Cleansing the Kidneys: What You Need to Know

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Cleansing the kidneys has become a hot topic. Many herbs, supplements, foods, and drinks promise to make you feel great. But before you start a kidney cleanse home remedy, learn if there is any truth to these best kidney detoxes and if it is possible to naturally cleanse kidneys for improved health.

What Is A Kidney Cleanse

A cleanse is when a person attempts to rid the body of substances regarded as toxic or unhealthy. 

The kidneys are the body’s own cleansing system. They work hard all day, every day to flush out toxins, water, and wastes.

Those with poor kidney health are often subjected to the marketing of these cleanses. Anyone with a bladder infection, kidney stone symptoms, or any other kidney issue are prey to cunning advertising tactics. It will leave them feeling the need to take cleansing the kidneys into their own hands.

Kidney detoxes and cleanses consist of foods, drinks, supplements, and/or herbs taken over the course of a few days. They’re often restricted to only certain foods.

The following is a review of products you may come across online that claim to help in cleansing the kidneys. I am not recommending any type of kidney cleansing product. Be sure to discuss any and all supplements – herbal, over-the-counter, or even prescribed by other practitioners – with your nephrologist and/or primary care physician.

Before you put that kidney cleanse in your shopping cart, read up on the science behind kidney cleanses so you know exactly what you’re paying for.

What To Know Before Starting a Kidney Cleanse

Be sure to get adequate calories and nutrients to avoid fatigue and potential deficiencies. If you have any nutrient restrictions include foods, herbs, and supplements that will not cause drug interactions and put your kidneys in jeopardy.

If you have any kidney issues it is best to talk to your doctor and registered dietitian (RD) about whether or not a kidney cleanse is right for you. They can help you make a plan that will be tailored to fit your individual needs without compromising your health.

Types of Kidney Cleanses

In a cleanse you will have specific foods, drinks, herbs, teas, and/or supplements over a few days.

Herbs for Cleansing the Kidneys

Many herbs for cleansing kidneys claim to improve kidney function. Learn the truth behind these “so-called”  best kidney cleansing herbs.

Dandelion Root

Dandelion root is a herb in kidney cleanse tea. It may lower blood pressure and regulate blood sugar. Dandelion root prevents kidney stones by increasing urine production.

The herb also contains inulin. This nutrient may help to lower blood pressure and regulate blood sugar.

Some common side effects include:

Don’t take this herb if you are on certain medications:

  • Diuretics
  • Depression medications
  • Antipsychotics
  • Estrogen-based birth control
  • Antibiotics
  • Antacids
  • Cholesterol-lowering drugs

You should also avoid dandelion if you have any weed allergies.

The long-term effects of this herb are unknown. Dandelion root has a high content of potassium. One leaf contains an average of 43 to 45 mg of potassium per gram of dandelion root. Those with kidney issues should avoid it.

Stinging Nettle

Stinging nettle is a herb that fights bacteria and lowers inflammation. It is unknown how this herb affects kidney function.

Stinging nettle was found to interfere with blood-thinning drugs, diuretics, blood pressure drugs, anti-inflammatory drugs, alpha-blockers, and finasteride.

Stinging nettle has a high amount of potassium. One cup contains about 297 mg.

Hydrangea

Animals given hydrangea had less kidney damage. It also had an anti-inflammatory effect on kidney cells damaged by the chemotherapy.

Side effects include:

  • Dizziness
  • Feelings of tightness in the chest
  • Stomach and intestinal upset

Since hydrangea has not been tested on humans we are unsure of its effects on the kidneys.

Sambong

Sambong decreased the size of kidney stones and reduced them from forming. It may also lower blood pressure. 

Reactions can occur in those with ragweed allergies. Side effects include rashes and itchy skin.

We do not know how it specifically affects the kidneys.

Marshmallow Root 

Marshmallow root both helps and hurts the kidneys. It may lower inflammation but it also decreased kidney function in mice.

Stomach upset and dizziness are some side effects. 

This herb contains vitamin A, potassium, and sodium. Those with restrictions should avoid this root.

Juniper

Juniper is a herb with high water content. It is also a diuretic which is why it is claimed to help in cleansing the kidneys. It treats urinary tract infections (UTIs) and kidney stones.

This herb contains antibacterial compounds called terpenoids. They may improve kidney function. 

Urine increased without the loss of electrolytes in rats that were fed juniper.

The use of juniper may irritate the kidneys. It should not be used to treat kidney damage or kidney disease.

Parsley

Parsley contains compounds that have health benefits. In rats, this extract reduced cell damage and also improved kidney function.

Overall, we do not know the true effects of parsley extracts in humans.

In addition, many supplements have side effects so it is best to use the actual food. Use this herb sparingly due to its high potassium content. One tablespoon contains 21 mg.

Red clover 

Red clover may improve kidney function due to compounds found in this herb. However, there is no evidence showing this so the true effects of red clover are unknown.

Red clover is also a natural anticoagulant. It may cause excessive bleeding. Red clover contains isoflavones. These compounds are similar to estrogen and may affect hormone function.

Unfortunately, we don’t know if red clover can help the kidneys and it should be avoided.

Goldenrod

Goldenrod is used to treat diabetes and arthritis. It prevents kidney stones and UTIs by flushing out bacteria.

This herb can lower levels of sodium, potassium, and calcium.

It may cause high blood pressure. Those with kidney disease should not take goldenrod.

Basil 

Diabetic rats given basil extract had lower blood sugar and better heart health.

Eugenol is a compound that lowers blood pressure for a short period. It is found in basil.

Human studies have found basil to be able to decrease blood sugar and blood pressure. Alternatively, there is no evidence showing basil can help the kidneys.

Garlic

Garlic may produce a compound that relaxes blood vessels and lowers blood pressure. 

It may protect the kidneys. Cell damage and kidney function were prevented or improved in rats fed garlic. 

Those with potassium restrictions should be careful when consuming garlic so they do not get too much of this mineral.

Ginger

Ginger has been shown to help with nausea and morning sickness and may also improve kidney health. Rats with poor kidney function had low inflammation when fed ginger extract.

Ginger may lower inflammation, blood pressure, and regulate blood sugar when used with other medications.

There is some concern with ginger as a detox since it may interfere with some medications.

Turmeric

Turmeric contains the compound curcumin. It lowers inflammation.

In rats, curcumin prevented the formation of arterial plaque. It also reduced protein losses and improved kidney function.

Curcumin is poorly absorbed. Taking it with the spice black pepper can increase the bioavailability. Some recipes, like Golden Milk, use both of these spices.

Turmeric contains both potassium and phosphorus. These nutrients may need to be limited in some people with kidney disease. 

Burdock Root

Burdock root is a herb often made into tea. It has many antioxidants and a diuretic effect which make it a recommended herb for kidney stones. It is thought to decrease sodium levels.

Burdock root improved circulation and detoxified blood but it is uncertain how it affects those with kidney disease.

Rehmannia

Rehmannia contains a compound called catalpol. Catalpol makes Rehmannia a diuretic that can lower blood sugar.

Rehmannia may improve blood, immune, endocrine, nervous, and cardiovascular systems. It was said to revive the kidney but there is no evidence on how it affects kidney health.

Food for Cleansing the Kidneys

Foods have been praised for their health benefits but it is important to know about any nutrients that might interfere with kidney function. Food for cleansing your kidneys includes the following.

Kidney Beans

Kidney beans provide soluble fiber and a plant-based protein. These essential nutrients regulate blood pressure and glucose levels.

Kidney beans do contain phosphorus, however, nutrient levels often decrease during digestion. This is because the phytates in kidney beans will bind to phosphorus. Subsequently, the level of phosphorus ingested will be lower.

Those with a phosphorus restriction still should be mindful of this food in regards to their overall phosphorus intake, especially from additives.

Watermelon 

Watermelon may increase urine and balance levels of phosphate, calcium, oxalate, and citrate.

Additionally, nutrients in watermelon may also protect the kidneys from tissue damage. Lycopene lowered inflammation in rats with kidney damage.

This fruit is also high in potassium. Too much watermelon may increase potassium levels and compromise normal kidney function or worsen symptoms of renal disease. 

Pomegranate Extract and Pomegranate Juice

Pomegranate contains the compounds flavonoids and anthocyanins which give it a purple color. Research suggests these compounds in pomegranates may prevent kidney damage and heart disease

Pomegranate extracts prevented kidney stones and increased urine output.  

Antioxidants in pomegranate improved filtration, blood flow, increased kidney glomeruli, and regenerated kidney tissue in rats. It reduced inflammation and calcium oxalate in the kidney cells

In the short term, pomegranate juice or extract did not improve inflammation, blood pressure, or cholesterol. Long-term pomegranate had improved kidney function when compared with a placebo. Consumption of 100 mL for a year improved health outcomes in hemodialysis (HD) patients. It reduced inflammation, infections, risk of death, and improved immunity.

Kidney disease can cause problems with filtering certain minerals so it is important to be aware of the potassium levels in pomegranates.

Additionally, some medications may also have interactions with pomegranate.

Beets

Beetroot contains betalain and nitric oxide. These compounds lower blood pressure and blood sugar.

When compared with animals, humans had less improvement in kidney function when given beetroot. Alternatively, animals also had a slower progression of the disease.

The progression of the disease was reduced. There was also a lower risk of death in those with hypertensive CKD and diabetic nephropathy. Beetroot and beetroot juice may work as a complementary therapy for kidney treatment.

A beetroot extract improved structural damage by and decreasing inflammation and cell death.  

Beetroot supplementation has been shown to 

  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Lower inflammation 
  • Prevent oxidative stress
  • Maintain blood vessel function
  • Restore brain blood flow to the brain

Beetroot juice has some interactions with medications like ED drugs resulting in low blood pressure. Beets are also high in potassium and those with potassium restrictions should limit this food.

Cherries

Cherries contain polyphenols and vitamin C. These compounds lower inflammation. Regular consumption of cherries may prevent cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

There is no evidence showing benefits for improved kidney health. 

Cherries have a medium amount of potassium so it may be good to eat them in moderation. Cherry juice was also found to interfere with medications. As a result, it caused acute kidney injury in patients with chronic kidney disease. 

Olive Oil

Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats and phytonutrients. These compounds lower inflammation, cholesterol, and the risk of heart disease. In addition, olive oil is used to alleviate kidney stones. Unfortunately, there is no evidence this actually works.

Despite this, it is still a healthy food to incorporate into the kidney diet. Olive oil plays a large role in the Mediterranean diet, which can lower inflammation, insulin resistance, blood pressure, and cholesterol. 

Furthermore, olive oil itself can reduce cardiovascular risk, inflammation, and improve the health of blood vessels.

There is no evidence olive oil can improve kidney health. It may, however, lower inflammation associated with kidney disease.

Red Peppers

Red peppers contain antioxidants lycopene, vitamin A, C, fiber, and folate

There is no specific evidence showing peppers can improve the kidneys or do any cleansing of the kidneys. However, nutrients in bell peppers may prevent heart disease associated with kidney conditions.

Grapes

Red grapes contain flavonoids. These compounds may protect from kidney disease. Mice given flavonoids had improved kidney function.

Grapes also contain resveratrol. This is a flavonoid that reduces fibrosis, inflammation. It also repaired kidney cells and improved function. In humans, resveratrol improved kidney function in kidney disease. More research needs to be done to know the true effects of resveratrol.

Cruciferous Vegetables 

Cruciferous vegetables include cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts. These vegetables may reduce kidney cell cancer in humans. 

Large consumption of broccoli lowered the incidences of kidney failure in mice lacking the gene GSTM1. Mice with the defect had improvements in kidney injury when given broccoli powder. Normal mice were not affected. 

These vegetables are high in fiber. Fiber helps improve blood pressure and blood sugar. These vegetables are low in potassium, sodium, and phosphorus. 

Seaweed

Seaweed is a popular kidney cleanse food. It is nutrient-dense and has been shown to improve health. Mice who consumed brown seaweed for 22 days had reduced diabetic kidney damage

Types of seaweed include spirulina or chlorella. They have been known to eliminate heavy metals that may cleanse the kidneys. Spirulina and chlorella are high in potassium which may not be good for those with mineral restrictions. 

Berries

Berries contain phytochemicals that reduce inflammation. Rats with acute kidney injury had lower blood pressure and cell damage after consumption of berries.  Eating blueberries for 15 weeks also improved glucose tolerance and lowered blood pressure. 

Blueberries also repaired the angiotensin system in animals. This regulated blood pressure and had an overall protective effect on the kidneys  

It is unknown how blueberries affect the kidneys of humans.

Pumpkin Seeds

Information on pumpkin seeds is conflicting. Some say they can reduce kidney stones, while other information says it is not a kidney-friendly food.

Cleanses involving pumpkin seeds claim they increase circulation and can flush out uric acid and other toxins.

There is no scientific data to back this up. Furthermore, some sources show that pumpkin seeds are too high in potassium and are not renal friendly food.

Detox Drinks and Juicing for Kidneys

The best drinks for cleansing the kidneys is a question that often comes up with kidney patients. There are a ton of kidney cleanse drinks that claim to improve kidney health. But when it comes to research some of these may be no help at all. See how these kidney cleansing drinks stack up.

Water 

You cannot function without water. It is an essential nutrient that needs to be consumed daily. Water flushes toxins from the body by increasing urine output

Water helps move blood to the kidneys for filtration. Increased water reduces the levels of calcium oxalate, calcium phosphate, and uric acid. This can prevent kidney stones.

Increases in water slowed the progression of kidney disease in animals. It also prevented high blood pressure and heart disease. 

For optimal hydration getting 2 to 2.5 liters a day is recommended

Cranberry Juice 

Drinking cranberry juice for kidney health is popular due to the antioxidants found in cranberries. Cranberries contain tannins that have antimicrobial properties. They can block the growth of bacteria on the urinary tract as well as flush toxins out of the body. 

Cranberry juice is recommended to improve both UTIs and kidney stones.

Increased incidences of gut permeability and leaky gut occur in kidney disease. This can also increase the production of toxic bacteria further fueling inflammation.

Cranberries reduce inflammation and may also promote the production of healthy bacteria that can heal the intestinal lining. Cranberry improved an impaired intestinal barrier in rats with leaky gut. These mice also produced Akkermansia sp, a bacteria that protects the intestinal barrier.

Some cranberry juices are high in potassium and sugar. It is best to get one that has no sugar added and is 100 percent juice.

Coconut Water

Coconut water can break down kidney stones. Rats given coconut water had fewer incidences of kidney stones. No studies have linked better kidney function to coconut water. 

Coconut water is a hydrating drink that provides essential nutrients and antioxidants. It is high in potassium and those with mineral restrictions may need to avoid this product.

Lemon Juice

Lemon juice is recommended for kidney stone prevention. There is some controversy over whether this actually can prevent stones. Some had no difference in urinary citrate levels found among those drinking lemonade while others found lemon juice did prevent stone production.

Lemon is a good source of the antioxidant vitamin C. Vitamin C enhances immune function and prevents tissue damage.

It may also improve glucose control, insulin sensitivity, cholesterol levels, and blood vessel health.

Naringenin is an antioxidant compound in lemons that may improve kidney function in rats at moderate doses. Higher doses were ineffective. 

Cucumber Juice

Cucumbers and cucumber juice are rich in antioxidants like triterpenes which help with immune function

Cucumbers have been said to be a cleansing food and remove waste materials and chemical toxins such as kidney stones.

There is no specific evidence on how cucumbers may help kidney function. They may prevent tissue damage and slow cell aging.

Damaged and diseased kidneys have a harder time regulating the blood pH. Cucumbers and cucumber juice reduced inflammation and regulates blood sugar and cholesterol in animals.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. It may possibly regulate blood sugar. In animals, it lowered blood pressure and cholesterol.

There is no specific evidence showing this food is helpful for kidney issues.

Vitamin Supplements for Kidneys

Supplements for kidneys are also a popular part of detox programs. You’ll often find these supplements and more included in products that are sold for cleansing the kidneys.

Vitamin B6 

B6 forms the compound glyoxylate which inhibits oxalate production. Without adequate B6 oxalate levels may increase. Too much oxalate can result in kidney stones. 

B6 can prevent kidney disease and elevated cholesterol in diabetic rats. It also improves cardiovascular health and immunity in dialysis patients.

Magnesium

Magnesium may slow crystal formation and reduce kidney stones. Supplementation of 400 mg per day was found to help people with recurring stones. 

Too much or too little magnesium is a problem for those with kidney disease. This is because kidneys lose the ability to regulate magnesium. Too low levels can result in cardiovascular disease.

Taking 30 mg of magnesium for 8 weeks lowered levels of calcification propensity, a marker for hardening of the arteries in kidney disease. This indicated a possible delay of atherosclerosis when compared with a placebo.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Omega 3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory. They can improve blood sugar control, lower cholesterol, and decrease the risk of heart disease. Diets high in omega 3 may also prevent kidney stones.

Taking 1,200 mg of fish oil decreased the incidences of kidney stones.

Omega 3 fatty acids can lower the risk of inflammatory conditions like heart disease. They also reduced the risk of End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) and decreased protein losses

Potassium Citrate

Potassium citrate is associated with the prevention of kidney stones. It can increase urine pH and prevents stone formation. Potassium citrate showed improvements in 70 to 75 percent of those with kidney stones.

Potassium citrate does not benefit kidney disease. Supplements including potassium are not recommended for those with kidney disease unless prescribed by your nephrologist.

Pre-Formulated Kidney Detox Supplements 

On the market today there are many preformulated kidney detox pills, powders, and teas. Some common ones include the following:

  • Renaltrax
  • CleanseDrops
  • Uriflow
  • Stone CLR
  • Kidney Complete
  • Stone Free

What to Know and Be Aware of Before Cleansing the Kidneys 

Before you try a kidney cleanse there are some things to consider.

Benefits of Kidney Cleanses

The benefits associated with these detoxes claim to include improved energy, focus, digestion, and reduced infections from these programs.

The inclusion of these foods into the diet may help to lower kidney disease-related inflammation. Reduced inflammation may improve:

  • Blood pressure
  • Blood sugar 
  • Cholesterol
  • Weight management

Risks of Kidney Cleanses

There are some things you should know before cleansing the kidneys. 

Anytime you restrict certain foods you are at risk for nutrient deficiencies. This can cause fatigue and low energy.

On detoxes, calories are often restricted. Limiting calories can sometimes slow down metabolism and increase weight gain.

Certain drinks, foods, and supplements high in oxalates may affect kidney function.

Too much fluid intake from water, juices, and teas may increase levels of potassium, sodium, and/or phosphorus. This can lead to an electrolyte imbalance which can have serious health consequences. 

Kidney detox supplements may contain large amounts of herbs that could be hazardous to those with kidney dysfunction. They may also cause adverse side effects as seen above.

The risk of drug interactions can also occur with certain foods, supplements, and drinks.

A screenshot of a kidney cleanse product that states: Caution- for adults only. Not for pregnant/nursing women. Consult physician prior to use if taking medication or have a medical condition (especially liver or kidney conditions).
This is an example of what a supplement is likely to include on their package as a disclaimer. Note that it specifies on this “kidney cleansing” product that it stresses those with “a medical condition… especially liver or kidney conditions” need to talk with a doctor first.

What the Research Says About Cleansing the Kidneys

When it comes to detoxes and cleanses there is little evidence these practices actually can improve health. The few studies done on detoxification programs showed some positive results in blood pressure and insulin resistance but the studies are often of low quality. 

Many programs only offer anecdotal evidence that cannot be applied to everyone. 

When medically reviewed, these programs have no compelling short or long-term research supporting their claims.

Other Ways To Improve Kidney Health

You Incorporating daily healthy habits can help to improve kidney disease symptoms and lower inflammation. These include 

  • Consuming enough water
  • Eating more whole unprocessed foods
  • Limit or avoid sugar and artificial sweeteners
  • Lower sodium intake
  • Don’t smoke
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine intake from sources like coffee
  • Get daily exercise

Summary

Some foods, drinks, herbs, and supplements may help to lower inflammation in kidney-related conditions. Often kidney detox and cleanses are very restrictive and may lead to more health problems if not done properly. If you’re looking for cleansing the kidneys, be sure to address your diet before anything.

Those with kidney disease should work with their healthcare provider and RD to find if a kidney cleanse is right for them. Incorporating a healthy diet and lifestyle habits is an easy natural way to cleanse the kidneys without causing potential harm. This may help to improve blood sugar, blood pressure, and facilitate kidney health.

If you are interested in learning how to eat better with whole, plant-based foods and not worry about kidney cleanses or extreme ways to help your kidneys, consider joining us in the Plant-Powered Kidneys online course!

8 thoughts on “Cleansing the Kidneys: What You Need to Know”

  1. Greetings from Thailand, Jen.. Thank you for your program. I live in Thailand, thus the medical care, and communication with the MDs, uro and nepho are a challenge. Thus much of my research is looking at support groups, like yours and Jill’s Kidney stone diet. My 2 month check since starting the PBD diet, moved me into the Stage 2 of CKD.. My eGFR was 57, and now is 72… Creatinine was 1.51, now, 1.08…Yipee.. yet, I do not know how on the CT I developed a 3mm kidney stone? I was wonder what I did wrong.. I drink enough fluids and have bee following the program. I wonder if perhaps the salad mixture needs adjustment.. I certainly reduced the Oxalate level in my foods and get my required calcium.. I drink Green tea 500ml in the Am and Chamolile in the afternoon 500ml. Thus I wonder if all the restricted and recommended foods, are already flushing the kidneys?

    1. Jen Hernandez RDN, CSR, LDN

      Hi Robb! I’m so happy to hear about your success. As for the new stone development, I’d highly recommend that you take a deep dive into the foods and drinks you’re having, as well as your own nutritional needs. Sometimes severe restricting can still lead to complications (because we’re not giving our bodies what they need)!

      1. Aloha Jen, thanks for the response and support. I have kept a food log and I&O sheet. Not sure what to look for in the food profile. Fluids are certainly OK, a mix of almond milk, tea, water, Kidney-Friendly smoothies that reach 2.5 to 3.0 liters per day. In regard to the foods, watching the oxalate, and of course keeping plant-based. I’m watching portions, actually cutting them to half size. I believe my main focus has been to watch the oxalate levels in the foods. Again, there are not renal dietitians in my province. Thank you for your fine work and program. Cheers from Thailand.

  2. This information brought clarity and knowledge about many of the ingredients we use in our daily preparation of foods.
    It also serves as a guide to the benefits or risks associated with them.
    Thank you some much for this useful education.

  3. Good day, I am from a third world African country, and being able to stick to the right diets maybe very hard and expensive.
    But I am grateful God created people like you. Before I was too scared to get my kidneys tested, because I had already said they were no hope. But now after watching that video you made with Dadvice I just didn’t know where all the courage came from, I decided to get tested to know exactly what I was treating. Before I was just smudering my beautiful baby girls, taking all sorts of mixtures I made but God legit opened my eyes. And now I know Soo much.
    The only problem for is that the health care system in my country is just very poor, and for an average citizen to get good services I need to have like millions so I would get a good treatment
    I just wish my country was blessed with good health services, or I had enough money to pay for a private hospital.
    But either ways I am greatfull to God that I came across Dadvice YouTube channels, and I was able to listen to you 🙏🏾🤸🏽‍♀️💃🏾

    1. Jen Hernandez RDN, CSR, LDN

      Hi Angel! I’m so happy to hear that you are learning more about your kidney health. Treatment in different countries is indeed difficult. I hope some of the information I share can help guide you in possible food ideas!

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