10 Tips to Protect Your Kidneys and Keep them Healthy

Woman in a Garden
August 4, 2014 (Updated: February 21, 2019)
Lily Moran

Every thirty minutes, your kidneys filter all of the blood in your body, removing toxins from the blood, excreting them in urine, and preventing damage to all of your organs. Your kidneys also regulate the alkaline/acid balance in your body, preventing you from becoming dangerously acidic.

Regulating acid and toxins is dangerous work. Your kidneys are vulnerable to toxic overload if you don’t protect them.

There are three types of serious kidney disease – acute renal failure, chronic kidney disease, and end stage renal disease.

Acute renal failure (ARF) is when your kidneys abruptly stop working because of an injury or ingesting toxic substances. ARF may respond well to treatment, if the kidneys are not severely damaged.

When kidneys gradually lose the ability to function, it is typically due to chronic kidney disease or CKD, the most common type of kidney ailment. Often, there are no symptoms of CKD until the condition has advanced. Then patients may experience numbness or swelling in the hands and feet, frequent urination, nausea, anemia, and poor appetite.

Finally, end stage renal disease (ESRD) is a serious condition in which there is no or very little kidney function remaining, and the damage to the kidney is permanent. At this point, a patient is looking at daily dialysis sessions or a kidney transplant.

Kidney cancer, while not common, does seem to be increasing in prevalence. In the early stages, there are few symptoms. As the cancer advances, symptoms may include blood in the urine, fever that comes and goes, fatigue, back pain, and weight loss. Kidney cancer can be treated with surgery, radiation, and assorted drugs, depending on its location, size, type, and the overall health of the patient.

Ready for some good news? Kidney diseases are largely preventable. And there are ten steps you can take to keep your kidneys healthy and strong.

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Ten Steps To Keeping Your Kidneys Healthy

Start by asking your doctor for blood panel readings of your BUN (blood urea nitrogen) and creatinine levels and your eGFR (Estimated Glomerular Filtration Rate) numbers.

Test Testing Healthy Results
BUN Kidney and liver function 10-20 mg/dl
Higher indicates kidney problem
BUN/creatinine ratio Kidney effeciency 10-20:1
Higher ratios ok in men and older people
eGFR Kidney damage Greater than 60 mg/min

Scores from these tests tell you how strong your kidneys are now. Because kidney diseases can be symptom-free, you may not notice anything wrong before you’ve suffered irreparable damage. To prevent getting in that situation, I advise you to:

  1. Drink lots of water. This is the most important step in keeping your kidneys strong. At a minimum, I recommend you drink one-half ounce of water for every pound you weight, so a 200 pound man would drink 100 ounces of water every day. That may sound like a lot, but it’s really just ten 12oz glasses a day—about one 12 oz glass every two hours. Drink more after strenuous exercise or if you live in a dry climate.
  2. Take daily probiotics. Probiotics (good bacteria) help your kidneys process waste materials and contribute to overall digestive health. A recent clinical trial involving patients with chronic kidney disease found that the group taking probiotics improved kidney function test scores as well as overall quality of life.
  3. Lower your phosphorous intake. When kidneys don’t work well, phosphorus accumulates in the body, causing potentially serious conditions, such as bone and heart disorders, as well as calcification (hardening) of tissues.
    Phosphorous is found in most foods, but carbonated soft drinks and prepared, processed foods are especially high in phosphorus. You only need 800 mg to 1,200 mg of phosphorus each day; higher amounts are flushed from the body by healthy kidneys.
  4. Drink green juice. Green foods aid in detoxification. I juice cilantro, a kidney-friendly herb, with water, lemon juice, and honey. If you don’t juice, a greens supplement is a good alternative.
  5. Eat kidney-supportive foods, in addition to cilantro and its relative parsley, try these:
    • Watermelon
    • Cranberries
    • Blueberries
    • Strawberries
    • Apples
    • Cabbage
    • Cauliflower
    • Peppers
    • Garlic
    • Onions
    • Olive oil
  6. Lose weight. Obesity has been linked to an increased likelihood of developing kidney cancer.
  7. Avoid pain relievers, especially non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Nuprin), naproxen (Aleve), and acetaminophen (Tylenol). Products like these are very hard on the kidneys. Even worse, researchers have found that these drugs increase the risk of developing kidney cancer. Never mix NSAIDs and alcohol.
  8. Take a bath in Epsom salts. This is a basic detoxification measure. Removing waste and toxins gives your kidneys a boost while improving your overall health.
  9. Control your blood. High blood pressure and diabetes are two big threats to your kidney function. Controlling your blood sugar and blood pressure are your best bets for maintaining normal kidney function.
  10. Stop smoking or other uses of tobacco. The toxins damage your kidneys.

 And here’s a little bonus tip, especially if you’re already on dialysis for kidney-related problems. Sudden cardiac events are a real danger for dialysis patients accounting for roughly 43% of deaths.

But, according to a study published by the International Society of Nephrology, patients with the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids had substantially lower risk of sudden cardiac death compared to those with the lowest.[1]

We already know how beneficial omega-3 fatty acids are for your heart and brain, for reducing inflammation and, in turn, preventing or easing countless inflammatory conditions. So here’s one more reason to keep your omega-3 levels high!

While there’s no evidence that omega-3s will protect you against kidney ailments…they do a great job of keeping the rest of your body safe and healthy. I recommend 1,000 – 1,500mg, combined, of EPA and DHA daily.

I hope you’ll agree that taking care of your kidneys is a worthwhile goal and make the necessary changes to protect these vital organs.

[1] https://www.kidney-international.org/article/S0085-2538(15)55885-7/fulltext

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