Diabetes and Your Kidneys

So you manage to work your annual medical checkup into your schedule and part of that includes blood and urine tests. And you discover you have protein in your urine. The doctor says that isn’t a good thing.

While protein in your urine points to a problem, with any luck at all you have discovered it early. The role of the kidneys is to clean your blood, keeping the good stuff in and disposing of toxins in your urine. When your kidneys are deteriorating, the good stuff like protein spills out into your urine. And your kidneys didn’t give you a clue because they don’t hurt until they reach the point of failure. It takes tests to see the deterioration

I recently encountered a friend dealing with this discovery. And almost simultaneously I also received a podcast from a rather famous kidney specialist in Canada (whom I follow regularly) describing what happens with kidney deterioration. This doctor, Dr. Jason Fung, turned himself into an obesity/diabetes specialist as well. Now, why would he do that?

Seems that 60-70% of his patients who go on dialysis have nephropathy caused by diabetes. Early on he hoped that reversing a patient’s diabetes would allow their kidney damage also to reverse. This did not turn out to be the case, especially in later stages. Therefore he and his practice (Intensive Dietary Management) really focus on catching diabetes early and preventing the kidney damage.

So what is “early”? Early is likely before your doctor will diagnose diabetes. That sounds kinda tough, doesn’t it?

The problem with diabetes is that it progresses slowly over many years. And during that progression your pancreas really dumps out the insulin so as to keep control of your blood sugar. It is those continuous high levels of insulin that begin doing damage to your kidneys. By the time your insulin levels start to deteriorate and your blood sugar goes up, damage can already be done.

It is possible, however, to know if your diet and weight is setting you up for diabetes, kidney damage, and lots of other chronic diseases. My book, It’s All about the Food, addresses that. But you may find Dr. Fung’s perspective more persuasive than mine.

Dr. Fung regularly releases educational podcasts, using one of his patients as an example. Episode #10 at this link – http://obesitycodepodcast.com/category/podcasts/ highlights the experience of a patient who ultimately ends up in dialysis. Scroll down on his website to episode 10.

He explains in the podcast that each of the five stages of kidney disease takes four to five years to develop, possibly years before diabetes is diagnosed. He describes the five stages of kidney disease, the point where kidney recovery is sometimes possible, and the point where recovery is not possible – eventually leaving only dialysis or kidney transplants as options.

The patient’s description of his experiences made a big impact on me. And Dr. Fung is a master of metaphor, putting his explanations into easy to understand terms.

The point, of course, is not just a good story. More importantly Dr. Fung and the experience of his patient can help you discover how to avoid diabetic nephropathy. A really good idea!

Pat Smith is the author of “It’s All about the Food,” a book that guides nutritious food choices as the way to avoid illness and maintain a healthy weight. Pat is a resident of Montgomery County, AR, president of Ouachita Village, Inc. board of directors (Montgomery County Food Pantry); chairman of the Tasty Acre project; and member of the Mount Ida Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors. Her website is http://allaboutthefood.org/