It's National Kidney Month! Which means there's no better time to talk about that incredible pair of bean-shaped organs stored away in the back of the abdomen. While they may be small, the kidneys are always hard at work. So active, in fact, that all of the blood in our bodies passes through the kidneys several times each day. In doing so, the kidneys remove excess wastes, help to control the body's fluid balance, and regulate electrolytes (the minerals in your body that help keep you charged throughout the day).
Why is kidney health so important?
Kidney function is integral to living a healthy and vital life. In addition to the aforementioned functions, one in three Americans are at risk of developing kidney disease due to high blood pressure, diabetes, or a genealogical history of kidney failure. Of course, you might not fall into any of those categories, but it's still absolutely crucial to make sure that those little fist-sized organs are in good working order.
Below you can learn more about different ways to benefit your kidneys, while making sure to check in with your doctor about what may be right for you and your lifestyle.
It's widely known that your health is largely affected by your diet and the amount of exercise you get. Your kidney health is no exception. For starters, stay hydrated. But be careful, because there is such as thing as over-hydration. Stick with the recommended four to six glasses a day. Any more could actually be harmful.
Speaking of diet, if you have Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) or other kidney problems, you may need to make some changes in your eating habits. Your kidneys are rather durable; however, a lot of kidney problems arise out of other medical conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, which are largely affected by diet. There are several foods, or "super foods," as it were, that researchers have found to be very beneficial for those with these conditions that can also help to control weight and blood pressure, and in turn, keep the kidneys in good shape. Foods high in antioxidants, fibers, and vitamins, such as red bell peppers, onions, apples, cauliflower, and berries, can help to neutralize free radicals, protect the body, and make for a rich and overall balanced renal diet.
One common result of renal failure is malnutrition. To compensate, Pro Stat Renal Care is a rich, enzyme-hydrolyzed protein formula available in a ready-to-drink shake that helps to manage blood levels of albumin, protein energy, and bowel regularity. Another great option is Renalcal Nutritional Supplement. Renalcal is dense in calories, low in protein and electrolytes, and is an excellent way to decrease fat mal-absorption. It comes ready-to-use and can be served either via tube feeding or oral supplement.
If you have diabetes, be mindful of your blood glucose levels and do your best to keep them under control. TrueBalance Blood Glucose Monitors by Invacare, for instance, are a great tool for monitoring your blood sugar and glucose levels in your blood. If you find yourself in a pinch, and need a quick carbohydrate boost, Glucose Tablets by Can Am Care provide fast-acting carbs without any of the unnecessary fat or sodium typically found in a lot of carbohydrate-rich foods.
It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's... Super Foods!
So what are these "super foods," you ask? Many kidney-friendly foods, such as cabbage, cauliflower, garlic, and raspberries, contain natural antioxidants that can help to protect against oxidation. These are especially beneficial for dialysis patients and individuals with CKD. Red bell peppers, for instance, are delicious, low-potassium vegetables that are an excellent source of vitamins A, B6, and C, folic acid, and fiber.
DaVita has a convenient list of 15 Healthy Foods For People With Kidney Disease. For any further helpful tips on ways to incorporate these super foods into your renal diet, consult a renal dietitian. They can give you plenty delicious and easy recipes to get you on the right track to a well-balanced, three-meals-a-day diet that will keep your kidneys happy.
Medications are obviously another way to stay healthy and happy. What a lot of people underestimate, however, is that with kidney disease comes greater risks and side effects from a lot of medications, even with those bought over the counter. Medications are filtered by the kidneys, so naturally, they are the organ at greatest risk for some of these negative effects. Not only that, but when your kidneys aren't working properly, medications can easily build up, causing your body a lot of damage.
Several pain medications, such as acetaminophen, can reduce blood flow to the kidneys. Even antibiotics and antiviral medications pose a greater risk with kidney disease, so it is crucial that you are aware your how your kidneys are doing when taking these medications. If you are on any sort of cholesterol or diabetes medications, talk to your doctor about adjusting the levels to compensate with your kidneys' level of health. Another group of medications to be careful with is antacids. These can easily disrupt the body's electrolyte balance in individuals with CKD.
New adaptations in life aren't always easy. Hopefully you now feel better informed when it comes to the health of your kidneys and are on the way to a life full of vitality!
Kidney Health Resources:
- Silverberg, Charles, DO, and David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial Team. "Diet - chronic kidney disease". U.S. National Library of Medicine. A.D.A.M., Inc. April 5, 2016. MedlinePlus. April 7, 2016.
- Unknown Author. "5 Drugs You May Need to Avoid or Adjust If You Have Kidney Disease." National Kidney Foundation. National Health Council. 2016. Kidney.org. April 7, 2016.
- Unknown Author. "Specialty Enteral Feedings for Kidney Disease." Nutrition 411. HMP Communications LLC. March 12, 2013. HMP. April 6, 2016.
- Unknown Author. "Keep Your Kidneys Healthy." National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. September 17, 2014. NIH. April 7, 2016.
- Urinary Kidney Team. "7 Secrets to Keeping Your Kidneys Healthy: Best Plan: Prevent Common Diseases That Harm Kidneys." Health Essentials. Cleveland Clinic. April 22, 2015. Cleveland Clinic. April 7, 2016.
- Young, Bessie, MD, University of Washington; William McClellan, MD, Emory University; Dr. Young. Harold Feldman, MD, University of Pennsylvania. "The Kidneys and How They Work." National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. May 2014. NIH. April 7, 2016.