Flaxseed may be one of your body's best friends if you
have kidney disease. A great deal of scientific interest has
recently focused on the ability of flaxseed to halt or slow the
progression of kidney disease, as well as ameliorate some of the
side effects associated with immunosuppressive drugs used to
treat kidney disease.
Your kidneys are vital organs, performing many functions to keep
your blood clean and chemically balanced. The kidneys remove
wastes and extra water from the blood to form urine. Urine flows
from the kidneys to the bladder through the ureters.
Your kidneys are bean-shaped organs, each about the size of your
fist. They are located near the middle of your back, just below
the rib cage. The kidneys are sophisticated reprocessing
machines. Every day, your kidneys process about 200 quarts of
blood to sift out about two quarts of waste products and extra
water. The wastes in your blood come from the normal breakdown
of active tissues and from the food you eat. Your body uses the
food for energy and self-repair. After your body has taken what
it needs from the food, waste is sent to the blood. If your
kidneys did not remove these wastes, the wastes would build up
in the blood and damage your body.
The actual filtering occurs in tiny units inside your kidneys
called nephrons. Every kidney has about a million nephrons. In
the nephron, a glomerulus - which is a tiny blood vessel, or
capillary - intertwines with a tiny urine-collecting tube called
a tubule. A complicated chemical exchange takes place, as waste
materials and water leave your blood and enter your urinary
system. Your kidneys also measure out chemicals like sodium,
phosphorus, and potassium and release them back to the blood to
return to the body. In this way, your kidneys regulate the
body's level of these substances.
Most kidney diseases attack the nephrons, causing them to lose
their filtering capacity. The two most common causes of kidney
disease are diabetes and high blood pressure. If your family has
a history of any kind of kidney problems, you may be at risk for
kidney disease. Another cause of kidney disease is lupus, a
syndrome that results from several related autoimmune processes.
For many years, the prognosis for severe forms of lupus
nephritis (lupusrelated kidney disease) was miserable. Although
patient survival and kidney function outcomes have improved over
the last four decades, use of immunosuppressive regimens is not
consistently effective. They often involve what experts call
Flax & Kidney Disease
Flaxseed has demonstrated useful anti-inflammatory and
antioxidative properties in a number of animal models and human
diseases. Flaxseed may also inhibit sclerosis and formation of
scar tissue. In recent years, researchers have been
investigating whether the phytoestrogens and lignans from foods
such as flaxseed can play a beneficially therapeutic role in
kidney disease, which often involves destructive inflammatory,
oxidative and sclerotic processes. The answer seems to be quite
"There is growing evidence that dietary phytoestrogens have a
beneficial role in chronic renal disease," say Drs. M.T.
Velasquez and S.J. Bhathena. They note recent findings that
suggest that "consumption of soy-based protein rich in
isoflavones and flax rich in lignans retards the development
and progression of chronic renal disease. In several animal
models of renal disease, both soy protein and flaxseed have been
shown to limit or reduce proteinuria and renal pathological
lesions associated with progressive renal failure. In studies of
human subjects with different types of chronic renal disease,
soy protein and flax also appear to moderate proteinuria and
preserve renal function."
Studies Support Flax's Role in Kidney Therapeutics In a
recent issue of the journal Lupus, researchers extracted a
lignan precursor from flax to determine if it would exert
kidney-protective effects similar to the whole flaxseed in the
case of experimentally induced aggressive lupus. The study
showed that flax lignans were highly protective "in a
dose-dependent fashion, by a significant delay in the onset of
proteinuria with preservation in glomerular filtration rate and
renal size." The study suggests that flax
lignans "may have a
therapeutic role in lupus nephritis."
In a 1993 study, researchers from the Department of Medicine,
University of Western Ontario, London, Canada, investigated
whether a diet supplemented with flaxseed could offer kidney
protection in a murine model of lupus nephritis. Tellingly,
glomerular filtration rate at 16 weeks was greater in flaxseed
fed mice compared with controls. The onset of proteinuria was
delayed by four weeks in the flax-treated mice. The percentage
of flaxseed-fed mice with proteinuria was lower than the control
mice up to 21 weeks of age. Mortality was lower in the
flaxseed-fed mice versus the control mice.
At the Department of Pediatrics and Child Health, University of
Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada, researchers undertook a study to
determine if flax would modify the clinical course and renal
pathology in experimentally induced polycystic kidney disease.
Flaxseed-fed animals had lower serum creatinine, less cystic
change, less renal fibrosis, and less macrophage infiltration of
kidney tissues than controls. "Flaxseed ameliorates rat
polycystic kidney disease," the researchers said by altering the
kidney's content of omega-3
essential fatty acids "in a manner that may
promote the formation of less inflammatory classes of renal
prostanoids (i.e., inflammatory-mediating chemicals)."
Promising Clinical Results
In 2001, a clinical trial was conducted to determine whether the
kidney-protective effects of ground flaxseed seen in
experimental studies would extend to patients with lupus
nephritis. Forty patients with lupus nephritis were asked to
participate in a randomized crossover trial of flaxseed.
Twenty-three agreed and were randomized to receive 30 grams of
ground flaxseed daily or control (no placebo) for one year,
followed by a twelve-week washout period and the reverse
treatment for one year. There were eight drop-outs and of the 15
remaining subjects flaxseed sachet count and serum phospholipid
levels indicated only nine were adherent to the flaxseed diet.
The nine compliant patients had lower serum creatinine at the
end of the two-year study than the 17 patients who refused to
participate. Microalbumin levels demonstrated a greater decline
when flaxseed was part of the diet. "Flaxseed appears to be
renoprotective in lupus nephritis," the researchers said.
MegaOmega™ Organic Sprouted Flax is the
richest source of renoprotective lignans, surpassing flax,
ground flax and flax oil. The daily intake of MegaOmega™ Organic
Sprouted Flax may prove to be an important dietary consideration
for those suffering from or concerned about kidney disease.
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