People with kidney disease end up with GFR levels below 60 and creatinine levels above 1.35: https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/creatinine-test/about/pac-20384646. Imagine my horror when my GFR came in below 40 and my creatinine above 1.76 at the beginning of November 2021.
The general belief in medicine is no one is coming back after a GFR of 30. Time to sign up for the donor list and dialysis, get your affairs in order, and hope the life insurance policy pays out for your family like it says it will. People who are down to a single kinda-functioning kidney routinely pull creatinine levels at 1.8 and up. Needless to say, it was pretty jarring to see my own lab values similar to those of dying people.
“Defeated” doesn’t really encapsulate the experience. Some people might have this happen, and think, “well, at least I can start exercising, cut out the sugar, stop drinking, etc.”. But for me… what’s there to clean up? I routinely fast. I do lengthy raw juice fasts quarterly. I exercise. I’m on whole food as my baseline. I haven’t really had any alcohol in years. I attend to my sleep and stress management. I’m on no medications. I supplement vitamin d, c, omegas, occasional minerals. From a practical perspective, what else could I do?
Trying to figure out what risk factors I even had was dicey. Sure, I’d been vaccinated AND had breakthrough Covid infection after vaccine; and there is a growing body of evidence that healthy males under 40 in particular have higher risk of myocarditis after vaccination. There is more ACE2 expression in the kidneys than in the lungs and heart combined. So, it stands to reason that vaccine plus infection plus something about my unique genetics made my kidneys specifically vulnerable. But again, what practical takeaway did that really afford me? What could I actually DO?
I could blame it on vaccine or infection or genes or both or all or some combination or something else entirely. But so what? What was I going to DO?
After feeling sorry for myself and accepting that I may be dying, I tried to get some clarity. I have walked clients through reversal of diabetes, reversal of bone density loss, reversal of joint deterioration, clearance of fatty liver, reversal of autoimmune diseases, and a whole host of “impossible” situations. I’ve watched people with “irreparably” destroyed spines recover fully to athleticism; and the natural healing of bulged discs is now a clinically-verified fact: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30610984/ . I’ve coached clients with Parkinson’s who improve in fitness. I’ve watched those with muscular dystrophy gain muscle size and strength. I currently have clients who USED to have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, atherosclerotic plaque build-up and USED to take medication for it. Even for myself, I once was debilitated with Lyme disease and nerve damage. I couldn’t reliably bend my right knee without issue from 2015 to 2017 while I can now deep squat over 600lbs. “Snap out of it!”, I kept telling myself.
The difference with kidney damage, of course, is that NO ONE really believed kidneys could regenerate… prior to 2014: https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2014/06/adult-kidneys-constantly-grow.html. In fact, ask any kidney specialists or nephrologists who graduated before 2015, and they still don’t know this unless they stay on top of the literature. To this day, the current OFFICIAL position for organizations is that kidney damage CANNOT be reversed: https://www.cdc.gov/kidneydisease/publications-resources/live-well-with-chronic-kidney-disease.html. Not just the CDC, but all authoritative organizations in medicine state the same thing: kidney health goes one direction. The most hopeful sentiment you’ll find in mainstream medicine is that we may slow the deterioration of kidneys: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/end-stage-renal-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20354532
The only thing I could even think to do was drop body weight and lower my protein intake (and I wasn’t even sold on this idea, because it’s promulgated by the same organizations who don’t believe you can heal the kidneys). Nonetheless, between those and complete abstinence from any NSAIDs, I just couldn’t even think of another thing to actually DO.
The first retest, shown on the left, was a small improvement, but still VERY concerning. There are people with numbers like that who are essentially actively dying.
All the same, it WAS an improvement. So… patiently I kept on. The following month I had another small improvement. And February I had another. By March I was in “normal” range and I had begun to add some days of higher protein intake. VERY HIGH. In part, I wanted to see if high protein intake would worsen my numbers back to where I was in February or earlier. In part, I was tired of feeling like I was getting weaker and less athletic.
Not a big surprise, but the numbers improved again, confirming my suspicion that dietary protein is likely a red herring for people with compromised kidneys. After all, WHAT are you going to use to regrow the cells in the kidneys if you’re going to regenerate them? It sure as hell ain’t carbs. Moreover, carbs are going to reinforce insulin resistance, which damages all tissue, kidneys included.
Also, I have to add that the GFR is a calculation from creatinine based in part on body mass. Technically, my GFR is even better than the picture on the right because no one updated my weight since November (all visits since have been “lab only” blood draws); and I’m down 20lbs.
1.) The uncommon is always possible when we think and behave in an uncommon manner.
Be wary of bleak opinions, especially expert ones, when the opinion is coming from people who don’t think or act in uncommon and exceptional ways.
I don’t care for toxic positivity or effusive can-do attitudes. But we have to be on the lookout for the can’t-do experts who seem to be in endless supply.
2.) Less body mass is less work for all systems and organs.
This is incontestable. Among the average populace, this is a bit of a Catch-22, because they need to gain 30lbs of muscle to be somewhat healthy. At the same time, the average American adult is walking around with 60lbs to 150lbs of excess body fat.
In my case, I can pretty much be whatever weight at whatever percent composition whenever I want within 6 months. For this particular process of healing, I didn’t take great pains to save muscle mass so much as just clock in lighter. I prefer NOT to do things this way; but I was genuinely sick and needed to give the kidneys a fighting chance. This is NOT the best course of action for all people, because most don’t have a lot of extra muscle and strength they can afford to lose, nor do they really know how to rebuild it.
Long story short: learn to fast. Learn to do medically-strict ketogenic nutrition from time to time. Protein intake will eventually be a necessity. Thus, although I acknowledge the benefits of fasting and low-protein keto diets, healing is eventually going to require moderate to high protein intake (and oftentimes not much else), if only periodically.
3.) Gain some real understanding of lab testing.
One test is ONE DATUM. Diagnosis and prognosis off of even several tests is logically fallacious and a critical-thinking no-no. I’ve actually witnessed several people get “good” A1C readings WHILE their diabetes was worsening. And, when you understand how physiology works and what the test can and can’t evaluate, this makes perfect sense.
This always shocks people, but I know how to change cholesterol test outcomes in the same day. In fact, most chronic disease diagnoses are based on a single test which you can alter the very next day. I know. I’ve done it. And I’ve helped clients successfully contest their employers’ health care premium evaluation by retesting an improved blood lipid panel one to two weeks later.
4.) Keep reminding yourself that “average” outcomes are MOSTLY self-fulfilling prophecy. Look around. You can see people don’t try hard. As such, when you’re consulting statistics, be starkly aware that you’re observing trash behavior, garbage choices, uneducated and willfully self-sabotaging lifestyle.
When you perform even modest or moderate effort at anything, you’re immediately shifting into an outlier percentile. I don’t care at all to learn from the best of the best UNLESS they came from a severe disadvantage. We need to learn more from people who’ve achieved “the impossible” against all odds. We can’t learn anything valuable from people who have an aptitude, a knack, an inherent talent, a prodigious start, or an outrageously privileged beginning. What we need to know is how someone who “shouldn’t have been able to” employed an uncommon tactic to exceed all expectations.
I never once studied a success story who came from a wealthy family. I prefer a Fredrick Douglas, or a Mark Mathabane. I want to know how someone with less than I had has done more than I’ve done. In fitness, I don’t care at all what a lifelong super athlete has to say. I want to hear from the sedentary person who was on death’s door and transformed her life at the age of 60, 70, 80.
In health, don’t look at average outcomes or exceptional backgrounds. Look at exceptional outcomes that come from average or below-average backgrounds.
5.) Hate Dogma And Conventional Thinking.
I don’t think it’s enough to challenge the status quo. We must revile it. Odium is the only appropriate response to self-proclaimed fonts of authority. Only through extensive self-experimentation and genetic testing did I discover that plant-based nutrition is harmful for me. You can find lots of opinions on this and controversial gurus who say one thing or another. But I KNOW with total certainty through REPEATED testing that my labs worsen and risks of heart disease go up dramatically with vegan eating while labs improve and risk of heart disease plummets with animal-based dieting FOR ME.
The only high blood pressure reading at rest I ever had in my entire life was during a plant-based eating experiment.
6.) “What’s the plan if you’re wrong?”
I like this question, both for myself and for other experts. It helps to move people into their thinking brains and out of their ideology shields. It’s like an Occam’s Razor meets Pascal’s Wager. I’ve heard it rephrased by clients, one in particular I really enjoy, “what is your plan to get me OFF of this medication after I begin taking it?”