An estimated 20 million Americans are believed to have kidney disease, with thousands more potentially at risk for developing kidney problems.1 Kidney damage doesn’t usually happen overnight. It is a steady process that occurs over several years as a result of some poor lifestyle choices and improper management of other conditions like diabetes.
As one study observed, the more bad habits you have, the worse it gets. Researchers found that test subjects with 3 to 4 bad habits dubbed “unhealthy lifestyle behaviors,” grew their risk of developing chronic kidney disease by 337 percent compared to people who had no bad habits.2
1. Binge Drinking
Kidneys help your body filter out harmful substances, including alcohol. So when you drink heavily, your kidneys are under tremendous pressure. Doing this on a regular basis can cause damage to the renal system.
Alcohol is extremely dehydrating, and an excess level in your body can cause your organs to be inadequately hydrated and hamper their performance. Alcohol is also a cause of liver disease, which in turn interferes with the regulation of blood flow to the kidneys.3
2. Not Drinking Enough Water
Kidneys depend on adequate flow of fluids to work properly. Staying hydrated is important to help the kidneys properly flush out the toxins from your body. The National Kidney Foundation recommends staying hydrated as one of the “9 Things That Everyone Should Do” for good kidney health. The National Health Service in the UK also mentions dehydration as a cause for kidney damage and kidney stones.4
3. Constantly Holding It In
Not urinating often enough can be bad for your kidneys. Nature’s call is meant to be answered in a regular, timely manner and if you don’t, your body and kidneys in particular retain all the toxins meant to be expelled. Over time, this can actually lead to incontinence as well as kidney stones and other forms of kidney damage.
4. Winging It With Medication
Sticking to the prescribed medicines is important. Certain medication can cause kidney damage if taken incorrectly or not closely monitored. If your doctor has suggested a specific dosage for a fixed duration, take it only for that long and no more.
OTC pain medications like aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen are all bad for your kidneys if taken regularly or on a daily basis. Certain antibiotics (aminoglycosides, amphotericin B, cephalosporins, bacitracin, and vancomycin) can also be harmful if you have delicate kidneys.5
5. Indulging Your Sweet Tooth Too Often
Having excess sweet foods like desserts, candy, and packaged snacks and sodas can be bad for your kidneys. A study confirmed that consuming too much fructose could bring a rise in uric acid levels and ultimately lead to cardiorenal disease.6
Those with diabetes are already at high risk of developing renal problems; too much sugar in your diet can worsen this situation. Be sure to read food labels and pick foods that are low in sugar and high in fiber.
6. Not Monitoring Your Blood Pressure
It is important to keep track of your blood pressure since hypertension is a leading cause of kidney damage. Keep to the recommended levels set by your doctor and take measures to control any high blood pressure. The level is usually set at under 140/90 mm Hg.7
7. Eating Too Much Protein
Excessive protein, especially from red meat sources, in your diet increases the risk of kidney damage. The kidney is responsible for filtering out toxins, like nitrogen and ammonia released from a protein source. When you eat a lot of protein, the kidney goes into an overdrive mode and begins hyperfiltration. This leads to kidney damage.8
8. Skipping Exercise
Exercise is good for the body’s circulation and can help you manage conditions like blood pressure and diabetes. Overweight or obese people can cut the load on their body by exercising.
As one study showed, weight loss can positively impact renal function in severely obese individuals. For everyone else, exercise helps keep the body and cardiovascular system in good working order.9
9. Not Eating Right
Eating healthy may not always mean you’re eating right when you have kidney trouble. If your kidneys are already strained, things change a little. Your doctor may suggest a diet that has less potassium and phosphorus. This means traditionally “bad” foods like white rice, white bread, and pasta suddenly become good for you.
What shouldn’t you eat?
- Whole-grain versions that are high on phosphorus
- Phosphorus-rich oatmeal, nuts, lentils, bran cereals, fish, meat, and poultry
- Vegetables and fruits like tomatoes, potatoes, bananas, and oranges
What can you eat?
- Plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits (especially apples, peaches, green beans, and carrots)
- Rice milk instead of dairy
- Corn and rice-based cereals10
- Protein in moderate quantities
Also, plant protein sources and certain animal protein sources like chicken and fish are easier on your kidneys. Heart-healthy foods are a good idea in general because they also help manage your weight, diabetes, and blood pressure. Certain nutrients like magnesium and vitamin B6 are good for preventing kidney stones.
10. Going Heavy On The Salt
High levels of sodium in your diet, whether in the form of salt in your cooking or more commonly through hidden sources, are potentially problematic, especially if you have a tendency for hypertension.
Many snacks, junk, canned, and packaged foods contain high amounts of sodium, so cut down on these. Opt for fresh cut fruit, vegetables, nuts, or homemade snacks instead. Limit sodium intake to under 2,300 mg a day.11
11. Not Treating Infections Quickly
The next time you get the flu, make sure to treat it and take the complete course of antibiotics. One study found out untreated viral infections could harm your kidneys.12The virus could spread and damage the kidney. Also, not taking rest if you have the flu, cold, tonsillitis, or pharyngitis could impact your kidney function.
12. Being Deficient In Vitamins And Minerals
Research claims a deficiency in vitamins B6 and D increases the risk of kidney damage and stones.13 Magnesium is a very important mineral for your body. Without it, the body cannot get rid of excess calcium and this causes kidney stones.14
13. Drinking Excessive Caffeine
One study proved that long-term drinking of too much caffeine would lead to chronic kidney failure because it increases blood pressure and puts a lot of strain on the organ. Another study revealed excessive caffeine could lead to kidney stones as it released a lot of calcium in the urine.15
14. Not Sleeping Well
Sleep is vital for any person. It is during this time your body heals and renews itself, including kidney tissues. If you aren’t sleeping enough or the quality of your sleep is bad, it could block your arteries. This raises your blood pressure. Anything that raises your blood pressure can damage your kidney. So, get a good 7-8 hours of sleep every day.16
Smoking adversely impacts your blood pressure. You also increase cardiovascular risk since smoking increases your heart rate, narrows the blood vessels in your kidneys, damages arterial branches, and causes arteriosclerosis in the renal arteries. These, in turn, stack the odds against you for kidney damage.17
Smoking is deadly for those with diabetes because it increases the chances of kidney problems. Smokers run the risk of losing kidney function faster than non-smokers. But quitting smoking will significantly decrease any future risks.
16. Using Excess Artificial Sweeteners
Can’t stop drinking artificially sweetened soda? One study revealed people who have regular amounts of artificially sweetened drinks have a two-fold increased risk for kidney decline.18
17. Eating Genetically Modified Foods
Studies have found eating GMO crops could have damaging effects on the kidney and liver. Even the smallest amount of GMO foods had a negative impact on the organs.19 Opt for organically grown produce and avoid common sources of GM ingredients such as processed and prepackaged foods.
|↑1||Kidney Disease Basics, National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.|
|↑2||Chang, Alex, Linda Van Horn, David R. Jacobs, Kiang Liu, Paul Muntner, Britt Newsome, David A. Shoham et al. “Lifestyle-related factors, obesity, and incident microalbuminuria: the CARDIA (Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults) study.” American Journal of Kidney Diseases 62, no. 2 (2013): 267-275.|
|↑3||Alcohol And Your Kidneys, National Kidney Foundation.|
|↑4||Symptoms of Dehydration, NHS UK.|
|↑5||Which Drugs Are Harmful To Your Kidneys? National Kidney Foundation.|
|↑6||Johnson, Richard J., Mark S. Segal, Yuri Sautin, Takahiko Nakagawa, Daniel I. Feig, Duk-Hee Kang, Michael S. Gersch, Steven Benner, and Laura G. Sánchez-Lozada. “Potential role of sugar (fructose) in the epidemic of hypertension, obesity and the metabolic syndrome, diabetes, kidney disease, and cardiovascular disease.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 86, no. 4 (2007): 899-906.|
|↑7, ↑10, ↑11||Diet and Lifestyle Changes, National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.|
|↑8||Too much protein may cause reduced kidney function. Harvard Gazette.|
|↑9||Chagnac, Avry, Tali Weinstein, Michal Herman, Judith Hirsh, Uzi Gafter, and Yaacov Ori. “The effects of weight loss on renal function in patients with severe obesity.” Journal of the American Society of Nephrology 14, no. 6 (2003): 1480-1486.|
|↑12||Shenouda, Adel, and Fred E. Hatch. “Influenza A viral infection associated with acute renal failure.” The American journal of medicine 61, no. 5 (1976): 697-702|
|↑13||Mydlík, Miroslava, and Katarína Derzsiová. “Metabolism of vitamin B 6 and its requirement in chronic renal failure.” Kidney International Supplement 62 (1997)|
|↑14||Johansson, G., U. Backman, B. G. Danielson, B. Fellström, S. Ljunghall, and B. Wikström. “Effects of magnesium hydroxide in renal stone disease.” Journal of the American College of Nutrition 1, no. 2 (1982): 179-185|
|↑15||Massey, Linda K., and Roger AL Sutton. “Acute caffeine effects on urine composition and calcium kidney stone risk in calcium stone formers.” The Journal of urology 172, no. 2 (2004): 555-558|
|↑16||Kim, Chan-Won, Yoosoo Chang, Eunju Sung, Kyung Eun Yun, Hyun-Suk Jung, Byung-Joon Ko, Min-Jung Kwon et al. “Sleep duration and quality in relation to chronic kidney disease and glomerular hyperfiltration in healthy men and women.” PloS one 12, no. 4 (2017): e0175298|
|↑17||Orth, Stephan R., and Stein I. Hallan. “Smoking: a risk factor for progression of chronic kidney disease and for cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in renal patients—absence of evidence or evidence of absence?.” Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology 3, no. 1 (2008): 226-236.|
|↑18||Lin, Julie, and Gary C. Curhan. “Associations of sugar and artificially sweetened soda with albuminuria and kidney function decline in women.” Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology 6, no. 1 (2011): 160-166|
|↑19||Kılıç, Aysun, and M. Turan Akay. “A three generation study with genetically modified Bt corn in rats: Biochemical and histopathological investigation.” Food and Chemical Toxicology 46, no. 3 (2008): 1164-1170|