The Gut as a Source of Inflammation in Chronic Kidney Disease

Nephron. 2015;130(2):92-8. doi: 10.1159/000381990. Epub 2015 May 9.


Chronic inflammation is a non-traditional risk factor for cardiovascular mortality in the chronic kidney disease (CKD) population. In recent years, the gastrointestinal tract has emerged as a major instigator of systemic inflammation in CKD. Postmortem studies previously discovered gut wall inflammation throughout the digestive tract in chronic dialysis patients. In CKD animals, colon wall inflammation is associated with breakdown of the epithelial tight junction barrier ('leaky gut') and translocation of bacterial DNA and endotoxin into the bloodstream. Gut bacterial DNA and endotoxin have also been detected in the serum from CKD and dialysis patients, whereby endotoxin levels increase with the CKD stage and correlate with the severity of systemic inflammation in the dialysis population. The CKD diet that is low in plant fiber and symbiotic organisms (in adherence with low potassium, low phosphorus intake) can alter the normal gut microbiome, leading to overgrowth of bacteria that produce uremic toxins such as cresyl and indoxyl molecules. The translocation of these toxins from the 'leaky gut' into the bloodstream further promotes systemic inflammation, adverse cardiovascular outcomes and CKD progression. Data are lacking on optimal fiber and yogurt consumption in CKD that would favor growth of a more symbiotic microbiome while avoiding potassium and phosphorus overload. Prebiotic and probiotic formulations have shown promise in small clinical trials, in terms of lowering serum levels of uremic toxins and improving quality of life. The evidence points to a strong relationship between intestinal inflammation and adverse outcomes in CKD, and more trials investigating gut-targeted therapeutics are needed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Toxins / metabolism
  • Biological Transport
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / metabolism
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / complications*
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / complications*
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / physiopathology


  • Bacterial Toxins