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Commonly used Medications that can be harmful to your kidneys.

May 30, 2024 9:20 am Published by Leave your thoughts

diabetes reversal center in Trivandrum, We live in a time of medications. They help us somewhat, but they can also kill us silently.

Now, as we age, our kidneys won’t work as smoothly. It is important to keep them away from too many chemicals and medicines. But its challenging because aging often brings a host of health issues and more pills to take. Certain medications can cause direct or indirect harm to the kidneys. As a result, the kidneys ability to filter blood diminishes, and harmful waste builds up, leading to serious health issues. Kidney damage can vary from mild dysfunction to complete failure. The risk of kidney damage from drugs increases as you age and have kidney conditions.

Drug-induced kidney disease can result from muscle tissue breakdown, kidney tissue death, and acid buildup. This can result in a decrease in kidney function and other conditions like nephrotic syndrome and electrolyte imbalances.

We will provide you with practical tips for managing such drugs safely.

Understanding the risks associated with such drugs can empower you to make informed decisions about health care. Stay tuned and know how to protect your kidneys while effectively treating other medical conditions.


Antibiotics are prescribed very often, but they are not without risk. Does your doctor prescribe antibiotics for your sore throat, skin infections, or other infections? If so, it could be harming your kidneys.

What are antibiotics?

Antibiotics, also known as antimicrobials, are a group of medications designed to combat bacterial infections. They work either by killing bacteria or preventing them from reproducing. Antibiotics can treat bacterial infections, but they can’t treat viral infections, such as colds, flu, bronchitis, most coughs, and most sore throats. So you should be extra cautious when your doctor prescribes antibiotics. If prescribed improperly, you might experience side effects such as diarrhea and liver and kidney problems.

Even when properly used, some antibiotics, such as polymyxins, aminoglycosides, and vancomycin, can harm your kidneys.

Your kidneys play a crucial role in removing antibiotics and other drugs from your body. But beware: antibiotics like polymyxins may damage kidney cell membranes, possibly causing kidney injury.

Similarly, another antibiotic, aminoglycosides, can accumulate in kidney cells, causing cell death and harming tubules.

In general, the mechanism by which each antibiotic causes kidney injury is still not fully understood, but it might involve inflammation and harm to kidney cells.

For antibiotics to be effective and safe for kidney health, it’s important to use them correctly.

If your doctor prescribes antibiotics to you, knowing which conditions they can treat is important.

You can ask them, Is this necessary? And most doctors will gladly explain why it is needed.

Non-inflammatory Anti-inflammatory drugs. (NSAIDs)

Have you heard of ibuprofen, aspirin, Motrin, ketorolac, celecoxib, or naproxen? They are all NSAIDs. You can even purchase some of them without prescription. NSAIDs are very common . Over 30 million people take them daily. NSAIDs are commonly used too ease headaches, sprains and strains, colds and flu, and pain from arthritis.

NSAIDs mainly work by blocking an enzyme called cyclooxygenase (COX).

This enzyme helps produce pain causing substances However, COX is also important for protecting the kidneys during stress and helping regulate sodium and water excretion. So when NSAIDs block COX, it’s a big reason why these drugs can harm your kidneys. In fact, all NSAIDs can cause acute kidney injury, especially in older people, when taken in high doses or over extended periods.

This injury appears in two main ways, one because of blood flow changes and the other because of inflammation, both caused by blocking COX.

Firstly, blocked COX can narrow kidney blood vessels, reducing blood flow. This can lead to fluid retention, high blood pressure and even mild temporary kidney impairment.

If this goes unchecked, it might cause more severe issues like acute tubular necrosis, where kidney tubules die due to lack of oxygen and acute kidney failure. It could eventually progress to Chronic Kidney Disease.

Secondly, prolonged use of anti-inflammatory drugs can trigger inflammation in kidney tubules, the tiny structure that filters waste. This inflammation is not very common but kidney issues from NSAIDs are a big concern, affecting 5% of daily users worldwide. This means that each year, around 5 lakh to 2.5 million people experience kidney injury from NSAIDs.

For those interested in the evidence, the studies supporting our claims are provided in the link in our description.


Diuretics help with conditions like fluid retention or swelling often seen in heart and kidney failure and liver cirrhosis. Prescription diuretics are stronger compared to over-the-counter diuretics. Commonly used diuretics are hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ), bumetanide (in Bumex), furosemide (Lasix), spironolactone (Aldactone) and acetazolamide (Diamox). They work by increasing urine output. They are also good for expelling excess salt and water through urine, which can help with hypertension, a leading risk factor for kidney disease. Thus, diuretics are generally suitable for your kidneys. But they don’t come without risks. They don’t directly damage the kidneys like NSAIDs but they reduce kidney function by altering the urine’s concentration and composition. This increases the amount of urine or changes the levels of electrolytes in it. So excessive use or high doses of diuretics can lead to dehydration, a risk factor for kidney damage. A study conducted in patients taking diuretics showed that they have high rates of kidney disease and its risk factors, like hypertension and diabetes. Around 30% of all acute kidney diseases is caused by diuretics. CKD Patients who are on diuretics should always be on guard for dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.

Proton pump inhibitors

These drugs are often used in conditions like GERD or acid reflux by reducing stomach acid production. This drug inhibit the enzyme for acid secretion. But this drug is associated with acute interstitial nephritis. Inflammation of tissues in between the kidney tubules. It often shows no symptoms and goes unnoticed.  So long term use of such drugs may cause lower kidney function and acute kidney injury. Over time, it may progress to CKD. It can also lead to low magnesium levels, which is linked to CKD. Hypomagnesemia can cause inflammation, triggering kidney disease. Low magnesium levels can also cause other issues, like muscle spasms, seizures, and irregular heartbeats.

ACE inhibitors.

Angiotensin converting Enzyme inhibitors are widely prescribed to lower blood pressure. And manage conditions affecting the heart, blood vessels and kidneys. Common ACE inhibitors are lisinopril (Zestril, Prinivil), ramipril (Altice), enalapril (Vasotec), and benazepril (Lotensin).This drug works by blocking an enzyme that produces angiotensin II, which narrows blood vessels and increases blood pressure. ACE inhibitors relax blood vessels, lower blood pressure and reduce stress on the heart. ACE also reduce protein loss through urine, which is helpful in CKD. But when used in combination with NSAIDs and diuretics, it may precipitate AKD. ACE inhibitors also decrease GFR. But too much dip in eGFR is not good for heart disease, CKD or stenosis of bilateral renal arteries.

Anti-viral drugs

Most viruses clear up without antiviral drugs. Anti-viral drugs gives relief to various viral infections but their potential to harm the kidneys cannot be overlooked. These drugs may precipitate direct toxicity or crystal build up that can cause kidney stones. For example, remdesivir, drug used in Covid-19 cases, contains a substance called SBECD, which is mainly removed from the body by the kidneys. In people with kidney diseases, SBECD might build up and cause kidney disease. The use of more effective drugs often leads to drug-induced kidney injury.

Anti-viral drugs like cidofovir,  adefovir, foscarnet, acyclovir, interferon and tenofovir can directly cause cell death in kidney tubules by reducing blood flow or increasing toxins. This condition is called acute tubular necrosis. They can also cause interstitial cell necrosis and crystal build up in kidney tubules.


Lithium is a prescription medication for mood stabilization and certain mental illnesses like mania, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, etc. Some brand names of Lithium are Priadel, Camcolit, Liskonum and Li-Liquid. For the last 60 years, these drugs have enhanced the lives of many individuals suffering from bipolar disorder. But its impact on the kidneys cannot be ignored. Long-term use can lead to acute and chronic kidney disease, as well as kidney cysts. It can also trigger a type of diabetes called nephrogenic diabetes insipidus. Kidney lose the ability to respond to ADH, causing increased thirst and frequent urination.

Rescue Tips

Symptoms of kidney failure might not be apparent initially, but as the condition worsens, signs such as decreased urine output, swelling in the legs, shortness of breath and severe fatigue become more evident. If you taking any of the medications mentioned above, you should regularly do kidney function tests, blood creatinine levels, glomerular filtration rate (GFR), and urine tests for protein.


Reverse your Lifestyle Diseases naturally, without medications

Certainly! Reversing lifestyle diseases naturally can significantly reduce the risk of kidney damage caused by medications. Enrolling into a Reversal Program at a Reversal Center offers structured guidance and support. Here are some key aspects these programs typically focus on:

Components of a Reversal Program

  1. Nutrition Counseling
    • Emphasize whole foods, plant-based diets.
    • Reduce intake of processed foods, sugars, and unhealthy fats.
    • Promote kidney-friendly foods that reduce inflammation and support kidney function.
  2. Physical Activity
    • Regular exercise tailored to individual fitness levels.
    • Activities that improve cardiovascular health, which is closely linked to kidney health,.
  3. Stress Management
    • Techniques such as meditation, yoga, and mindfulness can help manage stress.
    • Stress reduction can lower blood pressure and improve overall well-being.
  4. Monitoring and Support
    • Regular check-ups and monitoring of key health indicators (e.g., blood sugar, blood pressure).
    • Support groups and counseling to maintain motivation and address challenges.
  5. Education and Empowerment
    • Educating patients about the impact of lifestyle choices on their health.
    • Empowering individuals to make informed decisions and take control of their health.

Benefits of a Reversal Program

  • Reduced Medication Dependence: By improving health naturally, the need for medications that can cause kidney damage may be reduced.
  • Enhanced Kidney Function: Better management of blood pressure, diabetes, and other conditions helps preserve kidney health.
  • Overall Health Improvement: Lifestyle changes often lead to improvements in various aspects of health, enhancing quality of life.

Reversing lifestyle diseases naturally through a dedicated program can be a sustainable way to improve kidney health and overall well-being. Consider enrolling in a Reversal Program to take proactive steps towards a healthier future.


Dr Arun Vasudevan
Founder director IDRP

BHMS, MBS (UK), D.Acu,

IDRP, TKD Road, Muttada PO, Trivandrum.

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