The Vital Role of Your Kidneys

by Wellness Editor – MH

Your kidneys safely dispose of waste, while cleaning your blood in the process. As in many cases, keeping your kidneys in good shape is crucial to maintain your overall health. As in many cases, implementing a few diet and lifestyle changes can noticeably improve the health and performance of your kidneys.

The Purpose of The Kidneys

The kidneys are small fisted in size and bean shaped organs that lie near the middle of your back, underneath the rib cage area. Your kidneys have been given the not-so-glamorous job of being your body’s trash collector; in one day, they will process 200 quarts of blood. Of which, the kidneys will filter out approximately 2 quarts of waste materials and excessive water. This liquid waste and water is then sent by the kidneys to the bladder, where it is stored as urine, and eventually purged from your body when you urinate.

The Dangers of Kidney Illnesses

Like all other organs, the kidney can be subject to many threats, and by extension, your overall health.  One common problem is kidney infection, which is also referred to as pyelonephritis. This condition results from untreated bladder or urinary tract infections, which can spread to the kidneys through the urethra. Kidney infections cause a various painful and unpleasant symptoms, such as fever, frequent urination, a constant urge to urinate, burning sensations/pain while urinating and even pus or blood in your urine. An afflicted person may experience pain the back, abdomen, groin or on the sides of their body.

People who are diabetic run a high risk of suffering from diabetic neuropathy, an ailment that can damage the waste-filtering blood vessels in the kidney. Though diabetic neuropathy can be treated, in severe cases it can utterly destroy both kidneys, making it the leading cause of kidney failure. If the kidneys do indeed fail, a patient will either require dialysis (a process in which the kidneys are manually cleaned by a doctor) or a kidney transplant.

The second leading cause of kidney failure, unfortunately very familiar to Americans-  is high blood pressure. A rise in blood pressure significantly increases the work load on your kidneys, as the blood moves through the organs with much more force. As a result, the kidneys must work harder to push blood back into the body, causing them to wear out. Blood pressure-related kidney problems can easily catch a patient by surprise because the problem can go completely undetected until the kidneys begin to fail.

Kidney Stones

As anyone who has had this condition can attest, kidney stones are no picnic. They begin to form as salt and other minerals build up in the kidneys over time. These “pebbles” can vary greatly in size, as they can be as small as grains of sand or as big as golf balls. As the stone begins to travel trough the urinary tract, it may cause great pain in the afflicted person’s stomach, sides and groin. The patient may also urinate in a pink or red color, and experience nausea and vomiting. The kidney stone finally exits the body through the person’s urine, usually with a great deal of pain and discomfort.

The development of kidney stones can be linked to a number of factors. Kidney stones can be hereditary, so you are at an elevated risk if a family member has had kidney stones in the past. Adults over 40 are more likely to develop kidney stones than those under 40, and men tend to experience this problem more often then women. You can also trigger the growth of kidney stones by not drinking enough water, and by having a diet that is high in protein, sodium and sugar. Obesity can cause kidney stones, as can certain digestive surgeries and diseases, such as gastric bypass surgery, inflammatory bowel disease and chronic diarrhea.

If you find yourself at a higher risk of developing kidney stones, try following these tips:

 

Drink Lots of Water – Drinking 6 to 8 glasses of water can reduce your odds of getting kidney stones.

Keep Track of Your Urine – This idea may sound a bit strange, but it can be helpful for determining if you are adequately hydrated. You can track your fluid intake by measuring your daily urine output, which should be between 40 and 45 ounces per day. Your pharmacy should sell measuring devices that can fit inside your toilet bowl.

Don’t Overdo the Oxalates – A diet high in oxalates can have serious consequences for people prone to kidney stones. If your family has a history of developing kidney stones (specifically calcium-oxalate stones), you might benefit from cutting back on beets, chocolate, coffee, cola, nuts, parsley, peanuts, spinach, strawberries, tea, and wheat bran.

Avoid Vitamin C Overkill – A proper amount of Vitamin C is great for your health. But consuming an excessively high amount – more than 3,000 milligrams daily – can actually be very risky for those vulnerable to kidney stones. This is because oxalate, a key ingredient in some kidney stones, is made from calcium. Lay off the vitamin C supplements, and get your recommended daily allowance of the vitamin from food.

Modify Your Protein Intake – If you are at risk for developing uric-acid kidney stones, try and limit your intake of animal protein. This list includes anchovies, fish roe, herring, mackerel, mussels, sardines, and shrimp.

General Kidney Maintenance

Since your kidneys prevent your body from being overwhelmed by toxins and waste, it’s crucial to keep them healthy and operating at full strength. This goal can be accomplished by eating right and staying active.

Trim the Fat – Being overweight or obese puts you at a much greater risk of developing diabetes, which in turn can lead to kidney problems. Your best bet is to resist the temptation to buy foods that are loaded with calories and fat. Processed carbohydrates are also bad for your waistline. Replace these bad choices with fruits, vegetables, lean meats, nuts and seeds.

Work Out – Getting 30 minutes of moderate physical activity three times per week can greatly improve your mobility and circulation. When combined with a healthy diet, regular exercise can prevent extra pounds from accumulating on your body. Staying at a healthy weight is one way to prevent your kidneys from being overworked.

Pass the Salt – Salt may make all sorts of foods taste better, but it can also lead to high blood pressure. As noted earlier, high blood pressure is a major cause of kidney problems.

Keep Toxins at Bay – It’s not hard to find potentially harmful toxins in our food and medicines. If it’s medically feasible, avoid the consistent use of over-the-counter pain relievers and prescription drugs. When out grocery shopping, try to refrain from purchasing foods containing chemicals and pesticides.

Keep an Eye on Your Protein Intake – While it’s widely known that protein is nutritious for your body, people with kidney problems should carefully monitor and limit their intake. Despite it’s many benefits, protein creates a good deal of waste byproducts in your bloodstream, which can overburden weak or sickly kidneys.

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