21 Jul, 2023
Kidneys are one of the critical organs of the human body. From waste filtration to vitamin D activation, from blood pressure regulation to blood sugar regulation, the kidneys are responsible for numerous biological activities within the body. Therefore, it is important for us to know how to keep kidneys healthy, how to improve kidney function, and lastly, understand how prevention of kidney disease can be achieved.
Kidneys have several functions within the body, and therefore, keeping them healthy is of paramount importance. The following are the important functions of kidneys:
Millions of filtering units, called nephrons, are present in the kidneys. These nephrons consist of glomerulus and tubules. The role of the glomerulus is to filter the blood, and the function of the tubule is to reabsorb the important substances from the filtered solution.
The kidneys regulate fluid balance through a process called osmoregulation. During this process, the kidneys adjust the quantity and concentration of urine.
Kidneys regulate blood pressure by secreting a hormone known as renin. When there is reduced blood pressure, kidneys secrete renin. Renin constricts the blood vessels, thereby increasing blood pressure.
Red blood cell formation occurs in the bone marrow. This process of red blood cell formation is known as erythropoiesis. Erythropoietin, a hormone secreted by the kidneys, assists erythropoiesis.
Vitamin D, which is synthesized in the presence of sunlight or administered as a supplement, is in its inactive form. An enzyme, 1-alpha hydroxylase, in the kidney, converts the inactive form of vitamin D into its biologically active form.
The kidneys regulate the acid-base balance by maintaining a fine balance between the reabsorption of bicarbonate ions and the excretion of hydrogen ions.
The kidney also detoxifies the body by screening and filtering the toxins out of it. The detoxification procedures include glomerular filtration, active processes, and passive diffusion.
Kidneys, through regulating various substances, such as sodium, potassium, and calcium, maintain electrolyte balance.
The kidneys maintain optimal blood sugar levels through various mechanisms. These include the excretion of glucose from the circulation, reabsorption of glucose from the glomerular filtrate, and formation of glucose through gluconeogenesis.
The kidney is a vital organ, and its health is of prime importance for maintaining the overall health of the body. Thus, it is important to protect the health of the kidneys and follow measures that reduce the risk of kidney diseases, especially in individuals at increased risk of kidney diseases, such as patients with diabetes. For better guidance on how to care for kidneys, one may talk to a nephrologist.
The internet is flooded with questions, like “How to keep kidneys healthy?”, “How to know your kidney is healthy?”, “How to maintain kidney health?” or even “How to improve kidney function?” In this section, we are extensively discussing the important kidney health tips that are going to help in the prevention of kidney diseases and keep the kidneys strong and healthy.
Some of the best exercises for kidney health are:
Adequate blood circulation is important for the overall health of the kidneys and improved kidney function. Aerobic exercises, such as jogging, brisk walking, cycling, dancing, and swimming, improve heart rate, enhance circulation, and control blood pressure, which is important in enhancing kidney health.
Resistance training is also touted to be the best exercise for kidney health. Resistance exercises support healthy kidney function and are effective in patients with chronic kidney diseases.
Several balance exercises, such as straight-line walking, backward walking, and standing on one leg at a time, keep the patients fit, improve muscle health, and improve the overall kidney health.
Yoga and stretching relax the body, and these are some of the best exercises for kidney health. They improve sleep and provide proper rest for the body. They keep the internal organs healthy and detoxify the whole body.
Some of the foods good for kidneys are:
It is one of the best foods for kidneys. Unlike several other vegetables, red bell peppers have a low potassium content. They are rich in vitamin A, vitamin B9, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and lycopene. Red bell peppers are also good for patients with chronic kidney disease.
Several nutritional constituents are present in cabbage, which makes it a good food for kidney health. These protect the kidney cells from the damaging effects of free radicals. Cabbage is low in sodium and potassium and is rich in vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B complex, and fiber. This makes it the best food for kidneys. Cabbage juice is found to protect the kidney against lead-induced toxicity.
One of the important vegetables good for kidneys is cauliflower. Cruciferous vegetables are rich in vitamin C, vitamin B9, and fiber. Cauliflower contains glucosinolates, indoles, and thiocyanates. These compounds assist the liver in neutralizing toxins that may harm the cells of the body, including the kidneys. Further, cauliflower, in steamed and mashed form, is a great alternative to mashed potatoes for patients with kidney disease.
Garlic is also one of the foods good for kidneys. It enhances kidney function through several mechanisms. It reduces inflammation, which negatively affects kidney health. Second, it has a diuretic property that assists the kidneys in performing their function, thereby making it a good food for kidney health.
These are rich in vitamin C and calcium. They improve kidney function by reducing blood viscosity and lowering blood pressure, which makes onions the best food for kidney disease.
Apple is low in phosphorus, potassium, and sodium, so it is the best food for kidney disease. Apples also have excellent anti-inflammatory properties that accelerate the healing of injured kidney tissues.
When it comes to fruits, cranberries are good for kidneys. Cranberries are high in vitamin C and low in phosphorus. It also lowers the risk of urinary tract infections.
Blueberries are considered the best food for kidney health, thanks to their powerful antioxidant properties that prevent the free radicals from damaging the kidney cells. They are also rich in vitamin C, which improves the immune system and reduces the risk of urinary tract infections.
Raspberries contain a significant amount of vitamin C, manganese, vitamin B9, and fiber. It also contains an antioxidant compound, ellagic acid, which helps neutralize free radicals. Hence, raspberries can be included in the diet for kidney patients.
Strawberries are one of the fruits good for kidney health. They are low in sodium and potassium, and therefore, consuming them can positively impact kidney function and kidney health. It contains antioxidants, vitamin C, manganese, and fibers.
Cherries have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It contains a low amount of sodium, potassium, and phosphorus and a high number of phytochemicals and antioxidants.
Red grapes contain a flavonoid known as resveratrol. It increases the blood flow to the kidneys. Red grapes also possess anti-inflammatory properties. Lastly, red grapes are also one of the fruits good for kidney health.
Unlike meat or egg yolk, egg white has a lower phosphorus content, which makes one of the foods good for kidneys. It provides essential amino acids and maintains albumin levels.
Obesity and overweight increase the risk of hypertension and diabetes, which in turn increase the risk of kidney disease. Maintaining a healthy weight through routine exercise and a kidney-friendly diet is important. A well-planned diet for kidney patients comprises vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products.
Studies have concluded that poor sleep increases the risk of developing chronic kidney disease. People should take measures to improve sleep duration and quality, especially those at increased risk of kidney diseases. Poor sleep directly causes renal dysfunction through sympathetic nervous system activation and indirectly through increased inflammation, resulting in glomerular injury. People should aim for at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night.
Smoking increases the risk of kidney diseases through several mechanisms. Firstly, it reduces the effect of blood pressure medications, resulting in poorly controlled blood pressure. High blood pressure may cause kidney disease. Secondly, smoking reduces blood flow to the kidneys and other vital organs. In patients with kidney diseases, quitting smoking may reverse or delay the progression of kidney damage. Smokers should consult their doctors regarding customized measures that may help them quit smoking.
Apart from increasing blood pressure and causing gastric ulcers and bleeding, several over-the-counter medications, especially anti-inflammatory medications, have a damaging effect on the kidneys. Those wondering how to maintain kidney health should avoid taking these medications frequently or for a prolonged period. They should consult with their healthcare providers before taking these drugs.
People who drink alcohol in excess quantities are at twice the risk of kidney disease. This risk further increases if the person is also a smoker. The kidneys of heavy drinkers need to function harder. Prolonged heavy drinking results in kidney dysfunction. Further, people who drink a considerable quantity of alcohol within a short period of time have dangerously high blood alcohol levels. It causes an acute kidney injury. Therefore, it is important to drink in moderation, or better, quit alcohol consumption.
If not managed, prolonged stress results in several harmful effects on the body, such as a faster heart rate, increased blood pressure, and higher fat and sugar levels in the blood. High blood pressure and high sugar levels in the blood damage the filtering units of the kidneys, resulting in kidney dysfunction. It is, therefore, important to practice stress-reducing activities. These include getting involved in hobbies, doing yoga and meditation, sleeping well, and performing prayers.
High blood sugar levels damage the filtering units of the kidneys, resulting in diabetic nephropathy. High blood pressure and underlying cardiovascular diseases also increase the risk of kidney problems. It is important to manage diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease through medications and lifestyle modifications. Routine sugar and blood pressure checks help reduce the risk of kidney disease.
Guidelines recommend drinking optimum fluid to produce a urine volume of about 2 to 2.5 liters per day. It helps reduce the risk of stone formation and urinary tract infections. Further, studies also indicate that drinking plenty of fluid prevents kidney damage. Drinking enough water after taking certain medications may also reduce the risk of kidney damage. However, patients on dialysis should consult with their healthcare provider about the volume of water to be taken during the day.
Certain factors increase the risk of kidney disease. These include hypertension, diabetes, obesity or overweight, heart disease, a family history of chronic kidney disease, advanced age, and inherited renal disorders. People with one or more of these risk factors should undergo routine kidney examinations.
There are several ways to know if your kidneys are healthy. The following are some of the signs your kidneys are functioning well:
That said, some kidney diseases may not have any symptoms initially, and their symptoms become apparent as the disease advances. Therefore, it is important to consider regular health check-ups.
Patients with the following symptoms should consult with nephrologists:
Kidneys are vital organs in the human body. They perform several essential functions, such as waste filtration, fluid homeostasis, blood pressure management, formation of red blood cells, detoxification, activation of vitamin D, excretion of drug metabolites, electrolytic balance, blood sugar regulation, and acid-base balance. Several measures help maintain the optimal health of the kidneys. Some of the important kidney health tips include a healthy diet, routine exercise, managing underlying medical conditions like diabetes and hypertension, quitting smoking, drinking alcohol in moderation (or avoiding alcohol), drinking plenty of fluid, and undergoing a routine renal examination. The doctor may suggest specific foods for kidney disease. People may consult with healthcare providers about how to improve kidney function through food and exercise.
The early signs of kidney disease include weakness, loss of appetite, swollen feet, hands, and ankles, edema below the eyes, shortness of breath, itchy skin, altered urination frequency, and back pain.
Certain kidney health tips including drinking plenty of fluids, consuming apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, kidney beans, pomegranate, basil, watermelon, dandelion, and dates, and sleeping well can help you keep your kidneys healthy naturally. Doctors may recommend consuming certain foods to avoid to prevent kidney disease.
Calcium is an important mineral in the body that performs several necessary functions. A deficiency of calcium results in reduced bone density, muscle cramps, and weakness. However, excess calcium in the blood enhances the risk of the formation of stones in the urinary tract. Patients with kidney diseases are recommended to limit their daily consumption of total calcium to less than 2000 mg.
Several factors affect kidney health. These include smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, diabetes, obesity, overweight, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, urinary tract obstruction, the use of certain medications, and severe dehydration. Consult a doctor to get more detailed information on how to maintain kidney health.
There are a few foods to avoid with kidney diseases. Salt, sugar, sodas, caffeine, meat, and dairy products in excessive quantities can affect kidney health and therefore they should be avoided or consumed in moderation.
The person should start with 10-15 minutes of mild exercise daily and gradually switch to more strenuous exercises, such as aerobic exercise. Ideally, one should perform exercise for 30 to 60 minutes daily on most days of the week.
Keeping the kidneys in perfect health is a complex process. It requires the consumption of several vitamins to optimize and maintain kidney health. The vitamins that play an important role in reducing the risk of kidney diseases include vitamin A, vitamin B complex, vitamin C, and vitamin D.