When we think of protein, we think about meat, peanut butter, beans, and other foods that we need in our daily diet for a balanced diet. We don’t typically think about protein in relation to our urine or our kidney health.
If you have been noticing a frothiness in your urine and/or swelling in hands, feet, or face, it may be time that you visit with your health care specialist, as you could be showing signs of proteinuria (protein in urine) and kidney issues. In a normal healthy urine sample, one will find mostly water (roughly 95%) and then small amounts of urea, chloride, sodium, potassium, creatine, and other compounds deemed unnecessary and as waste by the body. But when things such as large amounts of protein appear in a collection sample, they serve as a little red flag for healthcare professionals.
Normal urine generally produces anywhere between 0 to 14mg/dL of protein. Finding transient proteinuria, a common benign condition, is often caused by fever, being dehydrated, emotional stress, exposure to extreme cold, or heavy exercise. Often, transient proteinuria cases will take care of themselves, usually because that which was causing the body to make haste with the protein waste has cleared up. For more severe conditions, it is important to understand that the excess protein in the urine is not what is hurting your body. It’s is more of a side effect or a sign that a real serious problem could be lurking in the shadows of your body.
According to average medical standards, anything higher than 14mg/dL could mean the person is experiencing other health-related problems that should be addressed quickly.
Among the more serious of problems related to the high levels of protein found in urine include:
- Amyloidosis (a build-up of protein in organs causing them not to work properly)
- Excessive consumption of anti-inflammatory medications (these can be rough on the kidneys)
- Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD is when the kidneys begin to fail, waste builds up in the body)
- Diabetes – (too much sugar in the blood)
- Endocarditis ( infection in the lining of the heart)
- Lupus (an inflammatory disease caused when the immune system attacks its own tissues)
- Heart Failure (a condition in which the heart does not pump blood as well as it should)
- Sarcoidosis (a collection of inflammatory cells that form lumps, or granulomas)
- Sickle Cell Anemia (when red blood cells become misshapen causing them to misfunction)
- Nephrosis (damage to the small blood vessels in the kidneys)
- Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (cancer of a part of the immune system)
- Preeclampsia – (high blood pressure during pregnancy)
There are many things that your health care specialist can suggest that can help you protect and prevent further kidney damage. For instance, some studies have shown that inadequate vitamin D levels could make you up to twice as likely to develop kidney disease. Supplements or spending 15 minutes a day in the sun can increase your body’s vitamin D levels. Dialysis is used when your kidneys can no longer function at an adequate level to remove the wastes.
The National Kidney Foundation (formerly the National Nephrosis Foundation) was founded by Ada DeBold after her son developed and eventually succumbed to kidney failure. This foundation has helped advance the knowledge and treatment of kidney disease over the past 70 years.
The key to healthy kidneys is proper maintenance. Of course, drinking water and maintaining a healthy diet will help with the overall kidney function. Unfortunately, we have not quite figured out how to turn off the genetic components that make the body more susceptible to kidney damage. The future is bright, and scientists are always looking, researching, and developing new treatments. Having a primary care doctor that can coordinate with a kidney specialist is critical if you develop issues with your kidneys.
Recent studies have found that the kidneys can sometimes repair themselves. This is a slow and tedious process as the owner of the kidneys must be careful with their overall consumption of foods and medications while maintaining proper health to support the natural repairing process. This is wonderful news compared to the long-assumed notion that the kidney cells are unable to regenerate after fully developing. Talk to your doctor and kidney specialist about diet and treatments that can slow down the progress as much as possible.
If you have questions or would like to talk to a specialist in the field, reach out to us at PRINE Health. We have offices in New York State but also offer excellent telemedicine options.