No matter your age, gender, or current state of health, protecting kidney function must be a priority! While you might not think much about your kidneys, you need them and what they do for you more than you may realize.
The Role Your Overlooked Kidneys Play in Total Body Health
Of all your organs, the kidneys are just about the most undervalued. However, if they go down, you won’t last a week without a backup plan (typically a transplant or dialysis).
Your kidneys have about 2 million nephrons (filter units) that filter and process between 3-4 liters of blood every 5 minutes, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The rate of blood flow through the kidneys is about 20% of the total blood pumped by the heart each minute.
Waste excretion is their primary job and the main reason you must protect kidney function at all costs. As your body breaks down protein, by-products are created. Two of these are ammonia and urea – which are extremely toxic. The kidneys get rid of bacterial toxins, hydrogen, electrolytes, heat, and carbon dioxide.
Apart from excreting waste, the kidneys produce glucose when the body is fasting or starving.
They also release hormones that regulate blood pressure, produce an active form of vitamin D (calcitriol) that promotes strong bones, and control the production of red blood cells.
These hormones are key players in regulating your pH balance as well as balancing and retaining fluid levels in the tissues. When we’re over-hydrated (or drink alcohol), the main kidney hormones are suppressed to ensure we get rid of some of the excess water. When we’re dehydrated, more hormones are produced so the water is reabsorbed.
Minutes before urine becomes urine, it’s actually blood plasma. The composition of urine is quite sterile – and slightly tweaked – so that good compounds are reabsorbed and bad ones are flushed from the body.
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When Good Kidneys Go Bad
To protect kidney function, you need to know some of the reasons that cause them to begin breaking down. Kidney disease currently affects more than 4.9 million American adults. Kidney disease is the 9th most common cause of death in the United States.
When these organs lose their ability to properly and effectively filter waste, things become urgent within hours.
Most Common Reasons for Kidney Disease
Paying attention to the state of your kidneys and providing what they need means forming good habits. This might take getting used to but it is vital!
These crucial organs simply don’t get the same “press” as the brain, heart, and lungs. They’re virtually ignored until they quit working! Protecting kidney function after problems begin is often too late.
Signs Your Kidneys Are in Trouble
Here’s the most dangerous thing to remember: sometimes, you have no symptoms until your kidneys stop working. That’s right…you might not know there’s an issue until you have acute kidney failure. The damage may already be done!
How to Protect Kidney Function in 7 Steps
- Fix your diet. I talk about the importance of food again and again. When it comes to your kidney health, you can’t put it off. Ditch the junk that’s bursting with sodium and chemical additives that make your kidneys work harder than they should. They “interpret” these fillers as toxins.
- Exercise daily. It doesn’t have to be training for a marathon or a couple of hours spent in the gym but you need to move. Even low-impact exercise (tai chi, yoga, swimming, or a gentle walk) make a huge difference in disease prevention.
- Get the sleep you need. I know you’re sick of me talking about this but when you sleep, your body does repairs. If it can’t repair damaged tissue, it gets rid of it and makes new stuff. The more you go without these periods of repair and regeneration, the more toxins build up in your tissues.
- Drop the sugar. The leading cause for kidney failure is diabetes. If you have type 1, your doctors should be regularly monitoring your glucose to protect kidney function. If you have type 2, then getting blood sugar under control is critical to regaining your health.
- Control your blood pressure. This is the second leading cause for acute kidney failure. Know your numbers and if you don’t – find out. Get those numbers under 140/90 (and you can do it naturally much of the time so don’t delay)!
- Avoid painkillers whenever possible. These drugs (even over-the-counter varieties like aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and naproxen) are bio-accumulative in your tissues over time. It’s easy to reach for something when you have a bit of a headache but those couple of pills add up. Search for natural methods of pain relief (I have many articles on this)!
- Stay hydrated. This one is pretty obvious but something the majority of Americans need reminding to do. Your body is two-thirds water. If all you drink is fancy coffees, sports drinks, and highly sweetened bottled options (teas, juices, or energy drinks) – your kidneys are having to filter out all the chemicals and sugars before it can separate the water content. Drink water. Infuse it if you need to but drink it.
Lowering stress, quitting smoking, and controlling your body weight are also important. All of these things will help you protect kidney function but actually benefit your entire body (and all your critical organs).
The kidneys don’t get much attention…until it’s the bad kind. Take steps now to protect them!