5 Tips To Keep Your Kidneys Functioning

Don’t abuse your kidneys! Unlike your liver, which has regenerative properties, your kidneys can only take so much abuse. Once renal failure sets in, your kidneys can only function with regular dialysis treatments and/or a kidney transplant. There’s no Option C. However, if detected early enough, the progress of kidney disease can be slowed and sometimes stopped completely in its tracks.

Kidney disease can flare up fast, but there are some early warning signs to watch out for, including pain or burning when passing urine, foaming urine (not to be confused with bubbles that naturally develop when urine is excreted from height and splash… OK, TMI), edema (puffiness and water weight around the eyes and ankles) and pain in the lower back where the kidneys are located.

Here are five tips to keep those kidneys in good health and avoid some of the issues described above: 
1. Drink Water!

This one may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s extremely important! Listen to your body. If your mouth is parched and you’re feeling lethargic, drink up! Straight water is the way to go here. Staying hydrated will help your kidneys function properly. Your urine should be straw-coloured or paler still, almost clear. If it’s any darker that’s a telltale sign of dehydration.

During hot weather in the summer, when travelling in hot countries or when exercising strenuously, you need to drink more water than usual to make up for the fluid lost by sweating. Listen to your body! It knows you best. 

2. Exercise & Eat Well

Another obvious one, but equally as important. Lots of physical exercise will help reduce stress naturally, improve kidney function and maintain overall health. Both physical activity and sweating can help your kidneys to eliminate toxins and wastes. Meanwhile, pairing exercise with a balanced diet low in refined sugars and high in vegetables, fruits and healthy fats (oils, nuts, whole eggs etc.) will go a long way further still. Every healthy diet with a bodybuilding focus requires lots of lean meats and protein, so don’t ignore them, but with that comes an increased need to drink plenty of H2O to filter and process.

3. Monitor Your Blood Pressure

Have your blood pressure checked regularly. Elevated blood pressure has no blatantly obvious symptoms, but is a leading cause in kidney damage if left unattended. Blood pressure readings can be quickly and easily obtained at a physician’s office or at any of the numerous walk-in pharmacies, which supply a self-automated blood pressure machine. Home blood pressure monitors can be purchased as well. The medical community officially defines Stage 1 hypertension as any reading above 140/90. Stage 2 hypertension is defined as a reading over 160/90 and is much more serious than Stage 1.

Ideally, something in the range of 120/80 is preferred. Genetics certainly play a role in this, but diet and exercise can drastically improve your readings. Being too heavy raises your blood pressure, so try to maintain a healthy weight for your body type. If you don’t weight train, aim for a minimum of four hard cardio sessions a week at 30 minutes per session at least. You should have a good sweat going to truly make a difference here. If consistent cardio leads to minimal improvement, see #4 for alternatives. 🙂

4. Take Your Vitamins

Sometimes prescribed statin drugs are required to manage blood pressure and keep your kidneys functioning at peak performance, but prescription drugs should be a last resort. A number of OTC supplements can be experimented with first, as many have been shown to work in multiple human clinical trials. A few of the more common ones include Garlic extract, Adult daily dose 81mg Aspirin (high doses of aspirin can actually compound matters), CoQ10, and Hawthorne berry (which temporarily raises blood pressure the first two weeks of dosing before settling in). Along with these compounds’ beneficial effects on BP, they also provide additional health benefits, and unlike many prescription drugs, they are free of any serious negative side effects when used responsibly.

5. Skip the Soda and Painkillers

Kidney damage can result from overuse of anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen, from excessive soft drink consumption (both full sugar and sugar-free) and from exposure to certain environmental toxins and radiological materials.Make sure you are a proactive consumer, read food labels, and keep an eye on your sugar and sodium intake. Typically, sodium intake need only be monitored by those who already suffer from hypertension, as excess sodium intake can exacerbate the situation, but salt intake should be controlled regardless. Your sodium requirements will vary depending on your activity levels on a day-to-day basis, as much more will be required on particularly active days when you need to be at peak performance in the gym or on the sports field.
Can’t kick that soda habit?? Opt for REAL cranberry juice (not the from concentrate sugary mixes out there). You should be drinking a cup of this a day (watered down to alleviate some of the bitterness) or at least once a month, use up a bottle over a period of 7 days. The brand I’m most familiar with is Knudsen’s Just Cranberry.
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Mitch Calvert is a Winnipeg-based fitness coach for men and women like his former self. Heavyset in his 20s, he lost 60 pounds and now helps clients find their spark and lose the weight for life.