How do I keep my kidneys healthy?
PJ emailed Check Up asking, very briefly, “What is good for the kidneys?” This little question is dynamite!
It’s the first time we’ve ever received a question relating directly to the kidneys! Yet, kidney disease is like the more well-known hypertension, a silent killer!
The kidneys are two organs located in the lower back, in the loin region, on either side of the spine. They filter waste material as well as help to regulate blood pressure and to stimulate production of red blood cells.
They maintain internal fluid levels and balance the body’s electrolytes (sodium, potassium, and phosphorous), and they assist in activating vitamin D.
We might not know the Jamaican statistics, but kidney failure is the ninth-leading cause of death in the US.
Without the kidneys being healthy and able to filter waste, within hours the toxins inside you can build up to a lethal level. You must have at least one functioning kidney to live.
If your kidneys fail, there are only two choices – dalysis or a kidney transplant. Dialysis is a procedure where machines try to take over some of the functions of the kidney by removing the accumulating toxins.
Many people have kidney disease and just don’t know. It is thought that kidney disease kills more people than breast or prostate cancer. Some signs to watch for which could indicate failing kidney function are:
- Decreased urination.
- Urge to urinate more often.
- Dark, pinkish or foamy urine.
- Fluid retention with swelling of the feet, face, and eventually the abdomen.
- Increased thirst.
- Fatigue, weakness, sleepiness.
Kidney failure is usually a side effect of some other medical condition such as diabetes or heart disease. Your risk for developing kidney failure is increased by the following:
- Diabetes is the leading cause.
- High blood pressure.
- Excessive alcohol consumption.
- Autoimmune disease.
- Long-term use of over the counter and prescription painkillers like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory painkillers (Ibuprofen, Diclofenac, Meloxicam, Piroxicam, Indomethacin, Naproxen and many more)
- Long-term use of antibiotics and even some herbal medications. Penicillin, cephalosporin and sulphonamide antibiotics are detoxified through your kidneys, and prolonged use of them can harm your kidneys
- Kidney stones, which impair blood flow.
If you have any or the above risk factors, you should have a blood test done to check on your kidney function each year.
To protect and improve your kidney health, please try to include the following suggestions in your lifestyle plans:
- Check your blood pressure frequently and ensure that it is well controlled (at around BP 120\80 - 130\80)
- Ensure a normal blood sugar by checking on this regularly.
- Reduce your salt intake.
- Do some form of exercise for at least 20 minutes almost every day.
- Lose weight if you are overweight or obese.
- Drink ½ ounce of water for each pound of body weight daily.
- Avoid sodas.
- Avoid refined sugars which induce inflammation in your tissues
- If you smoke, stop now
- Avoid the prolonged use of over-the-counter drugs without getting some advice from your doctor.
Kidney-friendly foods which ingestion is associated with improved kidney health include:
- Cauliflower, celery, asparagus
- Red bell peppers
- Cranberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries
- Red grapes
- Egg whites
- Avoid artificial sweeteners and caffeine
Reduce other animal food portions, avoid processed meats like bacon and sausages. Avoid cheeses, milk and yoghurts because of their protein content.
Treating kidney failure is a most intrusive process on our body and can require life time procedures, so try to avoid kidney disease if at all possible!
If you don’t have any risk factors, then a yearly check-up with blood pressure and blood sugar checks, and lab and urine tests, is the only way to keep an eye on your kidney function.
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