Kidney Pain on Keto: Causes and Remedies

Have you ever felt a dull or even sharp pain in your back? Most likely.

But are you sure the pain is associated with your actual backbones and muscles and not from anything under the surface?

Pain felt in certain areas of the back can sometimes be attributed to the kidneys rather than the back itself.

Considering where the kidneys are located, it’s understandable for people to assume their kidney pain is stemming from their back when it’s really as a result of the kidneys.

Believe it or not, being on a ketogenic diet can sometimes cause certain levels of kidney pain.

While you’re fueling your body with low-carb, high-fat diet and getting into ketosis, you may experience kidney pain on the keto diet.

Causes of Kidney Pain

Kidney pain may sometimes be attributed to a ketogenic lifestyle. But it can also result from a number of other things, including the following:

  • Kidney infection
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Polycystic kidney disease
  • Blood clots in the kidneys
  • Bleeding of the kidney
  • Kidney stones

In order to properly treat kidney pain, it’s important to identify the root cause of the discomfort.

That said, kidney pain could also be stemming from your keto diet, so you may want to rule out any other potential issues with your doctor before determining that your keto lifestyle is the cause of your discomfort.

Symptoms of Kidney Pain

What exactly does kidney pain feel like? Well, it feels somewhat like a dull ache on one side of your back. Or sometimes the pain can be more acute and intense in nature.

Some people mistakenly associate the symptoms they experience as pain related to their back.

In fact, this is not back pain at all, but rather discomfort that is radiating for the kidney(s).

Kidney pain can be differentiated from back pain in a few ways, including the following:

Location of the pain. 

Kidney pain is typically felt in the flank on either side of your spine between your hips and the bottom of your ribcage.

Usually, it is felt only on one side of the body, though it can happen on both sides.

Pain type.

As mentioned earlier, kidney pain is typically dull, though it can also be quite sharp.

For the most part, the pain is constant and doesn’t usually come and go with different movements or positions.

Causes of Kidney Pain on Keto Diet

Not that long ago, there was this ridiculous notion that high fat was the root cause of obesity and heart disease.

Sure, certain types of fat aren’t good for you, but we now know that healthy fats absolutely should be a part of everyone’s diet, and in higher quantities than many may believe.

From low-fat dressings to low-fat cheese to low-fat everything, anything that was labeled as “low-fat” was considered the healthy alternative to regular-fat content food products.

Low-fat was also considered a key component to losing weight and keeping it off.

But we’ve seen with science backing up the ketogenic diet that fat is actually important for optimal health and weight loss.

This is especially true when paired when carbs that are drastically slashed from the diet.

But as healthy as the keto diet can be, there may be some concerns with it, including the potential to cause kidney discomfort.

What is the connection between a high-fat, low-carb diet and issues with the kidneys?

Here are some potential causes of kidney pain on keto diet:

High amounts of animal protein. 

Since the keto diet is based on a high amount of fats, animal protein is a staple.

That’s because animal proteins such as pork, eggs, cream, butter, and full-fat dairy products are naturally high in fat and make an ideal component to the keto diet.

However, studies have shown that animal protein can have a direct connection with an increase in odds of developing kidney stones.

A diet high in animal protein can increase uric acid and lower citrate (which can prevent stones) while increasing oxalate (which can create kidney stones).

Acidic urine. 

Diets that are very high in animal protein and low in carbs can increase the odds of developing kidney stones because they can raise the amount of acid in the urine.

This acidic environment can make the odds of developing kidney stones higher.

Despite the fact that the keto diet is only supposed to include a moderate amount of protein, your exact macronutrient profile may still include a relatively high amount of protein.

Further, a high level of ketones in the blood can make your urine more acidic as well.

High oxalate levels. 

Nuts are naturally high in oxalate, which have been associated with calcium-oxalate kidney stones.

And with a keto diet, you can be sure that nuts make up a large proportion of the foods that are consumed, especially high-fat ones like macadamia nuts and walnuts.

Dehydration.

Keto dieters can quickly become dehydrated if they’re not diligent about their liquid intake, especially when you consider how much animal protein may be consumed.

This can lead to a high level of uric acid in the body that can even reach potentially dangerous levels.

How To Get Rid of Kidney Pain on Keto?

It’s highly advised that any major shift in the keto diet should be done at the advice and guidance of a physician.

Speaking with a doctor to determine whether or not a keto diet is the right choice or even recommended at all for your medical history and body type is helpful.

But if you’ve already embarked on a keto diet and are experiencing kidney pain, you’ll probably want to seek out some remedies to combat your discomfort.

Here are some ways to alleviate any pain as a result of a keto diet:

Stay hydrated.

We’ve already touched on the fact that dehydration on a ketogenic diet can increase uric acid in the body, which is the perfect environment for kidney stones.

One of the easiest things you can do to reduce kidney pain is to drink plenty of water. This also helps to get rid of dry mouth.

You can even take things a step further and add some lemon to your water to prevent calcium molecules from sticking together.

Go easy on the meat.

There are plenty of ways to get healthy fat in your diet aside from relying too heavily on fatty meat.

Since animal protein can increase acid in the urine, reducing meat may do the opposite.

Cut down on the amount of meat in your diet and swap it for other healthy fats, such as coconut oil, butter, olive oil, and MCT oil.

Take potassium supplements.

Potassium supplements have been associated with a decrease in the number of kidney stones and may even prolong the amount of time it takes for kidney stones to form.

Drink kidney bean broth.

Broth from cooked kidney beans may help to boost kidney and urinary health and can help to break down and eliminate any kidney stones that may have formed.

Final Thoughts

There’s really no clear-cut evidence that a ketogenic diet can directly cause kidney pain or kidney stones, though there are definitely some precautions that you might take before you go full-on keto.

That said, it seems that the benefits of a keto diet outweigh the potential side effects.

Make sure you follow the diet carefully and see a doctor if you feel you might have kidney pain!

216 thoughts on “Kidney Pain on Keto: Causes and Remedies”

  1. Make a lot of sense, and that explain how I accidentally made myself feel better after a night of kidney discomfort by eating a banana efirst thing in the morning.

  2. I hope the professional keto community will include UPJ obstruction in their future articles when reassuring people about keto and kidney health. Nowhere have I been able to find one that mentions how a Ketogenic diet might affect slower draining kidneys. The condition is not so uncommon and in my experience, going into ketosis can trigger hydronephrosis.

  3. I wish this had been mentioned when I was doing my research on keto. All I read was how great it is and how safe. After three weeks on the diet I started to get the pain and stopped for that reason. Meanwhile, half the information I found on it was, “It’s not the diet.” The other half was a surprising amount of people that had the problem.

  4. Have been on this diet for two months, and for the last few days my kidneys have been killing me. Previously, and for many years, plenty of water and sometimes a little cranberry juice worked immediately. Research has revealed the culprit. KETO–I forgive you….good riddance.

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