You may have heard that pickle juice is good for kidneys. Is there are truth to this? Should people with kidney disease or kidney stones drink pickle juice? Is pickle juice good for your kidneys?
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Pickle Juice Nutrition
First, lets take a look at the nutritional composition of two fluid ounces of pickle juice.
Salt in Pickle Juice
Note that pickle juice is incredibly high in sodium. Two ounces (or, 1/4 cup) has 574mg of sodium. Many health claims suggest drinking 3-6 ounces of pickle juice, which would pack 861-1,722mg of sodium. This is 37-76% of the salt we should eat in an entire day!
Other than salt, pickle juice doesn’t have a significant amount of any other nutrient.
Pickle Juice, Salt & Your Kidneys
All this salt in pickle juice could hurt your kidneys. Eating too much salt can cause high blood pressure, which is the leading cause of chronic kidney disease in the United States.(2) High blood pressure also puts us at risk of heart disease and stroke.(3) A lesser known risk of a high salt diet is osteoporosis.(4)
Most Americans are eating much more salt than they need.(5) Drinking pickle juice would easily put most of us over our daily sodium goal.
Pickle Juice Health Claims
There are may different health claims for pickle juice. Claims range from being beneficial to gut microbiota, to being healthy for kidneys. What does the research say about each of these claims?
Any food that is fermented has some bacteria in it. Yogurt, kimchi and kombucha are fermented products that are famous for their healthy probiotic bacteria. Boosting your gut with probiotics is most known for helping gastrointestinal diseases such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, constipation and diarrhea.(6)
The role of the “microbiome” (a fancy word for the trillions of bacteria that live in our intestines) is being researched for nearly every health condition out there, including kidney disease.(7)
However, the amount of good bacteria that you get from pickle juice is minimal. Most pickles are made with vinegar, rather than bacteria. In addition, most pickles are pasteurized, which would kill those tiny microbes. Even if the little guys survived pasteurization, the small amount of bacteria in pickle juice will likely not survive the trip through the acidic stomach and make it to your intestines, where good bacteria can really work their magic.
In addition, the type of bacteria in pickle juice may not be the same bacteria that is good for kidneys. Even probiotic supplements, that contain billions of bacteria, need to be investigated more before we know how, and if, we can change the microbiome for kidney health.
Many claims suggest that pickle juice is a good way to rehydrate your body after a workout. However, a 2009 study found that pickle juice did not change plasma electrolyte levels. (8) And, pickle juice has much higher sodium concentrations than is recommended by the National Athletic Trainer’s Association. (1)
In addition, carbohydrate (or sugar) is a critical component of sports drinks to boost rehydration and replace glycogen stores. Most pickle juice offers minimal carbohydrate in amounts that you could drink without dangerous amounts of sodium. Pickle juice is not a good choice for rehydration.
It is true that some people would benefit from extra electrolytes for post-workout hydration. However, this is only true for people who are on an intense exercise routine. For most of us, drinking good old fashioned water before, during and after workouts will be more than enough to rehydrate our bodies properly. Sports drinks can add unnecessary calories and sugar.
Prevent Kidney Stones
Due to the large amount of sodium, pickle juice is not a good choice to prevent, or dissolve kidney stones. In fact, salt can make kidney stones worse.
Reduce Muscle Cramps
Improve Blood Glucose
Some small studies have shown that vinegar can reduce blood sugar spikes after meals in people with and without Type 2 Diabetes.(11) (12) (13) This has lead some to proclaim that pickle juice could improve blood sugar levels, and therefore reduce hyperglycemic complications like kidney damage.
However, these studies were done with less than 20 subjects. More research, with larger groups of people, should be done before recommending vinegar as a way to help reduce blood sugar.
In addition, pickle juice was not used in these studies – vinegar was! Although most pickle juice is made from vinegar, it is important to consider all aspects of a food. The very high sodium content of pickle juice could be harmful for people with diabetes. People who have diabetes are at higher risk of heart and kidney disease.(14) A low sodium diet is key for the prevention and treatment of heart and kidney disease.
Help Stomach Pain
Some people claim pickle juice can help cure stomach pain. There is no research to support this claim.
Is Pickle Juice Good For Your Kidneys?
Unfortunately, no. There is no reason pickle juice would be good for your kidneys.
In fact, pickle juice is more likely to harm your kidneys due to the incredibly high salt content. Pickles, pickle juice and other pickled foods are generally very high in salt and should be eating in smaller amounts on a kidney friendly diet.
Love pickles? Try making your own low sodium pickles. Quick pickled veggies are a great way to add a pop of flavor to nearly any dish.