Your kidneys are the silent heroes of your body. Every day, they filter and remove waste products from around 120–150 quarts of blood.1 But that’s not all. They also help make red blood cells, control blood pressure, keep your bones healthy, and regulate the level of electrolytes in your blood. They are all critical functions, you’ll notice. Which is why you need to keep these hardworking organs healthy. Here are a few ideas that should help2: 3 4
1. Stay Hydrated
Water dilutes the concentration of waste material in urine and helps your kidneys work properly. So you need to make sure that you get enough. On an average, adult women need around 2.1 liters of water a day while adult men need around 2.6 liters.5 But sometimes you may need more when factors like hot weather or vigorous exercise cause you to lose extra fluid as sweat. The color of your urine can work as an indicator of dehydration – if it’s darker than a straw color, you may not be getting enough water.
2. Manage Blood Pressure, Cholesterol, And Blood Sugar
High blood pressure, cholesterol, or blood sugar levels can damage your kidneys. High blood pressure is particularly harmful. And since an increase in blood pressure doesn’t have obvious symptoms, it makes sense to check your blood pressure levels routinely. Don’t worry, it’s an easy and painless test that’s widely available at pharmacies and can even be carried out at home. If you do have problems with your blood pressure, cholesterol, or blood sugar levels lifestyle, measures like a healthy diet and regular exercise can help you. Also make sure you follow your doctor’s orders and take your medications according to prescription.6
3. Cut Down On Sodium
Our food is loaded with salt or sodium. Some estimates suggest that our consumption exceeds recommended amounts by about 50%. If that’s the case, here’s why you should be cutting down. Excess sodium can increase your blood pressure, which hampers blood flow to your kidneys and damages them. In fact, high blood pressure is the second highest cause of kidney damage.7
Try to have less than 2,300 mg of sodium or about 1 teaspoon of salt in a day. But do keep in mind that putting your salt shaker away may not be enough to make a significant dent in your sodium consumption. Up to 75% of our sodium intake comes from processed foods like soups, tomato sauce, prepared mixes, canned food, and condiments. So make sure you check the label for sodium content when you buy food. The words “sodium” and “soda” as well as the symbol “Na” can be indicative of sodium.8
4. Don’t Overdo Protein
High protein diets are all the rage nowadays. But did you know that excess protein can harm your kidneys? Ammonia, a byproduct of protein metabolism that can be dangerous in high amounts, is converted to urea and excreted as urine by your kidneys. If you partake of excess protein, your kidneys need to work harder.
On an average, having .75 g of protein per kg of your body weight if you’re an adult woman and .84 g of protein per kg of body weight if you’re an adult man should suffice to meet your protein needs. Try to meet this quota by eating small amounts of proteins with every meal. Lean meat, fish, eggs, tofu, legumes, seeds and nuts make good sources of protein.9
5. Skip Processed Foods
Crackers, deli meats, potato chips, and cheese spreads – what do all of these have in common? Sure, they taste good. But they’re likely to be high in sodium and phosphorus as well. Both of these may harm your kidneys. Colas are another common food that may be high in phosphorus.10 Skip these in favor of fresh healthy foods and your kidneys will thank you for it.
6. Limit Alcohol Consumption
Excess alcohol can harm your kidneys. After all, it is a toxin which needs to be filtered out from the blood. Alcohol also dehydrates you, affecting the normal functioning of kidneys. Excessive drinking can also increase your risk for high blood pressure and liver disease, both of which negatively impact your kidneys.11
Drink in moderation to keep your kidneys happy. Limit yourself to a drink a day if you’re a woman and 2 drinks if you’re a man. One drink is defined as 12 ounces if you’re having beer, 5 ounces if it’s wine, and 1.5 ounces if it’s liquor.
7. Don’t Smoke
You already know that smoking can harm your heart and lungs and cause cancer. The kidneys don’t like it either. Smoking can raise your blood pressure and slow down blood flow to your kidneys.12 If you’re trying to quit smoking, counseling may be able to help. Nicotine replacement therapies, which help you deal with withdrawal by giving you small amounts of nicotine in controlled doses, have been found to be effective – they can even double your chances of quitting the cancer stick for good.13
8. Keep To A Healthy Weight
Being too heavy, that is, having a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or more can be bad for your kidneys. It is a risk factor for high blood pressure, which can then lead to kidney disease. A healthy weight loss plan that combines a balanced diet and exercise can help you achieve your weight goals. Have whole grains, fruits and vegetables, fat-free or low-fat dairy products and pick foods that are not high in added sugars, saturated fat, or trans fats. Also, each week, try to get in about 150 minutes of exercise that is moderately intense like cycling, swimming, or walking.
9. Have Soybeans, Blueberries, And Green Leafy Vegetables
We saw earlier that too much protein can stress out your kidneys. But not all proteins are equal. Animal studies have found that having soy protein instead of animal protein can reduce kidney disease.14 Here too, just be sure not to exceed your protein limit.
Delicious blueberries are another kidney-friendly food. They are rich in antioxidants that can protect your kidneys from damage caused by inflammation.15 Meanwhile, calcium-rich green leafy vegetables can ward off kidney stones.16 So factor these into your meals to keep your kidneys functioning optimally.
10. Chinese Rhubarb And Goldenrod May Help Improve Kidney Function
Chinese rhubarb and goldenrod may be able to help boost your kidney health. Herbalists consider goldenrod a renal tonic that improves the kidneys’ functioning and tone while Chinese rhubarb may protect your kidneys from damage.17 Weigh your options with the help of an experienced naturopath. And do keep your doctor informed so they don’t interfere with any medicines you’re on. These herbs can also have harmful side effects if you already have kidney disease, so self-medicating with these are a no-no.
|↑1||Your Kidneys and How They Work. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑2||Keep Your Kidneys Healthy. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑3||The Right Diet May Help Prevent Kidney Disease, New Study Finds. National Kidney Foundation.|
|↑4||Keeping your kidneys healthy. National Health Service.|
|↑5||Water – a vital nutrient. The Department of Health & Human Services.|
|↑6, ↑7||How High Blood Pressure Can Lead to Kidney Damage or Failure. American Heart Association.|
|↑8||Common High Blood Pressure Myths. American Heart Association.|
|↑9||Protein. Department of Health & Human Services.|
|↑10||The Right Diet May Help Prevent Kidney Disease, New Study Finds. National Kidney Foundation.|
|↑11||Alcohol and Your Kidneys. National Kidney Foundation.|
|↑12||Smoking and Your Health. National Kidney Foundation.|
|↑13||Using Nicotine Replacement Therapy. National Cancer Institute.|
|↑14||Anderson, James W. “Beneficial effects of soy protein consumption for renal function.” Asia Pacific journal of clinical nutrition 17, no. S1 (2008): 324-328.|
|↑15||Nair, Anand R., Carrie M. Elks, Jorge Vila, Fabio Del Piero, Daniel B. Paulsen, and Joseph Francis. “A blueberry-enriched diet improves renal function and reduces oxidative stress in metabolic syndrome animals: potential mechanism of TLR4-MAPK signaling pathway.” PLoS One 9, no. 11 (2014): e111976.|
|↑16||Avoiding kidney stones. Harvard Health Publishing.|
|↑17||Hechtman, Leah. Clinical naturopathic medicine – eBook. Elsevier Health Sciences, 2013.|