Supplements, OTCs May Hurt Your Kidneys

Learn which drugs and supplements can hurt your kidneys

Supplements, OTCs May Hurt Your Kidneys

Unless you’ve had problems in the past, you probably take for granted that your kidneys are working as they should. But one in five men and one in four women in the United States are estimated to have chronic 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. You are at higher risk if your kidneys aren’t completely healthy to begin with, says Robert Heyka, MD, Chair of Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Nephrology & Hypertension.

Only your doctor can perform the tests to determine whether your kidneys are healthy. However, there are certain health problems that make a person more likely to develop 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:

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

RELATED: Chronic Kidney Disease Treatment Guide

The drugs and supplements that should cause concern

The following drugs and supplements can affect kidney function:

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

NSAIDs are very effective medications for multiple medical problems. But taking NSAIDS can affect the kidneys, and can cause damage, especially if you’re also taking diuretics (“water pills”) or ACE inhibitors.

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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 further harm your kidneys. When taking these medications, be sure to check regularly with your doctor if you have impaired kidney function.

RELATED: How to Avoid Surprising Risks of OTC Medications

2. Antibiotics

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

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.

3. Dietary supplements

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Certain herbs or nutritional supplements are associated with kidney injury, even among healthy people. With such a wide variety of supplements available, the best way to know if a supplement is safe is to ask your doctor to review all the ingredients.

Dietary supplements aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Their manufacturers don’t have to prove that they are safe to use, and ingredients can vary from one brand to the next.

A recent review lists 17 dietary supplements that have been associated with direct kidney injury, though in a very limited numbers of cases.

Of note, researchers found that patients often do not tell their doctors about the dietary supplements they are taking. Doing this could put you at risk for injury and drug interactions.

If you already have diminished kidney function or are at risk for kidney disease, it is best not to take dietary supplements or vitamin doses above the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA).

RELATED: 7 Secrets to Keeping Your Kidneys Happy

Are you at risk for kidney disease

Most people with kidney disease don’t have any symptoms until they’re very sick. So unless your doctor has tested your kidney function, you can’t be sure that you do not have kidney problems.

A few simple tests will tell your doctor how well your kidneys are working. He or she will:

  • Check your blood pressure
  • Take a blood sample and test the levels of blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and creatinine, which are indicators of how well your kidneys are cleaning your blood
  • Take a urine sample to check for blood, infection or protein in your urine

Even slightly higher than normal blood pressure or cholesterol increases your risk for kidney disease, stresses Dr. Heyka. So keep your blood pressure, cholesterol, and weight in check, as well as your blood sugar if you have diabetes. And, as always, make sure you tell your doctor about every vitamin, herbal remedy, and nutritional supplement you take.

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  • KennyD

    WHICH Supplements can harm the Kidneys ????

    • SWDesertMD

      Yikes! Don’t yell!!!

  • xanzbarr

    This was almost useless. Nowhere does it say which supplements are harmful to kidneys or which antibiotics are better than others. Almost everyone knows that NSAIDS are bad for kidneys, but you didn’t list all of them either. Lame article.

    • jon

      CC is a an institution with repute …I won’t believe they would ever publish lame articles.

  • lisa

    U missed one having a urostomy wears down my kidneys

  • bashubibi

    Name some names please.

  • ChronicIllnessFighter

    Yeah, some names of supplements would be nice!

  • Oatcakeater

    Name the culprits. As usual no names of any of the chemicals concerned. This is a common complaint for many articles. Name some names

  • jerrem

    This is totally incomplete. It doesn’t name any drugs, any supplements ……. Why put out such vague information at all?

    • lauderdale

      So you will call CCF and make an appointment!

  • Pat Suits

    I agree leave a list of what not to take.

    • SWDesertMD

      Kidney AND supplements AND effects on kidney function

  • FloyydRTurbbo

    Thank you for information that a six year old knows. Give something concrete that you cannot find elsewhere or don’t bother.

    • SWDesertMD

      google it – Kidney AND supplements AND effects on kidney function

  • Dr Rene Revilla

    I am Internal Medicine DoctorI am going to mention some of the drugs that can affect the kidneys,so you have to take care of them:
    NSAIDS like Diclofenac,Advil,Sulindac,Naproxen,celecocib,Antibiotic likes Aminoglycosides(Gentamicin,Amikacin,Kanamycin )
    Cephalosporins likes Rocephin,Cloforan,others like Vancomycin,the Doctors before to use this drugs have to check the Kidneys
    funtion and give the dose according the Creatinine Clearance .

    • Luke

      Thanx. Now how about some supplements. And why doesn’t Robert Heyka, MD, and the Urinary and Kidney Team, who wrote the article, come forward and respond to all these complaints. I hope they are not as useless as the article.

      • swdesertmd

        Kidney AND supplements AND effects on kidney function

    • Dave

      Also lisinopril with hydrochlorothiazide)

  • Sheila

    I take vitamins and was concerned.

  • Marie Paciorek Vitella-Stellma

    I have a cyst on my left kidney and now am developing stones. I take supplements everyday and would also like to know which are causing harm! I stopped taking Ibuprofen and would really like to know what else I need to stop!

  • John Simms

    The idea that supplements, as a broad category, are dangerous and should not be taken above the RDA is not only fallacious, but not held up by the literature or evidence. There are specific supplements and compounds that MAY be of concern… but, the vast majority are not.

    Regulation by the FDA does not make a drug or supplement safe.

    The reality is that most physicians have little to no training in basic nutrition, much less interventional nutrition or functional medicine. Trying to use scare tactics to drive patients to seek advice from unqualified practitioners borderlines on malpractice.

    If someone has pre-existing kidney damage, then it is important to consult a TEAM of professionals who are experts in their specialty areas.

    Poor article. Most likely written by someone who was advised incorrectly.

  • John Simms

    Here is an older journal article that mentions some supplements:

    points to note: the majority of cases listed are “case reports.” Essentially, someone wrote a report on one patient that they believed had a reaction. Some of the reactions claimed are heavily disputed in the clinical community (i.e. vitamin C)

    There are more people who damage their kidneys with table salt over the course of a year than all of the reports for various supplements reported in this article combined.

  • swdesertmd

    For everyone who thinks all the answers are going to be in the article – open up another browser window and google it!!! Do your own research – Kidney AND supplements AND effects on kidney function

  • gee wanacuplmor

    These guys questioning the safety of OTC vitamins is like the Tobacco companies funding a study on the dangers if inhaling smoke while burning leaves in your backyard…

  • Xray vision

    Wouldnt want you to take supplements and vitamins that might be good for you, did you catch my sarcassim?

    • MIB

      Dietary supplements, as in Hydroxycut and other quick “weight loss” fixes like that. Vitamins are fine as long as you don’t overdue them. You can overdose on vitamins (d, e, c etc). If you take more than the recommended daily amount you’ll be on the toilet constantly, either throwing up or doing the 2. Stomach feels like an alien is clawing its way out. Vitamin water, for example, is two servings per bottle. If you drink 3 bottles a day you’ll feel like you’re dying.

      • texas

        I believe the vitamins A D E K are fat soluable so these are the ones you shld be careful not to exceed , the others are water soluable so excess is excreted

      • Denra Proffitt

        It is all about the details and a individual’s needs and also if they are on pharma drugs as to how much is too much such as VitD….most are highly depleted and there are Mds who can taste the blood levels to determine amounts needs but those amounts are way over the recommended amounts! But they have to put something on the bottle

        • Bubba

          I didn’t know that MD’s actually taste the blood levels. Is that good for them?

          • Diana

            Auto correct sucks I think.. :)

          • Carla

            Dendra must have meant ‘test’.

  • Joyce Childers Wallace

    NO OTC stuff!!! Big pharma has a pill for that!

  • Mustang

    Ooooh. Big, evil pharma out to get me.

  • suesue

    Actually, it is very informative.After surgery for rotator cuff my husband has been taking Mobic for inflammtion and pain management for 6 months.
    .He has an issue with kidney problems now….
    We wondered how this could occur out of the blue.Now,we know and will eliminate the only pharmy he is taking….Hopefully, it is reversible.

  • judy

    I had been taking a suppliment with high concentrations of grapes. My back, at kidney level, became sore, so sore that a loose waist band would be so painful. After going off the suppliment, it would go back to normal. After several trys at taking the suppliment and going off of it, I stopped it. I ate grapes one day and law the same soreness. I also had been on Mobic several years ago but eventualy stopped because I do not like pharma drugs.

    • Denra Proffitt

      Organic grapes are the only ones i will eat as the other ones are heavily pesticided and those are poison and any amount of poison is not good unless homeopathic such arsenic or belladonna which contain no physical substance but the energy imprint so they become non toxic and potenially assisting recovery for associated ailments.


    My Kidney & Insulin Lab results all increased from normal into borderline problem range after I was prescribed RX Baclofen for (left sided) debilitating Spasms ( after ADVERSE EFFECTS from RX Reglan that appeared to cause ChronicSpasms) I had taken only 10 Mg (1 pill for 2 days only) Left me soooo weak & very frequent urination that I needed a caretaker for 3 days. (Age 72) So now I must be very careful with watching for any ADVERSE EFFECTS of ANY RX.

  • tonya

    I have my kidneys and liver checked every three months due to medications im on gor my ventricular tachycardia. .im on sotalol and mexiletine…just recently my liver functions were high..will I be able to get them back to normal without having to stop my medications

  • Sapphire

    If the people that are citing the few reactions resulting from ingesting supplements would do their homework they would find that 100’s of thousands of people are dying from PRESCRIBED Rx’s every year and the FDA resists removing a lot of these drugs from the market. At 76 I’m healthy and not taking any Rx’s and haven’t forever. Maybe that’s why I’m healthy ??

  • Thumper

    Wow. Regular intake of natural food aside, how come so many of you are willing to unleash your problems on pharmaceutical companies. Have you become dependent? I take vitamins several times a week, and in spite of a genetic predisposition toward a variety of diseases I’m doing fine. If you’re relying on medicine to keep you well and fit you’re doing it wrong. If you think life is too short, talk to Jesus.

    • DJsnana777


      • Denra Proffitt


    • Sherry Medlin Reagan

      Pretty much my sentiments Thumper. I have a lot of the same diagnosises as many family members but I take natural supplements and eat as natural as I can afford with a minimum of meds and my quality if life is so much better than my family members. (Im also the oldest of 2 generations being diagnosed with the same various diseases and conditions).

    • mountain

      Get a grip. Jesus cant help u

    • Invictus

      Not everybody has your results unfortunately. Try not to be so judgemental.

  • kanuna

    my name is Kanuna Diwali from Bihar, India. i used to be a very poor man and since a friend introduced me to one Medical DOCTOR JOHNSON JOHN
    who he read about his work on internet and who bought he’s KIDNEY very costly
    and even paid in upfront.. i contacted him via this email address
    we started negotiating and after processes he bought my KIDNEY with handsome amount
    in dollars i can never be poor again in life i smile all day now even my family are are not left out,
    contact him today for yours via he has the backing of national kidney foundation world wide.thanks.
    Kanuna Diwali

  • Germaine Montgomery

    Why didn’t you list the supplements that can harm kidneys?

    • Nick Karapasas

      The review linked above mentions some. They have not been SHOWN to harm kidneys… they have been linked in case reports to very limited numbers of people who had problems.
      When you look at the case reports, there is even less evidence other than correlation.

    • Donna

      Yes, they never listed them. Was that the main reason we read this.

  • amazingc

    I have been a diabetic for more than 25 years and was on insulin for 12 years that made me very miserable with unstable glucose levels and GFR. I started taking a herbal supplement for kidneys called Nephrocomplete last year and within 6 months my kidney functions have improved remarkably and I am not taking insulin anymore.

    • drmichaeldo

      Please be careful with this supplement. Check to see that the ingredients are not toxic. These supplements are not regulated so you can not rely on the proportions of the ingredients. Pharma drugs are highly regulated and you can be sure of their purity. See if any of the ingredients have studies to prove their reliability. There are many new drugs available to treat your diabetes. They are reliable.

      • Denra Proffitt

        Pharma drugs are unfortunately not highly regulated from my research and people are used as guinea pigs frequently leading to death and disabilities..lets just be honest and truthful or lose the respect of patients and fellow well educated MDs ,N.Ds and other healthcare practioners who do their homework. Thank you.

  • Denra Proffitt

    Excuse me but vitamins and herbs are highly regulated more than drugs and have to have the GMP seal of approval that they contain what they say they are and also the FDA regulates vitamins as well as the USDA and also your better quality brands have been approved way ahead of the law stating that if you make and distribute vitamins now they must GMP approved meaning quality and and having what it says it is in the supplements ,so to to say they aren’t regulated is not truthful or factual.

  • Jo Germano

    I’d like to know what those supplements are, too!

  • JM

    Click on the hyperlink “Review” in the article to see the supplements in question.