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  Article medically reviewed by Cosimo Simeone — Written by Rohini Prasannan

Introduction:

Air pollution is not only causing the climate change but is also aggravating our health. In fact could be a risk factor of different health conditions such as heart attacks, strokes, asthma, lung disease chronic kidney disease (CKD) and cancer. In this article we will focus on CKD and how air pollution is affecting it. 

Chronic Kidney disease (CKD) affects 850 million people worldwide and is a major cause of death. For this reason, preventive measures must be taken by identifying, monitoring, mitigating, and treating CKD. Moreover, the CDC lists diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, and family history as common risk factors. 

Also, environmental and air pollution are overlooked risk factors that can harm the respiratory, nervous, circulatory, and renal systems. In fact, studies show that pollutants can cause CKD, but vitamin C and other therapies can help protect against it. 

Symptoms of CKD:

To summarize these are some of the symptoms that may indicate CKD:

  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Swelling in the legs, ankles, feet, or around the eyes 
  • Urinating more frequently, especially at night and foamy urine
  • High blood pressure 
  • Loss of appetite or nausea
  • Itchy skin or dry skin 
  • Difficulty concentrating or confusion 
  • Muscle cramps or twitches 
  • Shortness of breath and chest pain
  • However it’s important to note that some people with chronic kidney disease may not experience any symptoms until the disease has progressed to an advanced stage. Therefore, regular kidney function testing is recommended for those at risk

How can air pollution affect our kidneys?

Pollution has caused 4 million deaths worldwide, with Eastern Asia and Central Europe having the highest mortality rates. Therefore in recent years, many developing countries have reported outbreaks of CKD with unknown causes. In addition, kidneys are susceptible to air pollutants, including heavy metals, particulate matter, and smoking, which are believed to be potential causes of CKD.

Furthermore, road traffic pollution and tobacco smoke can cause kidney damage including membranous nephropathy, elevated serum creatinine levels, proteinuria, idiopathic nodular glomerulosclerosis, and microalbuminuria in healthy adults. 

What is the pathological link between air pollution and CKD?

Air pollutants translocate through the respiratory tract and then enter the circulatory system, leading to oxidative stress. Moreover The renal system’s exposure to particulate matter can progress to tubular damage, intraglomerular hypertension, tubulointerstitial damage and glomerulosclerosis. This gradually leads to the development of CKD (4).

Antioxidants to combat such pollutant-induced oxidative stress have been widely in practice. Commonly used antioxidants are vitamins C and E owing to their anti-oxidant defence via increasing superoxide dismutase levels and improving overall antioxidant capacity (1). Additionally, dietary intake of antioxidants is significantly associated with increased glomerular filtration rate and decreased serum creatinine level. For this reason, antioxidants can reduce CKD incidence and progression (4).

Which pollutants are mainly the reason behind kidney damage?

Air pollution is considered a collective mixture of gaseous, liquid, and solid particles suspended in the air which vary in terms of chemical substituents among cities. Major traffic-related pollutants are particulate matter, nitric oxide, and carbon-monoxide.

To demonstrate the impact of these pollutants you can watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvOEjSZimlw. Arsenic, Cadmium, Lead, and Mercury are other notoriously nephrotoxic environmental pollutants (metals). Phthalates, Melamine, and Bisphenol A are non-metal pollutants. 

Countries like USA, UK, and Europe show statistically high level of air contamination and pollution. As a result, these countries have reported high levels of nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter, and nickel and benzo[a]pyrene too. 

Furthermore in the UK, all of them have exceeded the environmental threshold levels, and are at an alarming state. These pollutants apart from damaging the renal, respiratory, and cardiac systems are carcinogenic as well. Lastly they have the potential for genetic mutation.

What can I do to protect my Kidneys from air pollution?

Kidneys balance water levels, control blood pressure, make red blood cells, clean blood, and maintain strong bones. However is important to do regular checkups to your kidneys and you can do that through blood or urine tests. Stay healthy by being active, eating well, taking medicine, and getting regular check-ups. 

Regular exercise can help in lowering blood pressure, thereby reducing the risk of kidney damage. To have healthier kidneys you can follow these advices: 

  • Limit salt and sugar consumption
  • Not exceeding with alcohol
  • Consumption of greens
  • Drink ample amounts of fluids to keep the body hydrated and kidney functioning
  • Drink water rather than sugary-fizzy drinks
  • Stop smoking
  • Chronic intake of anti-inflammatory medicines damages kidneys. Better to consume over-the-counter anti-inflammatory agents if by the doctor

Can antioxidants be a promising solution?

Research supports the finding that antioxidants are helpful in managing CKD, as well as associated complications like cardiovascular events. In addition, dialysis leads to immense fatigue due to the loss of antioxidants. Studies have reported the protective effect of anti-oxidants against the development of acute kidney injury.

Furthermore, antioxidants like Vitamin D, iron supplements, and vitamins E and C are clinically beneficial for diabetic patients on dialysis. They improve dialysis and reduce oxidative stress and associated complications.

For vitamins with antioxidant properties (Vit C) and other supplements, visit  https://mundushealth.com/supplements/. It’s important to know to follow the recommendations regarding the usage of the supplement and to seek professional advice if needed with our nutritionist for example, https://mundushealth.com/make-appointments/

Other treatments solutions to CKD:

Medications are often prescribed to control blood pressure and lower cholesterol levels in individuals with chronic kidney disease. Medications may also be prescribed to treat anemia, bone disease, and other conditions associated with kidney disease. 

Dialysis is a treatment that filters waste products from the blood when the kidneys are no longer able to do so. There are two types of dialysis: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis.

A kidney transplant is an option for individuals with end-stage kidney disease. A healthy kidney from a donor is transplanted into the recipient’s body to replace the diseased kidney. These treatments options can help reduce the risk of complications associated with kidney disease.

Conclusion:

Air pollution is a novel risk factor for chronic kidney disease and its detrimental effects on the renal system cannot be ignored. The translocation of air pollutants through the respiratory tract leads to oxidative stress and renal damage, eventually resulting in the development of CKD.

However, adopting a healthy lifestyle, limiting exposure to pollutants, and consuming antioxidants like vitamins C and E can reduce the risk of CKD and associated complications. Awareness and preventive measures are essential to mitigate the impact of air pollution on kidney health. 

References:

  1. Ling XC, Kuo KL. (2018). Oxidative stress in chronic kidney disease. Renal Replacement Therapy, 4(1),1-9.
  2. Pham, K. O., Hara, A., Tsujiguchi, H., Suzuki, K., Suzuki, F., Miyagi, S., Kannon, T., Sato, T., Association between Vitamin Intake and Chronic Kidney Disease According to a Variant Located Upstream of the PTGS1 Gene: A Cross-Sectional Analysis of Shika Study. Nutrients, 14(10), 2082.
  3. Tamadon MR, Zahmatkesh M, Beladi Mousavi SS. (2015). Administration of antioxidants in chronic kidney disease. Journal of Nephropharmacology, 4(1), 9–11.
  4. Moludi, J., Tandorost, A., Kamari, N., Abdollahzad, H., Pakzad, R., Najafi, F., & Pasdar, Y. (2022). Dietary total antioxidant capacity and its association with renal function and kidney stones: Results of a RaNCD cohort study. Food science & nutrition, 10(5), 1442-1450.

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