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Can Nickel Cause Kidney Disease?

Can Nickel Cause Kidney Disease?

It's surprising how little attention the kidneys receive compared to other vital organs like the liver, the gut, and the thyroid. As crucial organs for detoxification and overall health maintenance, kidneys deserve greater recognition.

This article will explore kidney disease and its relationship with nickel toxicity.

By raising awareness about this connection, we hope to shed light on the importance of kidney health.

Kidney disease affects millions of people worldwide, yet few are aware of the association between kidney health and exposure to toxic metals like nickel. This article aims to educate readers about the possible link between kidney disease and nickel toxicity, urging everyone to take kidney health more seriously.

By understanding the significance of kidneys in our overall well-being, we can make more informed choices to protect and maintain their function.

So, let's delve deeper into kidney disease and how nickel toxicity may contribute to its development. Together, we can work towards a future where kidney health is given the attention it deserves.

What Are Kidneys and What Do They Do?

The kidneys are essential organs in the human body that play a critical role in maintaining overall health. These bean-shaped organs, roughly the size of a fist, are positioned on either side of the spine, just below the ribcage.

They work tirelessly 24/7 to ensure our bodies function smoothly by diligently performing several life-sustaining tasks, including filtering waste and excess fluid from the blood and producing urine, which is then transported to the bladder through a tube called the ureter.

Within the kidneys, a filtering unit called a glomerulus is attached to a tubule, where chemicals and water are either added to or removed from the filtered fluid according to the body's needs.

The right kidney is generally slightly lower than the left kidney to make space for the liver.

The main functions of the kidneys include:

Blood Filtration

Primarily, kidneys act as the body's natural filtration system, removing waste products and excess substances, such as electrolytes and fluids, from the bloodstream and converting them into urine. This integral process aids in maintaining the right balance of essential substances required by the body.

Maintaining Fluid and Electrolyte Balance

Beyond filtration, kidneys also serve as the body's chief water and electrolyte balance regulator. It meticulously adjusts vital elements such as sodium and potassium levels to ensure they remain within a slim, optimal range needed for the body's normal functioning.

Regulation of Acid-Base Balance

Another critical responsibility of the kidneys is maintaining the body's pH balance. They achieve this by meticulously excreting hydrogen ions and reabsorbing bicarbonate ions from the blood. In doing so, the kidneys actively manage and maintain the blood's appropriate acidity or alkalinity.

Control of Blood Pressure

The kidneys significantly contribute to the control of blood pressure. They accomplish this by regulating the blood volume and the concentration of specific ions in the blood, striking a balance crucial for overall cardiovascular health.

Stimulating Red Blood Cell Production

The kidneys also have a pivotal role in erythropoiesis — producing red blood cells. They produce and release erythropoietin, a hormone that stimulates the bone marrow to produce red blood cells. This guarantees an adequate supply of oxygenated blood to tissues and organs.

Excretion of Waste

Lastly, one of the significant highlights of the kidney's function is the excretion of metabolic waste products, drugs, and toxins. By eliminating these substances through urine, kidneys safeguard the body against potential damage from harmful toxins.

Nutrients Essential for Kidney Function

Though well-known as our body's internal filtration system, the kidneys, like other crucial organs, need certain essential nutrients to function correctly and maintain efficiency. It's a common misconception that the kidneys only require electrolytes, but their nutritional requirements encompass much more.

Hydration and Fluid Intake

Hydration is paramount for a healthy kidney operation. Water assists in the expulsion of waste and toxins from the body through urine, making it vital to maintain a sufficient water intake.

However, specific kidney conditions might require careful monitoring and regulation of fluid intake, underlining the importance of personalized medical advice.

Drinking plenty of water, especially to help prevent kidney stones and urinary tract infections (UTIs), is important. Many factors can affect how much water people should drink, but about 4–6 glasses per day can help improve and maintain kidney health.

Electrolyte Balance

Electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, and phosphorus, play significant roles in maintaining fluid balance, ensuring proper nerve function, and promoting bone health.

In cases of kidney disease, these electrolytes may need careful monitoring due to potential imbalance risks, further emphasizing the importance of dietary vigilance and regular health check-ups.

Antioxidant-rich Diet

Antioxidants, specifically vitamins C and E, contribute significantly to kidney health by protecting cells from damage wrought by free radicals - unstable atoms that can harm cells, causing illness and aging. Incorporating diverse fruits and vegetables into one's daily dietary intake can ensure an ample supply of these essential antioxidants, promoting overall kidney health and functionality, including the conversion of vitamin D into its active form.

Prevalence of Kidney Disease

Understanding the functions of kidneys and their nutritional needs brings us to the pertinent question: How concerned should we be about kidney disease?

Kidney disease is a global health concern that has been on the rise. Approximately 15% of the world's population is found to have some form of kidney disorder. The burden, severity, and types of kidney disease can fluctuate based on factors such as age, geographical location, and pre-existing health conditions.

Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)

CKD is a long-term condition characterized by impaired kidney function. The Global Burden of Disease Study estimated that over 700 million people were affected by CKD in 2017. CKD prevalence tends to increase with age, and it is more common in individuals with underlying conditions like diabetes and hypertension.

Acute Kidney Injury (AKI)

AKI is a sudden and often reversible decline in kidney function. It can occur in various situations, including hospitalization, and may be associated with infections, surgeries, or severe dehydration. AKI is relatively common among hospitalized patients.

End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD)

ESRD marks the final stage of chronic kidney disease, characterized by severely impaired kidney function. Individuals with ESRD often require dialysis, specifically hemodialysis (the artificial kidney), or kidney transplantation, also known as a kidney transplant, to survive.

The prevalence of ESRD, also known as kidney failure, is lower compared to earlier stages of CKD but carries significant implications for healthcare resources and the overall quality of life for those affected.

It is important to have regular visits with a nephrologist (kidney doctor) to take steps to slow kidney damage and plan ahead for possible treatments for kidney failure.

Geographical Variations

Kidney disease prevalence can vary across different regions and countries. In some areas, factors such as access to healthcare, prevalence of risk factors (like diabetes and hypertension), and genetic predispositions can influence the burden of kidney disease.

Risk Factors

Various risk factors contribute to the development and progression of kidney disease. Diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and a family history of kidney disease are among the most common risk factors impacting kidney health.

Symptoms of Kidney Disease

Kidney disease frequently advances surreptitiously, with symptoms often not appearing until the condition reaches a more advanced stage. Nonetheless, as kidney function deteriorates, various indications and symptoms may surface.

It's imperative to understand that these symptoms can differ based on the kidney disease's specific type and progression stage.

Common symptoms of kidney disease include:

  • Changes in Urination:
    • Increased frequency of urination, especially at night
    • Decreased urine output
    • Foamy or bubbly urine
    • Blood in the urine (hematuria)
    • Difficulty or pain during urination
  • Fluid Retention:
    • Swelling in the legs, ankles, or around the eyes (edema)
    • Persistent puffiness in the face
  • Fatigue and Weakness:
    • Generalized fatigue and weakness
    • Difficulty concentrating
  • Shortness of Breath:
    • The buildup of fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema) can lead to shortness of breath
  • High Blood Pressure:
    • Hypertension is a common complication of kidney disease and may be an early sign
  • Electrolyte Imbalance:
    • Disruptions in electrolyte balance may lead to symptoms such as muscle cramps, weakness, or numbness
  • Back or Abdominal Pain:
    • Persistent pain in the back or sides (flank pain) or abdominal pain may occur
  • Loss of Appetite and Weight Loss:
    • Decreased appetite and unintentional weight loss
  • Skin Problems:
    • Dry, itchy skin
    • Changes in skin color
  • Nausea and Vomiting:
    • Nausea and vomiting may occur, especially in advanced stages of kidney disease
  • Sleep Problems:
    • Difficulty sleeping or restless legs

Causes of Kidney Disease

This raises an important question: What exactly causes kidney disease, and is there any possible way to prevent it?

Kidney disease, including acute kidney injury (AKI) and chronic kidney disease (CKD), can stem from a multitude of causes, including nephropathy, renal failure, and pyelonephritis. Identifying and promptly addressing these underlying factors, such as nephropathy, renal failure, and pyelonephritis, is crucial to managing the disease effectively and preventing further kidney damage and other health problems, such as heart disease and stroke.

Let's explore each category more in-depth for a better understanding of kidney problems.

Acute Kidney Injury (AKI)


Intense dehydration can lead to a decrease in blood flow to the kidneys, potentially triggering AKI. Maintaining adequate hydration is, therefore, critical to kidney health.

Blood Loss

Sudden drops in blood volume as a result of trauma, surgical procedures, or severe internal bleeding can significantly impact kidney function and potentially lead to AKI.


Severe infections, particularly sepsis, can cause inflammation and impair kidney function.


Certain medications, particularly those that influence blood flow or exhibit nephrotoxic properties (damaging or destructive to kidney cells), may result in AKI and anemia. This group includes some antibiotics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and specific contrast agents utilized in imaging procedures.

It is, therefore, essential to use these medications judiciously and under close medical supervision. If you smoke, quit. Smoking can worsen kidney disease and interfere with medication that lowers blood pressure.

Autoimmune Diseases

Autoimmune diseases such as lupus or vasculitis can negatively impact the kidneys, leading to acute damage. In these cases, managing the underlying autoimmune condition is key to preventing kidney injury.

Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)


Diabetes stands as a primary cause of CKD. When left uncontrolled, high blood sugar levels over a prolonged period damage the delicate blood vessels in the kidneys, compromising their function.

Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)

Persistent high blood pressure overworks the kidneys by exerting undue strain on the renal blood vessels. This pressure, in the long term, leads to potential kidney damage and consequential dysfunction.


This refers to the inflammation of the kidneys’ filtering units known as glomeruli. The inflammation, which can stem from infections, immune system disorders, or other causes, disrupts optimum kidney functionality.

Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD)

PKD, a hereditary disorder, characterizes itself through the development of fluid-filled cysts in the kidneys, causing dysfunction. This condition gradually impairs the kidneys, reducing their capacity to perform their functions.

Inherited Disorders

Genetic conditions such as Alport syndrome or Fabry disease have been known to enhance the risks of developing kidney disease. These conditions impact kidney function due to genetic predispositions.

Obstructive Disorders

Any conditions leading to obstructions in the urinary tract, like kidney stones or an enlarged prostate, may lead to kidney damage. The obstruction interrupts the regular flow of urine, potentially damaging the kidneys.

Recurrent Kidney Infections

Kidney infections, mainly if they are frequent or severe, can inflict scarring and subsequent kidney damage.

Certain Medications

The prolonged usage of certain medications, particularly those with nephrotoxic properties, can contribute to kidney damage, especially when their use is not adequately monitored.


The general aging process is a natural risk factor for kidney disease. Kidney functionality declines as individuals age, heightening the risk of kidney disorders later in life.

Heavy Metal Toxicity and Kidney Disease: Nickel

Nickel, while not as widely recognized as mercury, lead, or cadmium in terms of toxic exposure, can nonetheless significantly impact our bodily systems. This inconspicuous metal has been linked to several health issues, particularly those related to kidney function.

Indeed, scientific research has identified a correlation between nickel and renal complications.

For instance, studies have revealed elevated levels of nickel in individuals suffering from kidney disease, and others have demonstrated an increase in urinary nickel levels amongst those with impaired kidney function.

Interestingly, nickel and cadmium, another toxic metal, are known for building up in the kidneys, further reinforcing their potential harm to this organ.

Nickel exposure can originate from various sources. It is present in certain types of tea, notably rooibos, and other red teas that reflect the color typically associated with the metal. Nickel can be found in orthodontic braces or other metal oral appliances, metallic cell phones in contact with skin, hydrogenated oils like vegetable, peanut, or shortening oils, nickel-plated jewelry or objects, shellfish or sea-based food items, fabricated steel, components of cigarettes, and assorted machine parts.

Symptoms of nickel toxicity are not confined to physical manifestations but may extend to psychological disturbances. In the context of Traditional Chinese Medicine, the kidneys symbolize the emotion of fear.

Therefore, high levels of nickel may trigger depression, suicidal ideation, and anxiety. Physically, nickel toxicity can lead to apparent signs such as kidney dysfunction and cardiac issues. It can provoke skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis, induce nausea and vomiting, cause low blood pressure, muscle tremors, hemorrhages, and even induce certain types of cancer.

Fortunately, methods to expel nickel from our systems exist. Chelators like iron or vitamin C can help, but engaging with a comprehensive mineral balancing program is the most effective strategy.

Here at Upgraded Formulas, we advocate for such an approach, providing our customers with a reliable Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis (HTMA). Following this analysis, our trusted practitioners comprehensively review the results, offering individually tailored advice to address detected mineral imbalances.


In conclusion, kidney health is critical to overall well-being and can be significantly affected by exposure to harmful metals such as nickel.

With millions of people suffering from kidney disease worldwide, it's imperative to equip ourselves with knowledge about the function of kidneys, the nutrients essential for their health, and the risk factors contributing to diseases.

Furthermore, understanding the symptoms and causes of kidney disease can lead to early detection and intervention, potentially preventing severe damage.

As an under-recognized metal, nickel has a profound impact on kidney health, making it necessary to find effective methods for expulsion, such as through comprehensive mineral balancing programs. 

If Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis (HTMA) has piqued your interest, don't hesitate to explore our website and order your HTMA test today.

Begin your journey towards healing and improved well-being right away!

Barbara Madimenos

Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis Practitioner

Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner

Integrative Nutrition Coach

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