When we talk about health, the kidneys are rarely spoken of. These unsung heroes are responsible for filtering waste out of our bodies and ensuring that only clean blood flows through our system. The kidneys are a pair of small, bean-shaped organs located at the back of the abdomen. Along with removing waste from the blood, the kidneys also balance electrolytes and control the fluid balance in the body. Thus, keeping the kidneys healthy is as important as keeping the heart and lungs healthy.
Kidney stones are the most common condition that can affect these organs. Other conditions that can affect the kidneys include inflammation of the kidneys, renal failure, nephritic syndrome and cysts. Thankfully, keeping the kidneys healthy is easy. Here are a few things you can do to improve the health of your kidneys.
- Drink plenty of water: Keeping your body hydrated is crucial to kidney health. Ideally, a person should drink a minimum of 8-10 glasses of water a day. Water helps control the production of aldosterone- a hormone that regulates blood pressure- by the adrenal glands and helps the kidneys retain enough water and sodium to balance blood volume levels. If the kidneys do not get enough water, the adrenal glands are stressed into increasing blood pressure levels.
- Limit consumption of caffeine: We drink caffeine in many ways- sodas, coffee, tea etc. While caffeine may act as a stimulant and keep you focused on what you are doing in the short run, in the long run, it dehydrates the body. Dehydration can also lead to the formation of kidney stones. Hence reduce your caffeine intake and instead drink more water and fresh juices.
- Quit smoking: Smoking not only affects the lungs but also damages blood vessels thus decreasing blood flow to the kidneys thus preventing the optimal functioning of the kidneys. Smoking can also increase one’s risk of suffering from renal cancer.
- Get regular exercise: Exercise benefits all parts of your body including the kidneys. Regular exercise reduces blood pressure and helps keep the blood moving. This can help prevent kidney diseases and a number of other conditions. Ideally, aim for half an hours exercise a day at the least.
- Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables: Fruits like grapes, apples and blueberries and vegetables like spinach, beets, garlic and red bell peppers help improve kidney functioning. Women should also include estrogen boosting foods like chickpeas, fennel, tomatoes, cherries and carrots in their diet to protect themselves against kidney damage and fibrosis. Foods that are low in gluten, sugar and soy also help reduce the risk of kidney inflammation. If you wish to discuss about any specific problem, you can consult an urologist.