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Thread: Looking yellow around the gills--Can paleo/primal diets harm your kidneys? page

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    ScarletFrost's Avatar
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    Looking yellow around the gills--Can paleo/primal diets harm your kidneys?

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    My husband has started the Primal Blueprint diet and been trading carbs for protein and fats for a week, and his skin is looking a few shades yellower. WebMD is of course bringing out the inner hypocondriac in all of us, but we're concerned that his kidneys aren't processing the spike in protein very well. Is this just a side-effect of starting?

    (We're not really tracking consumption. We're trying to keep a 1:1 ratio of meats and plants and just eating until we're content. We have noticed that we don't need seconds or thirds anymore, so lots of leftovers for lunches.)
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    Does he have known kidney disease? If not, there is not evidence that even very high protein intake causes kidney issues.

    Generally speaking, turning yellow would be more of a liver issue anyway. Are the whites of his eyes turning yellow? Then that is jaundice and should be evaluated by a physician immediately.

    Some people can take on a bit of an orangish tinge if they are eating a LOT of beta-carotene. Does he snack a lot on carrots?
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    Was this a sudden crash change from pasta-based existence straight to real food? Could be liver stress. Make an appt., have some labs done. Seriously!


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    I'm loving the medical questions on here lately!

    I am a doctor, currently practicing in VT. Please do not confuse what I am about to say as a medical diagnosis or treatment protocol, as an actual physical exam is 100% necessary for either of these....ok, medical disclaimer is OVER

    1) This would not be due to a kidney problem. The yellow discoloration, if that is indeed the case, is due to a difficulty in processing bilirubin, which takes place primarily in the liver in a healthy person. There is a chance that a change in diet could make this slightly more evident, as the bile salts required to breakdown fatty foods (primal meats) is putting more on the system. With that all said, it is a liver problem....I am assuming no congenital liver affecting syndromes, no cirrhosis, no fatty liver disease, etc. If these are complicating factors, an internist exam is even more critical.

    2) A very common symptom of jaundice (inadequate processing of bilirubin by the liver) is severe skin itching. It is nearly a cardinal sign of that pathology....also look for irritability, insomnia, and pain in the feet. (Patho is complex, but it's the case)

    3) This could also be due to "carotenosis", a completely benign build of carotene in the skin. If your husband is light complected, it is good to look on the palms and soles of his feet for the carotene buildup. Many primal foods are high in carotene. (The stuff that makes a carrot orange) A cardinal sign of jaundice is yellowing of the whites of his eyes as well as tongue, inner cheek...in the totally benign carotenosis, these will be normal coloration.

    4) TMI ALERT!!!!! You may want to ask him if his urine has been darker than usual or (super TMI alert), if his stools have been very light in color. The processing of bilirubin is common to both of these markers.

    If any of this is abnormal, jaundice may be emergent. This is not a medical emergency per se, but it should be evaluated very soon (as in tomorrow, but an ER trip is unnecessary). Jaundice in itself is not a pathology, but it is nearly always indicative of problems in an adjacent area or to the liver. Please advise to what symptoms you see.

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    Damiana's Avatar
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    It's pretty hard to destroy your liver/kidneys unless you're pumping a fifth of vodka through it every day. Protein or an excess of it wouldn't do it. Been getting more sun lately? Eating more carrots, sweet potatoes, squash?
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    ScarletFrost's Avatar
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    Thank you everyone for your input, and especially thank you Lazarus. And no worries, I understand that a medical professional can't possibly make any sort of diagnosis from that little information and without actually seeing someone. I really appreciate the suggestions and the clarification on jaundice.

    His scleras are white with no yellowing. His urine is pale because he's been drinking a lot of water. He is normally insomniac and he suffers from gout in his feet--which is part of the reason we're trying the primal diet. There aren't really any other symptoms out of the ordinary. And he's not big on carrots. Or veggies in general. We are sort of an Italian family, so we used to have pasta two or three times a week, so it could be dietary shock.

    He has been itchy, lately, but that's the only other symptom he's exhibiting. The last time he saw a doctor, he did get some tests done. There were some "interesting" results for his liver, but they were inconclusive. The doctor told him to loose some weight and then come back for more tests, which again is another reason why we're trying this diet.

    Just curious, is there anything I should watch out for?
    "The most dangerous ideas in a society are not the ones that are being argued, but the ones that are assumed." C.S. Lewis

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