Creatine Supplements Kidney
Creatine Supplements are a common performance-enhancing agent. It is also rather popular with fitness enthusiasts, athletes and professional bodybuilders these days. But a growing number of Creatine consumers are also concerned about if these supplements could damage kidneys.
Now, anything kidney tingles our neurons immediately! So we decided to address these concerns with today’s article.
1. What exactly is Creatine?
Creatine is what we technically call a “biomolecule” which refers to any compound that naturally exists in living beings. Like proteins, Creatine is a nitrogen-containing compound that chiefly acts as “food” for your muscles. Muscles require 1-3 grams of Creatine daily for optimum health.
In normal health, cells in our liver & kidneys produce Creatine by recycling amino acids like glycine, arginine & methionine from digestion of proteins in food. Our body generates around 1 gram of Creatine per day.
You can meet the rest of your Creatine requirement directly from food, especially from meat & seafood.
Of all the Creatine that’s available, your muscles “eat up” over 95% of the share to meet their daily metabolic needs. Muscle cells “digest” this Creatine to generate a toxic waste product called Creatinine and emit it in your bloodstream.
During this process, muscles also “suck-in” water from the bloodstream to keep muscle cells “supple”.
2. What happens when you take Creatine Supplements?
When you take Creatine Supplements in addition to your usual nutritious diet, quite naturally, the Creatine is “in excess” of what your muscles normally require for a healthy sustenance and metabolism. However, muscles have extra “storage space” within them. So, they “enthusiastically” take up all such excess creatine from supplements & metabolize it in due course.
Now metabolizing such high Creatine load in muscles releases a proportionately greater quantity of Creatinine waste into your bloodstream.
All this activity literally “tires out” your muscles and they tend to “siphon-in” more water from blood than usual. This is what actually assists with “increasing the bulk of muscle fibres & building the muscle body”. However, as a collateral damage of your muscles drinking excessive water from blood, you get dehydrated.
3. The Creatine Kidney Connect
First of all, Kidneys are one of the organs that generate Creatine using amino acids from food.
But apart from being one of the sources of Creatine – the “muscle food” within the body, Kidneys play a crucial role in scavenging the waste that Muscles produce after “consuming Creatine”.
As we explained before, your muscle cells normally “metabolize & digest” the available Creatine to release a toxic waste product called Creatinine in your bloodstream.
With Creatine Supplements, muscles are stuffed with additional Creatine stock to process. As a result, Creatinine waste exhaust load is proportionately higher as well.
DOES CREATININE SOUND FAMILIAR TO SOME OF YOU?
It may. That’s because this is the very same Creatinine that we assess in your bloodwork to check for kidney issues.
This is because all the excess toxic creatinine waste generated by muscle metabolism is diligently & exclusively removed by your hardworking kidneys via urine. By doing so, kidneys aim to strictly maintain Serum (blood) Creatinine levels between a “tolerable” limit of 0.6-1.1 mg/dL.
Some kidney issues may prevent adequate flushing of this excess Creatinine waste. This could in turn, show up as higher than normal Serum Creatinine in your bloodwork.
Hence, any rise in your serum (blood) creatinine levels may come from:
- Excess muscle metabolism or breakdown ( Eg: Overuse of Creatine supplements)
- The inability of unwell kidneys to adequately flush your body of excess creatinine waste.
4. What impact can Creatine Supplements have on kidney filtration?
Two things happen when you consume Creatine supplements:
◾ There is a higher than usual Creatinine waste in bloodstream. So, kidney cells need to work extra hard to remove all excess Creatinine load to retain normal serum (blood) creatinine levels.
◾ Muscle cells get overworked due to high metabolic activity. So they tend to proactively “suck-in” water from blood that leaves you dehydrated. This in turn makes the blood more thick & sometimes, more acidic than normal.
With this backdrop, Creatine supplements make your kidney filtration process “sluggish” and “prone to developing urinary stones”.
This is a lot like a stream that has started drying up during summer months and still has a lot of silt dissolved in it. In that case, it starts flowing slowly & can end up depositing some of the silt along its route especially along any bends.
To avoid this scenario, it is advisable to increase your daily water intake proportionately. The trick is to not let yourself “feel thirsty”.
5. Is there any other way Creatine Supplements could cause kidney damage?
When taken by mouth at appropriate doses under instruction from a nutritionist & regular supervision of a qualified fitness instructor, Creatine is likely safe to take for 2-3 years.
However, avoid taking Creatine Supplements if you already have a history of kidney disease. This also applies to people who have Diabetes, High blood pressure or other conditions that can increase the risk of getting kidney disease.
Of course, you must increase your water intake for the duration you take Creatine supplements. This is to mitigate any damage to kidneys from dehydration & stone formation (as explained above) as a side effect if Creatine supplements.
However, going overboard with Creatine Supplements in the short term or even continuing to take limited dosage beyond 5 years at a stretch can possibly harm your Kidneys with:
3️⃣ Renal Calculi (Kidney Stones), potential blockage of urine outflow tract and back-pressure damage to kidneys (Hydronephrosis)
4️⃣ Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) that may progress to Kidney Failure.
◾Some of the above can be clinically reversed to restore normal kidney function such as Kidney Stones, ATN & initial stages of AKI.
◾ In kidney damage from Hydronephrosis, if your kidney health can be restored to normalcy would completely depend on the extent of kidney damage.
◾ In case of FSGS, most cases progress to chronic, gradual kidney damage and kidney failure over many years. These cases ultimately require Dialysis and/or Kidney Transplant to survive.
6. How would you know if kidneys are impacted?
If your kidneys are impacted due to Creatine Supplement intake, there could be a range of warning symptoms. If you are on Creatine Supplements, make sure you keep track of the following to ensure timely diagnosis & treatment of any possible kidney damage.
Such “indicator” symptoms include, but are not limited to:
1. Frothy urine
i. In extremely concentrated urine from dehydration
ii. Presence of crystal-like particles in your urine from possible kidney stones. Sometimes, these crystals can act like a detergent and produce Urine froth.
iii. Due to leakage of proteins from damage to kidney filters. Froth in this subtype remains even after you flush the toilet.
2. Change in Urine Colour
Blood in urine possibly due to kidney stones
Cloudy / Brown urine due to sloughing of cells that line delicate kidney filters from within (Acute Tubular Necrosis, AKI)
3. Difficulty passing urine
Possible blockage of urine outflow tract due to kidney stones.
4. Swelling of face or feet
This can happen due to water retention beneath your skin due to developing kidney damage.
This was just a very basic rundown of potential symptoms of kidney damage from chronic overuse of Creatine Supplements. If you are a Creatine consumer, you must keep track of these yourself & consult your local physician accordingly.
The take home message is:
Don’t go overboard!
Creatine Supplements taken in appropriate dosage in consultation with a nutritionist & under regular supervision of a qualified fitness instructor for not more than 2-3 years are generally deemed safe. Anything not meeting these criteria may invite kidney trouble.
Drink more water!
Increase your water intake for the duration you are on Creatine Supplements. A good daily water intake would range between 3-3.5 litres. This is to prevent dehydration, high blood acidity and urinary stone formation.
Always keep track of symptoms such as any froth in urine, changes in urine colour, pain or difficulty passing urine and/or any swelling developing in your feet or face. These could indicate possible kidney damage.
If you do get any of these symptoms, consult a doctor immediately.
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