Kidney Health

Supplements & OTCs May Hurt Your Kidneys

How well are your kidneys working?

Unless you’ve had problems in the past, you probably take for granted that your kidneys are working as they should. But more than one in 10 adults in the United States has kidney disease, and most people who have it don’t know it.

Even more alarmingly, over-the-counter medicines, common prescriptions, and nutritional supplements can have serious effects on kidney function, especially if your kidneys aren’t completely healthy to begin with, says Robert Heyka, MD, Interim Chair of Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Nephrology & Hypertension.

Only your doctor can determine whether your kidneys are healthy. However, there are certain other health problems that make a person more likely to have kidney disease.

Health conditions that require kidney screenings

If you have one of these health conditions, or if you or your family has a history of kidney problems, it’s important to have your kidneys checked once a year:

• Diabetes

• High blood pressure

• Heart disease

• Obesity

• High cholesterol

But even if you don’t have any risk factors, a yearly check-up with lab and urine tests is the only way to get a clear picture of your kidney function, says Dr. Heyka.

The drugs and supplements that should cause concern

The following are drugs and supplements that can put added pressure on kidney function:

1. NSAIDS (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)

Taking NSAIDS can affect blood flow through the kidneys, and can cause damage, especially if you’re also taking diuretics (“water pills”) or ACE inhibitors.

NSAIDS include over-the-counter painkillers like aspirin (Ascriptin®, Bayer® and Ecotrin®), ibuprofen (Advil®, and Motrin®), and naproxen (Aleve®).

They also include prescription drugs like:

• Naproxen sodium (Anaprox®)

• Celecoxib (Celebrex®)

• Sulindac (Clinoril®)

• Oxaprozin (Daypro®)

• Salsalate (Disalcid®)

• Diflunisal (Dolobid®)

• Piroxicam (Feldene®)

• Indomethacin (Indocin®)

• Etodolac (Lodine®)

• Meloxicam (Mobic®)

• Naproxen (Naprosyn®)

• Nabumetone (Relafen®)

• Ketorolac tromethamine (Toradol®)

• Naproxen/esomeprazole (Vimovo®)

• Diclofenac (Voltaren®)

Use of these medications with caffeine can also further harm your kidneys. Also, when taking these medications, be sure to check with your doctor if you have impaired kidney function.

2. Antibiotics

Certain antibiotics are removed from the body through the kidneys, so taking them can put extra strain on your renal system. Penicillin, cephalosporins and sulfonamides in particular can be harmful to your kidneys.

Over time, long-term antibiotic use can injure your kidneys, even if you’re otherwise healthy. And for people whose kidneys aren’t functioning at 100 percent to begin with, antibiotics can build up in the body and cause damage.

Despite this, it’s important to keep in mind that antibiotics can be safely used if needed as long as the dose is adjusted for your body’s level of kidney function.