Thursday, January 30, 2014

"Small Bladder?" Could Be Kidney Deficiency

[This was the topic of my final project for my herbalist course at Dragonfly Herbals].

I've always been one of those people with a "small bladder," having to go pee annoyingly frequently. Turns out, this has nothing to do with the size (or function) of the bladder. Having frequent, clear urination is an indication of weak kidney function. The kidneys are releasing too much fluid. Electrolytes are lost with the extra fluids leading to dehydration. So you may be thirsty all the time, and drink water all day long, but still be dehydrated! 

What the kidneys do
Photo by Rob Swatski
The kidneys filter waste & excess water from the blood to be excreted as urine. Normally, the kidneys reabsorb most of the water that passes through them, and the excess goes to the skin, mucous lining, intestines & lungs. When the kidneys are weak, they don't reabsorb enough water, so valuable fluids and nutrients are lost in an excess of watery urine. 

Other symptoms resulting from this loss of fluid include dry skin, eyes, & lungs, constipation, red face, muscle spasms, and joint pain

Since the kidneys also regulate blood pressure, calcium for bones, and red blood cell production, deficiency can also result in low blood pressure, bone problems (especially lower back and knees), tooth decay, and a weak immune system. 

What causes kidney deficiency?
There may be a vast array of contributing factors (including a highly-processed-food diet lacking in necessary minerals), but the biggest one is stress. High levels of adrenalin & cortisol in the body (the physical result of stress) lead to diminished blood supply to the kidneys, so its functioning is decreased. 

If you have symptoms of kidney deficiency and are highly stressed you may also suffer from adrenal fatigue (characterized by chronic low energy, weak immune system and difficulty managing stress). 

What to do about it? Relax and nourish.
In any case, regular relaxation time and nourishing foods are essential. 

If you have kidney deficiency, you probably crave salty foods. What you really need is mineral rich foods and herbs. Stay away from the chips, which won't provide any nourishment. Try using mineral-rich himalyan pink salt in your food. Eat organic nuts (especially walnuts), meats (especially lamb), salmon, green vegetables, & fresh fruits. Take a vitamin supplement with minerals OR use a greens powder. 

Replenish your electrolytes (food & herbs are a better way to do this than sugar-filled sport drinks). Also, astringent herbs like raspberry & blackberry leaf, and cinnamon can help you retain fluids. 

Nourish & Hydrate
Here's a herbal tea blend I developed for electrolyte replenishment & retention:
nettles, oatstraw, rosehips, alfalfa, blackberry leaf
These herbs are high in vitamins & minerals, so can be used like a daily multivitamin tea. (You can keep some in the fridge and add it to your drinking water if you're not a tea drinker). I call it Nourish & Hydrate, and you can buy it from me, or make your own!

Another electrolyte solution, especially great if you're sick, or any time you're dehydrated, is a blend of lemon juice, unpasteurized honey, warm water and a generous pinch of himalayan salt (or sea salt).

Other helpful herbs
Down To Earth Chai
Warming spices like cinnamon, cloves, ginger, cardamom & black pepper also support weak kidneys, so a herbal chai is also a great drink. (Black tea contributes to fluid loss so you're better off with a herbal version---fortunately these herbs also give you lots of energy so you may not miss the caffeine). Here's my Down To Earth Chai.

Note: Kidney deficiency is not a medical condition, but a constitutional state. A medical doctor may not recognize it as an diagnosable problem until the symptoms are bad enough to be considered kidney disease. Holistic practitioners focused on preventative medicine may help prevent such disease by treating an imbalanced constitution. You may find guidance from a naturopath, herbalist, or holistic nutritionist.

Do you have symptoms of kidney deficiency?

Pitchford, Paul. Healing With Whole Foods. 
de la Foret, Rosalee. The Urinary System: An Herbalist's Perspective.