Healthy kidneys are essential to a healthy body; they filter waste from your blood and allow you to expel it from your body in the form of urine. They regulate the minerals in your body and produce hormones which keep blood pressure down and help to produce red blood cells. However, there are regular habits that can cause damage to kidneys.
Some common symptoms of kidney problems are changes to your urine, coldness and fatigue, itchy skin, dizziness and nausea, and bad breath. However, you can be causing serious harm to your kidneys before any of these symptoms appear, so it's important to be aware of how to maintain good kidney health. Here are the 10 key habits to keep in mind:
1) Too much salt. WebMD explains that a diet rich in sodium can raise your blood pressure and increase the rate of damage done to your kidneys. It also increases your risk of kidney stones, which causes nausea, pain and trouble urinating.
2) Overusing painkillers. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, advil or ibuprofen are some of the most commonly used drugs in America, according to Medicine Net. They are safe in moderation, but regular overuse can result in kidney damage and total kidney failure.
3) Eating too much meat. The Kidney Foundation explains that protein derived from meat creates a lot of acid in the blood which can cause acidosis, a condition in which your kidneys can't get rid of the acid fast enough. Protein is important for a healthy diet but must be balanced out with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
4) Drinking diet soda. We already know about the dangers of drinking diet soda, and damage to your kidneys is no exception. A 2009 study of over 3,000 women showed a link between diet soda and kidney problems - the women who drank two or more sodas every day had up to a 30% decline in kidney function.
5) Not drinking enough water. Water allows your kidneys to do their work - it's how they process and expel waste and toxins from your body. When you're dehydrated your blood becomes more concentrated, and less flows through your kidneys. According to WebMD, your urine should be light yellow - that's how you'll know if you're getting enough water.
6) Eating processed foods. According to The Kidney Foundation, processed foods are high in both sodium and phosphorus. We've already talked about the dangers of too much salt, but high phosphorus intake is also harmful to both our kidneys and bones. People who already have kidney damage especially need to limit their phosphorous intake.
7) Working out to excess. WedMD warns against any sudden, major increases in your strength training at the gym. It can cause rhabdomyolysis, a condition in which damaged muscle tissue breaks down too fast, dumping waste into your blood that harms your kidneys. If you have significantly increased your training and you have both muscle pain and dark urine (despite being well hydrated), you should see your doctor. Additionally, WebMD warns that anabolic steroids can cause scarring to your kidneys.
8) Prolonged use of heartburn medication. According to Science Daily, there is a link between ongoing use of popular heartburn drugs (called Proton Pump Inhibitors, or PPIs) and a sudden onset of kidney problems, even when the patients had experienced no kidney issues before taking the drugs.
9) Too much alcohol. If your kidneys are healthy then it's okay to drink in moderation, according to The Kidney Foundation. But drinking more than four a day has been shown to double your risk of kidney disease, and even a single binge session can cause "acute kidney injury". And if you smoke as well? Bad news...
10) Smoking. The Kidney Foundation also explains that if you are a heavy drinker who smokes, you are about five times more likely to develop chronic kidney disease. WebMD adds that smoking worsens blood pressure and Type 2 Diabetes (the two major causes of kidney disease), and slows blood flow to the kidneys. To top it all off, smoking can interfere with the medication you take to alleviate high blood pressure and diabetes, all resulting in increased damage to your kidneys.
These ten habits are unfortunately common in the modern lifestyle, but it's vital that we look after our kidneys. And it's not hard to do: keep fit and active, drink plenty of water, maintain a balanced diet, cut down on the cigarettes and alcohol, and only take over-the-counter medications when really necessary. The most important thing is that we be aware of the consequences so that we are better equipped to make healthy choices.