By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
September 15, 2021
People have so many health concerns as they age. They worry about their hearts, memory, eyesight, weight and so much more.
But when is the last time you wondered how your kidneys were doing? You really want to keep these 5 inch long bean shaped filters of your blood as happy as they can be.
But, kidney function decreases as we get older. And by the time we’re in our 60’s, kidney problems are pretty common. The problem is, nine out of ten adults with chronic kidney disease (CKD) don’t even know they have it! That means most people with poorly functioning kidneys are walking around the world unaware.
Awareness of kidney disease is clearly the first step in preventing CKD, or slowing down the progression of it if you already have it.
There are warning signs. But some of them are non-specific or common to other health concerns. That can make it hard to pin them down to kidney disease.
For example, if you’re tired, have trouble sleeping, can’t concentrate and your eyes are puffy it’s easy to say “Well yeah! I’m not sleeping well. So yes, I’m tired. I can’t think straight and I have puffy eyes”.
On the other hand, when your kidneys can’t filter waste from your body, toxins build up. This makes you feel tired while, at the same time, making it harder to concentrate and sleep. And kidney-related fluid retention can result in under-eye puffiness.
Other symptoms of kidney problems include:
- Muscle cramps due to electrolyte imbalance.
- Pain in your lower back near the kidneys.
- Changes in urination, such as a more frequent need to pee, foamy urine or urine that is bloody or discolored.
- Dry, itchy skin cause by an imbalance of minerals and nutrients in your blood.
- Decreased appetite due to toxic waste build-up.
What Contributes to Kidney Disease?
Not drinking enough water is one of the most common causes of kidney stones, which increase your chances of developing chronic kidney disease.
One way to know if you’re getting enough water is to check your urine. If it’s lightly colored or clear, you’re drinking enough. If it is yellow – and you aren’t taking a vitamin B supplement (which produces yellow or orangish urine) – you need to drink more.
Too much protein can be a major cause of chronic kidney disease. The average American actually eats about two times more than they need. All of this excess protein raises your uric acid levels and causes damage to the kidneys. Uric acid also produces crystals that contribute to kidney stones.
I recommend that active adults aim for about 0.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight. This number can be increased to 0.8 grams of protein per pound if you are athletic and concerned about strength or endurance training.
And remember! Meat and dairy aren’t your only sources of protein. You have a variety of natural, high-protein vegetarian options.
High sodium intake is horrible for your kidneys. Eating too much can increase your chances of CKD by about 30%. To control your salt intake, don’t just pay attention to your salt shaker on the dinner table.
Much of the salt you eat actually comes from processed, packaged, and restaurant foods. So, make sure you read your labels and stay under 1,500 mg of sodium each day.
Certain medications can cause a serious problem when it comes to your kidneys. Proton pump inhibitors, drugs often used to treat gastric reflux, are some of the worst. These over-the-counter drugs can lead to long-term kidney damage – without any warning signs at all. In fact, more than half of people on PPIs who develop chronic kidney disease or end stage renal disease have never had kidney problems before in their lives!
NSAID pain relievers are hardly any better. Drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen damage your kidneys and can lead to liver failure, with published data showing 15,000 deaths/year from their use. Whenever possible, try using alternatives to NSAIDs to manage your pain.
Too many soft drinks. For many Americans, diet and regular soft drinks are part of their daily routine. Both of these are associated with end stage renal failure and kidney disease. So look for some alternative ways to satisfy your fizz craving. I turn to my evening kombucha when I need a little fizzy pick-me-up. But seltzer water with some lemon or lime slices is a good choice, too.
Show Your Kidneys Some Love
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 produce some hormones and help regulate important blood chemicals. Taking steps to keep your kidneys healthy just makes sense.
If you want to have your doctor check your own kidney health, it’s a simple matter. They can do blood and urine tests that will look for markers of kidney disease.
The blood test will look for a waste product called creatinine. The amount of this substance helps estimate your glomerular filtration rate – or how well your kidneys are operating.
The urine test is looking for a protein called albumin. This tells the doctor whether your kidneys are working to filter your blood properly.
I find the easiest way to allow my patients to appreciate how important their kidneys are and how much better they can feel within a few days, is simply by hydrating properly. Try drinking half your weight (in pounds) x ounces over the day until a few hours before bedtime; so e.g. 180 lbs = 90 x ounces, or 2.7 liters/day is the way to go. So drink up!
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