The role of the kidneys is often underrated when we think about our health. Kidneys play an essential role in removing toxins out of the body. Any kidney malfunction can result in waste build-up that can seriously affect your health. Kidney disease is increasingly becoming a health issue that affects over 20 million people in the United States alone.
The importance of kidneys
The kidneys play a major role in maintaining your general health and wellbeing. Kidneys perform several vital functions in the body:
- Waste excretion: Kidneys filter out toxins, excess salts, and urea, a nitrogen-based waste created by cell metabolism. Urea is synthesized in the liver and transported through the blood to the kidneys for removal.
- Water level balancing: Kidneys are crucial for the chemical breakdown of urine and they react to changes in the body’s water level throughout the day. So, when water intake decreases, the kidneys adjust accordingly and leave water in the body instead of helping excrete it.
- Blood pressure regulation: The kidneys need constant pressure to filter the blood, so when it drops too low, the kidneys increase the pressure.
- Red blood cell regulation: When the kidneys don’t get enough oxygen, they send out a distress call in the form of erythropoietin, a hormone that stimulates the bone marrow to produce more oxygen-carrying red blood cells.
- Acid regulation: When cells metabolize, they produce acids. Kidneys keep a healthy balance of these chemicals.
What causes kidney disease?
Kidney disease can be caused by a number of factors including an infection, diabetes and hypertension. Hypertension can be a precursor of kidney disease later on. So, the next time you visit a doctor, ask him to check your glucose and blood pressure levels to make sure they are in their normal range. Kidney disease can also be hereditary. For instance, if polycystic kidneys run in your family, there’s a high probability that you will be affected with this issue later as well. Other factors contribute to health issues related to kidneys and these include overuse of medications, drinking, smoking, unhealthy diet, and lack of physical activity.
Early signs of kidney disease
Those with kidney disease tend not to experience symptoms until the very late stages, when the kidneys are failing or when there are large amounts of protein in the urine. The early signs are quite general, which often makes patients disregard them as insignificant or relate them to some other illness. This is one of the reasons why only 10% of people with chronic kidney disease know that they have it.
In addition, your kidneys can easily adapt to the infection as they lose their function.
These are some of the initial signs and symptoms of kidney failure:
- Fatigue and lack of strength
- Changes in urine colour (for example, blood in the urine or frequency of urination)
- Sleeping issues
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite and metallic taste in the mouth
- Lack of focus and mental clarity
- Swollen legs or feet
- Pain in the back, just above the waist (where the kidneys are)
- Muscle cramps
- Poor circulation
- Loss of breath
- Skin rash or chronic tingling
It’s of vital importance to be able to recognize the early signs of kidney failure as leaving these signs undetected or untreated at an early stage, can do more damage later on.
In case you experience any of these symptoms, visit a doctor immediately, because the sooner you address this issue, the better.
How to strengthen your kidneys?
- Proper kidney function is largely dependent on normal blood pressure. Thus keeping your blood pressure balanced (around 130/80) is of vital importance for your kidney health.
- Smoking and drinking should be avoided by all means as these habits severely compromise your kidney health.
- Regular exercise is also important. Not only will this strengthen your muscles, but it will also lower your risk of obesity, diabetes and hypertension, all of which influence your kidney health.
- Take calcium and vitamin D supplements in case you have a deficiency in these nutrients. Be sure to consult your specialist first for proper dosage.
- Avoid taking painkillers and steroids as overuse of these can seriously damage your kidneys.
- Take caution of how much sodium you ingest. Keep your salt and potassium intake at a low level.
- Maintain a healthy, balanced diet, low in cholesterol and saturated fat.
- Maintain a low protein diet. Excessive protein intake is harmful for the kidneys. Consult your doctor or nutritionist for nutrition advice.
- Sufficient calorie intake is essential for kidney health so starving yourself for weight loss is not recommended.
- Watermelons, apples and berries should always come first on your shopping list.
- Proper hydration is also important so drink around 8 glasses of liquid, preferably water, every day.
Kidney disease is a serious health condition. As kidney damage cannot be undone, prevention is the best remedy!