Could A Plant Based & Alkaline Diet Reverse Diabetic Kidney Lesions Naturally

New research and a couple of studies have shown cost-effective, medication-free hope for those suffering from diabetic kidney lesions. It appears the right kinds of plants and vegetables can actually heal, albeit temporarily, diabetic lesions on a person.

The human kidneys are made up of about a million filtering units called nephrons. Basically, kidneys filter waste and extra, unwanted fluid from the bloodstream. Each nephron includes a filter, called the glomerulus, which are tiny structures of which you have millions per kidney. In addition, there is a tube. The nephrons work through a two-step process: the glomerulus filters your blood under pressure and the tube gives your body the needed nutrients while getting rid of the waste. The leading causes of chronic kidney disease (CKD) are diabetes and high blood pressure.

This is 44 and 28 percent respectively of cases in the United States. Approximately 13 percent of U.S. adults are suffering from CKD. CKD progresses in stages and, if untreated, can lead to complete loss of kidney function. It can be treated with medication and slowed, but it has to be detected early, which, once again is difficult as there may be no symptoms which a patient may be able to identify. High levels of blood glucose make extra work for the filters.

These will start to leak because of the increased wear causing protein to enter into urine. There are several treatments that may keep kidney disease from getting worse in the early stages. Over time, this extra stress will continue to deteriorate the kidney’s ability to filter causing waste to build up in a person’s blood. Eventually, if untreated, the kidneys will fail and the person will need a transplant.

The idea is similar to the notion one can reverse diabetes with a diet change. The two studies show a link between plant based diets and the reversal of other chronic diseases. In one of the studies, a 4-week randomized control trial showed people who ate just a plant diet had tripled the improvement of their HbA1c levels compared to the American Diabetes diet. The HbA1c is a test determining the average amount of blood sugar in a patient over the past 2 to 3 months.

The other study monitored 13 diabetics placed on a plant based diet and showed significant improvement in their condition. In the case of eight patients, the adherence to the plant based diet caused a reverse in their diabetes.

Authors of the studies noted reversing diabetes is the best, most cost effective solution for the patients. The average cost for medical expenses for a diabetic is about $16,750 per year. About $9,600 relates to the cost of diabetes alone.

The authors of the article are quoted as saying;

“If you can reverse diabetes through diet, which is more economical, much less invasive and a less hazardous way than giving a pancreas transplant, you could potentially have the same effect in your kidney too, which could generate a lot of cost savings and help a lot of people.”

The Benefits of Alkaline Diets
One of the biggest problems with CKD involves the high level of acid buildup resulting from the kidneys’ inability to filter out toxins. The higher the acid load, the higher the probability of CKD resulting in end-stage renal disease. This has been proven time and time again and some of the most convincing studies came from Kidney Week 2013, with one study (the University of California San Francisco’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III) which followed a group of 1,486 CKD patients and found that those with the highest dietary acid load faced an 8.56 higher probability of renal failure. 

A second study, also coming out of Kidney Week 2013 was led by a research team based out of Tokyo Kyosai Hospital in Japan. This study followed 249 senior citizen CKD patients who were twice as likely to develop renal failure based directly on how high the acid loads were in their diets. 

The primary takeaway from these studies is the vital importance of using whatever means possible to reduce acid load in the body and thus prevent kidney failure for as long as possible. The opposite of a high acid environment is a diet rich in alkaline foods. Alkaline refers to where a food stands in terms of its pH levels, ranging from 0 to 14. Something with a pH level of 1 would be considered very acidic, something higher on the scale like a 13 would be highly alkaline, a mid-range score of 7 would be a true neutral.

Here Are Some Of The Best Kidney-Friendly Alkaline Foods & Beverages to Include In Your Diet

  • Vegetables like: kale, chard, collard greens and alfalfa sprouts. Dark leafy greens are typically very high in alkaline content, also root vegetables like turnips, radishes, parsnips and potatoes. Avoid Brussels Sprouts as they are oddly enough, one of the few vegetables high in acid content.
  • Fruits such as: berries (all kinds, but blueberries are the best), all varieties of melon, cherries, grapes and mango. 
  • Proteins such as tofu, green beans, lima beans and mung beans. As always, in cases of CKD, consuming the right protein content for your own unique situation is advised. 
  • Grains like Amaranth, Quinoa, Buckwheat, and Millet.

Keeping your diet alkaline and incorporating more plant-based foods not only helps chronic kidney disease by lowering acid, it can also reduce inflammation, maintain blood sugar balance and provide tremendous benefit toward a host of other symptoms. Food as medicine has been a noted way to treat numerous chronic illnesses but nowhere is the need for increased vigilance of one’s diet more important than in cases of diabetic kidney disease.

Debunking Diet Myths
Despite this large body of evidence as to the benefits of plant-based and alkaline diets on kidney disease, diabetes and other assorted health conditions, there are still many people who persist in believing that vegetarian diets do not provide sufficient nutrition or are in some other way lacking.

Nothing could be further from the truth! Vegetarian diets provide all the optimal nutritive benefits without any of the detriments associated with diets which preclude copious amounts of vegetables in favor of meat. In fact, a recent report highlighted an extra benefit of eating a plant-based diet specifically for chronic kidney disease patients. 

This study, published in a recent issue of Journal of Renal Nutrition, sought to dispel the misconception many have that eating solely plant-based diets can lead to malnutrition. Researchers found that the pleiotropic attributes of plant-based proteins offer an advantage over animal-based proteins. Unlike meat, plant-based proteins can supply protein without elevating phosphorous levels, they can reduce the likelihood of metabolic acidosis, inflammation and hypertension. Additionally, they are typically more easily digested, are conducive to healthier gut microbiomes, and help reverse diabetes by promoting weight loss and altering lipids.

Below is a video I did about the tremendous benefits of adopting a diet rich in vegetables in cases of chronic kidney disease.

If you need more information about diabetic kidney disease and how to use diet to help support more normal kidney function, please be sure to check out our guides to using diet as an effective treatment method for CKD and our back-catalogue of articles and videos.


Joshi S. Poster 252. Presented at: National Kidney Foundation Spring Clinical Meetings; April 10-14, 2018; Austin, Texas.