By Cheshire Que, RND, RN, RD
The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs that have many vital functions in the body. An individual can live with only one healthy kidney. In fact, on rare occasions, some people would be born with just one kidney.
The kidneys mainly filter the blood. It removes wastes, excess water, toxins, and other impurities, which are harmful to the body, especially when they accumulate. We remove these through the process of urination. That is why it is important to regularly empty your bladder. Never hold your pee whenever you get the urge.
The kidneys are hardworking organs. They don’t just act as a filtration system but also regulate the body’s pH and electrolyte balance (sodium and potassium). The kidneys play a role in red blood cell production by producing a hormone called Erythropoietin (EPO). They also produce Renin, an enzyme that regulates blood pressure. Keeping your blood pressure at bay is one of the ways to protect the kidneys. Hypertension is the main cause of chronic kidney disease.
Here’s how to care for your kidneys properly.
Hydrate your body
Dark, yellow urine is a sign of dehydration. It weakens the ability of the kidneys to flush out toxins. The frequency of water intake is important as much as the quantity consumed. Drink water and other zero-calorie, low caloric beverages, such as clear soups throughout the day. Do not wait until you get thirsty. By then, you are already very dehydrated. Watch the color of your urine as well as the frequency.
Easy on salty foods
Salt contains sodium. It is an electrolyte that impacts blood pressure negatively at abnormal levels. Sodium is abundant in processed foods, cured meats, and condiments. To balance sodium levels, potassium rich food items like bananas, avocados, oranges, and green leafy vegetables must be included in the diet.
Avoid too much protein
Protein comes from animals and plants, such as fish, chicken, meat, eggs, dairy products and legumes. Even whole grains and vegetables contain protein in small amounts. Protein is required for muscle building, cell growth, and regeneration yet too much of it can damage the kidneys. It is best to eat a well-balanced diet composed of carbohydrates, protein, and fats instead of adapting a high protein diet, unless you have a medical condition that requires it.
Tobacco smoking is highly associated with high blood pressure and renal (kidney) cancer. Smoking damages blood vessels, thus decreasing blood flow to the kidneys. This renders the organs to malfunction. I recommend talking to your physician, if you need guidance on how to quit smoking, as well as how to consult a registered dietitian to prevent weight gain and withdrawal symptoms.
Be cautious in using drugs and supplements.
Some pain medications, herbal medicines, and supplements may be harmful to the kidneys when used in excessive amounts for a prolonged period of time. Monitoring by a physician is important when taking medications that affect kidney function.
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