Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of Kidney Disease: A Guide to Early Detection

In this video, Dr. Ekberg discusses the signs, symptoms, and stages of chronic kidney disease and kidney failure. He emphasizes the importance of recognizing the early stages of kidney disease to prevent further complications such as dialysis or kidney transplant. Dr. Ekberg explains that the kidney is not just a filter, but also a sensor that regulates various functions in the body. He highlights the estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) as a marker to measure kidney function and identifies common symptoms such as changes in urination, high blood pressure, anemia, bone disease, edema, back pain, and breathing difficulties. Dr. Ekberg concludes by linking insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes as major causes of kidney failure and emphasizes the importance of managing insulin resistance to protect kidney health.

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Key Insights:

  • Chronic kidney disease and kidney failure can have severe consequences, including death, within days or weeks if left untreated.
  • The kidneys have multiple functions, including filtering the blood, regulating pH levels, and reabsorbing valuable substances.
  • The estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) is a key marker to measure kidney function, and its levels can indicate the stages of chronic kidney disease.
  • In the early stages of kidney disease, symptoms may be minimal or absent, but changes in urination, such as burning, color changes, or protein in the urine, may be indicators of kidney damage.
  • As kidney disease progresses through stages 2 to 5, symptoms become more frequent and severe, including high blood pressure, anemia, bone disease, edema, back pain, and breathing difficulties.
  • Insulin resistance, often associated with type 2 diabetes, is a major risk factor for kidney disease, as it damages blood vessels and can lead to kidney failure.
  • It is essential to recognize and address kidney disease in its early stages by understanding the symptoms, monitoring eGFR, and taking steps to reverse conditions like insulin resistance.


Hello Health Champions. The kidney is a remarkable organ. If it were to fail you would be really sick within a couple of days and you would probably be dead within a week, so today I want to talk about some of the most important signs and symptoms of chronic kidney disease and kidney failure, but more importantly I want to help you understand how to recognize it in the very early stages so you never have to walk down that path of kidney failure, dialysis, and kidney transplant. Coming right up.

Hey, I’m Dr. Ekberg. I’m a holistic doctor and a former Olympic decathlete, and if you want to truly master health by understanding how the body really works, make sure you subscribe, hit that bell and turn on all the notifications so you never miss a life-saving video.

I was shocked when I did some research. I watched some other videos on this topic that had tens of millions of views that did nothing more than list some signs and symptoms, scare you to death, and tell you to go see a doctor. Now, of course, there’s a time and a place to go see a doctor, but if we understand a little bit about the kidney and appreciate how amazing it is and how to take care of it, then we may never have to go see a doctor.

The kidney is often described as a filter, and while that is correct, it does so much more. It is a sensor. It senses various different metabolites in the body and then it produces hormones in response to that, so it helps regulate various things in the body. One of the things it’s sensitive to and regulates is pH. It can get rid of acid, it can get rid of base to regulate the pH of the blood. It is very sensitive to oxygen, which we’ll talk about more in a little bit, but most of what the kidney does is reabsorption.

The kidney filters the blood, so it pushes fluid out through a very, very fine filter, but then it reabsorbs most of it. So, it filters out over 200 liters of fluid every day, but because it wants to keep certain things while getting rid of others, it is a selective filter. It reabsorbs 99% of all the water and all the sodium, so it’s very good at getting rid of the extra sodium that it doesn’t want. When it comes to potassium, it reabsorbs 88% of it. When it comes to glucose and amino acids, which are precious fuel and building blocks, it doesn’t want to lose any of those, so it reabsorbs 100%, unless you’re a diabetic or your blood sugar is so high that you exceed the reabsorption threshold, then you’re going to be spilling glucose in the urine, but again, that’s not a normal state. Then there are some things that the body wants to get rid of, like creatinine, and it’s so good at this that it eliminates 100%, it reabsorbs nothing of the things that it doesn’t want, so it’s incredibly clever and very, very selective.

Now here’s where creatinine comes in handy. We know that the kidney is supposed to filter out 100% of it, so there’s only supposed to be a tiny amount left, and based on that, we can estimate the glomerular filtration rate. That’s a number that tells us how well the kidneys are working. If the kidneys start getting clogged up, then that number changes, it goes down. The creatinine is based on muscle activity. If you have more muscle activity or more muscle mass, it can skew the numbers a little bit. If you have muscle breakdown, like from an injury or from a hard workout, that can change the number, and they estimate this number based on age, race, and gender because people are a little bit different. But the whole point of this is that the eGFR is a pretty good way to measure how your kidneys are working and how to give you little hints long, long before you have symptoms.

There are five stages to chronic kidney disease, and all the other places that I looked, they listed signs and symptoms as if they happened randomly or equally through the different stages of degeneration, but understanding when they happen makes all the difference in knowing what to look for.

In stage one of kidney disease, the number is normal. The glomerular filtration rate is still working, but the kidney may still have taken some damage. There may still be some infection, some bacteria, something that’s breaking it down, so we find something abnormal going on, maybe in the blood, maybe in the urine.

In stage two, now we have a reduced filtration rate, so it’s down to 60 to 89 milliliters per minute.

In stage three, the filtration rate is down to about half, 30 to 59 milliliters per minute, and we’re starting to get a lot more symptoms. Not everybody gets them, but they’re becoming more frequent.

In stage four, the filtration is close to shutting down, 15 to 29 milliliters per minute. The symptoms are going to be the exact same ones as in stage three, but they’re going to happen more frequently to a greater percentage of people to a more severe degree.

In stage five of chronic kidney disease, now we’re pretty close to complete failure. We’re less than 15 milliliters per minute if it hasn’t shut down completely. And now we’re going to start seeing some more extreme symptoms that you would never get in the earlier stages.

The earliest way to tell is called insulin resistance, and if you watch some videos on this channel, you probably recognize that. Type 2 diabetes is the number one cause of kidney failure, and diabetes destroys tiny delicate blood vessels, and the kidney has lots of them. Another place they’re common is in the retina, so diabetes is also the number one cause of blindness, and it can also destroy fine nerve endings and tiny blood vessels in the periphery of the body, so it’s also the number one cause of amputations. If you really want to take care of your kidneys, then start learning about insulin resistance and reverse that.

Thank you so much for watching. I’ll see you next time.