Yo, what’s good? My name is Dan and I’m here to talk about something important: kidney disease. Did you know that around 10% of the world population is affected by it? That’s a lot of people, and it’s one of the leading causes of death. Traditionally, doctors prescribe conventional painkillers to help with the pain associated with kidney disease. But now, researchers are looking into cannabis compounds to see if they can play a role in treating kidney conditions.
Our kidneys do a lot for us, but we don’t usually think too much about them. They clean our blood by removing toxins and waste materials. But what happens when things go wrong? Kidney diseases can be caused by toxic-metabolic problems, high blood pressure, genetic issues, injuries, and some medicines. Some common kidney problems include chronic kidney disease or acute kidney injury, infections, cysts, stones, and cancer. When kidneys fail completely, a dialysis or a kidney transplant are required.
In the United States, kidney diseases are the ninth cause of death. That’s why researchers are studying cannabis and its constituents to see if they can be an alternative to anti-inflammatory drugs and opioids prescribed to relieve pain in chronic kidney disease. A better understanding of the impact of cannabinoids on the renal system may lead to the development of new drugs that could treat related symptoms with fewer side effects than drugs available today.
The urinary system is made up of kidneys, ureters, bladder, and the urethra. This system eliminates waste from the body, contributes to regulating blood volume and blood pressure, controls electrolytes and metabolites, and regulates blood pH. The kidneys have intense blood circulation. They are mainly composed of tiny structures called nephrons, which filter our blood completely 60 times each day. Urine is formed as a result of this filtration and is passed to the bladder for temporary storage. Only a small percentage of filtered blood becomes urine while the purified water is returned to the blood flow together with other useful substances.
Most kidney diseases attack the nephrons. Acute kidney injury (AKI) is a sudden loss of kidney function that is observed over a course of hours to a few days. This disease leads to complications like acidosis, excess of potassium, uremia, and may have dangerous effects on other organs. Mortality after severe kidney injury remains high.
In chronic kidney disease (CKD), the damage usually happens slowly over a long period of time without making the patient feel sick until the condition becomes serious. The most common causes include diabetes and high blood pressure while the most common complications include liquid retention, heart, neurological and bone diseases, and anemia. Common symptoms are leg swelling, vomiting, loss of appetite and energy, and even mental confusion.
Cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 are found in various tissues and organs including the kidneys. The endocannabinoid system regulates cell signaling targets that are crucial for homeostasis. Studies suggest that cannabinoids could have both beneficial and undesirable effects on the kidneys depending on the type of renal disease, dosage, and other factors.
A study published in The American Journal of Medicine collected data from 14.000 adults who took part in the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Researchers observed levels of albumin in urine which is an indirect marker for kidney function and found no association between past or current marijuana use and worsened kidney function or disease. Yet research at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York found chronic kidney disease (CKD) patients who used cannabis experienced faster decline in kidney functions compared to non-users. However, this result could potentially be more related to smoke inhalation than to the direct effects of THC or other cannabinoids.
Patients with advanced chronic kidney disease experience various symptoms such as nausea, anorexia, chronic pain, insomnia. Chronic kidney disease patients are not exempt from adverse effects of prescribed opioids which could increase severity of symptoms in some cases. The limited treatment options actually increase demand for therapeutic alternatives but many patients choose not to wait for approved cannabis therapy development and start experimenting with medical cannabis for symptom management. Nevertheless even if medical cannabis has been used in many therapeutic applications evidence has not been well reviewed regarding its efficacy with chronic kidney disease nor enough literature has been accumulated in order to advise properly on assumption forms and dosage.
Can you expect CBD to play a role in future kidney disease treatment? It’s far too early to say but researchers are exploring its potential in managing overall symptom burden including pain inflammation nausea and an overall lack of well-being.
Despite little evidence suggesting that natural cannabinoid overdose damages our kidneys patients with kidney diseases should be particularly careful when starting alternative therapeutic regimes. Discussing cannabis use with an informed healthcare specialist prior to consuming cannabis or its derivatives is always a good course of action.