The kidneys are vital organs responsible for waste management that is crucial to maintain you body’s chemical balance and blood pressure. If you don’t take good care of your kidneys, you’re risking a slew of health problems, some of which could cause them to shut done altogether. Some of the most common kidney-linked diseases are kidney stones, urinary tract infections, and hypertension.
Kidney disease and diabetes can also go hand in hand — in fact, kidney disease is the most common cause of early death in people with diabetes. According to the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 25.8 million Americans have diabetes, and the high blood sugar levels that go along with diabetes require the kidneys to work harder to filter out excess blood.
To avoid potential health risks like this, and to protect your kidneys, follow these few simple steps:
Eat Fruits and Vegetables to Reduce Acid Build-Up
According to research published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, including more fruits and vegetables in your diet can minimize your risk for kidney injury and metabolic acidosis — a condition in which the body produces too much acid. An overabundance of acid can cause symptoms including rapid breathing, fatigue, confusion, and, in extreme cases, even shock or death. Fruits and veggies help the kidneys remove excess acid from the body and excrete it in urine.
Adding more fruits and vegetables has specifically helped patients with chronic kidney disease, who are most susceptible to metabolic acidosis. These patients are usually treated with bicarbonate and other alkali supplements. But doctors at Texas A&M University College of Medicine in Temple, Texas, wanted to see the effect of simply eating more fruits and vegetables — both of which are good, natural sources of alkali.
Researchers randomly treated 71 stage 4 chronic kidney disease patients with either a diet including fruits and vegetables or an oral alkaline medicine. Both groups showed similar kidney function, decreased rates of metabolic acidosis, and lowered rates of kidney injury. “Our study suggests that these interventions will help maintain kidney health in those with kidney disease,” said researcher Nimrit Goraya, MD, of Texas A&M University College of Medicine, in a press release.
Take Fish Oil to Make Dialysis Work Better
According to a new study published in Kidney International, omega-3 fatty acids like those found in fish oil may protect dialysis patients from sudden cardiac death. The researchers looked at blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids in 400 dialysis patients, 100 of whom died in their first year of treatment. The risk of sudden cardiac death is highest during the first year of dialysis.
“We found that higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood of patients who were just starting hemodialysis were very strongly associated with a lower risk of sudden cardiac death over the first year of their treatment,” said study author Allon N. Friedman, MD, of the Indiana University School of Medicine, in a press release. “This study is a first step toward identifying a possible treatment for sudden cardiac death in dialysis patients,” added Dr. Friedman.
Cut Back on Salt, Protein, and Water
The body expends a lot of energy expelling unnecessary things like excess salt, protein, and even water, and the kidneys, as the body’s filtration system, are key to this system. So if you plug them up by consuming too much of any of these things, they are going to have to work even harder, maybe even to the point of breaking down.
Take sodium, for example. Although sodium is integral in maintaining healthy fluid balance, if excess salt is not properly filtered out in someone with kidney disease, it can cause high blood pressure and lead to far worse health risks, including heart attacks and strokes.
Additionally, eating too much protein — more than one gram per pound of body weight — can also strain the kidneys, causing them to work harder to remove blood urea nitrogen from the body, and potentially resulting in kidney malfunction.
Similarly, drinking too much water (yes, there is such a thing — it’s called Hyponatremia) when you don’t need it puts more stress on your kidneys, and can lead to renal damage. Your kidneys can only filter about 27 to 33 ounces of water every hour.
Hold on to Your Fitness
According to a review published in The Cochrane Library, regular exercise benefits those living with chronic kidney disease (CKD) as well as those who have undergone a kidney transplant. The review notes that those who exercised not only improved their overall physical fitness but also had healthier blood pressure and heart rates, as well as overall good nutrition and lifestyle profiles.
In analyzing 45 different studies with a total of over 1,800 participants, researchers found that patients on dialysis, those who did not yet need dialysis, and recipients of transplants all benefited from exercise. Resistance training aided walking ability, yoga helped with muscle strength, and cardiovascular exercise improved aerobic capacity.