The kidneys perform an amazing balancing act each day, which is why keeping them healthy is a critical part of maximizing overall wellness.
When it comes to your body’s organs, it is sometimes easy for your heart or brain to steal the show. However, your kidneys are an underappreciated duo, and they perform an amazing balancing act each day. Your kidneys filter the blood in your body multiple times each day, removing waste products and siphoning them off into your urine. They also play a profound role in regulating blood pressure and hormonal interactions. Without your kidneys, you would quickly get off balance and suffer serious health consequences.
At Lompoc Valley Medical Center, our primary care providers and kidney specialists (also known as “nephrologists”) are devoted to helping you take care of your kidneys because they understand that keeping your kidneys in peak condition is a key aspect of optimizing your wellness and longevity over the long term. In honor of March’s status as National Kidney Month, here’s what your kidneys would like you to know—if they could talk.
Please Drink a Glass of Water
One of the best things you can do to take care of your kidneys is to stay properly hydrated by drinking water. Experts at the National Kidney Foundation note that being mildly dehydrated can cause you to feel tired, and being severely dehydrated can cause kidney damage. To stay on track, they recommend that men consume approximately 3 liters of fluid daily, and women consume approximately 2.2 liters of fluid daily.
...But Don’t Drink Too Much Water
There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Drinking too much water can have dire consequences, including a condition known as severe hyponatremia, in which the brain can swell. If you have chronic kidney disease or a condition known as heart failure, it’s also essential for you to keep an eye on how much fluid you’re intaking each day – and not overdo it.
Follow Up About Differently-Colored Urine
Your urine can give you vital information about the health of your kidneys—and it’s important for you to monitor the color of your urine and follow up about any abnormalities. Your kidneys would like you to know that your ideal urine color is clear to pale yellow (this means that you are well-hydrated). Urine colors that are brown (“Coca-cola colored) or red should get your attention, and you should follow up with your doctor as soon as possible.
Keep an Eye on the Salt
One of the biggest responsibilities of your kidneys is “sorting out the salt.” Your kidneys are responsible for deciding how much salt to leave in your bloodstream and how much salt to reroute into your waste removal system. However, high salt diets can overwhelm your kidneys’ abilities and increase your blood pressure, so it’s important to moderate the amount of salt that you eat.
Watch it With the Protein
You’ve likely received some conflicting information about the amount of protein you need to eat. Protein is an excellent source of nutrition, and it’s an essential building block for many of your body’s processes. However, eating too much protein can negatively impact your kidneys and increase your risk of developing chronic kidney disease. If you already have chronic kidney disease, it’s important to discuss your protein needs with your medical team—in some cases, you may need to limit your protein intake, and in other cases, you may need to increase it.
Be Careful With Exercise and Overexertion
Physical exercise is a fantastic way to keep yourself healthy, and it can benefit a multitude of body systems, from your brain to your heart to your mental health. However, excessive exercising—such as running a marathon without proper training or doing an extreme weightlifting workout—can put your kidneys in harm’s way. A particular condition known as rhabdomyolysis is caused by the breakdown of muscle cells and the release of their contents into the blood after working out excessively—and this can cause acute kidney damage. Make sure to listen to your body’s signals and stop exercising if you’re starting to have muscle pain.
Don’t Smoke Cigarettes
There are a lot of organs in your body that would like to tell you not to smoke cigarettes—including your lungs, heart, skin, and brain—and your kidneys are no exception. Smoking can affect your kidneys because of its effects on how your blood flows and its impact on your blood pressure. Smoking can also double your risk of developing kidney cancer, and it is believed to be responsible for about one-third of kidney cancers in men and one-quarter of kidney cancers in women.
Don’t Eat Too Much Added Sugar
One of the kidney’s primary responsibilities is regulating the contents of your blood, such as your blood sugar. Normally, your kidneys can keep up with this task—however, if there is too much sugar present in your blood, it can wreak havoc on the structures of your kidneys. Diabetes, a condition of chronically elevated blood sugar, is the leading cause of kidney disease and kidney failure.
Keep Your Blood Pressure in Control
Your kidneys are two delicately-structured and highly-sensitive organs. While this allows them to expertly perform their job of filtering the blood (about 150 quarts a day), it also makes them particularly vulnerable to fluctuations in your blood pressure. If you do not have enough blood pressure—for example, in situations of severe dehydration when you go into shock, your kidneys can fail. However, more commonly, if your blood pressure is too high for a sustained period, it can cause microdamage to the blood vessels of your kidneys, causing them to be less effective at filtering out waste products. It can also reduce your kidneys’ ability to help regulate your blood pressure, which leads to a negative cycle. This combination of factors is why high blood pressure is the second most common cause of kidney failure.
Be Careful With Over-the-Counter Painkillers
You may think that an over-the-counter medicine is relatively harmless because you can get it without a prescription. However, this is not the case when it comes to your kidneys. Medications in the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) class, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, can be harmful to your kidneys. This is because one of the ways that these medications work is by blocking chemicals known as prostaglandins, involved in controlling how the blood flows into your kidneys. Taking more than the recommended amount of an NSAID can decrease the blood flow to your kidneys and cause kidney failure— experts note that 3 to 5 percent of new cases of kidney failure may be caused by the overuse of this type of pain medication.
Ask Your Doctor About Certain Medications
If you have kidney disease, your healthcare provider needs to be fully aware of your kidney status before prescribing any new medications. This is because your kidneys are responsible for filtering out many of the byproducts of medications. When they aren’t working as efficiently as possible, they may not be able to filter medications out as effectively. This could lead to a buildup of a medication or its byproduct in your bloodstream, causing it to have an effect for longer than your doctor intended. Make sure to ask your doctor specifically about statin medications (used for high cholesterol), antibiotics, certain diabetes medications, and medicines used for acid reflux disease. Your medication dose may need to be adjusted, or the medication may need to be switched.
Tell Someone If You Have Kidney Disease and Need an Imaging Study
If you need an imaging study that uses contrast dye, such as a CT scan of your abdomen, it’s imperative to make sure that your medical provider knows that you have kidney disease. The type of dye used to illuminate various organs in your body is excreted by your kidneys. Sometimes, it can cause a condition known as contrast-induced nephropathy, causing a sharp decrease in kidney function. Your risk of contrast-induced nephropathy increases if you have chronic kidney disease, so your provider needs to be aware. He or she can adjust the amount of contrast dye used, hydrate you, or choose a different imaging study, if necessary.
Avoid Certain Foods if You Have Kidney Failure
If you’ve been diagnosed with chronic kidney disease, your kidneys would like for you to stay away from certain foods.
It’s vital to check with your medical provider about which foods you should specifically avoid, but common food and drink restrictions in people with kidney disease include:
- Dark-colored soda
- High-sodium foods, like canned foods
- Whole wheat bread
- Brown rice
Many of these foods should be avoided because of their high salt, phosphorus, or potassium contents, which pose challenges in chronic kidney disease. If you have been recommended to follow a “renal diet,” make sure that you understand the components—and ask your medical provider questions if you’re unclear.
Partnering with Lompoc Valley Medical Center to Support Kidney Health
Your kidneys play a prime role in keeping your body in balance. At Lompoc Valley Medical Center, our healthcare teams are well-versed in kidney health, and we excel at supporting patients in their efforts to take care of their kidneys.
To learn more, contact us today.