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The Often Overlooked Importance of Kidney Function: What Yours Labs Won’t Tell You

Our bodies are a complex network of interconnected systems, each playing a crucial role in maintaining our overall health and well-being. One organ that often goes unnoticed but holds immense significance is the kidney. Responsible for filtering waste and toxins from the blood, regulating fluid balance, and producing hormones that control various bodily functions, the kidneys play an indispensable role in maintaining our internal equilibrium. In this blog post, we will explore the often overlooked importance of kidney function, signs of poor kidney function, the damaging effects of high blood pressure on the kidney’s microcirculation and why standard lab tests don’t necessarily provide indicators of kidney dysfunction. In follow-up posts we will cover the importance of electrolytes for kidney function, the connection between the kidneys and respiratory functions, and kidney dysfunction resulting from COVID-19 infections.

Picture of LC Balancer by Wei Laboratories

The Microcirculation Marvel


Microcirculation in the kidneys involves a highly specialized network of small blood vessels that plays a critical role in maintaining kidney function. Comprising arterioles, capillaries, and venules, this intricate system enables efficient filtration and reabsorption processes, facilitating the removal of waste products, excess fluids, and electrolytes from the blood while retaining essential substances for the body’s homeostasis. The glo



merular capillaries, located in the renal corpuscles, are particularly crucial in the initial filtration of blood into the nephrons. Proper microcirculation in the kidneys is essential for preserving glomerular filtration rate (GFR) and maintaining overall renal function.


High blood pressure, or hypertension, can have detrimental effects on the microcirculation in the kidneys. Prolonged hypertension causes chronic stress on the blood vessel walls, leading to endothelial dysfunction and structural changes within the renal vasculature. Over time, this can result in the thickening of the blood vessel walls and narrowing of the vessel lumens, a condition known as arteriolosclerosis. These changes reduce blood flow to the nephrons, impairing the kidneys’ ability to efficiently filter and excrete waste products, toxins, and excess fluid.


Moreover, persistent hypertension leads to increased pressure within the glomerular capillaries, which accelerates the filtration of blood components, including proteins, into the kidney’s tubules. This process, called proteinuria, further exacerbates kidney damage and can lead to the development of chronic kidney disease (CKD) or even end-stage renal disease (ESRD) if left uncontrolled. Additionally, hypertension-induced changes in the kidneys’ microcirculation can contribute to the activation of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS), perpetuating a vicious cycle of increased blood pressure and worsening renal dysfunction.


The microcirculation in the kidneys is an intricate and vital network that underpins kidney function. Damage to this delicate system due to uncontrolled high blood pressure can have severe consequences for renal health, leading to a cascade of events that may culminate in chronic kidney disease. Recognizing the significance of maintaining healthy blood pressure levels and preserving the integrity of the renal microcirculation is essential for preventing kidney damage and promoting overall well-being. Here at Healing Response Acupuncture & Functional Neurology we pay close attention to signs of impaired kidney function and offer effective herbal formulas to help support the kidneys, often with far-reaching beneficial effects.


Kidney Dysfunction Signs and Symptoms


Recognizing the signs and symptoms of kidney impairment is crucial for early detection and timely intervention to prevent further kidney damage. The symptoms of kidney impairment can vary depending on the severity of the condition, but some common indicators include:

  1. Changes in Urination: A noticeable increase or decrease in urine output, changes in urine color (dark or foamy urine), or the presence of blood in the urine (hematuria) can be warning signs of kidney problems.

 

  1. Fatigue and Weakness: Kidney impairment can lead to a build-up of waste products and toxins in the blood, causing general fatigue, weakness, and a lack of energy.

 

  1. Swelling: Edema or swelling, particularly in the legs, ankles, feet, or face, can occur due to the kidneys’ reduced ability to remove excess fluids from the body.

 

  1. Persistent Itching: Impaired kidney function can lead to an accumulation of waste products in the blood, leading to skin itching and irritation.

 

  1. Shortness of Breath: As kidney function declines, the body may retain excess fluids, including in the lungs, leading to shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.

 

  1. High Blood Pressure: Kidneys play a significant role in regulating blood pressure, and kidney impairment can lead to hypertension.

 

  1. Nausea and Vomiting: Accumulation of waste products in the blood can cause nausea, vomiting, and a loss of appetite.

 

  1. Metallic Taste in the Mouth: A persistent metallic taste or ammonia-like breath odor can be indicative of kidney impairment.

 

  1. Muscle Cramps: Electrolyte imbalances due to kidney dysfunction can lead to muscle cramps, particularly in the legs.

 

  1. Sleep Problems: Kidney impairment may disrupt sleep patterns and lead to insomnia or restless legs syndrome.

It is essential to note that these symptoms can also be associated with other health conditions, and their presence does not necessarily confirm kidney impairment. However, if you experience any of these signs or symptoms, especially if they persist or worsen over time, it is essential to seek medical attention promptly. Early diagnosis and appropriate management can help slow the progression of kidney impairment and improve overall kidney health. Individuals with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, or a family history of kidney disease should be particularly vigilant about monitoring their kidney function and consulting with a healthcare professional regularly.


Disease shows up last in bloodwork…


The above saying is very true in the case of kidney function, and here are some of the reasons why:

Standard blood tests, such as a complete blood count (CBC) and basic metabolic panel (BMP), are valuable tools for assessing overall health and detecting various medical conditions. However, when it comes to identifying kidney dysfunction, these standard blood tests may not always provide a complete picture, especially in the early stages of kidney disease. There are several reasons why kidney dysfunction might not be readily apparent in standard blood tests:


1. Compensatory Mechanisms: The kidneys are remarkably resilient organs, and they can compensate for decreased function by adapting their filtration processes. In the early stages of kidney disease, the remaining healthy nephrons (functional units of the kidneys) can work harder to maintain normal blood test values, which might mask the underlying kidney impairment.


2. Creatinine Levels: One of the key markers used to assess kidney function is creatinine, a waste product produced by muscle metabolism and filtered by the kidneys. However, creatinine levels may not significantly rise until there is a substantial reduction in kidney function. As a result, kidney dysfunction might not be evident in standard blood tests until the disease has progressed to a more advanced stage.


3. Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR): GFR is a more sensitive indicator of kidney function and provides a better estimate of overall kidney filtration capacity. However, it is not routinely included in basic blood panels and often requires a separate test or a more comprehensive renal function panel.


4. Lack of Other Specific Markers: While creatinine and blood urea nitrogen (BUN) are commonly measured to assess kidney function, there are other more specific markers, such as cystatin C or urine albumin-to-creatinine ratio (UACR), that can detect kidney impairment at an earlier stage. These markers are not always part of standard blood tests and may require additional testing when kidney disease is suspected.


5. Acute vs. Chronic Kidney Disease: Standard blood tests may be more effective in detecting acute kidney injury (AKI), which is a sudden and often reversible decline in kidney function. However, for chronic kidney disease (CKD), which develops gradually over time, standard blood tests might not show significant abnormalities until the disease is advanced.

In Traditional East Asian Medicine, the kidneys have always been considered of extreme importance for overall health and graceful aging.  For this reason, assessment of kidney function and treatment plans that include kidney support become a key part of resolving many complex medical issues. At Healing Response Acupuncture & Functional Neurology we carry numerous herbal formulas and top of the line electrolyte blends to help support our patient’s kidney

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