Your kidneys are two fist sized organs located in your lower back. Although we are generally born with two kidneys, you only need one functioning kidney to live a normal, healthy life.
Kidneys work hard to keep your body healthy and their remarkable functions include:
- Filtering waste out of 200 liters of blood daily
- Regulating the body’s salt, potassium and acid content
- Removing drugs from the body
- Balancing the body’s fluids
- Releasing hormones that regulate blood pressure
- Producing an active form of vitamin D
- Controlling production of red blood cells.
Kidney disease means that the kidneys are damaged and can’t filter blood they way they should. Main causes of kidney disease include: high blood pressure, diabetes, recurrent kidney infections that may have caused scarring, inherited diseases, overuse of over-the-counter pain medications, illegal drug use and traumatic injury. Symptoms of kidney disease may not be detectable until the disease has progressed. Symptoms may include: swelling of the face or ankles, changes in urine frequency or color, foamy urine, nausea, vomiting, changes in taste, numbness of fingers or toes, and fatigue or exhaustion. Caught early, treatment of kidney disease is very effective. But kidney disease is a progressive disease, meaning the damage can’t be undone.
If you have kidney disease, diet changes will play a big role in maintaining your health. You may need to watch your protein intake, as too much protein can cause waste to buildup in your blood, making it harder for the kidneys to remove. Watching your sodium intake is important to help control your blood pressure and limit fluid buildup. Too little or too much potassium can be dangerous; the amount you need depends on how well your kidneys are functioning and what medications you are on. As kidney function decreases, you may need to watch your phosphorus and calcium intake. Extra phosphorus can build up and result in weak bones. You may also need to restrict your fluids. All of these specific nutrition needs can be calculated for you by a Registered Dietitian. In addition to diet changes, you will be treated with medications.
Should your kidney function continue to decline, you may need dialysis. Hemodialysis uses a machine to help filter and cleanse your blood. If you a candidate, you might be eligible for a kidney transplant, either from a living donor or from a recently deceased donor. The current waiting list for kidney transplants is about 3.5 years.
Prevention is the best cure for kidney disease, so follow these tips for healthy kidneys:
- Stay hydrated. Kidneys need hydration to work properly as they filter out waste through your urine.
- Eat a healthy balanced diet. Eat foods high in antioxidants to promote kidney health. Antioxidants are abundant in fruits and vegetables, including red bell peppers, cabbage, cauliflower, garlic, and berries.
- Lower your sodium intake. Too much sodium can increase high blood pressure, which can damage the kidneys.
- Control your blood glucose. Diabetes is a major contributor to kidney disease because it damages blood vessels in the body that prevent the kidneys from working properly.
- Live a healthy life. Don’t smoke, get plenty of exercise, maintain a healthy weight, use alcohol in moderation, and avoid illegal drugs.