Can Too Much Protein Cause Kidney Damage
Last Updated on November 13, 2019 by Michael Joseph
It is easy to hear claims that too much protein damages our kidneys.
However, many people contend this claim and believe that higher protein intake is beneficial.
Many myths and controversies exist in the field of nutrition, and they often depend on a personal interpretation of observational studies.
In this article, we will examine whether high protein diets are safe by looking at the best available evidence.
The aim is to set the record straight, and to answer the question are high protein diets bad for the kidneys?
Is Plant Protein Good Or Bad For Kidneys
When you think about protein in your diet, you’re most likely to think of meat. But plant sources of protein are becoming more popular, with 28% of Americans eating more plant protein in 2020 compared to 2019.
Eating less meat and more vegetables has many health benefits. Plant protein may help lower your risk of kidney disease.
Is A High Protein Diet Bad For The Kidneys
This idea gained steam after some studies were published in the late 1980s and early 1990s that showed the more protein people consumed, the greater their glomerular filtration rate , a marker for waste filtration in the kidneys. Scientists claimed that increased GFR meant the kidneys were experiencing undue stress.
But later studies showed that it wasnt the case for folks with healthy kidneys.
Theres also research that specifically looked at athletes. A crossover study of resistance-trained males found that guys who ate 3 grams per kilogram of bodyweight had no harmful effects on kidney or liver function. Another study of bodybuilders consuming upwards of 1.3 grams per pound bodyweight also had no problems with the way their kidneys cleared creatinine, urea, and albumin.
So, problem solved, right?
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It May Cause Digestive Issues
Most of whey proteins side effects are related to digestion.
Some people have problems digesting whey protein and experience symptoms such as bloating, gas, stomach cramps and diarrhea .
But most of these side effects are related to lactose intolerance.
Lactose is the main carb in whey protein. People who are lactose intolerant dont produce enough of the enzyme lactase, which your body needs to digest lactose .
Moreover, lactose intolerance is incredibly common and can affect up to 75% of people worldwide .
If you are lactose intolerant, try switching to a whey protein isolate powder.
Whey protein isolate is more refined, with a significantly smaller amount of fat and lactose than whey protein concentrate. People with lactose intolerance can often safely take whey protein isolate .
Alternatively, try a non-dairy protein powder, such as soy, pea, egg, rice or hemp protein.
Summary: Whey protein may cause uncomfortable symptoms in people with lactose intolerance. If you experience uncomfortable symptoms, try switching to whey isolate powder or a non-dairy protein powder.
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What Causes Kidneys To Leak Protein
Proteins are building blocks of life. Albumin is the main protein found in human blood. Proteins are responsible for a diverse range of functions, right from helping in cell and muscle growth to controlling fluid in blood they also help in preventing infection and diseases.
We have a pair of kidneys in our body that act as blood filters. It is the function of the kidneys to let the nutrients and proteins pass while returning them back to the blood stream. However, in case of any malfunction of kidneys, some amount of protein could leak into urine leading to a condition called proteinuria. Thus, any disorder affecting the kidneys, causes kidneys to leak protein.
Protein can be released from the kidneys in large as well small quantities. Sometimes, it can even go unnoticed for a long period of time in the absence of symptoms. There can be many causes for protein leakage which can range from non-malignant to extremely lethal.
While, healthy kidneys are responsible for flushing out water and fluid from the blood making it clean to flow in the system, any kind of malfunction can pose problems in this task. Protein which should ideally be retained, gets leaked and comes out in urine in case of proteinuria.
- Heart Failure
- Complications of other conditions like diabetes, affecting the kidneys, as in diabetic nephropathy.
Before we understand about ways to stop proteinuria, it is important to know the risk factors that cause kidneys to leak protein and ways to recognize it.
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Registered Dietitians And Kidney Disease
Ask your doctor about meeting with a Registered Dietitian with special training in kidney disease. A dietitian can:
- Teach you to make the best food choices based on your lifestyle and lab tests
- Make changes in your diet to help you better control diabetes and high blood pressure
- Help you to keep your kidney disease from getting worse
Meeting with a dietitian is a covered service by Medicare and may also be covered by other types of insurance. You may need to call your insurance provider to determine if your plan covers meeting with a dietitian.
Eating the right amount may help control the buildup of waste and fluid in your blood. This means your kidneys do not have to work as hard to remove the extra waste and fluid. If your kidney disease gets worse, you may need to limit other nutrients as well. Your dietitian or healthcare provider will tell you if you need to do this based on your blood test results.
How Much Protein Should You Be Eating Per Day
In recent years, many people have begun to increase their protein intake in an effort to aid weight loss and/or build muscle, but how much protein should you be eating every day?
Though the ideal amount of protein you should be consuming is slightly uncertain – the most common recommendation is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. So if you weighed 60kg, youd need about 48g per day. If you are choosing high protein foods, be sure to opt for healthier options such as whole grains, eggs, and lean meats rather than high-fat meats or processed sources.
Before starting a new diet plan, its important to seek medical advice and speak with your healthcare provider.
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Apart From Affecting The Kidneys Unregulated Protein Intake Would Hamper The Body In Following Ways:
Upset Digestive System: Whey and Casein Proteins are milk-derived and hence are rich in lactose. Ones who are allergic to lactose would find it difficult to digest and suffer from abdominal pain, bloating, vomiting, and flatulence.
Obesity: It might be surprising, but protein supplements can cause excess weight gain too. Remember that if your routine does not match your protein intake, the unutilized calories turn into fat. This fat when accumulated causes obesity.
Brittle bones: Protein can weaken your bones! Meat derived protein products are highly acidic. Consumption of these could trigger blood acidity levels. To combat blood acidity, the body releases calcium and phosphate. These alkaline substances come from the bones hence you lose bone mass when you go high on animal protein supplements, which renders the bones weak and brittle.
Disturbed Blood Sugar Levels: You might love your protein supplements, but do you know that they are brimming with additives and artificial sweeteners, which trigger blood sugar levels. Though whey, soy and casein protein is known to bring down the blood sugar levels, people suffering from diabetes or low blood pressure need to be extra cautious before consuming.
Severe Hair Loss: Hair is made up of a protein called Keratin. It does not make sense that you increase your protein intake and cut back on vitamins, fats, and carbohydrates. This might lead to heavy hair loss and balding.
Is It Bad To Drink Protein Powder Everyday
The fact that protein contains calories makes it harder to lose weight if you drink protein shakes in addition to your usual diet, or if you dont exercise at all. According to the American Heart Association, adults need 46 to 56 grams of protein per day, depending on their weight and health status.
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Interaction With Drugs And Medication
Many older people take a regimen of prescription and over-the-counter drugs, often with vitamin and mineral supplements. Protein drinks, like Boost, that are often taken as a meal replacement for weight gain, contain high levels of vitamins and minerals that can add to this mix within the body and cause problems 4. You also shouldnt drink Boost if you take blood thinners such as Coumadin and warfarin. The high amount of vitamin K in a Boost drink can directly affect the efficiency of these medications, warns AgingCare2.
How Much Protein Do I Need Here’s The Answer
Now that you explained to the naysayers that more protein is better, how much should you recommend?
Currently the FDA recommendation for a daily protein intake is 50 grams for both men and women. This is a very general recommendation and isn’t accurate for highly active clients.
For people who work out, for athletes and trainers, more protein is necessary to build muscle and aid in recovery.
At this point, there aren’t any studies showing that 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is harmful – although there’s still ongoing research in this area.
For clients who are moderately to extremely active, 2 to 3 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight is a good general guideline.
This means that for an athlete who weighs 175 pounds , protein in the range of 160 to 240 grams per day is reasonable, much more than the FDA recommendation.
While helping a client figure out how much protein to eat, it is important to keep in mind that too much protein can be harmful for anyone with kidney disease or kidney damage. For clients with kidney damage, a recommended intake is about 0.6 grams per kilogram.
Unfortunately, chronic kidney disease is known as a “silent disease.” Symptoms are hard to detect, but you can get some simple tests done at your doctor’s office to find out if you have any issues with your kidneys.
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What Are Plant Proteins
Plant proteins are proteins that come from plant sources. These include legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and soy.
Animal proteins are a complete protein source. They provide all the amino acids you need. But plant proteins lack one or more of these essential amino acids. For example, legumes are low in amino acids cysteine and methionine. Grains are low in lysine.
When you eat plant protein, combine a variety of different plant sources so that you get all the amino acids your body needs.
In Kidney Failure At 27 Nj Man Warns Of Protein
It is possible he had kidney problems since birth but no symptoms.
At age 27, Matt Douglas’ kidneys are at the point of no return.
After five years of living with kidney disease the Northfield, N.J. man’s only option is a transplant. He is past the “why me?” stage and now wants to raise awareness about kidney disease, especially the unexpected way his dire condition started in summer 2012.
“I noticed I was getting sick all the time,” he said. He was thirsty, felt dehydrated and needed to urinate frequently.
Douglas thought his malaise might be heat-related since he was working outdoors for a landscaper. When the symptoms persisted, he went to see his primary care doctor who found he was excreting protein in his urine. Then a specialist delivered the bad news. He was in kidney failure with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis .
“FSGS causes the filtration component of the kidney to become scarred,” said Shivam Joshi, a nephrology fellow at Penn Medicine. Patients can have primary FSGS, where the cause is not known, or secondary, where the disease is the result of another condition like obesity or high blood pressure, he said.
“A lot of people with FSGS have no idea how they got it,” said Joshi, who has not treated Douglas.
Others who have suffered with FSGS include former NBA Star Alonzo Mourning, Ed Hearn, a catcher with the 1986 World Series Champion New York Mets, and actress Bijou Phillips, daughter of musician John Phillips.
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Signs That Youre Eating Too Much Protein
Most people dont have to worry about serious health risks from eating too much protein, but you may experience minor side effects:
Bad breath: Excess protein can sometimes cause bad breath, due to bacteria breaking down the protein and emitting odors that can smell like cabbage or rotten eggs.
GI issues: Eating too many protein-rich foods may also mean youre missing out on other essential nutrients like fiber, since protein-rich animal products dont contain fiber. A low-fiber diet can cause digestive issues ranging from constipation, diarrhea, mild nausea, or fatigue after meals. It can also change your microbiome, the colony of beneficial bacteria and microorganisms that live in your gut.
Loss of appetite: Eating a lot of protein can also decrease appetite, says Fear, since it keeps you feeling full for longer. That can make it useful for weight-loss goals.
Weight gain: However, eating too much of anything can still lead to weight gain, so if youre consuming too many calories in the form of protein, those excess calories will be stored as fat and lead to weight gain.
What If Your Kidneys Arent In Perfect Health
So, should you be cautious about your protein intake? While research suggests that those with normally-functioning kidneys should be just fine, it might not be the right approach for everyone. And a high-protein diet may potentially pose problems if youre already suffering from issues in kidney function.
An investigation by researchers at Brigham and Womens Hospital found that high-protein diets may be associated with declining kidney function in women who already have mildly reduced functioning of this organ as measured by the glomerular filtration rate an indication of how effectively our kidneys are filtering the blood to remove waste from the body. Women with impaired kidney function who consumed diets high in protein experienced the most significant decline in GFR.
On further analysis, the risk was greater with increased animal protein intake, indicating that the source of protein may be an important factor. Perhaps eating more plant-based proteins is gentler on the kidneys.
Importantly, researchers observed no association between high protein intake and decline in kidney function in women with normal functioning kidneys. And protein intake levels up to 3 grams per kilogram of body weight per day in men who were weight training was shown to not negatively impact kidney functioning.
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The Real Cause Of Kidney Damage
The truth is that a much bigger cause of kidney damage is NOT protein, but high blood pressure.
Which, unfortunately, many people have and they dont even know it.
And the older you are, the higher your blood pressure is due to the negative changes in your hormones because of aging.
Also, anyone who doesnt sleep well, and is under daily stress, and also takes stimulants -including caffeine typically has high blood pressure through various parts of the day.
Heck, even Ive had mild hypertension in the past 3-4 years and thats why Ive been taking Blood Pressure Optimizer for a few years to keep my blood pressure in the low to a normal, healthy range.
Within a month, my energy levels improved, as did my sleep and of course, my blood pressure and also kidney function, when Ive done a blood test.
So, if you have high blood pressure or are concerned about kidney function, monitor your blood pressure daily and use a natural blood pressure-lowering solution like Blood Pressure Optimizer.
The Real Truth About Protein Powders And Kidney Damage
In a previous article about How To Use Whey Protein for Maximum Muscle Gain & Fat Loss, someone asked if eating protein powder can cause kidney damage.
Well, I have a very interesting and true story about this and how my old business partner did die of kidney failure and Ill share it with you in just a minute.
Lastly, Ill also reveal the REAL cause of kidney damage, so continue reading.
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Dietary Protein And Renal Strain
Concerns about level of dietary protein and renal function are often presented in public health guidelines . In addition to the claims that high protein intake causes renal disease, some studies have suggested that renal function may be negatively affected by routine consumption of high protein diets . Although high protein diets cause changes in renal function and several related endocrine factors that may be harmful to individuals with renal disease , there is not sufficient research to extend these findings to healthy individuals with normal renal function at this time.
The lay public is often told that high protein diets “overwork” the kidney and may negatively impact renal function over time . In addition, a number of highly regarded organizations appear to support this line of reasoning given the physiological processes required for excretion of protein-related metabolic waste products to maintain homeostasis following consumption of protein at levels in excess of recommended amounts. Increased consumption of dietary protein is linearly related to the production of urea and urea excretion is controlled by the kidney. These processes are of significant energetic cost to the kidney and represent the physiological “strain” associated with increased protein intake .