Your kidneys regulate your body’s water/mineral balance and help filter wastes out of your blood so they can be flushed out of your body. Even if you’re in great health, your kidneys naturally start to lose some of their function as you age. Some people also experience kidney stones, or other kidney diseases, often as a result of other health problems like diabetes and high blood pressure, or as a side effect of treatments for other medical problems. However, oftentimes kidney stones are preventable. Whether you have these underlying conditions or are in perfect health, you must take care of your kidneys now so that they will continue to function well in the future.
Drink enough water to stay hydrated.
Staying properly hydrated is one of the best ways to keep your kidneys healthy. Without adequate water, your kidneys can lose some of their ability to filter your blood, and may even become damaged throughout your lifetime.
Drinking water helps your kidneys flush sodium, urea, toxins, and waste out of your body.
By staying properly hydrated, you can significantly reduce your risk of developing chronic kidney disease.
Increasing your fluid intake to approximately 2 liters (around eight and a half 8-fluid-ounce cups) of water each day can help maintain proper kidney function. You may wish to increase your intake even further if you are outside in the heat or do not have air conditioning in the summer months.
Some individuals may need more or less water, depending on factors like regional climate, level of physical activity, and certain medications taken on a regular basis.
Talk to your doctor about your specific hydration needs.
Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight.
If you’re overweight or if you live a sedentary lifestyle, you may be at risk of developing kidney disease. That’s because regular exercise and staying fit lowers your blood pressure and may help prevent diabetes and heart disease, which can reduce your risk of developing chronic kidney disease.
If you’re currently overweight, talk to your doctor about a healthy weight-loss plan involving a restricted diet and increased exercise. You may also want to ask your doctor for a referral to a registered dietitian, who can help you plan meals that will help you achieve your weight loss goals while ensuring you get all the nutrients and vitamins your body needs.
Make sure your doctor determines that it’s safe for you to begin an exercise regimen, especially if you’re new to exercise.
Be sure to drink more water than usual if you plan on working out so that you do not become dehydrated.
You may be aware of the impact smoking can have on your lungs, throat, and mouth, but you may not realize that smoking can also damage other parts of your body. Smoking can also cause high blood pressure, which may lead to chronic kidney disease, and smoking increases your risk for kidney cancer.
Nicotine has been shown to damage the blood vessels in your body.
Damaged blood vessels can reduce the flow of blood to your kidneys, which forces the kidneys to operate at a diminished level.
If you’re currently a smoker, talk to your doctor about finding ways to quit smoking.
If you don’t smoke, don’t start. Ask your doctor about the negative health impact that smoking can have on your body, including your kidneys.
Recognize the common symptoms of kidney disease.
The symptoms of kidney disease tend to develop slowly over time. They are often misdiagnosed due to the fact that each of these symptoms can potentially be caused by other health problems. Once symptoms begin to show up, kidney disease is often in a more advanced stage. See your doctor as soon as possible if you experience any of the following symptoms:
Lack of appetite
Changes in your urination frequency
Persistent body itches
Shortness of breath
High blood pressure and difficulty controlling blood pressure
Get tested for kidney disease.
Many people have kidney disease and don’t realize it. Talk to your doctor about your risk factors for developing kidney disease and how to reduce that risk.
Having high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol significantly increases your risk of developing kidney disease.
If you have a family history of chronic kidney disease and/or are over the age of 50, it’s important to get tested regularly.
Your doctor may test your blood pressure, take a urine sample (to look for traces of blood, infection, or protein), and check your blood urea nitrogen (BUN) to determine how much urea nitrogen is in your blood.
Your doctor may also check your serum creatinine levels to test for kidney disease. Healthy creatinine levels fall between 0.84 and 1.21 milligrams per deciliter.
If you have a pre-existing medical condition that increases the risk of kidney disease, your doctor may check your blood pressure and run blood and urine tests during each regular office visit to monitor your kidneys.
Eat healthy foods.
Dietary changes should start with an awareness of the foods you eat every day. Certain foods contain high levels of sodium and other ingredients that can affect your kidneys and cause high blood pressure, which in turn can cause kidney disease over time.
Limit how much processed food and prepared (restaurant) food you eat. These foods can be bad for your kidneys and for your overall health.
Fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products are the best foods to maintain your health.
Reduce your sodium intake.
One of the most important dietary changes you can make is reducing how much salt you consume. Your kidneys work hard to balance the sodium levels in your body. Too much sodium can cause high blood pressure, which may lead to kidney disease over time.
Keep your salt consumption at or below 2,300 mg.
Try the DASH diet as a way to eat healthily and lower your sodium.
Try purchasing and eating low-sodium versions of your favorite foods. They taste just as great, but without all the extra salt.
Limit or avoid drinking alcohol.
Alcohol gets filtered out of your blood as a toxin. Drinking too much alcohol, or drinking in excess too often, can put additional stress on your kidneys and reduce their ability to function.
Guidelines for moderate drinking are one or fewer drinks per day for women and two or less for men. One drink is 12 oz of beer, 5 oz of wine, or 1.5 oz of liquor.
Remember to drink water whenever you drink alcohol so you don’t get dehydrated.
Try to drink a full glass of water after each alcoholic beverage you drink. This can help keep you hydrated and prevent drinking in excess.
Limit your use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
It’s perfectly safe to take over-the-counter (OTC) medications when you need them for an emergency or with the OK of your doctor; however, taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or aspirin on a regular basis over long periods of time has been linked to kidney damage.
NSAIDs have been shown to cause elevated blood pressure in some individuals.
Over time, high blood pressure can cause chronic kidney disease.
Try skin creams/lotions and heat therapy to treat painful muscles and joints instead of taking NSAIDs. When used properly, these topical options are safe and won’t affect your kidneys.
If you experience chronic pain or arthritis, talk to your doctor about other ways to control and manage your pain without damaging your kidneys.
Use calcium carbonate for indigestion.
Some indigestion medications, such as Aludrox (Drug) and Maalox, contain aluminum, magnesium, and/or magnesium citrate. These ingredients can cause hypermagnesemia, an electrolyte imbalance, in individuals with chronic kidney disease.
Your kidneys work hard to balance your electrolyte levels.
Aluminum and magnesium can make it more difficult for your kidneys to operate normally.
Instead of aluminum or magnesium, take calcium carbonate medications like Gaviscon, TUMS, Remegel (Tablets), or Rennie, as these will not upset your electrolyte levels.
Choose safe allergy and cold medications.
You may not think of allergy and cold medicine as having an effect on your kidneys; however, you should ask your doctor about any medication you’re taking, whether by prescription or over-the-counter, if you have concerns about your kidney health. If you are taking medication for kidney disease, certain medications (including OTC meds and supplements) can react negatively if taken at the same time.
Avoid decongestants if you have high blood pressure, as this combination could cause problems for your kidneys.
Many cough/cold medicines contain high levels of aspirin, an NSAID. Taking NSAIDs can elevate your blood pressure, which may cause damage to your kidneys.
Most antihistamine tablets, sprays, and eye drops are safe to use, including eye drops that contain sodium cromoglycate (Drug).
If you’re experiencing congestion, use a room vaporizer to inhale steam mixed with menthol or eucalyptus. Soothe sore throats with a homemade syrup made of honey and lemon.
Do not take medications containing cetirizine, such as Zyrtec if you have kidney problems.
In individuals with renal insufficiency or chronic kidney disease, cetirizine can take significantly longer to work its way out of your system. This may cause additional stress on your kidneys over time.
Talk to your doctor about vitamin A.
You need strong, healthy kidneys to remove vitamin A from the body. If you have chronic kidney disease (CKD), then you will need to be very careful with your vitamin A consumption. While it should not be avoided, talk with your doctor about taking a special renal multivitamin which will help you meet all your vitamin requirements.
Make sure your vitamins are not in the form of effervescent tablets, as these tend to contain a lot of salt (up to one gram in each tablet). Too much sodium in your diet can elevate your blood pressure, which may cause further damage to your kidneys over time.
Talk to your doctor before taking any herbal supplements.
You should let your doctor know about anything you put into your body on a regular basis. Your doctor will know about the prescription medications you’re on, but he or she may not know about your usual diet or any vitamins and herbal supplements you take.
Many herbal extracts and supplements contain ingredients that could damage your kidneys.
Vitamins and supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, meaning there aren’t very clear guidelines on what can and can’t be added to them, nor is there testing to ensure they don’t contain toxic additives.
Some supplements could have harmful interactions with other medications you’re taking.
Tell your doctor about any herbal supplements, extracts, or vitamins you’re taking or considering.