CBD Oil and Kidney Disease: Can it Improve Kidney Health?

In the United States alone, chronic kidney disease is a burden on 37 million Americans, with another 1 in 3 adults being at risk. It is the ninth most common cause of death. [1

With continually growing numbers of patients on multi-year transplant waitlists, alternative solutions to improve the condition are in high demand. While it may be a more modern addition to the medical treatment playbook, CBD oil boasts a promising outlook in the future of kidney disease.


What Do Your Kidneys Do?

You are born with two kidneys, one positioned on each side of your body. When the kidneys are healthy, their primary job is to filter your blood, eliminate waste and excess fluids, and keep red blood cells in production. The kidneys also release hormones of the renin-angiotensin system (RAS), which regulates your blood pressure, as well as erythropoietin (EPO), and 1,24 dihydroxy vitamin D3. [2

How Your Kidneys Work

The heart pumps your blood through an artery to the kidneys. From there, the blood passes through millions of tiny blood filters. [3] Waste material is then collected and stored as urine in the bladder. Your freshly cleansed blood returns to the bloodstream through the veins, and this continual process repeats with 200 quarts of fluid every day.

What is Kidney Disease?

Kidney disease occurs when your kidneys become damaged and can no longer filter your blood as intended. 

Causes

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Glomerulonephritis (when the kidney’s filters become inflamed)
  • Interstitial Nephritis (when the spaces between tubules become inflamed)
  • Polycystic Kidney Disease (clusters of cysts on the kidneys)
  • Prolonged obstruction of the urinary tract (such as from an enlarged prostate, kidney stones, or some cancers)
  • Vesicoureteral reflux (when urine flows the wrong way, most common in infants and children)
  • Recurrent kidney infections [4]

Risk Factors

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Heart disease
  • Family history of kidney disease
  • Being African-American, Native American, or Asian-American
  • Abnormal kidney structure
  • Older age

Symptoms

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Swelling of lower limbs
  • Loss of appetite
  • Decreased mental clarity
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Changes in frequency of urination, or quantity of urine
  • Muscle cramping
  • Fatigue
  • Itching
  • High blood pressure that is difficult to regulate

Kidney Disease Diagnosis

A medical professional diagnoses kidney disease, often with blood tests that measure GFR (glomerular filtration rate) and urine tests that measure ACR (albumin-to-creatinine ratio). In the former, the test examines the presence of creatinine, a waste product that damaged kidneys have difficulty removing from your blood. In the urine test, the detection of Albumin can be a sign of early kidney disease. This protein should be in the blood and not be present in the urine. If it is, your kidneys are not filtering your blood as they should.

Treatment for Kidney Disease

While damage to your kidneys can not be reversed, there are proactive measures you can take to keep your kidneys healthy and limit further deterioration:

  • Control your blood sugar
  • Regulate your blood pressure
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat a low-fat, low-sodium diet
  • Refrain from smoking or tobacco use

If your kidney disease progresses to kidney failure, you will require dialysis or a kidney transplant to survive.

CBD and Kidney Disease

Cannabidiol, better known as CBD, is one of over 100 chemical compounds known as cannabinoids found in the cannabis or marijuana plant. Cannabis is one of the world’s oldest cultivated plants. [5]

Properties of CBD

While cannabis contains Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the primary psychoactive marijuana component), CBD has no psychoactive properties. The lack of euphoric constituents makes CBD an excellent option for pain relief without the “high” of marijuana. 

Does CBD Oil Affect Kidneys?

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a neuromodulatory system that plays an essential role in your body. The system is comprised of cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, which can be found in numerous tissues, including the kidneys.[6] Many people don’t apprehend that your body creates cannabinoids on its own, similar to the components of cannabis. This system is crucial in maintaining internal balance in your body.

CB1 and CB2 reportedly play critical roles in renal function and dysfunction, and their antagonism has been shown to reduce albuminuria in diabetes and obesity-related kidney disease. While certain cannabinoids, such as CBD, do not bind to the endocannabinoid receptors, they stimulate the body’s natural endocannabinoid production. Studies have shown that therapeutics that modify the activity of these receptors may soon become clinically relevant. [7

Cannabis can also help manage some of the symptoms of kidney disease, such as chronic pain and nausea.

Since CBD contains no psychoactive attributes but has the cannabinoid benefits of cannabis that may be indirectly affecting your kidneys’ receptors, it has the opportunity to become an attractive treatment option.

CBD Oil Types

There are three main types of CBD oil, as well as a variety of consumption methods. 

  • Full Spectrum CBD contains a small amount of THC, which is detectable, along with some other lesser cannabinoids. If you do not want any THC in your CBD oil, you should choose one of the other types. Some people find Full Spectrum CBD to be more beneficial due to the entourage effect. This effect happens when CBD is consumed with other cannabinoids, rather than in isolation, and seemingly increases its health benefits.
  • Broad Spectrum CBD contains all of the same cannabinoid components of Full Spectrum CBD without the THC, giving you a “meet in the middle” of health benefits.
  • CBD Isolates contain only CBD. These tend to be the most cost-effective, and have a better taste with fewer ingredients, but do not produce the entourage effect.

Though additional studies still need to occur, CBD’s potential to alter certain kidney disease progressions and improve kidney health has a promising outlook. CBD oils are considered benign in nature and are often well-tolerated, so many significant side effects do not usually accompany any potential health benefits. 

However, CBD can interact with other medications you’re taking, and you aren’t always sure you’re getting the purest form, so it’s still best to consult with a doctor specializing in medical marijuana and CBD products to support safe and beneficial consumption.

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