5th November, 2013
By Bilkis Bakare
The frequency of kidney failure has doubled all over the world in the last two decades. In Nigeria, recent studies have shown that one out of every five people living in the country are at one stage of renal failure or the other and most of them unaware of their status. In fact, hardly will a month end without one form of appeal fund or the other being launched in favour of a kidney disease patient. It is that bad! A case that readily comes to mind is that of OJB Jezreel, the award winning producer of Tuface Idibia’s hit song, The African Queen, who needed N16 million for the cost of a kidney transplant. Studies also reveal that black people’s kidneys are more prone to renal failure than their white counterparts. And presently, it is estimated that there are over one million people world-wide who are living on dialysis.
While most people believe that the proliferation and influx of herbal medicines, both from within and outside the country, is one of the major causes of kidney failure due to the non standardization of their dosage regime, coupled with the high concentration of the herbs; others are of the view that injurious lifestyles like smoking and heavy drinking constitute the problems leading to kidney diseases and eventual failure of the organ.
But medical experts declared that long term use of prescription and over the counter drugs like analgesics or pain relieving drugs, which are often abused, disease conditions like hypertension, diabetes and kidney stones and exposure to pesticides and other environmental toxins are the major causes of kidney diseases.
Although the kidneys are often seen as small organs, because they are actually two bean shaped organs each situated along the posterior wall of the abdominal cavity, the functions they perform are cannot be underestimated. They are complicated machines that help keep the blood chemically balanced and clean at the same time. The kidney’s microscopic functional units, the nephrons (each kidney has about 1 million) filter the blood to produce urine.
The liver metabolises dietary protein to produce energy with toxic ammonia as a waste product and it is able to convert most of this ammonia into urea and uric acid, which are less toxic to the body. In the same manner, the muscles of the body use creatine as an energy source and in the process produce the waste product creatinine. But overtime, Ammonia, Uric acid, Urea and creatinine all accumulate in the body and need to be removed from circulation to maintain Homeostasis. Thereafter, the glomerulus in the kidneys filter all four of these waste products out of the bloodstream, allowing it to be excreted out of the body as urine. In essence, the kidneys can be referred to as the body’s waste disposal machines.
Apart from removing waste products from the body, the kidneys also help in maintaining the homeostasis of important electrolytes like Sodium, Potassium, Chloride, Calcium and Magnesium by controlling their excretion into urine. They help in maintaining homeostasis of blood pressure, acid and water base of the body. Hormones Calcitriol (an active form of Vitamin D) and Erythroprotein which stimulates the red bone marrow to increase their output of red blood cells.
From the foregoing, it is obvious that a loss of kidney functions can result in serious bodily harm like gradual accumulation of waste and fluid causing leg and back pain, urinary urgency like that experience in Urinary Tract Infection (UTI), swelling of hands, feet, ankles and legs. Other signs and symptoms include irritated skin and nausea. Although an individual can live on only one functioning kidney, the loss of the functions of both kidneys results in rapid accumulation of wastes with the aforementioned signs and symptoms including ammonia breath which manifests as a lingering metallic taste in the mouth and death within a few days.
In diagnosing kidney diseases, measurement of blood pressure is essential as most people with persistent high blood pressure usually end up with kidney failures, urine albumin test in which case the individual will present with persistent Proteinuria (Protein in urine) and the measurement of serum creatinine.
Most people believe dialysis is a cure for kidney failure, but this is not true, it is only an expensive palliative measure to keep the patient alive pending kidney transplant, perceived to be the permanent solution.
It is imperative to stress that it is ideal to nip kidney malfunction in the bud to prevent it from escalating to the state where it requires dialysis or outright organ transplant. This can be achieved through dietary change. The main aim of kidney disease diet is to consume foods that do not put stress on the kidneys. These include limiting the amount of salt and protein while avoiding foods containing phosphorus and potassium. Foods that contain Vitamin B6 which lessen glomerular stones should be encouraged. Moderate exercises that will not put strain on the heart are also essential to help reduce the severity of infection.
Duncan Capichiano, an author on naturopathy, in a book titled ‘Kidney Disease Solution’, developed a treatment programme, for kidney disease patients in reaction to the wife’s diagnosis of kidney failure. Instead of accepting the death sentence, it drove him to develop a very effective, guaranteed solution to resolve the problem. The book helps people with kidney failure develop natural disease treatment remedies, causes and symptoms and a secret tea recipe. In addition, the book covers stress management techniques, lists of food to eat and those to avoid. And users testify that the programme has helped them to heal their kidney diseases naturally and quickly without drugs or pills.
Therefore, to avoid kidney failure, it is imperative for everyone to make a change in lifestyle pattern. For instance, it is now common to see ladies who were hitherto dark turning white overnight in the name of ”skin whitening”, with skin bleaching going into extinction. If these ladies knew what they are putting their kidneys through, they would not have started the practice in the first place.
People should be encouraged to do things in moderation to avoid unnecessary stress that can lead to high blood pressure culminating in kidney failure. Brewers of beer brands and producers of cigarettes usually have the inscriptions “Drink responsibly” and “Smokers are liable to die young” respectively, but these have not deterred consumers from over using these products. Therefore, to avoid unnecessary fund donations in respect of kidney disease patients, which are fast becoming the norm, everything must be done to effect a behavioural change. Manufacturers of insecticides and pesticides should endeavour to adhere strictly to safety standards.
In all, we should all have it at the back of our minds that our kidneys are our fuel filters and like fuel filters, any dirt or impurity will eventually put too much pressure on them and gradually lead to inability to remove impurities causing kidney failure.
•Bakare wrote from Ikeja, Lagos.