Our kidneys are incredible little organs – every day they process 200 quarts of blood, removing waste products and excess water in order to detoxify the body and keep things running smoothly.
If our kidneys aren’t working to the best of their abilities, we suffer the consequences and can experience exhaustion, headaches, water retention, stomach pain and more.
And, of course there’s the kidney stones – a build-up of substances which can grow to the size of a golf ball! As worrying as it is to discover that 10% to 15% of US adults will suffer at least one stone in their lifetime (with a recurrence rate of up to 80%), it’s shocking to hear that cases of kidney stones in children as young as five are on the rise!
Clearly, we need to take better care of these hard-working organs…so here are 28 ways to do just that.
Drink Plenty of Water
This is one of the simplest and most effective ways to keep your kidneys functioning at their best. Water dilutes the materials that lead to stones, and helps flush out existing stones and other toxins.
Make sure you’re drinking enough H2O by assessing the color of your urine – if it’s straw colored then you’re getting enough to meet your needs. Remember to drink a little more if you exercise vigorously, use a sauna or the weather heats up as you’ll be losing more fluid through extra sweating.
Start Your Day With Lemon Water
A warming glass of lemon water every morning provides a variety of health benefits.
It can aid the kidneys on a few different levels – it helps them to filter blood, flushes them out, and, thanks to lemon’s natural citrate content, may prevent the calcium in the body from binding with other minerals that lead to stones.
Ditch the Salt
Too much sodium can have a negative impact on kidney health as it increases the amount of calcium the kidneys need to filter, leading to a higher risk of stones.
Sodium is naturally present in many foods – and is an essential dietary nutrient – but most Americans consume double the recommended levels. For the sake of your kidneys, put down the salt shaker and avoid these surprisingly high sodium foods.
Because a high sugar diet can affect the absorption of calcium and magnesium, it contributes to kidney stones. Sugar also leads to weight gain (and a multitude of other health issues) which is another factor in poor kidney health. In addition to avoiding candy and other sweet treats, you’ll want to watch out for these sources of hidden sugar and discover how you can quit sugar, with advice from a former sugar addict.
Avoid Processed Soy Foods
It’s well recognized that non-fermented soy foods can contribute to a number of health issues. Research shows that these foods also promote kidney stones in people who are already prone to them. That’s because soy contains high levels of oxalate (although fermented soy products such as miso, tamari and tempeh don’t seem to have the same effects).
Balance Your Blood Sugar Levels
A high level of blood glucose is a big threat to kidney health. In fact, around half of those with diabetes go on to develop kidney damage. Diabetics should have their kidney function tested regularly, and everyone else should ensure they keep blood sugar balanced throughout the day. Here are some tips to help you do just that.
Control Your Blood Pressure
Surprisingly, high blood pressure is the most common cause of kidney damage so maintaining normal levels is imperative – not just for kidneys but for preventing stroke and heart attack too!
When combined with other factors like diabetes or high cholesterol, raised blood pressure levels are even more likely to cause damage to the kidneys.
Eat these foods regularly to stop your blood pressure from going through the roof.
Apple Cider Vinegar Tonic
If you’re not getting your daily dose of apple cider vinegar, you should start – with one of these five delicious recipes.
Apple cider vinegar helps prevent oxidative stress of the kidneys and liver by increasing the body’s levels of antioxidant nutrients. It also works to balance blood sugar levels and reduce blood pressure for optimum kidney health.
Work Up a Sweat
Exercise, particularly cardiovascular exercise in the form of running, swimming, Zumba etc., is vital for overall health. It keeps your heart healthy and ensures good blood flow to all the vital organs – including the kidneys. Remember to drink plenty of water when working out vigorously.
If you are overweight or obese, your chances of developing diabetes or high blood pressure are greatly increased – conditions which are the leading causes of kidney disease and kidney failure. And, if your excess weight is mostly around your middle, you’re more likely to suffer health problems than if you carry it on your hips.
Coffee has a number of scientifically proven health benefits but too much of anything can be bad! Overconsumption of caffeine leads to dehydration, a leading cause of kidney stones, so stick to just one or two cups of joe a day.
Embrace Meat Alternatives
The National Kidney Foundation recommends limiting the amount of red meat, organ meats and shellfish in your diet as these contribute to stones through the build-up of harmful uric acid.
Good meat alternatives include beans, lentils, chickpeas and tempeh.
Cook From Scratch
Processed foods are no good for our health – they contain a number of harmful ingredients, and are often high in sugar and salt … all bad for the kidneys. And, processed foods high in phosphorous (including regular and diet sodas) can be especially harmful. When kidneys aren’t functioning to the best of their abilities, phosphorus mounts up in the body and can lead to potentially serious conditions.
Save your kidneys by cooking up some of these 65 Foods you Should Be Making Instead of Buying.
Combine Calcium & Oxalate Rich Foods
Kidney stones are often formed by calcium (found in dairy, leafy greens, seafood and fortified foods) and oxalate (found in leafy green vegetables, strawberries, sweet potatoes, nuts and more). However, foods containing these substances also happen to be quite nutrient rich and important for overall health so eliminating them completely from the diet isn’t a good idea.
Love Leafy Greens
Despite the fact that they contain oxalates, dark leafy greens are nutritional powerhouses. With both magnesium and calcium, they work to reduce bodily oxalate levels (especially when paired with another source of calcium).
Why not start off your day with a green smoothie of spinach and calcium fortified almond milk? Here are some more green smoothie recipes for you to try!
Enjoy strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and more daily for kidney health. In particular, cranberries are fantastic fruits to beat urinary tract infections and may even help prevent excess calcium oxalate in the kidneys.
Delightfully deep and rich in color, beets contain betaine, a strong antioxidant that increases the acidity of urine. In turn, this helps the kidneys remove calcium phosphate build-up. Iron, folate and magnesium are all present in beets too – which help the kidneys and blood flow.
Read Next: 10 Reasons To Have A Glass Of Beet Juice
Juice a variety of beneficial ingredients for overall kidney health and added hydration. Try a combination of watermelon and lime juice; parsley, carrot and cucumber; or green apple, lemon, parsley and ginger.
Count on Cruciferous Vegetables
Bok choy, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli are fantastic foods to detoxify both the kidneys and liver. Dr. Oz explains that these vegetables boost the kidney’s capabilities to move toxins into the urine where they are expelled from the body.
Snack on Watermelon
This water-rich fruit hydrates, acts as a mild diuretic and is rich in lycopene, a nutrient which boosts cardiovascular health. All of these contribute to well-functioning kidneys.
Address Magnesium Deficiencies
A lack of magnesium in the body is associated with a great many illnesses and conditions – including poor kidney health. In fact, Dr. Mercola lists a magnesium rich diet as one of the top six ways to prevent stones in the kidneys.
In addition to adding more nuts, seeds, beans, bananas, potatoes and oatmeal to your diet, try these five easy ways to get more magnesium for an instant health boost.
Members of the allium family, like onion and garlic, make the perfect salt replacement as they impart so much flavor to food. They’re also rich in antioxidants, fight inflammation, support a healthy heart and lower blood pressure.
Healing Herbs & Spices
A variety of culinary herbs and spices can keep your kidneys healthy – in particular parsley, ginger and turmeric.
Parsley helps flush kidneys of all toxins, treats kidney stones and relieves the pain of urinary tract infections. Add parsley to salads, juices, smoothies or mix up a healing parsley tea.
The aromatic ginger root is rich in antioxidants which helps with kidney function. At least one study has found that ginger can help protect against kidney damage in animals.
Drink Baking Soda & Water
Scientists at the Royal London Hospital recently discovered that sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) can actually slow the progress of chronic kidney disease. It can also help relieve the discomfort experienced from urinary tract infections.
Here are a few more reasons to try drinking baking soda.
Limit Supplements and Medications
Avoid synthetic supplements if you can, and aim to get your nutrients from a balanced diet. Likewise, if you can cut down on taking over-the-counter medications then do so, as they put additional strain on the kidneys.
In particular, NSAID pain relievers like aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen and acetaminophen have been linked to an increase in the risk of kidney damage and eventual kidney failure if taken in high doses.
And, while medicinal herbs are often listed as great for cleansing the kidneys, these can be every bit as potent as pharmaceutical drugs and may cause undue strain.
Bathe in Epsom Salts
Bathing in Epsom salts serves to protect the kidneys in a variety of ways. Firstly, it helps boost magnesium levels in the body. Secondly, it aids detoxification through a process called reverse osmosis, which sees salt and toxins pulled out through the skin. You’ll also be easing stress, a cause of high blood pressure. For more reasons to enjoy a long soak in Epsom salts, check out this article.
If you smoke, quit today! Smoking damages blood vessels and decreases blood flow in the kidneys which means they are unable to function at their optimal level. Smoking also raises blood pressure and the risk of kidney cancer.
Good bacteria in the gut – known as probiotics – improve immune function and help the kidneys process waste.
A recent clinical trial involving patients with chronic kidney disease found that the group taking probiotics enjoyed improved kidney function test scores and overall quality of life.
Learn the most probiotic rich foods here.