Ask the Doctor with Dr. Leslie Spry MD, FACP

Are probiotics safe for those with kidney disease or those who are at risk?

Probiotics are live organisms that may offer health benefits when consumed. Often probiotics are sold as supplements, but they can also be found in certain foods, such as yogurt and other fermented dairy products. Most of the research on the benefits of probiotics is mixed and at times difficult to interpret.  Scientific studies clearly show the benefit of probiotics in the prevention of antibiotic associated diarrhea.  Studies show that probiotics seem to prevent and stall the development of antibiotic-associated diarrhea but may not prevent diarrhea associated with C.difficile (pseudomembraneous colitis) which is the most severe form of antibiotic-associated diarrhea.  Many studies also point to the fact that probiotics that contain multiple types of bacteria seem to be superior to those with only a single bacteria type.

I have high blood pressure and diabetes, which I know are two major risk factors for kidney disease. What can I do to prevent myself from developing kidney disease?

You are correct in that high blood pressure and diabetes are two major risk factors for kidney disease.  Sixty percent (60%) of patients starting dialysis have either high blood pressure, diabetes or both. Additional risk factors include having a family history of kidney failure and being age 60 or older. A history of kidney stones, smoking, obesity and cardiovascular disease also place you at increased risk for developing kidney disease, but the good news is that there are lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk. 

Exercise has been shown to decrease blood pressure, reduce weight and improve the functioning of the heart. Exercise also improves control of diabetes and reduces blood fats and cholesterol. All of these have a direct impact on kidney function. Those with diabetes should also carefully monitor their blood sugar levels. Because the kidneys are very vascular organs, meaning they contain many blood vessels, they can be damaged by high blood sugar levels.

Recent reports also suggest a possible link between probiotics in the diet and improving blood pressure and blood sugar control. These studies also indicate that probiotics with multiple bacterial types (as in yogurt cultures) seem to be superior to those with a single bacteria type (as seen in probiotic supplements).  Adding yogurt and other cultured dairy products to the diet may be part of a healthy lifestyle leading to improved blood pressure and diabetic control.  

The NKF offers free kidney health checks in communities across the country. Learn more about this program and find an event in your area!

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