We’ve all heard about detox teas, detox shakes, detox juices, etc. The truth is, the best detox you’ll ever get is through your kidneys & liver. When your kidneys and liver are healthy and you keep them that way (how-to’s will be discussed in this blog), you won’t need any type of detox regime. Kidneys work hard every day to clear your body of toxins. It makes it all the more important to know how to improve kidney health.
What do kidneys do exactly?
The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs located at the right and left sides of the spine, at the bottom of the rib cage. They are included in many different processes in the body, and, thus, it’s vital we take care of them as much as we can.
The kidney participates in whole body homeostasis (the state of internal, physical, and chemical conditions maintained by living systems. This is the condition of optimal functioning for the organism and includes many variables. Each of these variables is controlled by one or more regulators, or homeostatic mechanisms, which together, maintain life), regulating acid–base balance, or pH levels, electrolyte concentrations, extracellular fluid volume, and blood pressure. The kidneys accomplish these functions both independently and in coordination with other organs.
Formation of urine
Healthy kidneys filter urea and remove other waste products from your blood, such as excess water, which becomes urine. Your kidneys filter around half a cup of blood every minute. Waste, or urea, travels from the liver to your kidneys through your bloodstream. Urine then travels from the kidneys to the bladder through two thin tubes called ureters, one on each side of your bladder, where it’s later stored.
The kidneys are involved in making 2 main hormones, vitamin D and erythropoietin.
Vitamin D is important for numerous different functions in the body. It stimulates the uptake of calcium from food, helps in the maintenance of healthy bones, and also plays a role in the response of the immune system to infection. Most of the vitamin D that is in the blood is inactive, but it’s modified by the kidneys and other tissues - which activates it.
Erythropoietin is produced when oxygen levels in the blood are low. It stimulates the production of red blood cells to maintain healthy oxygen levels in our tissues.
Blood pressure regulation
The kidneys also produce hormone-like substances made from lipids (fats). These substances stimulate the production of renin. Renin is an enzyme, also produced by the kidneys, that plays an important role in the control of blood pressure.
Two organ systems, the kidneys and lungs, maintain acid–base functions. They are in charge of maintaining pH around a relatively stable value. The kidneys have two important roles in maintaining the acid–base balance:
- To reabsorb all the bicarbonate filtered from the blood and regenerate bicarbonate that has been lost in buffering acid produced during normal cell metabolism from urine.
- To excrete hydrogen ions and fixed acids (anions of acids) into urine resulting in a balanced bloodstream’s pH.
Regulation of osmolality
The kidneys help maintain the water and salt levels in the body. One of the kidney’s crucial functions is to achieve an electrolyte balance in the body by controlling urine salt concentration and water retention. However, the higher the salt intake, the higher the chances of having impaired kidney functionality.
How do you know if your kidneys are damaged?
Common kidney diseases
Kidney disease, also known as renal disease, is damage or lowered function of the kidneys. Some forms of kidney disease are progressive, meaning it gets worse over time. The kidneys fail when they can no longer remove waste from the blood. Waste buildup in your body is dangerous, and may cause serious problems leading to even death. This is why damaged kidneys affect your health. Blood will need to be filtered artificially through a process known as dialysis. Another possible solution is a kidney transplant.
Kidney stones are a common kidney issue. They appear when minerals and other substances in your blood crystallize in the kidneys. They then form solid particles, or stones, and move to the ureters (the tubes connecting the bladder and the kidneys), which is usually when most people start experiencing pain.
Passing kidney stones can be very painful, but it’s rarely an indication of more serious problems.
Glomerulonephritis is a group of diseases related to the part of the kidney that filters blood called glomeruli. It happens when the kidney is injured to the point where it cannot get rid of waste and extra fluid in the body. If the illness continues, the kidneys may stop working completely, resulting in kidney failure.
There are two types of glomerulonephritis—acute and chronic.
The acute type develops suddenly. Sometimes, you get better on your own. Other times, your kidneys may stop working unless the right treatment is started quickly.
The chronic form may develop silently, with no symptoms, over the course of several years. It often leads to complete kidney failure.
Polycystic kidney disease
This disease appears with the formation of cysts or pockets containing fluid within the kidneys. These cysts become enlarged with the progression of aging causing kidney failure. Polycystic kidney disease is a genetic disease caused by mutations, and polycystic kidneys can be susceptible to infections and cancer.
Chronic kidney disease
The most common form of kidney disease is chronic kidney disease. A major cause of chronic kidney disease is high blood pressure. High blood pressure can lead to a lot of increased pressure on the functional units of the kidney, called glomeruli. With constant increased pressure, the filtering parts of the kidneys are compromised and their level of functioning decreases.
Another big cause for chronic kidney disease is diabetes. People with diabetes may have uncontrolled blood sugar levels, and this, in turn, also causes damage to the functional units of the kidney, which may lead to kidney failure.
What foods are good for kidneys?
If you’re experiencing kidney issues, you should definitely limit your salt intake and stick to a low-salt, low-sugar diet.
Apart from that, here are some foods that are good for your kidneys:
Contain fibers, are low in calories, and contain lots of vitamins.
High in nutrients and fibers.
Fish that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. It is an essential nutrient that helps control blood clotting as well as potentially lowering blood pressure.
What vitamins are good for kidneys?
If you have healthy kidneys, you can take all the vitamins you’d usually take. There’s no reason why you should worry about specific vitamins if you’re a healthy individual. If, however, you have a kidney disease or problems with your kidney, there are some vitamins that are good for you and should possibly be supplemented.
Water-soluble vitamins include ascorbic acid (vitamin C), thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine, pyridoxal, and pyridoxamine), folacin, vitamin B12, biotin, and pantothenic acid. They are dissolved in water and readily absorbed into tissues. As they are not stored in the body, we need to replenish them regularly through diet or supplements. Any excess of water-soluble vitamins is excreted in urine and will rarely accumulate to toxic levels.
Vitamin C is most popular for its immunity benefits but has many other uses, as well. It is an antioxidant that reduces free radicals formed in the body and helps prevent them from damaging your functional body cells. It keeps the immune system healthy.
The B vitamins are essential vitamins that serve an important role for a wide range of functions in the body. These vitamins help with breaking down and turning food into energy, transporting nutrients throughout the body, synthesizing DNA, and assisting with the growth and development of many vital cell types. In addition, B vitamins may provide health benefits like supporting healthy brain and nervous system function, helping prevent the development of certain cancers, and fighting chronic fatigue and stress.
What supplements should be avoided with kidney disease?
The fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) are more likely to build up in your body, so these are avoided unless prescribed by your nephrologist, or kidney doctor.
What is good for kidney health?
In order to maintain your kidney health, there are a few things you could do in your day-to-day life.
Monitor your weight & blood pressure
People who are overweight or obese are at a higher risk for various health conditions, including those that can damage the kidneys.
High blood pressure can cause damage to kidneys, so measure your blood pressure regularly. If you have higher blood pressure than what is considered normal (120/80), consult your doctor.
Having an active lifestyle will improve your life and may help in the prevention of many diseases and conditions, including those concerning the kidneys. Being active doesn’t necessarily mean working out for hours every day. It may also be a long walk, or a short exercise.
Eat a healthy diet
A healthy diet that’s low in sodium, with reduced intake of processed meats and other processed foods, may help reduce the risk of kidney damage. Eating fresh ingredients that are naturally low in sodium will improve your overall health and kidneys as well.
Drink plenty of water
Regular, consistent water intake is healthy for your kidneys. The amount of water you should have per day depends on many factors, such as your lifestyle and climate. However, a good way to calculate your recommended daily water intake is to multiply your weight by 2/3 (or 67%) to get the amount of ounces you should drink. If you exercise, add 12 ounces of water to your daily total for every 30 minutes that you work out.
Get tested (especially if you’re high risk)
Who is considered high risk? Here is a list of potential factors that may contribute to someone being high risk for kidney diseases:
- people who are over 60 years old
- people who have cardiovascular disease, or have someone in the family with cardiovascular disease
- people who have high blood pressure or a family history of high blood pressure
- people who are obese or overweight
Kidneys are really important for your overall well-being. Following a healthy lifestyle may help in the prevention of many diseases, including those of your kidneys. If you think you might have an issue with your kidney, please seek medical help. Even if you don’t experience any symptoms, having a regular checkup at the doctor’s is always a good and smart idea.