Why is Kidney Health Important?
March is National Kidney Month, so we wanted to take a moment to explain how to take care of your kidneys and why it's important. Kidney disease is a serious medical condition, but it is avoidable by making smart choices with your diet and lifestyle.
Share this post
37 million American adults have chronic kidney disease
Chronic Kidney Disease, or CKD, is a blanket term for a number of conditions that all work to make your kidneys less effective over time. And 33% of Americans are at risk to develop it. The main job of your kidneys is to remove waste and excess fluid from your body. When they can't perform that function, waste builds up and can cause a number of issues.
Untreated kidney disease leads to kidney failure
There are five stages of kidney disease. Stage 1 represents 90% kidney function and a mostly-healthy kidney. Many people have Stage 1 CKD and don't know it because they aren't showing any symptoms. As the stages worsen, kidney function decreases and the effects on the body become worse and worse. Finally, Stage 5 represents less than 15% of kidney function, also known as kidney failure.
Once kidneys have reached Stage 5, the only options are a kidney transplant or dialysis. It is also referred to as End Stage Renal Disease or ESRD. While there is no way to reverse the damage done to your kidneys, further damage can be minimized up to Stage 3. Beyond that, however, progression to kidney failure is extremely difficult to prevent. This is why it is so important to take steps to keep your kidneys healthy now, before any significant damage is done.
Foods for kidney health
Your diet has some significant effects on the health of your kidneys — both direct and indirect. Here are some you should be incorporating:
What should I eat and drink for healthier kidneys?
Drink plenty of water. Water is one of the substances your kidney uses to filter out toxins. There are lots of reasons to get your recommended daily intake of water, and healthy kidneys are high on the list.
Look for antioxidants. Antioxidants help protect cells in the body from damage. They can be found in all kinds of delicious foods, including most berries, kale, artichokes and pecans.
Pectin may reduce risk factors for kidney damage. Pectin is a type of fiber that is found in a number of fruits, most notably apples. However, you can also find pectin in guavas, plums, and many citrus fruits.
What should I avoid for healthier kidneys?
If you have any level of kidney damage, there are three main substances that should be avoided: phosphorus, sodium (which we've touched on), and potassium. This is also known as a renal diet.
Canned and processed foods are loaded with sodium.
Salt is both a flavor enhancer and a preservative, which means it is a prominent ingredient in many pre-packaged foods that may be bland or need to sit on a shelf for a significant amount of time. This high salt content is bad for your kidneys, as well as other parts of your body.
Dark soda is full of additive phosphorus.
Additive phosphorus is distinct from naturally-occurring phosphorus, which your body has a much easier time filtering. Additive phosphorus is also highly absorbable, which means most of it gets taken into your body instead of dispelled in your urine like most other wastes.
High-potassium foods are more than just bananas.
A damaged kidney has trouble processing potassium, which is the hallmark of the yellow kitchen staple. Unfortunately, potassium can be found in many other common foods as well, including potatoes, sweet potatoes, and most dairy products.
Healthy body = healthy kidneys
It's important to understand that most of the activities and habits you would pursue for heart or whole-body health are also going to have a positive effect on your kidneys. Getting regular exercise helps strengthen your heart, improving your cardiovascular system and ultimately helping your kidneys do their job.
By eating a healthy diet, you lower your risk for obesity, which is a major factor for heart disease, which also affects kidney function. Keeping your blood sugar level in check will prevent you from developing diabetes, a major contributor to chronic kidney disease. When you take care of one part of your body, the rest benefit as well.