I have never really approved of the paleo diet… I mean, everyone knows you should include a variety of foods, including whole grains, in a healthy diet, right? I suppose that’s true for most people, but I picked up The Paleo Solution at a friend’s house and read about the role of gluten in certain autoimmune diseases. I have IgA nephropathy, which is a form of kidney disease. It is not an autoimmune disease in the classic sense of the term, but it does involve the immune system no less. Although I wasn’t fully convinced from the book that going gluten-free would help me, I was curious to know whether gluten actually plays a role in IgA nephropathy.
I did a literature search and found that around a third of IgA nephropathy patients indeed have a gluten sensitivity (Smerud et al 2009). At first I was surprised that I had never heard anything from my doctor or dietician about trying a gluten-free diet or getting tested for a gluten sensitivity. I did a bit more searching and found a study from way back in the early 90’s that tested a gluten-free diet on IgA nephropathy patients. Smerud et al (2009) found that a gluten free diet reduced many of the markers of the disease (such as protein in the urine, blood in the urine, and an improvement of immunological data in 75% of the patients). Well, it’s settled then, right? A gluten-free diet is the way to go! Unfortunately, Smerud et al (2009) also notes that a gluten free diet is not actually recommended clinically because, regardless of all these great improvements, the one that really matters (creatinine) still increases and the kidneys still progress towards renal failure. BOO.
So I suppose a gluten-free diet is out, right? Well… I wonder what that diet actually looked like? (I was only able to see the abstract) It’s pretty well-known that a low protein diet can slow the progression of chronic kidney disease (CKD) (Aparicio et al 2001). Also, that salt and obesity are probably the worst culprits of all in CKD (Angel 2005). Would a gluten free diet that also included low-salt and low-protein be beneficial? Either way, being overweight is probably the worst possible thing you can do to your kidneys, so certainly by losing weight an improvement should be seen in the renal function of obese patients. God, I hate the word obese, but I must face the facts that my BMI tells me that I am, indeed, obese. I have heard rumours that most people on the paleo diet lose some weight, so surely any way you can lose weight would be beneficial. I’m going to try it out for 30 days and check my blood work for any improvement or decline in kidney function.
Please keep in mind that I am just a regular girl with absolutely no medical background whatsoever, so I am definitely NOT telling you to go out and try this if you have IgA nehpropathy. Please consult a dietitian to get the best diet information for you. This is my own personal test to see if the paleo diet actually holds water. I am going to modify it slightly, because I know that most paleo dieters eat a LOT of meat, and I’m definitely not going to do that.
Here’s the plan for 30 days:
- lots of fresh veggies and fruit
- a variety of meat and fish (but keeping a close eye on small portion sizes)
- low to no salt
- healthy fats (including fish oil tablets)
I’ll let you know how I go.
If you have kidney disease and are interested in changing your diet/lifestyle than I would strongly urge you to see a qualified dietician or nutritionist.
Angel, L.M. et al (2005) The renal benefits of a healthy lifestyle. Kidney International 68(99): S2-S6
Aparicio, M. et al (2001) Are supplemented low-protein diets nutritionally safe? American Journal of Kidney Diseases, Vol 37, No 1 Suppl 2: S71-S76
Smerud, H.K., et al (2009) Gluten sensitivity in patients with IgA nephropathy. Nephrol. Dial. Transplant 24:2476-2481