When I talk to my patients about good kidney health, preventing or getting rid of kidney stones is the first thing that comes to their mind. While kidney stones may be one of the more common health concerns for your kidneys, they certainly are not the only one.
Your kidneys do so much to keep you healthy – they filter toxins like mercury, copper, arsenic, pesticides from our food, out of your blood. They also regulate certain minerals like calcium and potassium so that your heart functions correctly. In addition, they balance the water supply for your entire body! Today, I’d like to talk to you about how to keep your kidneys healthy both to prevent stones and to keep the rest of you functioning at optimum health!
Symptoms of Kidney Dysfunction
Your kidneys are located just above your waist on either side of your spine protected inside your rib cage. The very first tell-tale sign of something wrong in your kidneys may be either a dull ache, or even sharp pain, on either side of your back at the waist. Sharp pain usually indicates the presence of a kidney stone moving around or trying to pass, while a dull ache could mean either the beginning of a kidney stone or other kidney problems. Here are some other things you may notice:
- Generalized itching all over
- Marked fatigue
- Darker than normal urine
- Blood or pus in urine
- Muscle cramps
- Darkened skin
- Loss of appetite, nausea and/or vomiting
- Swelling of the hands or feet
Now, it’s important to know that often times temporary dehydration, from sweating too much and not drinking enough water or replacing essential minerals, can result in some of the above symptoms, especially the muscle cramps and fatigue. However, once you start replacing necessary fluid levels and minerals, these symptoms should stop. If any of these symptoms persist, especially if you see blood or pus in your urine, and/or start to have very dark urine in general, see your doctor immediately.
Who Is At Risk For Kidney Disease?
As I tell my patients, there are several lifestyle issues that can put you more at risk for kidney disease than other people. These are chronic alcohol consumption, smoking, and recreational drug use. If you stop these behaviors in time, it’s a good bet you can regain your kidney health.
However, there are others who are also at risk from kidney disease and they include:
- People over 50 – kidney function naturally starts to slow down with age.
- People with diabetes – diabetes and kidney function go hand in hand.
- People with hypertension – high blood pressure puts a lot of strain on the kidneys.
- Family history of kidney disease – kidney disease tends to run in families.
- Athletes – heavy training can cause a chronic state of dehydration.
How Can You Maintain Good Kidney Health?
The best way to keep your kidneys healthy is to:
1) Adopt a healthy lifestyle: No smoking, recreational drugs, or heavy alcohol consumption.
2) Stay well-hydrated: Drink adequate amounts of water. This helps flush out toxins and regulate blood pressure. The National Institute of Health recommends drinking 91 ounces of water per day if you are a woman and 105 ounces a day if you are a man. High-water content vegetables and fruits like watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumber, tomato also add water.
3) Eat a Kidney Healthy Diet:
- Limit protein: Excess protein (specifically animal) increases wear and tear on kidneys by adding too much nitrogen and uric acid to the blood. This in turn causes dehydration as it takes more fluids to try and clear these elements. Limit your animal protein to 8 oz per day (limit whey protein bars to one, 25-30 gram protein bar per day). Add more vegetable proteins like legumes, beans, whole grains.
- Kidney Healthy Fruits/Vegetables: Red Bell Peppers, apples, cabbage, cauliflower, cranberries, strawberries, cherries, asparagus, iceberg lettuce, green beans, radishes, turnips, cottage cheese, eggplant.
- Limit dairy products: Dairy contains a lot of phosphorous which can build up in the kidneys. 2-3 servings a day are good. However, keep in mind that you do not really need to consume dairy to get much needed calcium. Substitute with bananas, tofu, spinach, broccoli which are also low in phosphorus.
4) Exercise: Regular physical exercise helps your kidneys remove toxins from your blood faster as it speeds up metabolism.
5) Watch Your Weight: Excess weight can cause high blood pressure which can damage kidneys.
If you have persistent symptoms of possible kidney disease, such as those mentioned above, please contact your doctor who can order certain blood and/or x-ray tests for you to determine if your symptoms are kidney-related. However, a healthy lifestyle, whole foods diet, and adequate amounts of water, can both help you prevent kidney and heart disease and stay healthy long into your golden years!
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
Natural Health News