Here’s a remarkable fact: Every 30 minutes, all the blood in your body travels through the kidneys.
And every single day—thanks to your kidneys—more than two quarts of waste are cleared from your bloodstream and removed from the body as urine.
Without this vital kidney function, waste would accumulate and serious damage to the organs throughout your body would occur.
But, if you’re like most folks, kidneys aren’t much of a concern until something goes wrong—as many as half of all people with kidney problems don’t know they are at risk.
And these hard-working little organs deserve better!
That's why, in honor of National Kidney Month, today we reveal the most dangerous threats to your kidneys and 10 of the best, natural ways to protect them.
What Causes Kidney Disease?
We live in a world filled with unavoidable chemicals, toxins, and corrosive materials, things that overload our kidneys and force them to work harder than they should. Beyond filtering toxins from your blood, your kidneys are also…
- Overseeing distribution of important minerals.
- Regulating your acid/alkaline balance to keep your body from becoming too acidic.
- Managing your body’s fluid levels.
- Releasing three essential hormones involved in blood pressure, bone building, and maintaining healthy red blood cells, among their other duties.
In addition, dehydration remains a problem for the majority of people—if you’re not drinking plenty of fresh, filtered water every day, you could be putting your own kidneys at risk. That's why it's important to remain vigilant and find ways to support your body's built-in filtering system.
What are the symptoms of Kidney diseases?
One great starting point is to get to know the main symptoms of possible kidney problems. These include:
- Back pain, especially when it’s sudden and intense
- Frequent, urgent need to urinate
- Unusual fatigue
- Swollen legs, hands, feet, or ankles
- Blood in the urine or difficulty urinating
- Puffy eyes
- Ridges in fingernails
- Skin problems
- Nausea or vomiting
- Metallic taste in the mouth
Early identification and intervention go a long way toward preventing a minor issue from developing into one or more serious ailments that typically attack vulnerable kidneys.
From Wrong to Worse: Infection and Disease
Two of the most common kidney problems are infections and kidney stones.
Technically, kidney infection is a form of urinary tract infection (UTI) resulting from E. coli bacteria gaining access to the urinary tract and connecting with the kidneys. This form of infection is common and generally treated with antibiotics.
Kidney stones, on the other hand, are solid, chemical deposits that form inside the kidney—often due to dehydration. A kidney stone can be nearly invisible to the naked eye, as large as a marble, or bigger.
Tiny kidney stones pass out of the body in the urine, so you’re never aware of those. Larger kidney stones, however, can become lodged in the ureter, a thin tube connecting the kidneys and the bladder.
When they become stuck, these stones can cause severe pain in the side or back, blood in the urine, and difficulty urinating.
It can take days or even weeks for a kidney stone to pass on its own. So, if you’re experiencing kidney stone symptoms, see a health care professional as soon as possible.
Types Of Some Serious Kidney Diseases
In addition, there are three types of serious kidney disease—acute renal failure, chronic kidney disease, and end stage renal disease. Here they are, at a glance:
Acute renal failure (ARF)
Acute renal failure (ARF) can occur due to an injury or ingesting toxic substances. ARF generally responds well to treatment, especially if the kidneys are not severely damaged.
Chronic kidney disease (CKD)
When kidneys gradually lose the ability to function, it is typically due to chronic kidney disease, the most common type of kidney ailment. Often, there are no symptoms of CKD until the condition has advanced. Then patients could experience numbness and/or swelling in the hands and feet, frequent urination, nausea, anemia, and poor appetite.
End stage renal disease (ESRD)
End stage renal disease 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.
While not common, kidney cancer appears to be on the rise. In its 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.
Prevention is Key to Fighting Kidney Disease
Now that we’ve looked at the bad news, you’ll be happy to hear that there’s a good side here, too, and it is this: For the most part, the conditions that lead to kidney problems are avoidable. And, often times, very avoidable.
A great way to start is by asking your health-care professional for blood panel readings of three key measures of kidney health: the BUN (blood urea nitrogen) and creatinine levels and your eGFR (Estimated Glomerular Filtration Rate) numbers.
Here's a quick overview of the two:
BUN / Creatinine Tests
The eGFR test
Scores from these tests tell you how strong your kidneys are now. Other kidney function tests are available, if there is higher risk or suspected kidney problems.
Knowing your numbers can help you stay on top of the situation so you can alter any behaviors that may be harmful.
10 Ways to Keep Kidney Pain From Ruining Your Day
Another way to steer clear of kidney problems is at-home prevention. Here are 10 additional steps that you can take on your own to help keep your kidneys healthy and free from disease:
Staying thoroughly hydrated is one of the best ways to treat kidney stones and keep your kidneys strong. Water dilutes urine, and that prevents minerals and salts from clustering together and forming stones. People who are more at risk for kidney stones may want to start the day by drinking fresh lemon juice in a glass of room temperature water.
It's important to have healthy populations of these friendly bacteria flooding your gut. Multiple studies link these microorganisms to better overall and digestive health, but they also help assist your kidneys in processing waste materials and help reduce your likelihood of developing kidney stones.
A recent clinical trial involving patients with chronic kidney disease found that the group taking probiotics showed both improved kidney function test scores as well as overall quality of life.
3) Eat Less Meat
Go easy on animal protein. Kidney stones are most common in populations that consume a great deal of meat. Aim for less than 65 grams of animal protein per day, which is a little more than two ounces.
And if you must eat meat, choose meat from animals not treated with antibiotics or hormones whenever possible. For example, look for organically raised, grass-fed beef over commercially raised beef the next time you are at your grocer.
4) Avoid Phosphorous
You rarely hear about the mineral phosphorous, probably because deficiencies are so rare, especially for anyone eating the standard American diet. But that’s why phosphorous is becoming a problem, particularly for kidneys.
The mineral 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, but when kidneys don’t work well, phosphorus accumulates in the body—potentially causing serious conditions, like bone and heart disorders, as well as tissue calcification (hardening).
So, watch your phosphorous intake. The easiest way to make sure you’re not getting too much phosphorus is to eat a nutritious, whole foods diet and avoid all fast and convenience foods.
5) Quit Smoking
If you're still smoking in 2021, this might be the wake-up call you need—simply put, smoking hurts your kidneys.
If that is one of your vices, now is as good a time as ever to stop.
6) Drink Juice
One of the best ways to support good kidney health is with daily juicing. If you have not discovered juicing yet, a good rule of thumb is to use a greens product that provides a healthy serving of essential nutrients.
Our go-to juicing combination includes one entire bunch of cilantro or parsley (two herbs that are kidney-friendly and help remove heavy metals from the body) mixed with water, lemon juice, and raw, organic honey to taste.
If you are going to make juicing a part of your daily routine, here's a word of caution: Juicing removes all or most of the fat, protein and fiber content that a fruit or vegetable may have to offer.
Even though the sugars remaining in the juice are naturally occurring, they can cause a blood sugar “spike” and, in turn, an insulin spike to help return your blood sugar levels back to normal—over time, this can lead to insulin resistance.
So, if you already have or you’re at risk for diabetes, be careful about your juicing regimen. To prevent dangerous blood sugar spikes, consider adding 1-3 teaspoons of powdered psyllium husk fiber to your juice to help slow the induction of sugar into your blood stream.
7) Eat These Foods
Stock-up on kidney-supportive foods, including watermelon, berries (cranberries, blueberries, and strawberries), peppers, apples, garlic, onions, cabbage, cauliflower, and olive oil.
Fiber-rich, whole foods, are also top-notch for overall digestive health—helping to prevent constipation, improve waste removal and even lower your risk of colon cancer.
8) Lose Some Weight
If you’re carrying around extra pounds, do your kidneys a favor and work toward shedding a few pounds. Obesity has been linked to an increased likelihood of developing kidney cancer.
9) Ditch the Pain Relievers
Slash your risk of kidney cancer further by minimizing your use of pain relievers, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like 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.
While your doctor may recommend aspirin for cardiovascular reasons, make sure you discuss the potential risk factors—low dose aspirin has benefit for certain heart conditions, but avoid using higher doses.
10) Epsom Salt
Removing waste and toxins gives your kidney a boost while improving your overall health, so treat yourself to a detox bath in Epsom salts.
Simply add two cups of Epsom salt to a nice warm bath and soak for at least 15–20 minutes. Epsom salts are available in almost every pharmacy or grocery store—and are extremely inexpensive.
Take Control of Your Kidney Health
Making any of the changes listed above will benefit your kidneys, along with your overall health. But, there are three significant threats that really require action on your part.
If you’re suffering from high blood pressure, pre-diabetes, or diabetes, your kidneys could really be suffering, and you may not find out until it is too late.
The good news is that these conditions can be improved with natural remedies and lifestyle changes, but those will require some commitment.
We hope you’ll agree that taking care of your kidneys is a worthwhile goal and make the necessary changes to protect these vital organs.
Take good care.
Disclaimer: Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
Last Updated: May 20, 2021
Originally Published: October 1, 2013