur in men and women who have controlled diabetes.
But a new study shows there may be a safe and effective way to protect your kidneys, even if you’ve had diabetes for many years.
What’s a kidney to do?
Your kidneys are two bean-shaped organs that sit just above your waist toward the back of your abdomen. Basically, these tiny organs help filter out all the junk that passes through your body.
But over time, diabetes can mess with a good thing. Instead of flushing out just the bad stuff, your kidneys start to flush out a lot of the good stuff as well, like protein. In fact, if you notice your urine looks frothy in the toilet, it means it’s filled with protein and it’s probably a good idea to have your kidneys checked.
To check kidney function, most doctors will order a test to measure how much creatinine is in your blood. Creatinine is a waste product generated by your muscles, and your kidneys are supposed to filter out most of it. If your creatinine level is normal, it means your kidneys are doing their job. If it’s too high, however, it means your kidneys aren’t keeping pace.
So what’s that mean for you?
Well, if you’re diabetic with high creatinine, most conventional doctors will start you on an ACE inhibitor (a drug typically used to treat high blood pressure). Unfortunately, these drugs often come with a slew of harmful and serious side effects. And in some cases, instead of preventing kidney failure, these drugs can actually cause it — especially in older patients!
But even if you’ve got diabetes with high creatinine, here’s some good news: New research shows you may be able to protect your kidneys without having to resort to drugs.
Scientists from the University of Hong Kong recruited 97 men and women with type- 2 diabetes. They gave half the patients an omega-3 fish oil supplement containing 4 grams of EPA and DHA each day for 12 weeks. The other half received a placebo.
After just 12 weeks, the group taking the fish oil supplement showed a significant decrease in their creatinine levels. According to the lead author, this confirms that fish oil "has renoproductive effects in diabetes mellitus."
Fish oil protects the kidneys of people with diabetes.
Another, larger study from a few years back proved essentially the same thing. For this study, scientists from England studied 22,000 men and women. They found that diabetics who ate less than one serving of fish each week suffered much more kidney troubles. In fact, they were FOUR TIMES more likely to have abnormal protein levels in their urine.
Fish oil even protects "worst-case scenario" patients
Unfortunately, diabetes is a serious disease (my best hope for you is that you avoid it all together!). But in some cases, diabetes leads to kidney failure to the point where a transplant is your only option. Even in this worst-case scenario, fish oil may help.
About 15 years ago, scientists wanted to see if fish oil could improve renal function in transplant patients. Half the patients received fish oil for the year following their kidney transplant. And the other half received a placebo.
Any guess how the fish oil group fared a year later?
Well, not only did they have stronger kidney function, they also had a much lower rate of organ rejection after the transplant. That means their bodies’ were much less likely to reject the new kidney after the transplant.
In my book, it goes to show you that it’s never (and I mean NEVER) too late to make changes to your nutrition that will have a positive impact on your overall health!
So what’s the bottom line for you?
If you’ve got diabetes, make fish your new best friend. First off, make sure you’re eating a serving of wild-caught fish a few times each week.
Secondly, take three or four fish oil capsules each day before your largest meal. (This will help prevent the fishy aftertaste.)
Lastly, make sure to take extra selenium and 400 IU of natural mixed tocopherol- type vitamin E. As you’ll recall, the fatty acids in fish oil are essential to good nutrition. But they also produce free radicals. The extra antioxidants will help to keep these free radicals in check.
Dr. Allan Spreen
Nationally acclaimed as America’s “Nutrition Physician,” Dr. Spreen has been helping people stay healthy and disease-free as a private doctor, published author, and noted researcher.
In addition to his role as a Senior Member of the prestigious Health Sciences Institute Advisory Panel in Baltimore, MD, Dr. Spreen also coaches diving at the international and Olympic levels. NorthStar Nutritionals is proud to have Dr. Spreen as our Chief Research Advisor.
Dr. Spreen also writes the Guide to Good Health.