The kidneys don’t get a lot of glory. In fact, many people don’t even know what their purpose is. But the reality is that the kidneys have an incredibly important impact on overall health and wellbeing.
The kidneys are two fist-sized organs. They are located at the bottom of the rib cage on each side of the spine. Their most important job is to filter out waste products, extra water, and impurities from the blood. Then, those waste products get stored in the bladder until they’re eliminated from the body through urine. (1)
In addition to filtering waste from the blood, the kidneys also perform the following functions: (1)
- controlling red blood cell production
- producing hormones that regulate blood pressure
- regulating salt, potassium, and pH levels in the body
- producing a type of vitamin D that aids the body in absorbing calcium, which allows it to build bones and control muscle function
It is important to maintain kidney health because when they are operating properly, the entire body benefits. Waste product removal and hormone production allow the body to function well. Additionally, studies have found that more than 10% of the world’s population suffers from chronic kidney disease. Focusing on kidney health can help to prevent the onset of chronic disease. (1, 2)
Follow these 10 tips to support kidney health and maintain overall wellness,
1. Drink Lots of Water for Kidney Health
Proper hydration allows the kidneys to function the way they’re supposed to. They need water to clear out toxins and excess sodium. (1)
Common recommendations for daily water intake are eight glasses, OR dividing body weight in pounds by half, and drinking the equivalent number of ounces. Example: if you weigh 140 lbs, you would drink 70 oz of water per day. However, a person’s hydration needs may change depending on their activity level, health status, medication, the climate where they live, and if they are pregnant or breastfeeding, among other factors. (1)
2. Monitor Blood Pressure for Kidney Health
High blood pressure is one of the most common causes of kidney disease, so it’s important to check blood pressure levels regularly. 120/80 is considered a healthy blood pressure reading. When a patient’s blood pressure reading is between 120/80 and 139/89, they are considered pre-hypertensive. However, it is still possible for people to lower their blood pressure with diet and lifestyle changes at this stage. (1, 3)
Consistent blood pressure readings over 140/90 could indicate high blood pressure. A doctor may recommend lifestyle changes and other solutions to prevent high blood pressure from creating kidney and heart issues. (1, 3)
3. Maintain a Healthy Weight for Kidney Health
Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for high blood pressure and other conditions that can negatively impact kidney health, like diabetes and heart disease. Weight can often be effectively managed with a healthy diet and regular exercise. Shoot for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week. Walking, swimming and cycling are all great options. (1, 3)
People who are struggling to meet or maintain a healthy weight may want to talk to their doctor. There could be an underlying issue making it more difficult to lose weight that a doctor could help identify and treat. (3)
4. Eat a Healthy Diet for Kidney Health
Eating a healthy diet is one of the best ways to keep blood pressure levels in an optimal state. And the foods a person consumes can help the kidneys function at their best. Avoid foods with too much sodium or fat, which can damage the kidneys. Focus on incorporating fresh produce and whole grains to create a diet that supports kidney health. (1, 3)
5. Manage Blood Sugar for Kidney Health
People who have diabetes need to pay extra attention to their blood sugar to keep from damaging their kidneys. When there is too much glucose in the blood, the kidneys have to do extra work to filter it out. Over time, this can cause damage to the kidneys that is potentially fatal. Effectively managing blood sugar prevents this damage from happening so that the kidneys do not become overworked. (1)
6. Quit Smoking for Kidney Health
Smoking puts kidney health at risk in several different ways. It raises blood pressure, which is a risk factor for kidney disease. Smoking also shrinks blood vessels. This reduces the amount of blood that can flow to and through the kidneys, which can worsen existing damage. For those who smoke, quitting can support both kidney and overall health. (1, 3)
7. Limit Alcohol Intake for Kidney Health
Excessive drinking can cause damage to the kidneys. This damage can happen because of binge-drinking (consuming more than five drinks on one occasion) or more slowly through drinking too much, too often. In fact, studies have found that alcohol use disorder doubles the risk of chronic kidney disease. (4, 5)
Alcohol is one of the toxins that the kidneys have to filter out of the body. The kidneys of excessive drinkers have to work much harder because there are more toxins to filter out. Additionally, alcohol affects the kidneys’ ability to do their jobs. It makes them less effective at filtering blood and regulating the body’s fluids and electrolytes. (4)
Over consuming alcohol can also raise blood pressure. While having one or two drinks every now and again won’t have a significant impact on the kidneys, drinking too much can have dire consequences for these important organs. (4)
8. Keep an Eye on Over-the-Counter Medicine Intake for Kidney Health
Many people don’t think twice about taking over-the-counter pills for mild aches and pains. But overusing nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen can damage the kidneys. (1)
For people who don’t have kidney problems, taking NSAIDs every once in a while shouldn’t cause issues. But people who take them daily could be putting their kidney health at risk. Those who are struggling with chronic pain, frequent headaches, or arthritis should talk to their doctors about pain management that won’t hurt the kidneys. (1)
9. Take Care with Supplements and Herbal Remedies
People with kidney problems who are planning to take natural supplements or herbal remedies should consult an experienced health provider in this area. Some supplements can be harmful to the kidneys if taken in disproportionate amounts. Like any treatment, it’s important that anyone with a serious condition consult with a trained health provider to determine if a supplement or herbal remedy may support their health. (6)
10. Get Kidneys Tested
People who have risk factors for kidney disease should get their kidney function tested regularly. If there are any changes, knowing about it sooner can give a patient and their doctor the opportunity to intervene early and slow the damage down, while preventing more damage from occurring. People with the following risk factors may want to participate in regular kidney screenings: (1, 6)
- high blood pressure
- heart disease
- family history of heart disease or high blood pressure
- possible kidney damage
Follow these tips to support kidney health and keep the body in tip-top shape!
- Choi MD J. 8 Ways to Keep Your Kidneys Healthy. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/kidney-health. Published May 29, 2020. Accessed November 3, 2020.
- Eckardt K-U, Coresh J, Devuyst O, et al. Evolving importance of kidney disease: from subspecialty to global health burden. Lancet. 2013;382(9887):158-169.https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0140673613604390
- Keeping your kidneys healthy. NHS Choices. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/keeping-your-kidneys-healthy/. Published December 20, 2017. Accessed November 4, 2020.
- Drinking Alcohol Affects Your Kidneys. National Kidney Foundation. https://www.kidney.org/news/kidneyCare/winter10/AlcoholAffects. Published March 3, 2017. Accessed November 4, 2020.
- Pan C-syuan, Ju TR, Lee CC, et al. Alcohol use disorder tied to development of chronic kidney disease: A nationwide database analysis. PLOS ONE. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0203410. Published September 6, 2018. Accessed November 4, 2020.
- Urinary and Kidney Team. 7 secrets to keeping your kidneys healthy. Clevelandclinic.org. Published August 16, 2019. Accessed December 14, 2020. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/7-secrets-to-keeping-your-kidneys-healthy-2/