Our kidneys are working day and night to filter the blood of toxins and to keep the body healthy. With two kidneys sharing these tasks, most of us feel assured that our kidneys are functioning at their peak. However, this may not be the case. Kidney disease can develop over months, years and even decades. There may be little to no signs or symptoms at the outset. A few simple changes in diet and lifestyle could prevent or at least slow down these kidney diseases. Therefore keeping your kidneys healthy should be as important as any other health endeavor.
What do the kidneys do?
The kidneys have several functions. Most of us are well aware that it filters toxins and wastes from the bloodstream and pass it out as urine. However, there are other life-sustaining processes that depend on the kidneys. It maintains a healthy balance of water and electrolytes in the body, regulates blood pressure, removes byproducts of metabolism including that of drugs and even influences red blood cell production.
Blood flows to the kidneys and then fluid from the blood is filtered through millions of tiny filtration units known as nephrons. Essential nutrients and electrolytes are spared as is water which is then returned to the bloodstream. Excess electrolytes, excess water, toxins and wastes are excreted as urine. The normal urine output ranges from 800mL (27oz) to 2L (680z) daily which is dependent on water intake among other factors.
Read more on strained kidneys.
How to Keep Kidneys Healthy?
There are several simple strategies to keep the kidneys healthy. Most of these revolve around health practices that are advisable for overall health and not only kidney health. It is always important to consult with a doctor especially among people who already have kidney disease or are at high risk of kidney disease. Regular screening for kidney disease among high risk individuals is advisable to identify and treat conditions as early as possible.
Read more on signs of unhealthy kidneys.
Drink Water But Within Limits
The activity of the kidneys is influenced greatly by water intake. It is not surprising that the kidneys almost shut down when a person is severely dehydrated. Therefore sufficient water intake is important for the kidneys to function optimally and with minimal strain.
The recommended daily water intake is appoximately 2 liters (68 ounces) per day. This should be spread throughout the day. However, excessive water consumption can also be associated with health risks. Therefore it is importantt o drink sufficient water but not to overdo it.
Stop Smoking Completely
Tobacco smoking is known for its host of deleterious health effects. It can damage blood vessels, reduce blood flow to the kidneys and impair kidney function. Furthermore, tobacco smoking is known to be a cause of cancer and with kidney cancer being the eighth most common type of cancer in the United States, smoking must be stopped.
It is imperative that smoking is stopped completely. However, this can be a difficult undertaking since nicotine is highly addictive. It is important to adopt the most effective strategies to quit smoking and this may require a combination of psychotherapy, drugs and nicotine replacement therapy (NRT).
Exercising is Important
Exercise is known for a host of health benefits and this also extends to the kidneys. Not only does exercise improve circulation but it helps to keep the body weight down and regulate blood pressure. Obesity and hypertension (high blood pressure) can both contribute to kidney disease.
It is recommended that adults exercise for at least 120 minutes per week in 30 minute sessions on different days. Both cardiovascular and weight training are beneficial. Hydration is crucial while exercising to prevent strain to the kidneys as there can be significant fluid loss during vigorous physical activity.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
A balanced diet with minimal salts, preservatives and processed foods is important for overall health. It also helps to reduce strain on the kidneys. Salts are one of the contributors to high blood pressure in the modern diet and a high calorie intake leads to obesity. Both of these conditions can lead to kidney disease.
Choosing a healthy balanced diet is simple. It should involve large quantities of fruit and vegetables with moderate quantities of meat and dairy and small amounts of fat. Processed foods and junk foods are laden with salts and preservatives as well as being high in calories so it should be minimized or avoided altogether.
Moderate Drug Intake
Both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription drugs should be used in moderation. Prescription drugs should never be reduced or stopped unless advised by a medical professional. However, the abuse of over-the-counter drugs is widespread and needs to be curbed.
Even everyday OTC drugs like acetaminophen can strain or damage the kidneys if it is used in large quantities or used consistently for a long period of time. Always consult with a doctor or pharmacist if symptoms are not allaying instead of increasing the dosage or trying other OTC drugs.
Limit Nutritional and Herbal Supplements
Nutritional supplements can be beneficial for several reasons but particularly when a person has a deficiency. However, large amounts of vitamins can strain the kidney which has to work harder to rid the body of these micronutrients. A balanced diet will reduce the need for nutritional supplements.
Herbal supplements are often thought to be harmless but this is untrue. Depending on the herb in question and the dosage, herbal supplements can strain the kidneys. Furthermore some herbal supplements from questionable sources may also be tainted with lead, arsenic and pesticides that are toxic.
Do Not Exceed Alcohol Limits
For people who consume alcoholic beverages, it is important to not exceed the daily allowance for males and females. This refers to a maximum of 3 drinks per day for men and 2 drinks daily for women. It is preferable that alcohol is avoided altogether.
Contrary to the myth that alcohol is good for the kidneys and gives it a “workout”, alcohol can also indirectly affect the kidneys. It may contribute to high blood pressure and heart disease, both of which can impact on the kidneys and lead to kidney disease.