By David Blyweiss, M.D.
If you’re like most of my patients, you actively try to take steps to promote good health. Preventing chronic diseases like diabetes and Alzheimer’s while boosting your heart health is one of your top priorities. But when was the last time you thought about your kidneys? If you can’t remember, maybe it’s time you start.
Your kidneys are one of your most important organs. They’re responsible for filtering about 200 quarts of blood every day. They also filter 2 quarts of extra water and waste products, which eventually becomes urine. Plus, your kidneys also produce some hormones and help regulate important blood chemicals. Taking steps to keep your kidneys healthy just makes sense.
Here are 6 tips to help you do just that:
- Drink plenty of pure water every day. Staying well hydrated helps maintain the volume and concentration of blood. It also promotes good digestion, regulates body temperature and washes toxins from the body. For most people, that means drinking about 64 ounces of water every day.But if you have kidney problems or if you’re active and sweat a lot, boost that amount so you are drinking half the amount of your body weight in ounces. For example if you weigh 160 pounds, you should drink at least 80 ounces—or 10 glasses—of filtered or purified water every day.
- Don’t “hold it.” One of the major jobs your kidneys perform is to filter the blood in your body. When it’s done filtering, extra water and waste products are stored in your bladder, waiting to be excreted. But your bladder can only hold about 14 ounces of water—which isn’t much.When you ignore the need to go to the bathroom, your bladder stretches more than it was designed to. So when you finally do urinate, your bladder doesn’t completely empty. And this can lead to a urinary tract infection.
- Drink fresh juices. While juicing isn’t a “cure-all,”regularly enjoying fresh fruit and vegetable juices can help keep your kidneys healthy. Juicing daily allows the digestive system to absorb additional water and helps flush toxins and waste out of your body. But if you suffer from kidney stones, it’s important to avoid juices made from spinach, beets, collard greens and some other vegetables. These vegetables are higher in oxalic acid which promotes the formation of kidney stones.1
- Eat right. Almost everything that happens inside your body is affected by the kind of foods you eat. If the foods you eat are toxic and unhealthy, then it will eventually affect body organs – including your kidneys. This is one reason I recommend avoiding highly processed and refined convenience foods and fast foods.What should you eat? Foods that strengthen kidney function including green tea, watermelon, asparagus, garlic, parsley, celery and fish.
- Take the right supplements. The same cranberry extracts that protect your bladder can also keep your kidneys healthy. The secret to this small red berry’s effectiveness is its ability to keep bacteria from sticking to the lining of the kidneys. Cranberries also reduce inflammation and pack a potent antioxidant punch.2 To maintain kidney health, take 400 mg of a standardized cranberry extract daily. Double the dose if you are suffering from a urinary tract infection.It’s also important to take supplemental vitamin D.New research shows vitamin D deficiency and kidney problems go hand in hand.3 Make sure you’re getting enough D by taking 2,000 IU every day.
- Watch your weight. If you are overweight or obese, you’re at higher risk of kidney stones and kidney cancer. According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, obesity doubles the odds you’ll develop kidney stones. Eating a sensible whole foods diet, watching your portions along with a regular exercise program can help you drop extra pounds and improve kidney health.
Your kidneys were designed to last for a lifetime. Caring for them properly with these six tips will help keep them healthy and happy while promoting good health from head to toe.
- Penniston KL. Effect of dietary changes on urinary oxalate excretion and calcium oxalate supersaturation in patients with hyperoxaluric stone formation. Urology. 2009;73:484-489.
- Han CH. Protective effects of cranberries on infection-induced oxidative renal damage in a rabbit model of vesico-ureteric reflux. BJU International. 2007;100:1172-1175.
- Bhan I. Clinical measures identify vitamin D deficiency in dialysis. Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. 2010;5:460-467