The role of the kidneys is often underrated when it comes to our health, the truth is they are one of the hardest working organs in the entire human body…and that’s why we were given two! Although, people can survive with only one working kidney it is best to have them both working towards ‘employee of the month’ status!
What do our Kidneys do?
The kidneys are kind of like the body’s recycling depot; a giant super, high-tech, recycling depot from the future that is. They are bean-shaped organs (that seriously look like giant kidney beans), each about the size of a curled fist. They are located in the middle-lower section of your torso, toward your back, just under the rib cage. They do way more than divide plastics and paper though.
One of their main functions is of course, to remove wastes and extra water from the blood to form urine. The wastes they remove are the by-products from the usual breakdown of foods and other metabolic processes in the body. Some of these by-products can be re-used and re-cycled by the body such as potassium, sodium and phosphorus and this is where kidneys get really clever because they know which by-products need to be sent back into the blood to be re-used and which need to be sent packing…into our urine.
This isn’t all they do though, they also have a vital role in releasing certain hormones, enzymes and vitamins which help other areas of or body function correctly .
- Erythropoietin (EPO) is a hormone that is produced by the kidneys. EPO promotes the formation of Red Blood Cells (RBCs) by our bone marrow. The kidney cells that make EPO are very sensitive to low oxygen levels in the blood, which they pick up on as they are filtering it, so they release EPO to make more RBCs to carry more oxygen.
- Renin is an enzyme produced by cells in the kidney and its role is to help regulate blood pressure. The rennin-secreting cells in the kidneys are super sensitive to changes in blood flow and blood pressure and, as they are continually filtering the blood, they monitor this and release renin accordingly.
- Vitamin D is actually more of a hormone than a vitamin with how it functions within our body. We get vitamin D from two main sources-food/supplements and the biggy, the sun! Whichever source we get our vitamin D from, the body needs to activate it into its useable form and this happens mainly in the kidneys! Vitamin D works closely to balance minerals such as calcium and phosphorus, it is also ‘fat soluble’ meaning our bodies can store it so levels can get too high (although this is very rare these days, usually we actually see the opposite, as people protect themselves too well from the sun and lots of people have issues with absorption), any who's, the kidneys are able to monitor calcium and phosphorus levels and secrete activated vitamin D (in an ideal world!) to balance them out if they get too high.
See, they do way more than any other recycling depot I’ve heard of; this is why when our bodies are enduring times of stress and/or ill health it is vital we stay kind to our kidneys.
How parasites affect our kidneys and why we need to support them during times of detox
Or kidneys can be affected by parasites in numerous ways; firstly, parasitic infections can indirectly affect the tiny filtration systems within the kidneys that can cause some chronic health issues; secondly, inadequate functioning of our kidneys leads to a natural state of immune-suppression which can give rise to parasitic infections which then subsequently further damages our kidneys and thirdly, parasites create more toxins in our blood so our kidneys need to work harder.
Let’s discuss all these in detail now, shall we?
Parasites that indirectly affect our kidneys
The glomerulus (try say it 10 times really fast, I dare you!) is responsible for filtering the blood. It is a teeny, tiny bundled network of capillaries and glomerular filtration is the first step in making urine. It is the process that kidneys use to filter excess fluid and waste products out of the blood into the urine collecting tubules of the kidney, so they may be eliminated from the body . There are approximately 1 million glomeruli within each kidney , see how teeny tiny they really are!
Any damage to the glomerulus directly affects how well our blood is filtered. This can lead to toxic substances building up in our blood, or vital substances (that our blood requires) being released into our urine and this can greatly affect our health. Known issues with a malfunctioning glomerulus can cause :
- Proteinuria (protein in the urine)
- Haematuria (blood in the urine)
- Reduced Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR) (inefficient filtering of toxic waste from the blood)
- Hypoproteinaemia (low blood protein)
- Oedema (swelling of body parts- usually ankles/wrists)
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
One or more of these symptoms can be the first sign of developing kidney disease  and although kidney disease is not one of the common presenting features of parasite infestations, many parasitic infections are associated with glomerular lesions, in fact glomerular lesions observed in parasitic infections cover the whole range of lesions known  to medical science and therefore, parasites could subsequently lead to chronic kidney failure.
|Plasmodium malariae (quartan malaria)||Proteinuria, haematuria, reduced GFR, oedema/hypertension|
|Plasmodium falciparum (tertian malaria)||Proteinuria, acute renal (kidney) failure|
|Schistosoma haematobium||Chronic renal failure|
|Leishmania donovani||Proteinuria, haematuria, reduced GFR, oedema/hypertension|
|Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense, Trypanosoma brucei gambiense||Proteinuria|
|Toxoplasma gondii||Proteinuria, haematuria, reduced GFR, oedema/hypertension|
The lesions that develop in the glomerulus due to parasitic infections is believed to be due to a combination of the glomerulus having to constantly filter a heavy load of immune complexes which are molecules consisting of antigens ( these are like trigger warnings released from invading pathogens so our immune system knows there is an infection) and antibodies (released from our immune system to fight and bind to the antigen) which are large and put a lot of pressure on the glomerulus when being filtered and also because of chronic, systemic activation of the coagulation (blood clotting) cascade (which can be triggered by some invading parasites when they latch onto human mucosal tissue) . This again gives the glomerulus more blood ‘products’ to filter due to the release of blood clotting factors, however it can also cause blood clotting factors to be deposited and build up in the glomerulus .
Kidney dysfunction and intestinal parasites
These days, people are living with chronic diseases more than ever before. It is seriously scary to think how our health may be in the future. However ‘localised’ these chronic diseases are (such as chronic kidney disease) the resulting affect is that our whole body suffers, we are not divided in categories- we are one, single unit.
There are a lot of studies out there indicating that people with chronic kidney disorders have a higher prevalence of intestinal parasitic infections . The most common reason behind this is because chronic kidney diseases affect general immunity- it causes an overall immuno-suppressive state which results in insufficient immune responses to infections as well as systemic inflammation and intestinal barrier dysfunction .
Blastocystis spp, Cryptosporidium spp and Toxoplasma gondii, are among the parasites that have been found in a greater prevalence of kidney patients as opposed to their healthy counterparts; as we know from above, the parasitic infections can then go on to make their situation much more complicated .
Parasite toxin die-off and our Kidneys
When one endeavours a parasite ‘de-tox’, one does not simply go from feeling unwell to better again when the parasites start to die and be removed from the body. In fact, one can have an interim period of feeling worse, much, much worse.
This interim period is known as a Herxheimer reaction, or die off, stage. The Herxheimer Reaction is a short-term (from days to a few weeks) detoxification reaction in the body. As the body detoxifies, from invading pathogens, it is not uncommon to experience flu-like symptoms including headache, joint and muscle pain, body aches, sore throat, general malaise, sweating, chills, nausea or other symptoms . The cause behind this reaction is due to a release of endotoxins from the dying pathogen (parasite, bacteria, fungi etc). The endotoxins are found within the outer membranes of certain bacteria, parasites and fungi; as the pathogen dies and their outer membrane cells are disrupted, the endotoxin is released. Usually, when sticking to a correct protocol, the pathogens are killed off quicker than what our bodies can metabolise these endotoxins, and that is why we can feel very ill. Lower back pain due to kidney inflammation is a common symptom of toxic parasite die-off.
Endotoxins are quite large molecules consisting of a fat component and a sugar type component and they can put a lot of stress on the kidneys when they are being filtered through the blood to be excreted into the urine; they also illicit a very strong immune response when they are released from the dying pathogen because they also contain antigens (remember – the ‘trigger warnings’) so our immune system goes into overdrive releasing antibodies to fight these antigens (this can also play are part in the terrible feelings a herx reaction brings) and remember how once an antibody has joined to an antigen this also makes extra work for the kidneys as they too are large molecules to filter.
How to love your Kidneys
So, there are a few facts which hopefully have been brought to light by reading this article:
- Our kidneys are totally awesome and they go above and beyond to keep us healthy
- Although our kidneys are totally devoted to us and would kiss the ground we walked on, it is very important we keep them functioning at their best so the rest of our entire body can function too
- Parasites do affect our kidneys and, our kidneys also get affected when we embark on a parasite healing journey so they need extra support throughout these times.
There are a few, very simple steps you can take to give your kidneys the love and support they need if you are experiencing the effects of a parasite infestation or the effects of a herxheimer reaction.
Firstly, drink water. Plenty and plenty of water. Our kidneys love water and for every cup of coffee or tea you have, drink an extra glass of water (one glass tea/coffee: two glasses water) this is because they are very dehydrating drinks and although most people love caffeine more than their own kidneys (understandably), we now know how important it is they are looked after well.