Vitamins to Improve Kidney Function

Young woman taking a vitamin
Vitamins to Improve Kidney Function (Image: seb_ra/iStock/GettyImages)

Your kidneys regulate the daily balance between your intake of water and salt. Getting sufficient nutrients from a healthy diet can help you improve kidney function, but you don't typically need vitamin supplements for this purpose, according to a March 2014 review in Sports Medicine. In fact, overloading your body with vitamins can damage your kidneys. Speak with your health care provider before using dietary supplements.

Vitamin Cocktails May Injure Kidneys

Athletes seeking a competitive edge may turn to performance-enhancing substances, but people using these chemicals often experience tragic results. A January 2017 review in Nefrologia described 16 cases of vitamin cocktail abuse by body sculptors. These people injected a veterinary product with a mix of vitamins A, D and E, and all ended up in the hospital with acute kidney injury. Doctors restored kidney function in some, but not all, cases.

Vitamin cocktails can also increase the risk of vitamin-drug interactions. For example, a December 2014 report in Nutrition Research Reviews describes how vitamin E alters the effects of common medicines like cyclosporine A, warfarin and aspirin.

When Vitamin D Damages Kidneys

People with diabetes who have kidney damage may seek to restore their health by taking vitamin D, and researchers have shown that vitamin D may help hide diabetic symptoms. An August 2017 paper published in Drug Development Research showed that this nutrient increased insulin sensitivity in an animal model of diabetes, but unfortunately, the vitamin D administered also caused kidney damage.

Such a result is not surprising. Scientists classify vitamin D as a fat-soluble vitamin. It can, therefore, accumulate in the body and cause hypervitaminosis. This medical condition may permanently calcify the soft tissues, according to a December 2016 report in Clinical Nutrition. While rare, hypervitaminosis still appeared in 2 percent of all the bloodwork surveyed, and 11 percent of the hypervitaminosis cases showed calcification.

Megadosing Vitamin C May Injure Kidneys

The megavitamin movement of the 1970s suggested that taking large doses of common vitamins would benefit health. Unfortunately, the alleged benefits may come at a price. A November 2017 update in GeneReviews states that megadosing vitamin C may lead to kidney failure. Surprisingly, even juicing with certain fruits and vegetables may cause this damage.

Nutritional Supplements May Damage Kidneys

Many Americans use nutritional supplements to improve their health. As with vitamins, using these dietary aids increases the risk of organ damage. In fact, 1 in 12 people in the U.S. take supplements known to cause kidney damage, according to a March 15 report in the American Journal of Public Health. Despite these risks, the Food and Drug Administration continues to leave nutritional supplements unregulated. Thus, people must take the initiative and educate themselves about the potential benefits and risks of dietary aids.

A September 2017 review in Food and Chemical Toxicology offers a starting point. This article provides a brief summary of kidney-damaging supplements. The authors suggest avoiding such dietary aids and specifically recommend avoiding excess doses of vitamins A, C and D.

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