People with kidney disease seem to be very hesitant to try natural medicine, and I think one reason for that is because their kidney doctors (nephrologists) are among the types of doctors that are more protective of their clients. Once the kidney is compromised, it cannot clear substances as well. So nephrologists try to remove any and all extra substances (i.e. supplements, herbs, etc.) other than the medications that they have prescribed.

This would be a good idea if American nephrologists were able to prevent the progression of kidney disease to the necessity of dialysis with only medications, but they often cannot. They were not trained to do so because in their particular medical paradigm of knowledge there is currently no solution – that is a big deal. At the most, they can slow the rate of progression, and prevent it specifically in hypertension if they manage the hypertension well and before there is any sign of kidney damage. But progression does not stop. The number of dialysis centers being built is increasing.

There is another way.

To those who have kidney disease, or who are in jeopardy of having it due to another condition (ex. uncontrolled hypertension, diabetes, or lupus), consider working with a naturopathic doctor from one of the 8 accredited naturopathic medical schools who has been trained to naturally address the kidneys. Their set of knowledge and mindset around health is different. If you are seeking a different answer or second opinion, you have to go outside of where you are. Going from one nephrologist to another is a form of that, but you may only gain so much new information, because they are all still of the same training and education.

If you ask a nephrologist what they think about naturopathic medicine, don’t expect a positive answer. But that answer is coming usually from a place of ignorance about our field, because they have never been part of it, nor is it likely that they have taken the time to shadow any naturopathic doctors from accredited schools. A naturopathic doctor on the other hand knows how to work collaboratively with medical doctors when necessary to achieve optimal results, because we know our methods AND we know theirs – because that is how we were trained.

How do I know how a nephrologist can respond? Because of a conversation I had with one (I also shadowed another one for 3 months but he was surprisingly open to NDs). He mentioned to me what I said earlier about being protective and removing any supplements from the clients’ intake, and then told me that the only help I could give to a person dealing with kidney disease was to reduce the formation of kidney stones. I then asked him how many situations of kidney disease involved inflammation. He replied, “Oh several!” I then responded and said how naturopathic doctors are experts at naturally reducing inflammation (and without the use of steroids, which can suppress the immune system detrimentally and alter blood sugar levels). That was a clear sign that they do not understand what we do, so to rely solely on their opinion of us is probably not in your best interest. I think it can be worthwhile to ask them, but your research should not stop there. Inquire of several people, look up studies, seek testimonials, etc. and then make your own decision. At the end of the day, that is still what you do anyway when you choose to comply with what any doctor suggests you take – you make a choice.

Also, keep in mind that other key family members and friends will try to dissuade you from even trying natural medicine because they think the nephrologist knows best, that those using natural medicine are not as competent and are not experts, and they may think anyone doing natural medicine is wacko – despite again they probably do not have enough knowledge or experience with natural medicine themselves to have an adaquately educated opinion. And one bad experience with one natural doctor does not speak for all of us. If you find your cardiologist to be bad, you find another. If you find your car mechanic to be bad, you find another.

However, with that said, if you are not yet ready to commit to trying natural medicine, there are a number of books written by MDs that have advocated for the vegetarian or vegan diet improving kidney function. At the very least, start reading those books and consider significantly decreasing your meat intake. Being vegan does not mean you can’t eat enough to be strong and fit. Research ‘vegan athletes’ and you will find several athletes who are doing this successfully.

Some people who find success with a vegan diet for kidney function will still eat meat sometimes, and their kidneys can still maintain that success. But the key word is ‘sometimes.’ The vegan diet still dominates most days of the month. I am referring to a healthy nutritious whole foods vegan diet, not trying to sustain yourself on potato chips and other processed vegan foods.

But again, there is more healing that can be done naturally in addition to the vegan diet, and that is why seeing someone who has been trained in this area can be synergistic.