Creatinine is a natural waste product that the muscles create. The kidneys remove it from the body, and it is present in the blood and urine.
Creatinine can build up in the blood if a person has a kidney problem, but it can also result from a high intake of protein, intense exercise, and the use of certain medications or supplements.
Doctors often use a creatinine test to determine how well the kidneys are functioning. High levels of creatinine in the blood or urine can be a sign that the kidneys are not filtering the blood effectively.
Having high levels of creatinine is not life threatening, but it may indicate a serious health issue, such as chronic kidney disease.
If a person has high creatinine levels due to a kidney disorder, a doctor will recommend treatment. Diet and lifestyle changes may also help.
In this article, learn more about what can cause high levels of creatinine and find some tips for managing levels naturally.
A routine blood test can measure creatinine levels. Factors that can raise levels include:
- certain medications, including some antibiotics and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs
- creatine supplements
- dietary factors, such as a high intake of protein
- strenuous exercise
- impaired kidney function
- low blood flow
Shock, infections, and serious illnesses such as cancer can also cause elevated creatinine levels, sometimes due to kidney damage.
If tests show high levels of creatinine in the body, it may be a sign that the kidneys are not working correctly. People with chronic kidney disease, for example, may have high levels.
If the glomerulus — the part of the kidney that filters waste — is damaged or otherwise not working efficiently, a person may have high levels of creatinine in the blood but low levels in the urine. This indicates that the kidneys are not functioning optimally.
Diseases that can affect kidney function and raise creatinine levels include:
- some infections, such as hepatitis B and C, HIV, and syphilis
- systemic lupus erythematosus, which is sometimes called SLE or just “lupus”
If a blood or urine test shows that a person has high creatinine levels, the doctor may perform further tests to identify the cause.
What is a normal range for creatinine? Find out here.
A person may be able to reduce their creatinine levels by making some of the following changes to their diet.
Reducing protein intake
According to a 2014 study, eating cooked red meat may increase levels of creatinine. Red meat is muscle tissue, which naturally contains creatine, and cooking causes the creatine to break down into creatinine. When a person eats the meat, their body absorbs the creatinine, and their levels may rise.
Eating less red meat and fewer fish products may reduce high creatinine levels. A person might try incorporating more sources of vegetable protein, such as beans, in their diet.
Which foods can boost kidney health? Find out here.
Increasing dietary fiber intake
Dietary fiber can provide a range of health benefits, such as helping to manage creatinine levels.
A review of studies published in 2014 noted that dietary fiber helped lower creatinine levels in people with chronic kidney disease. The researchers called for more long-term studies to confirm their findings.
Many plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, seeds, and whole grains, contain fiber.
Creatinine levels can rise when a person is dehydrated. Signs of dehydration include thirst, dizziness, and fatigue. Severe dehydration can put strain on the cardiovascular and other systems. It can be life threatening.
Drinking water is the best way to correct or prevent dehydration.
To make plain water more appealing, try:
- adding a handful of mint
- adding a slice of lemon or cucumber
- trying fizzy water
Herbal teas are another option.
Anyone who experiences ongoing dehydration should see a doctor, as it may be a sign of a kidney injury. People who exercise intensely without drinking fluids, sfor example, may also be at risk of damaging their kidneys.
Some supplements can increase creatinine levels. Avoiding these supplements may help lower levels.
Many athletes and bodybuilders take supplements containing creatine to build muscle strength and endurance. The muscles use creatine for energy, but if the muscles do not use it, the body converts it into creatinine.
This can result in high creatinine levels that doctors may misinterpret as kidney disease.
People with high creatinine levels should avoid any product that contains creatine.
Are creatine supplements a good idea? Learn more here.
Considering an herbal supplement
Red sage, or Salvia miltiorrhiza, plays a role in traditional Chinese medicine as a treatment for kidney disorders.
A 2018 study in rodents found that extracts of this plant may offer protection from certain kinds of renal failure. This could help strengthen the kidneys so that they can better process creatinine.
It may be worth noting that the plant in the study above is not the same as Salvia divinorum, which has psychoactive properties.
Asking about a chitosan supplement
Chitosan is an ingredient in a range of weight loss blends, as well as supplements that aim to lower cholesterol.
In 2014, one study in animals found that chitosan significantly reduced creatinine levels in rats with kidney failure. However, there is little further evidence to support its use for this purpose.
Speak to a doctor before using chitosan or any other supplement, as supplements can be unsafe for some people.
Using caution with diuretics
Diuretics are substances that help the body remove excess fluid. They can reduce swelling due to fluid retention.
However, diuretics can raise creatinine levels in people with kidney disease.
Speak to a doctor before taking diuretics. This is especially important for people who are taking other medications and for people who have certain health issues.
Chronic kidney disease can cause a loss of kidney function over several years. Learn more about causes and prevention here.
People who exercise strenuously and have a risk of kidney disease may benefit from checking with a doctor about whether their exercise routine is safe.
Regular exercise is essential for good health, but some types of intense exercise can cause a temporary rise in creatinine levels, according to a 2012 study.
Various issues, including kidney damage, can lead to high creatinine levels.
Some ways to avoid high levels include:
- ensuring that the body is hydrated
- limiting the intake of red meat
- avoiding some types of intense exercise
- seeking medical advice before taking creatine supplements
If high creatinine levels result from a kidney problem, the doctor will recommend a treatment plan.
I’m a bodybuilder, and I take creatine supplements regularly. Will this raise my creatinine levels, and will it be dangerous?
Creatine is a popular supplement because of its ability to enhance muscle growth. Although using creatine can temporarily raise creatinine levels, it is not necessarily dangerous.
In fact, the International Society of Sports Nutrition consider creatine to be one of the most well-studied, safest, and most effective ergogenic supplements on the market.
However, it’s important to note that high-dose creatine supplementation is not recommended for people with kidney disease or any condition that can impact kidney health, such as diabetes.
For healthy people, however, taking even high doses of creatine appears to be safe.Jillian Kubala, MS, RD Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.