Your kidneys are among the most important organs in your body. Your kidneys are responsible for filtering over 50 gallons of blood throughout your body every day! This post gives you an overview of why your kidneys are vital and what you can do to keep them healthy.
What Do Your Kidneys Do?
Each hour, your body’s total blood supply circulates through your kidneys about 12 times. 99% of the blood is reabsorbed and redistributed, while only 0.1% is filtered into urine.
Your kidneys are located against your back muscles in the upper abdominal cavity. Each kidney sits opposite each other separated by the spine. The right kidney sits a little lower than the left to make room for your liver.
Kidney disease is known as a silent killer because of how it slowly and innocently develops in the body. Your kidneys are one of the toughest organs in your body, which is why it takes months or even years for damage to your kidneys to be noticeable.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to nail down the exact symptoms of kidney disease. People who suffer from failing kidneys deal with general, non-specific symptoms like not feeling well and having no appetite. These vague symptoms are another reason why it’s referred to as a silent disease.
Your kidneys are actually able to lose 90% of their functioning ability without you realizing it. By that time, it’s too late to prevent any further complications. However, you can still lead a normal life with only 20% total kidney function. Regular check-ups are important and potentially life-changing if you can catch kidney disease developing early.
Another critical role played by your kidneys is maintaining your body’s homeostasis. Homeostasis refers to keeping many areas of your body regulated like your temperature, blood pressure, and glucose concentration, for example. Your kidneys work in unison with your other organs to ensure your body is running correctly.
Causes Of Kidney Disease
Diabetes is one of the most common causes of kidney disease. About 35% of adults with diabetes have developed chronic kidney disease.
Hypertension, glomerulonephritis and poor diet and lifestyle (smoking, eating poorly, lack of exercise) are also known causes. If you smoke, drink, and have a poor diet, it’s worth getting regular blood, and urine tests before kidney disease has a chance to develop.
If kidney disease is developing in your body, you may also notice you have foamy urine or blood in your urine. Contact a doctor right away if you notice these symptoms. Having protein in your urine (proteinuria) is also another common symptom.
Kidney disease can also cause fatigue, unnatural levels of thirst, puffy eyes, and feelings of weakness.
What Are Kidney Stones?
The most common ailment related to the kidneys is kidney stones. Kidney stones are a recurring problem; however, they rarely cause long term damage.
Kidney stones are made from excess carbohydrates, minerals, and sugars. Stones start to develop when there is a decrease in urine and an excess of these substances. This is why dehydration is a major risk factor for developing stones.
About 12% of American men and 5% of American women suffer from kidney stones at least once in their life. Men are more susceptible to stones between the ages of 40 and 70 & women are more vulnerable in their 50s.
In most cases, the stones are passed through the urine. In extreme cases, lithotripsy treatment or surgery may be needed. Treatment for kidney stones includes pain control medicine and sometimes medication to help stimulate the passage of urine.
The Top 10 Foods That Cause Kidney Stones
What you put in your body has a direct impact on your ability to deal with or avoid kidney stones. Here are some foods and diet habits that will make your stones worse:
- Sweet potatoes
The above 6 foods are high in oxalate, which can contribute to kidney stones. Oxalate binds to other minerals in your body like calcium and iron, which makes kidney stones more likely to develop.
As mentioned earlier, being dehydrated increases your risk of developing kidney stones. Water will help dilute the substances that will eventually turn into stones. Try drinking at least 3 liters of water a day to help keep your kidneys healthy.
Not enough calcium
It may sound counterintuitive, but sometimes not having enough calcium in your body can cause kidney stones. Low levels of calcium in your diet cause oxalate levels to rise, which leaves you more prone to stones. You can take calcium supplements, but ideally, try and get your calcium from food. Yogurt, cheese, and other milk-based products will ensure you have healthy calcium levels
Too much Sodium
Too much sodium in your diet encourages calcium to buildup in your urine. Stay away from high sodium foods and avoid adding salt to your meals. Try and reduce your sodium intake to around 2000mg a day. Reducing your sodium levels and drinking more water go hand in hand when it comes to protecting stones.
High levels of animal protein
Too much animal protein in your diet raises the level of uric acid, which contributes to kidney stones. Try and limit the amount of red meat, poultry, and seafood in your diet. If you have a kidney stone flair up, switch to plant-based protein sources for a few days. High-protein diets also reduce the levels of citrate in your body, which is a chemical that stops kidney stones from forming.
Tips For Keeping Your Kidneys Healthy
It’s easy to see the important role your kidneys play on a day to day basis. In return, you need to do whatever you can to help keep them functioning at a high level. Here are some tips for keeping your kidneys healthy:
- If you have diabetes take control of your blood sugar levels
- Keep your cholesterol in a healthy range
- Avoid salt in your diet
- Stop drinking alcohol regularly
- Make physical activity a priority
- Stop smoking cigarettes – Find a reason to quit
- Keep yourself hydrated with water
- Include dark green vegetables in your diet
- Stay away from soft drinks which are high in sugar and phosphate
- Get more citrus juices in your diet (100% juice, not punch or juice cocktails)
- Get more calcium-rich foods in your diet