play an essential role in your overall wellbeing, as they are necessary for filtering toxins and excess water from your blood, with the ultimate goal of converting them into urine to flush out your system. If your kidneys don't function properly, harmful toxins and waste can build up in your body and bloodstream, which is detrimental to your health. While you might think of your kidneys as those two bean-shaped organs in your body that only require a passing nod, that they are self-sufficient and take care of themselves, in a way the opposite is true. Many of your everyday lifestyle habits can have a significant impact on the health of your kidneys, affecting their function and health for good or bad. Check out these steps you can take to actively keep your kidneys in great shape, so they are able to successfully serve their purpose in your body.
1. Drink Plenty of Water
In order to properly flush waste from your system, your kidneys need an adequate supply of water and fluids. When you maintain sufficient hydration, your body produces urine that is light colored and free from odor, since it does not have to do as much work to move the urine freely through your body. Not drinking enough water can contribute to kidney stones, and it can also cause dark, strongly-scented urine—both signs that your body is stealing extra fluid from bodily functions because it's not receiving enough water from you, according to WebMD
2. Watch Your Vitamin D Levels
According to a study
in the National Kidney Foundation's American Journal of Kidney Diseases, low vitamin D levels may predict kidney disease. The study also demonstrates that low vitamin D
levels may be able to contribute to the development of the urine protein albuminuria, which is often a sign of kidney damage. Since vitamin D is often obtained through sunlight, it can be difficult to keep your levels up safely without incurring sun damage. If you're deficient in vitamin D, other ways to increase your levels are through supplements and foods like eggs, specific sea foods and orange juice, for example.
3. Don't Overuse Painkillers
While you might reach for an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) or painkiller when you feel a headache coming on, doing so too frequently can negatively affect your kidneys. Regularly using full-strength painkillers for a long period of time can contribute to damaging the tissue and structure of kidneys, says the National Kidney Foundation spokesperson, Leslie Sprey
, M.D., FACP. Acupuncture and supplements like SAMe
are a couple ideas for naturally fighting different types of pain without reaching for potentially kidney-damaging painkillers. Before taking supplements, make sure you get your doctor's approval.
4. Cut Back on Sodium
Regularly consuming high levels of sodium can increase blood pressure, which is a factor in causing kidney failure. An article
from the Journal of Nephrology states that restricting the sodium intake in people who are susceptible to kidney damage (for example, those who have hypertension or diabetes
) or those who already have kidney damage is an essential way to prevent further or initial renal damage. While healthy kidneys are able to rid your bloodstream of excess salt, kidneys that have been damaged are not able to do so as effectively; high sodium levels often result in increased blood volume and pressure, making your heart work overtime to propel your blood through your blood vessels. This can cause damage to your blood vessels and hurt your kidneys further.
5. Stop Drinking and Smoking
We all know that drinking and smoking are not good habits to begin with, but an added incentive for your decision to quit them should be that they play a large role in the health of your kidneys. A study
from Hypertension Research: Official Journal of the Japanese Society of Hypertension Research asserts that smoking cigarettes may increase the amount of specific kidney-damaging proteins found in the urine. In addition, a research article
from Murray Epstein, M.D. states that those who drink alcohol in excess may have low blood concentrations of essential electrolytes, dangerous changes in the body's acid-base balance and a disruption in hormonal control mechanisms, which control the function of kidneys. In essence, there is a direct correlation between chronic alcohol consumption and kidney damage.
6. Add More Kidney-Friendly Foods to Your Diet
Your diet can play a crucial role in the health of your kidneys, so it's a good idea to start adding some of these to your next grocery-shopping list. Davita Healthcare Partners, the largest kidney care company in the United States, recommends
adding these antioxidant and vitamin-rich foods to your diet if you are currently in treatment for kidney disease or trying to eat healthier for kidney protection:
Red Bell Peppers
Your kidneys are key components in the machine that is the human body, so it's critical to take care of them in order to prevent damage in the future. Start taking little steps now in order to make big changes in the future in terms of your kidney health.
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