Along with the brain, heart, lungs and liver, the kidneys are vital organs of the human body. They do the important job of filtering for waste (like toxins) in the blood stream and the removal of excess water.
Aside from this already important task, the kidneys also produce hormones that help control blood pressure, boost the production of red blood cells and help keep bones healthy.
Common kidney complaints include: kidney infections, kidney stones, chronic kidney disease and kidney cancer. The latter two, especially, cause kidney damage or even kidney failure which can lead to serious and life-threatening complications like high blood pressure, anaemia and bone disease.
What’s scary is that chronic kidney disease usually has no symptoms until it’s at a serious stage, which stresses the importance of regular checkups. The more common kidney stones, on the other hand, can be extremely painful especially for men. More than half a million people in the US go to emergency rooms each year for kidney stone problems, according to the US National Kidney Foundation.
Keep your kidneys healthy and stone-free with these simple steps: 1. Drink enough water. You’ve heard it time and again, but doctors can’t stress it enough. Experts recommend drinking 12 glasses of water a day as this is important to the body. Without enough water, the substances in urine (salts, minerals, etc.) can stick together and form kidney stones. Your urine should have a faint yellow color, and signs to watch out for include a foul odor and cloudy appearance, which can signal kidney stones.
2. Be mindful of what you eat. Eat a balanced diet with loads of fruits and vegetables. Acid in the urine helps in the formation of stones, and fruits and vegetables make urine less acidic, so eating more of these healthy food can help prevent stones. Aim for grains as well like whole wheat pasta, whole wheat bread and brown rice. Cut back on salt too. Be wary of the high salt content of dipping sauces like toyo and patis, and food flavorings.
If you already have kidney problems, the Department of Health (DOH) advises you to stay away from these foods:
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3. Watch your blood pressure. High blood pressure is one of the most common causes of kidney disease. Having a high blood pressure can damage blood vessels which essentially puts too much pressure on the kidneys and makes them work harder, saysDr. Jason C. Baker, endocrinologist and assistant professor of clinical medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College. This is another reason why it’s important to keep your diet in check.
4. Stay away from fatty food. High cholesterol can also damage blood vessels leading to the same ill consequences as high blood pressure. Foods high in saturated fat will increase your cholesterol level so stay away from them. These include: deep-fried food, fatty meat, butter, and cakes. Foods high in unsaturated fat, on the other hand, can help decrease cholesterol levels. These include: fish, avocados, nuts and olive oil. 5. Control your blood sugar level. This goes especially to people with diabetes. “If [blood sugar level] remains high, it can lead to damage of the kidneys -- both to the blood vessels that feed the kidneys and to a part of the kidneys that filters the blood,” says Dr. Baker.
6. Exercise. Regular exercise doesn’t only help lower your cholesterol, it also reduces the risk for chronic kidney disease. It's “essential for the health of blood vessels and can protect the kidneys,” adds Baker. If you’re not used to exercising, start off with a low-intensity routine for 10 minutes and gradually build your way up to the recommended 2 hours and 30 minutes a week. 7. Quit smoking. Smoking can make kidney problems worse so it’s best to cut back altogether. Not only that, smoking also increases the risk of heart disease and lung cancer so it’s best overall to simply stop.