Maintaining good kidney health can prevent the risk of chronic kidney diseases, urinary tract infections (UTIs), kidney stones, and more.
The kidneys, a pair of bean-shaped, fist-sized organs are one of the major organs in the excretory system. They help the body filter waste and remove excess water and other toxins from the blood in the form of urine.
Additionally, the kidneys regulate blood PH or the acid-base balance, maintain electrolyte concentrations, and produce hormones that control blood pressure or support organ functions.
To keep them functioning at optimal capacity and ensure the overall well-being of the body, we just need to follow some basic health tips that are listed below.
1. Follow a healthy diet
Eating a balanced diet is good for the general health of your body including the kidneys.
A bad diet loaded with processed foods that are high in sodium, sugar, or fat can lead to an increased risk of obesity, high blood pressure, or diabetes. These conditions can result in kidney damage over time.
Keep your kidneys functioning in top condition by including:
- Lots of fresh vegetables such as cauliflower, bell peppers, cabbage, garlic, onions
- Fruits such as blueberries, apples, cranberries, pineapple, and the juice of lemons
- All whole grains especially kidney beans, buckwheat, barley, and brown rice
- Egg whites, skinless chicken, and fish such as salmon, mackerel, or Albacore tuna
- Macadamia nuts
- Olive oil
Individuals having kidney disease or wanting to focus on kidney health can avoid/ eat less of:
- Fried foods
- Salty foods
- Pickled foods
- Dried fruits
- Processed meats
- Canned foods
Summary: The food you eat plays a role in determining the kidneys’ health. Choose healthy foods and avoid processed and junk foods that can be detrimental to kidney health.
Read more: Chicken with Mushrooms and White Wine Recipe
2. Keep fit and manage your weight
Along with a balanced diet, regular physical exercise is essential to maintaining an ideal weight and enhancing kidney health.
Routine exercising can be good for obese people who struggle to lose weight, individuals having high blood pressure, and diabetics who need to lower blood sugar, all of which can cause kidney damage.
Calculating your body mass index (BMI) can provide insight into how thin or obese a person might be and help to get started in following an exercise routine (1).
Fitness exercises do not mean one needs to hit the gym every day. Engaging in moderately-intense activities such as brisk walking, cycling, aerobics, dancing, swimming, or any other sport at least 5 days a week can do wonders for your health.
Check with a practitioner for the most suitable exercise for you. Start slowly and increase exercise time gradually till you get into a comfortable daily routine.
Summary: Physical exercise can aid in overall health by keeping your body fit and free from disease. Making it a routine can also help to control comorbid conditions that can cause significant kidney damage.
3. Stay well hydrated
Almost everyone is familiar with the adage saying ‘Drink 8 glasses of water a day.’ When it comes to kidney health that is necessary and true.
The kidneys are the filters for your body to remove impurities and waste from your body through urine. A low water intake can eventually leave the body dehydrated, resulting in a lesser output of urine and an increased risk of kidney stones.
A minimum intake of water which is about 2 liters per day is required for good kidney health.
Whether you need more depends on other factors such as hot climate, gender, intense exercise routines, over-sweating, or if you have had kidney stones before. Such conditions necessitate increasing daily water consumption by another 1 liter or so.
Summary: Adequate water intake of 2 liters or more is necessary to ensure optimal urine output and toxin removal and prevent the risk of developing kidney stones.
4. Get adequate sleep
Sleep is very important for sustaining physical and mental health. Sleep helps the body to repair, heal, and perform its functions effectively.
The regulation of kidney functions is governed by the sleep-wake cycle. Sleep disturbances can affect the way kidneys function and sometimes lead to kidney damage.
Studies show that too few or prolonged hours of sleep can contribute to chronic kidney disease (CKD) and increased prevalence of glomerular filtration (2).
Getting good quality and just enough sleep for about 7-8 hours a day can ensure good kidney functioning and health in individuals.
Summary: Improper sleep can affect the effective functioning of the kidneys. Getting good quality sleep for 7-8 hours daily can help maintain kidney health and prevent the risk of kidney diseases.
Read more: 25 Expert Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep
5. Manage your blood sugar levels
High blood sugar or serum glucose levels can lead to diabetes, a common cause of kidney damage. The kidneys are equipped with tiny blood vessels that act as filters.
Very high sugar levels can lead to the narrowing of these blood vessels eventually resulting in kidney damage.
Diabetic nephropathy or diabetic kidney disease is the most common condition caused by high diabetes. If not detected or prevented early it can result in complete kidney failure.
The best way to prevent kidney damage due to diabetes is to manage your sugar levels well. Following a healthy lifestyle, cutting down on high-sugar foods, and following a practitioner’s advice on medications, can prevent or treat kidney disease effectively.
Summary: Diabetes is one of the most common reasons for kidney damage in many individuals. Managing blood sugar levels early on can prevent a serious risk of kidney diseases.
6. Keep blood pressure in check
Hypertension or high blood pressure can have a detrimental effect on kidney health. The kidneys do a great job of filtering blood continuously to remove toxins and waste for good health.
When high blood pressure occurs, it constricts the arteries carrying blood. This means the kidneys will have to work harder to do their job. Over time, the kidneys become incapable of filtering blood efficiently resulting in serious damage or kidney failure.
Your doctor will diagnose high blood pressure if the reading is close to or above 140/90 and prescribe medicines to lower it. Taking medications on time with lifestyle modifications can help manage blood pressure and prevent the risk of kidney damage.
Summary: High blood pressure can result in severe kidney damage or failure. Early diagnosis and able management of blood pressure can lower the risk of kidney failure.
7. Ensure you consume the right amount of proteins
Proteins are important for our health and need to be included in our daily diets. They are the building blocks and our body uses proteins for growing muscles, repairing cells, digesting food, and more. Proteins can be obtained from both plant and animal sources.
When it comes to kidney health, the type and amount of protein individuals need to consume can vary. While too much protein can be hard on the kidneys which are involved in waste removal, too less protein can lead to malnutrition.
In recent times, studies suggest shifting consumption to more plant-based proteins which are easily digestible and go low on animal-based products (3).
A practitioner can guide you on the right amount of proteins required for your health, based on factors such as gender, age, and medical conditions that indicate your risk factor for kidney disease.
Summary: Knowing what proteins to eat is important for good kidney health. Research suggests using more plant proteins but a doctor can help suggest a suitable protein diet that can protect and enhance kidney health in individuals.
8. Refrain from smoking
Smoking is bad for the body as it results in blood vessel damage.
There are about 70 carcinogens or chemicals present in tobacco that are capable of causing cancer by causing damage and mutations to the cell’s DNA. As a result, there is reduced blood flow which affects the entire body including the kidneys.
Excessive smokers are greatly susceptible to renal cell carcinoma (RCC), a type of kidney cancer. Studies show that smoking tobacco is a strong factor for bladder and renal cancer and abstaining from smoking reduces the risk factor (4).
So, if you are addicted to smoking, considering e-cigarettes or trying nicotine-replacement therapy (NRT) in consultation with a practitioner can help prevent the risk of kidney disease and help with improved well-being.
Summary: Smoking can be damaging to health and the kidneys are no exception. Addictive or long-term smoking can cause renal cancer. Opting for tobacco alternatives with a doctor’s advice can lower the risk of kidney cancer and damage.
9. Restrict the use of alcohol
Alcohol is an intoxicating ethanol-based drink that affects the normal functioning of your body. When ingested, alcohol mixes with blood rapidly which makes it difficult for the kidneys to filter it out easily.
Alcohol is also a diuretic which means that there is more water loss from the body leading to a dehydrating effect. This affects the kidneys’ ability to regulate fluids and electrolytes.
Excessive use of alcohol can hamper kidney functions as it affects blood pressure. High blood pressure is found to be one of the leading causes of kidney damage (5).
Reducing alcohol consumption can lower blood pressure and the strain on the kidneys, preventing the risk of kidney diseases significantly.
Summary: Consuming large amounts of alcohol can impact kidney functions to a great extent. Reducing alcohol intake can lower blood pressure and prevent the risk of kidney disease.
10. Stop taking frequent OTC pills or antibiotics
If you are a person who keeps reaching out for over-the-counter (OTC) pills, think again.
Frequent and excessive use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen is taken to treat pain or inflammation, which can cause potential damage to kidneys.
Antibiotic medications may be prescribed to treat certain bacterial infections. Studies show that like NSAIDs, prolonged use of antibiotics can lead to nephrotoxicity resulting in rapid deterioration of kidney functions (6).
Seeking the advice of a practitioner before taking any antibiotics or NSAIDs can keep you safe from kidney damage.
Summary: The frequent consumption of OTC drugs or antibiotics may have a serious impact on kidneys health. Check with a practitioner before the use of such medication to avoid side effects and protect your kidneys from potential damage.
Read more: The Top 20 Diseases Linked to Leaky Gut
11. Exert caution in using herbal supplements
While herbal supplements for many medical conditions or overall well-being are often touted as natural and safe, people need to be aware that they may induce side effects that can sometimes affect kidney functions.
Most herbal supplements are not regulated by the FDA and hence there are no assurances regarding their safety in consumption.
Also, natural herbs or other plant-based extracts can worsen kidney conditions or interact with prescribed medications, leading to further damage.
Always check with a practitioner regarding the suitability and necessity of herbal supplements to prevent adverse effects.
Summary: Self-use of herbal supplements should be restricted as many are not guaranteed safe. They can interact with prescribed drugs for medical conditions and lead to increased kidney damage.
12. Opt for regular screening
If you have medical conditions such as diabetes mellitus, blood pressure, or a family history of heart disease or kidney failure, it is advisable to go for kidney function screening at periodic intervals as suggested by a practitioner.
Individuals over 60+ years or those who are extremely obese can benefit from regular kidney function tests to rule out the risk of kidney damage or disease.
Strange as it may seem, individuals should get screened for kidney function tests if they were born with low birth weight. Studies show that people who had low weight at birth may be predisposed to chronic kidney disease in adulthood (7).
Summary: Undergoing regular screening of kidney functions can indicate its health. Individuals with medical conditions, aging people, and obese people can get themselves screened to prevent the risk of developing kidney diseases.
The Final Note
The kidneys play a vital role in ensuring the overall wellness of your mind and body. Maintaining kidney health is possible by making suitable lifestyle changes early on.
Eating healthy food, following fitness routines, getting adequate sleep, reducing smoking, alcohol, processed foods, and more can keep the kidney healthy and working in top condition.
Individuals with chronic health conditions that act as markers for increased risk of kidney diseases, should get screened regularly and follow a practitioner’s advice in using medications and supplements, to lower the incidence of kidney damage and live a healthy life.