Bacon and Your Kidneys: A Cautionary Tale

By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness

October 23, 2020

Years ago, I loved to tempt my dog with cooking bacon.

I’d invite him into the kitchen and watch him sit patiently on the edge of the carpet while I worked over the stove.  Bacon would sizzle and hiss as it cooked up into crisp strips.  The smell would drive my pup crazy.

He’d sit there, trying his best to be a “good dog,” while saliva slowly started leaking out the sides of his mouth.

When it didn’t seem like he could take it another second, I’d give in and offer him a delicious morsel to taste.

He’d look up at me with his wolfy eyes and you could just feel the admiration flowing off him in waves.

My dog sure loved bacon.

But, you know what? I loved bacon too!

In fact, just sitting here thinking back to these good ol’ days has my mouth watering in anticipation.

But lately, I’ve cut way back on the amount of animal meat I consume.  In fact, I’ve been working towards a 95 to 98% whole foods, plant based lifestyle.

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So there’s not really a lot of room in my diet for buckets of bacon anymore. I don’t think my body is missing it though.

Especially when you consider one body organ that actually dislikes too much protein.

One week ago, I shared some information about your protein intake.  I explained that a lot of my patients wonder how much protein is too much.

Today, I wanted to revisit this conversation for just a moment so you can understand one very important point I forgot to highlight…

Too much protein is actually BAD for your kidneys!

But, it’s not just protein.  There are a number of very common foods and medications you likely consume that aren’t doing your kidneys any favors. It all starts with understanding how kidney disease operates its ugly scheme.

The Sneaky Disease You Never Knew You Had

If we were to rank human disease in order of stealth, kidney disease would surely be near the top of the list.

That’s because chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a problem a lot of its victims never saw coming.  They didn’t feel any symptoms or even know they had a problem until things were too bad.

CKD ranks in the top 10 leading causes of death right up there with serious lung diseases like COPD.  And sadly, there is no cure.  The only way to get yourself out of this trap is through dialysis or a kidney transplant.

I was shocked to learn that nine out of ten adults with CKD don’t even know they have it.  This means that most people with very poorly functioning kidneys are walking around the world unaware.

They go about their days while the disease get worse and worse. Instead, they really should be sitting in a dialysis chair somewhere getting treatment.

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As I mentioned, there are several common foods and medications that may be increasing your chances of kidney disease. And yes, this list unfortunately relates back to my beloved bacon…

Surprising Ways You Are Harming Your Kidneys

Too much protein can be a major cause of chronic kidney disease(CKD).  The average American actually eats about two times more than they need.

All of this excess protein raises your uric acid levels and causes damage to the kidneys.  A study with women who had preexisting kidney problems found that a high protein diet actually made their condition worse.

I recommend that active adults aim for about 0.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight.  This number can be increased to 0.8 grams of protein per pound if you are athletic and concerned about strength or endurance training.

Several medications can cause a serious problem when it comes to your kidneys.  I’d like to start off by mentioning proton pump inhibitors – drugs often used to treat gastric reflux. Many people rely too much on these drugs to find relief.  Conventional doctors don’t help the matter by overprescribing PPIs. And with over the counter dosage forms added to those numbers, millions of us are not only stopping our critical upper GI tract functioning, but greatly increasing our chances of developing acute kidney damage leading to CKD and end-stage-renal failure.

NSAID pain relievers are hardly any better.  Once again, these easy-to-reach drugs are taken often by folks seeking relief.  They take drugs like ibuprofen, naproxen, or other NSAIDs looking to take the edge off their aches and pains.

These NSAID pain relievers boost your chance of developing kidney cancer by 50%. They also damage your kidneys and can lead to liver failure, with published data showing 15,000 deaths/year from their use.  Whenever possible, try using alternatives to NSAIDs to manage your pain.

Lastly, I want to throw a bit of shame on antibiotics, laxatives, and diuretics.  They also are no friend to your kidneys.

High sodium intake is a great indicator of your kidney health.  Eating too much can increase your chances of CKD by 30%.  To control your salt intake, don’t just pay attention to your salt shaker on the dinner table.

Much of the salt you eat actually comes from processed, packaged, and restaurant foods. So, make sure you read your labels and stay under 1,500 mg of sodium each day.

Too many soft drinks. Lastly, I’ll mention soft drinks.  It’s a rare thing for me to drink a soft drink these days.  I’ve mostly cut them out and turn to my evening kombucha when I need a little fizzy pick-me-up.

But, for many Americans, diet and regular soft drinks are part of their daily routine.  Both of them are associated with end stage renal failure and kidney disease. So look for some alternative ways to satisfy your fizz craving. Seltzer water with some lemon or lime slices may be all you need.

It’s Easy to Test for Kidney Disease

If you want to have your doctor check your own kidney health, it’s a simple matter.  They can do blood and urine tests that will look for markers of kidney disease.

The blood test will look for a waste product called creatinine.  The amount of this substance helps estimate your glomerular filtration rate – or how well your kidneys are operating.

The urine test is looking for a protein called albumin.  This tells the doctor whether your kidneys are working to filter your blood properly.

These are small things you can work into your world to make large gains in your health and longevity.

Sources:

Knight EL, Stampfer MJ, Hankinson SE, Spiegelman D, Curhan GC. The impact of protein intake on renal function decline in women with normal renal function or mild renal insufficiency. Ann Intern Med. 2003;138(6):460-467.

Xie Y, et al. Long Term Kidney Outcomes among Proton Pump Inhibitors Users without Intervening Acute Kidney Injury. Kidney Int. 2017 Jun;91(6):1482-1494.

Klatte DCF, et al. Association Between Proton Pump Inhibitor Use and Risk of Progression of Chronic Kidney Disease. Gastroenterology. 2017 Sep;153(3):702-710.

Xinyu Zhang, et al. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug induced acute kidney injury in the community dwelling general population and people with chronic kidney disease: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Nephrol. 2017; 18: 256.

Cho E, et al. Prospective Evaluation of Analgesic Use and Risk of Renal Cell Cancer. Archives of Internal Medicine, 2011; 171 (16): 1487.

Suzuki K, et al. The association between serum uric acid and renal damage in a community-based population: the Takahata study. Clin Exp Nephrol. 2013 Aug;17(4):541-8.

Sugiura T, et al. Dietary Salt Intake is a Significant Determinant of Impaired Kidney Function in the General Population. Kidney Blood Press Res. 2018;43(4):1245-1254.

Rebholz CM, et al. Diet Soda Consumption and Risk of Incident End Stage Renal Disease. Clin J Am Soc Nephrol. 2017 Jan 6;12(1):79-86

Cheungpasitporn W, et al. Associations of sugar-sweetened and artificially sweetened soda with chronic kidney disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Nephrology (Carlton). 2014 Dec;19(12):791-7.

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