Photo by The DK Photography / Unsplash

A close friend's fiance is in terrible trouble. I was, too, for somewhat similar reasons.

The news came about ten days ago. My friend sent me a text saying only that he'd gotten some rough news that he'd have to process, and he'd get back to me.

I knew that it had to either be about work or family. This person is extremely close, so what happens to him affects me, too.

A few days later I found out.  The fiance is facing potential renal failure. It's terrifying, for this woman is in her mid-forties, by all accounts still quite young. She's big, too, which may or may not be part of the challenge, for I can't know what kinds of dietary habits led to this point.

Renal failure is quite often the result of poor habits, leading to diabetes, high blood pressure and other factors. Often people have no clue that something is wrong until real damage is done, or you get sudden kidney stone attacks, which, and I can speak from experience, have a way of riveting your attention. My friend's fiance was terribly tired too much of the time, which was just one symptom.

Depending on where you are with your kidney journey, the following list could be instructive in terms of why they are in trouble:

17 Foods to Avoid If You Have Kidney Disease
If you have kidney disease, reducing your potassium, phosphorus, and sodium intake can help manage it. Here are 17 foods that you should likely avoid if you have bad kidneys.

Strikingly, avocados, oranges, dried fruit, bananas and otherwise seemingly super- healthy foods are high on this list due to potassium and phosphorus content. In this context, healthy foods aren't healthy at all, depending on how much guac you consume.

She'd had a stone attack, and we had all discussed the list of foods that I couldn't have because I, too, had kidney stones that put me in the hospital back in 2020. For years I had a diet that was way too high in oxalates, which are naturally-occurring substances in plants. My two favorite foods, spinach and almonds, are considered to be among the healthiest you can eat.

They are also right at the very top of NO GO lists for folks who are oxalate stone-formers, as I am.

They made the appropriate dietary changes, and thought that was enough. It wasn't, which is even more disconcerting. You do your best to adapt, and the adaptation doesn't produce the results you need.  That's just terrifying.

In this article, which does a fine job of outlining how our best intentions can get us in trouble when it comes to our eating habits, fellow Medium writer Dr. Mehmet Yildiz talks about the common mistakes that we can make while doing our damnedest to eat more healthy foods:

Three Health Foods Ruined Juliana’s Health When Used Excessively
She explained how so-called health foods led to digestive discomfort, excessive fat gain, insulin resistance, and metabolic disorders.

Both Yildiz and his friend Juliana ate foods which, despite their healthy reputations, ultimately ruined their health: whole bread, fruit juices (consumed to the extreme) and excess fiber.

Who knew, right? Because typically in America, for example as with many Western cultures, we don't get enough fiber, which means all kinds of digestive problems at the other end of the bell curve.

You can't win, it seems.

Before I arrived in Eugene in 2020, I had been hospitalized for kidney stones. Another one, late to the party, caused me to flip my car at 65 mph outside Twin Falls, very nearly costing me my life. It did cost me a car and a slew of subsequent surgeries on those left-side body parts which took the brunt of the impact. This is deadly serious stuff.

I threw myself into learning about oxalates, went way too far into the dietary restrictions. Lost so much weight I was unrecognizable, and not very well, either.
Finally I found a doctor who pushed two things at me. HARD: ten glasses of water a day, and the first one, with lemon juice. Fresh, if possible.

I backed off the almonds and spinach entirely until this year when I slowly started eating them again with my urologist's blessing. I have reworked my diet several times over as I slowly regained the weight I needed to fill out the sagging wrinkles on my body left my rapid, very damaging weight loss.

Two weeks ago, a blood test revealed that my kidney function had much improved. Most of it is dietary, as with most of us. The key is recognizing that ANY time we overdo a food whether it's avocados, or in my case, a great affection for Blue Diamond Smoked Almonds, we are going to pay a price. Every body is a universe unto itself. Which is why Yildiz says that when Juliana visits, he brings out the barbecue and she has her vegetables.

Dr. Y has discovered that keto works well for him, and his willingness to do the research and test himself is why he enjoys vibrant health now. However that said, that does not mean that just because keto works so well for Dr. Y, who is famously disciplined, it will work for all of us. Therein lies the lesson.

Finding that middle ground is always a challenge in a world full of deeply confusing medical advice. The mistake we make is to embrace just one thing, such as juicing all the time, as the Holy Grail.

There is no such thing. No single superfood is going to magically transform us. Like Juliana who was swayed by the deeply questionable Tony Robbins, she bought into juicing because he shilled it. That doesn't make it right for her; it is for Tony likely because he got paid. We need to ask much better questions.

The work is never-ending. As my friends work their way towards finding a solution for her renal challenges, I am hopeful it can be handled with dietary changes and not dialysis. These are huge issues, with great impact on life quality and choices.

The overwhelming plethora of dietary advice online, combined with idiot influencers (again, in Juliana's case it was Tony Robbins, a man for whom I have no regard whatsoever) and just bad advice in general, make it very difficult to make good choices.

We too often conflate tasting good with good for us, a belief that Big Food uses to our detriment by hiring expert food scientists. They create food that tastes so damned good we haven't got a chance. Said food is often full of chemicals that cause all kinds of havoc, as with my friend's kidneys, and the rest of those who suffer from fatty liver disease and much worse.

You and I can find all manner of articles touting the benefits of curcumin, garlic, onions and the like. Fine. For those of us who have clotting disorders, those foods can kill us off if we have a minor accident, then we could bleed to death. For others, they are life savers.

Photo by Lucas Rosin / Unsplash

As with all things in life, it depends. Is this good for you? It depends. And just because a little is good, consuming oodles usually isn't better.

You and I need to know OUR bodies. Stop following people who do not have OUR bodies, and ask quality nutritionists for help. Not doctors, who at best might have taken a single course in nutrition and have the knowledge of a house rat about how to eat to live well.

While I realize this is a lot to ask, it really is the only way to true health. What works for me may not work for you and vice versa. That is precisely why this is such a sacred and unique journey. I am constantly learning as my body shifts through the decades. That's how we are made, most of us, to morph regularly.

It's up to us to work through the maze of our shifting cells and needs, and feed ourselves what works for the skin suit we inhabit.

It is above all, a journey of genuine love, learning as we age, as we change and morph, what works for me right here, right now. Tony Robbins be damned, this is YOUR life, YOUR body. Do the work, and the body will work for you.

the author with a medicine woman in the Peruvian Amazon Julia Hubbel

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