Every day we seem to hear about the effects of heart disease and diabetes on Americans. One thing you don’t hear about nearly as often enough, in my opinion, is chronic kidney disease (CKD). The lack of coverage on this topic is a real shame because it is in the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States. Worst of all, CKD is potentially preventable! If the health of your kidneys is something that you don’t think about very often, continue reading to find out why it’s so important to treat your kidneys right.
Why Kidney Health is So Important
As you probably know, the kidneys act as your body’s filter. They filter the blood and remove toxins, waste, and excess fluids through the urinary tract. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease explains that properly functioning kidneys allow your body to:
- prevent the buildup of wastes and extra fluid in the body
- keep levels of electrolytes–such as sodium, potassium, and phosphate–stable
- make hormones that help
- regulate blood pressure
- make red blood cells
- keep bones strong
When the kidneys don’t function properly, the entire body suffers. Many complications arise from unhealthy kidneys. Fluid retention, high blood pressure, decreased sex drive, and bone disease are just some of the effects of CKD. The worst of the complications lead to kidney failure. As a result, you could require dialysis because your kidneys won’t be able to filter toxins and waste on its own anymore.
What are the Causes and Who is at Risk?
Unfortunately, CKD isn’t always a matter of lifestyle. Some individuals are genetically predisposed to the disease. According to the Mayo Clinic some causes of Chronic Kidney disease include:
- Glomerulonephritis (gloe-mer-u-low-nuh-FRY-tis), an inflammation of the kidney’s filtering units
- Polycystic kidney disease
- Vesicoureteral reflux (ves-ih-koe-yoo-REE-tur-ul), a condition that causes urine to back up into your kidneys
Other circumstances that put individuals at risk are:
- High blood pressure
- Heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease
- Being African-American, Native American or Asian-American
- A family history of kidney disease
- Abnormal kidney structure
- Older age
As with many ailments, you can take steps to prevent CKD with proper diet and exercise. If the disease cannot be prevented the effects can at least be lessened with certain lifestyle changes. One measure that anyone can make early in life is to never start smoking. If you are a smoker, quitting immediately is a good way to prevent kidney damage. Whether you have kidney disease or not, always take the proper amount of pain relievers. Ibuprofen, aspirin, and acetaminophen may relieve aches and pains but your kidneys really take a hard hit if you use these in excess.
I often discuss the healing power of food. The food we consume can make or break our bodies. We can regulate our diet to maximize kidney function.
The first step to support kidney health is either increasing or decreasing your liquid intake. Decreasing your fluids might sound odd especially because everyone says “drink more water.” An individual’s fluid needs depend on gender and BMI. According to the San Francisco Gate, the average male needs 13 cups of fluids. The average female only needs 9 cups. This does not have to just be water. Some of these fluids come from the food we eat.
Other great foods to include are grapes, blueberries, kale, spinach, apples, cucumbers, red peppers, peaches, and fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Many people tend to peel their fruits and vegetables but I encourage you to eat the peels! They contain many of the important nutrients you get from these foods.
Supplements can also promote kidney health. Keep in mind that even though supplements can do a lot of good, you should speak with your doctor before starting a supplement regimen. Taking the wrong supplements, or too many, may actually strain your kidneys. Vitamins C and B6 support good kidney health (along with a host of other benefits). Diamond Nutritionals’ Mitochondrial Formula contains a unique blend of acetyl L-carnitine, alpha lipoic acid and N-acetyl cysteine, which supports detoxification of cells including those in the kidneys.
Our bodies work as a unit and if one of those units aren’t working properly then the whole system suffers. That’s why taking care of your kidneys is essential.
Please feel free to contact me to schedule a telemedicine consultation or office consultation at our Integrative Medical Center in Metamora, Indiana. I will be glad to help you.
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