Don Ho had a cute song about tiny bubbles: “Tiny bubbles in the wine make me happy, make me feel fine”.  When it comes to wine, that might be a good sensation, however, tiny bubbles in the urine can pose as a potential kidney health problem.  The kidneys are the body’s natural filtration system.  Approximately one and a half quarts of blood circulate through the kidneys every minute, where a network of tubules filter metabolic waste chemicals and excess fluids and eliminate them from the body in the form of urine. The kidneys remove metabolic waste products from the bloodstream; regulate the body’s water balance, and maintain the acid/alkaline pH of the body’s fluids.

Normal urine is composed of about 95 percent water and 5% solutes that can be used to define kidney function and/or disease if the abnormal lab values are detected.  Cloudy urine may be caused by bacteria, crystals, fat, white or red blood cells, or mucus in the urine. Urinary tract infection may present as cloudy urine which may also cause a bad smell. Then again, eating asparagus can cause a bad urine smell due to its sulfur content.  Dark colored urine is a sign of concentrated urine, i.e., dehydration, or may present as a sign of liver disorders such as acute viral hepatitis or cirrhosis.  Light or no color can mean too much hydration or that kidney function is diminished to the point of not being able to expel the metabolic waste.  Drugs can cause the urine to be a rainbow of colors, as can different foods and supplements.  Riboflavin, B2, can produce a bright yellow colored urine.

Bubbles can be a sign of protein in the urine. This is not to be taken lightly, as medical testing will not detect kidney disease until 80% of total kidney function is lost. Generally speaking bubbles lasting 3 seconds for females and 5 seconds for males is considered normal.  Bubbles or foamy urine lasting longer than that time frame should be evaluated.  According to Tsu-Tsair Chi, MD, PhD a rotten or sour smelling scent emitted during urination may be a sign of kidney failure.  Interestingly, a black coated tongue also is indicative of kidney problems. In Chinese medicine horizontal, fuzzy white lines on the finger nails may present as a chronic kidney problem, i.e. protein in the urine. While this is not diagnostic in Western Medicine, it should lean to further kidney evaluation.

With all the chemicals consumed in our diets via our food and/or water supply, prescription or recreational drugs, the kidneys are taxed to the point of becoming congested. A component of the kidney’s filtration system is made up of tubules called nephrons.  Glomerulonephritis is a kidney disease in which the kidney’s filters become inflamed and scarred, and slowly lose their ability to remove wastes and excess water from the blood. By not expelling the excess fluid, edema can occur, most likely at the ankles first and then appearing in the hands and the rest of the body.   Kidney disease is based on the glomerular filtration rate (GFR), which is a measure of the level of kidney function and is representative of kidney damage if the values are abnormal. Other tests that can help evaluate kidney function are BUN (blood urea nitrogen) and Creatinine.

Mother Nature has provided many herbs that have the ability to clear the kidney’s congestion.  Time and again patients with abnormal GFR, BUN and creatinine levels have been able to lower these abnormal levels and enjoy better kidney function and health using herbal products. It is encouraging to know that there is hope for many with chronic kidney disease or to those who show the above listed symptoms as a proactive, preventative measure.