By Jill Jackson
The kidneys perform three major functions: they remove waste products from your blood, they help manage sodium levels, and they help maintain the fluid balance in your body. This is why the overall condition of your kidneys has such a profound effect on your overall health and well-being.
Several factors can influence the health of your kidneys including your diet, lifestyle, and certain diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, hepatitis, nephritis and bacterial infections.
Here are some ways to keep your kidneys, and the rest of you, healthy.
Diet and Lifestyle Factors Affecting Kidneys
Drink a lot of water. Your kidneys use water to filter wastes from your blood. If you are not properly hydrated, your kidneys may not be able to do their job. Your kidneys also use water to dilute your urine. If the urine isn’t properly diluted, crystals can form inside your kidneys, which can turn into kidney stones.
Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Not only does fresh produce provide the nutrients you need, they are also full of water.
Regulate your sodium intake. The FDA recommends no more than 2300mg of sodium per day for healthy individuals, and no more than 1500mg per day in individuals with hypertension, diabetes, or existing kidney disease.
Reduce your consumption of processed foods. Packaged and processed foods tend to contain extremely high levels of sodium. Sodium levels are listed on most packaged foods, so check your labels. Fast food or take-out food is typically high in sodium and not usually labeled, so it is best to limit your consumption of these foods.
Keep your protein consumption within the recommended limits. The FDA recommends protein be no more than 15-30 percent of your diet. Consuming more protein than your body can handle could damage your kidneys.
Quit smoking. The chemicals in cigarette smoke can damage your kidneys, or make existing kidney damage worse.
Reduce your alcohol and soda consumption. Alcohol can damage the kidneys. Dark sodas may contain phosphorous, which can also damage the kidneys.
Take measures to avoid hepatitis. All forms of hepatitis (A, B, C) can be transmitted sexually or through blood contact. Hepatitis A can also be transmitted through oral exposure to fecal matter. If you live or work in an environment where you could come in contact with blood or needles, consider getting vaccinated for Hepatitis.
Here are a few facts you should know about Hepatitis:
- Hepatitis A is considered self-limited, meaning once the disease is cured it rarely returns.
- Hepatitis B can be self-limited or chronic, meaning it’s possible to cure the disease, but it can also recur in some people.
- Hepatitis C is a chronic disease, meaning there is no cure and it often recurs after the initial infection has passed.
To avoid hepatitis, you should practice safer sex and use caution with IV drugs, by taking these measures:
- Always use condoms, dental dams, and other barrier methods during sexual activity.
- If you take prescription IV drugs, such as insulin, avoid sharing needles or testing supplies.
- If you use illegal IV drugs, consider seeking help and avoid sharing needles and other supplies.
Medical Measures for Healthier Kidneys
There are steps you can take to monitor the health of your kidneys. Everyone should get regular medical checkups to screen for common diseases that can damage the kidneys, such as diabetes and hypertension.
If you have diabetes, take your medication as directed to keep your blood sugar under control. When your blood sugar is high, the kidneys have to use extra water to filter out the excess sugar. Excess sugar can damage the delicate structures, called nephrons, inside your kidneys. If you are having trouble keeping your blood sugar within the normal range (between 100 – 220 mg/dl), consult your physician.
If you have hypertension, take your medication as directed to keep your blood pressure under control. High blood pressure can damage the delicate structures inside your kidneys and impair your kidney function. If you have existing kidney disease, follow your doctor’s instructions for managing your disease, and return for frequent checkups.