Non-Traditional Medicine and Renal Failure

One of the most common suggestions I get from people who want to help Teddy (which we appreciate so much) is to try this herb or that essential oil or this other homeopathic remedy. It’s a tonic for the kidneys! It helps drain the ears! Put a few drops over the skin on the outside of where his kidneys are and they will re-grow!

Let me first say that I’m a big believer in herbal, homepathic, and other non-standard, non-western methods.

Our family sees a wonderful Chiropractor regularly, I get acupuncture as needed, we do baby and child massage, and I get massages as I can afford it. I have a drawer full of herbs, homeopathics, oils, and collodial silver. And we use them regularly. I turn to them first, before “standard” medicines, for the four of us who aren’t in renal failure.

Sometimes they work great. Sometimes not. (For example, say what you want about herbals and homeopathics – and local honey, which is a huge myth that just won’t die – nothing helps my seasonal allergies in the fall except Allegra.)

And these treatments are GENERALLY not harmful. Unless you’re allergic to something, it’s hard for most otherwise healthy people to harm themselves with herbals or homeopathics. (Please no comments about how herbs are also drugs – I know this. But most people who have brains aren’t going to OD on herbs.) But it’s a COMPLETELY different ballgame when you have major organs that don’t work.

Particularly the kidney.

Let me first get this out of the way. I don’t believe that the right (and uber expensive) Young Living Essential Oil, if rubbed on his SKIN, is going to make his right kidney grow to the appropriate size and start working again spontaneously, or heal up the damage done to his left kidney. Call me close-minded. If it was a $5 remedy, I’d give it a whirl anyway. But it’s not.

But what about herbs, or tinctures, or homeopathics? (“Look! In the one herbal book I have, it says that this herb is a WONDERFUL tonic for the kidneys!! You should try it!”)

Drugs are metabolized in the liver and the kidney. When your kidneys aren’t working, it can be hard for your body to metabolize drugs. For example, when Teddy’s on vancomycin, he takes it half as often as a regular kid, because it takes his body twice as long to process it out of his system.

Some herbals are listed in herbal references as a great tonic for the kidneys because they in fact IRRITATE the kidney, causing it to work harder or to dump more liquid out of your body – this might be OK for healthy kidneys, but when you’ve got one kidney that’s barely hanging on, the last thing you want to do is irritate it.

And some herbs are listed with conflicting information – most herbs/homeopathics that are listed as helping the kidney then say that those with kidney disease or kidney failure should not take it. And then there’s all the herbals and homeopathics about which not enough is known about how they might affect the kidneys to make a good decision.

When it comes to Teddy’s one, barely working kidney… I’m not willing to risk it. I don’t care if taking such and such a tincture could do this miracle thing for him… if it means potentially losing his kidney, it’s not worth it. Even if that means another surgery. I would rather he have surgery than risk his kidney. (His, do I need to say it again, barely working kidney.)

So yes, I’m sure that various herbs could potentially clear up his fluid in his ears. (though it’s not a guarantee – see the above about my allergies.) But if it risks his kidney, it’s not worth it.

Because he’s doing OK right now. We can balance his electrolytes with supplements. We can take over a lot of what the kidney does with drugs. But if those nephrons in there stop working, it’s all over. Then it’s dialysis. We use iron, aranesp, and venofer to take over the red blood cell functions of the kidney. We use Calcitriol to take over the vit d/thyroid functions. But we use dialysis to take over the waste removal and urine creation functions. And while that’s not the end of the world, I’d STILL pick surgery over dialysis. (and have made that decision already once.)

(Note, there is a naturopath who specializes in helping kidney patients. I would trust her advice. But the rest of you, including me? Not so much.)

(and maybe there are mamas reading this who have their kids on dialysis and you’re laughing at me with my irrational fears about dialysis. But he’s doing ok now, and I see no reason to move to dialysis any sooner than we have to, considering the increase in risk across the board. I also grew up with my mom teetering on the edge of needing dialysis and literally every medical decision she made was balanced against what it would do to her kidneys. That’s my bias.)


2 thoughts on “Non-Traditional Medicine and Renal Failure

  1. Look how he has grown! I agree w/you and trying herbal remedies and protecting his precious kidney. I have been told similar things by innocent well wishers trying to help. Sometimes it’s frustrating. I enjoy reading your blog! πŸ™‚

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