Over 26 million Americans are believed to have kidney disease, with thousands more potentially at risk for developing kidney problems (1). And while kidney damage usually doesn’t occur overnight, if you’re not careful with your lifestyle choices, you’ll likely end up with kidneys that are compromised several years down the road.
As one of our major detox organs, the kidneys are crucial for our good health. They filter our blood, produce hormones, absorb minerals, produce urine, eliminate toxins, and neutralize acids. If you stop paying attention to them, they can deteriorate over time with very little notice along the way.
What Are The Kidneys Good For, Anyway?
As described above, the kidneys are one of the three major detox organs in the body. They are comprised of two bean-shaped organs, located against the back muscles in the upper abdominal cavity, just below the rib cage. There is one on each side of the spine.
The four primary functions of the kidneys include (2):
– Water Regulation: a major job of the kidneys is to retain water when your body doesn’t have enough, and to remove excess water when it has too much.
– Waste Removal & Mineral Balance: the kidneys regulate your sodium, calcium, phosphate and potassium levels. When there is too much of a certain mineral, the kidneys will filter it out, and remove it from the body in your urine. The kidneys also help remove waste products like urea, creatinine and other toxins. In fact, your blood creatinine levels are a great measurement of how well your kidneys are functioning.
– Vitamin D Activation: the kidneys manage your body’s production of vitamin D, which is vital for strong bones, muscles and overall health.
– Blood Pressure Control: kidneys keep your blood pressure regular.
Habits That Put Pressure on The Kidneys
Damage or steady decline of your kidneys can go unnoticed for years, as your kidneys can still do their job with as little as 20% of their capacity. This is why kidney diseases are often referred to as “The Silent Diseases.”
Common symptoms that indicate kidney problems are a change in colour and quantity of your urine, dizziness, vomiting, anemia, breathing issues, feeling cold most of the time, tiredness or fatigue, itchy skin, bad breath, and sudden pain in the body.
While there are many different reasons behind kidney problems, many habits that people adopt can also cause huge damage to the kidneys.
Here are 10 common habits that put lots of pressure on your kidneys, and can cause serious damage over time.
1. Not Drinking Enough Water
Kidneys depend on enough water flow to work properly. If you want the kidneys to do their job of flushing toxins out of your body, make sure you drink at least 3-4 litres of water per day. Dehydration is also a major cause for kidney damage and kidney stones (3).
2. Too Much Salt In The Diet
Whether you add salt in your cooking, or consume lots of processed foods with added sodium, it’s likely that you’re creating a problem for your kidneys. While we do need a little bit of salt for our bodies to function properly, many of us consume way more than we actually need. Too much salt raises blood pressure, which puts a lot of stress on the kidneys. As a rule of thumb, don’t eat more than 5 grams of salt per day.
3. Overusing Painkillers
Over-the-counter pain medicines like NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) may alleviate aches and pains, but they also pose a lot of harm to the kidneys (especially if you already have kidney disease) and liver. Try to utilize natural remedies first, before reaching for the NSAIDS.
4. Constantly Holding It In
Many of us ignore the urge to urinate because we are either too busy, or we want to avoid public bathrooms. However, retaining urine on a regular basis increases urine pressure, and can lead to kidney failure, kidney stones and incontinence. Listen to your body the next time nature calls.
5. Too Much Refined Sugar
Indulging in excess sugary foods like desserts, candies, packaged snacks, and sodas can be deadly for your kidneys. Studies have shown that people who consume two or more sugary drinks a day are more likely to have protein in their urine (not a good thing). Instead of going for the sugary treats, opt for some natural sugar in the form of fresh, ripe fruit.
6. Too Much Animal Protein
Animal protein generates high amounts of acid in the blood that can be harmful to the kidneys and cause acidosis (a condition where the kidneys cannot eliminate acids fast enough). More animal protein in the diet means your kidneys have to work harder, and this can lead to kidney damage (or dysfunction) over time. Instead, opt for plant-based sources of protein to ensure you feel full, and support healthy muscle growth.
7. Frequent Alcohol Consumption
Regular heavy drinking (more than four drinks a day) has been found to double the risk of chronic kidney disease (4). Alcohol, in the eyes of our kidneys, is a harmful substance that must be filtered and eliminated as fast as possible. When you drink heavily, your kidneys are under a lot of pressure. Alcohol is also extremely dehydrating, and too much can hamper the performance of all of your detox organs (liver included).
8. Sleep Deprivation
Sleep is a time when the body can rest, heal and renew itself – including kidney tissues. If you’re not sleeping enough, or you have poor quality sleep, your kidneys might not be doing so well. Kidney function is actually regulated by the sleep-wake cycle, which helps coordinate the kidneys’ workload over 24 hours.
9. Too Much Coffee
Similar to salt, caffeine can raise blood pressure levels and put extra stress on the kidneys. Excessive coffee consumption can, over time, cause damage to your kidneys. Instead of coffee, try these morning energy shots – your body (kidneys included) will love you for it.
10. Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies
Your kidneys depend on you to consume a clean, whole foods diet, full of fresh fruit and vegetables. If you’re stuck on a Standard American Diet (SAD), it’s likely you’re deficient in quite a few vitamins and minerals. These deficiencies can increase the risk of kidney stones or kidney failure. Vitamin B6, and magnesium, for instance, are necessary to reduce the risk of developing kidney stones. Without magnesium, the body cannot get rid of excess calcium, and this causes kidney stones.