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What’s Good For Kidney Health? 10 Diet & Lifestyle Tips

Kidney health is crucial to maintaining overall health, here’s how you can help keep them in their best shape.

7 min read
What’s Good For Kidney Health? 10 Diet & Lifestyle Tips
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What’s Good For Kidney Health?
10 Diet & Lifestyle Tips

Kidney health is crucial to maintaining overall health, here’s how you can help keep them in their best shape.

What’s Good For Kidney Health?
10 Diet & Lifestyle Tips

Kidney health is crucial to maintaining overall health, here’s how you can help keep them in their best shape.

Our kidneys remove waste and extra fluid from the body and maintain a healthy balance of water, salts and minerals - including calcium, phosphorous and sodium - in the blood. Think of them as our blood’s cleaner!

They also help us create urine, control blood pressure, create red blood cells and keep bones strong and healthy.

All of these processes are in action 24 hours a day. So, if for any reason kidney function becomes compromised, it can have a severe impact on overall health and other organs, as the body would struggle to effectively process toxins and eliminate waste.

While of course there are kidney conditions and illnesses that aren’t entirely preventable (they may be hereditary for example), there are still many diet and lifestyle actions you can take to keep the organs as healthy as possible.

Here are 10 ways to do just that…

1. Move Your Body!

Exercise is not only an integral part of maintaining kidney health, it can also benefit those who already live with kidney disease.

Exercising regularly can improve muscle function, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, maintain a healthy body weight and improve sleep - all factors that contribute to kidney health.  

Research by the Chinese University of Hong Kong studied almost 200,000 Taiwanese adults without kidney disease for up to 18 years. Those who got the most exercise were 9% less likely to develop kidney disease over the study period [1].

There is also more and more research indicating that physical activity is beneficial for people on dialysis may help to prevent or lessen the severity of the negatice side effects associated with the treatment. If you are on dialysis, speak to your doctor about which form of exercise you’ll be able to tolerate best alongside your treatment.

2. Stay on top of your blood sugar level

People with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing kidney disease. This is because high blood pressure associated with diabetes can damage and clog the bloody vessels into the kidneys. This can the cause filtration issues and passing urine, which can lead to urinary tract infections.

So how can you stay on top of your blood sugar? As we just mentioned, exercise is extremely helpful, but also eating a healthy, balanced diet and if needed insulin or hypoglycemic medications that lower blood sugar levels.

3. Eat a balanced, nutrient-rich diet

What we eat is so pivotal to our overall healthy and wellbeing - our kidneys included. Making adjustments and improvements to your diet will reduce the amount of work for the kidneys and therefore slow down their decline.

A kidney-friendly diet is focused on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean meats (seafood and poultry), eggs, legumes, nuts and seeds.

A good rule of thumb for portions is to fill about half of your plate with vegetables and fruits, one-quarter with lean protein, and the last quarter with whole grains.

4. Avoid consuming too much sodium and phosphorous

While we’re speaking of diet. Remember earlier how we said that the kidneys work to maintain levels of potassium and sodium in the blood?

Well, ensuring you’re not consuming too much sodium and phosphorous in your diet is also important to maintaining healthy kidneys. Phosphorus can build up on your blood and because you’re kidneys can’t filter too much phosphorous, it will start to pull calcium from your bones making them thin, weak and more likely to break. High phosphorous levels can also cause itchy skin and joint pain.

Phosphorous is found in certain beverages, dairy products, meats, seafood and processed foods. You can find out more about which particular foods are high in phosphorus, and their lower alternatives, here.

High sodium intake can negatively affect your blood pressure. As an adult, your diet shouldn’t contain anymore than 460 to 920mg per day, with the upper limit being 2,300mg of sodium per day. That’s equivalent to 6 grams of salt, or one and a half teaspoons.

5. Don’t smoke

Smoking is so dangerous for many aspects of our health. Smoking can damage the body’s blood vessels which leads to slower blood flow to your kidneys, and throughout your body. One study found that smoking also significantly increases the risk of developing chronic kidney disease [2].

Smoking also puts your kidneys at an increased risk of cancer.

6. Stay hydrated

Drinking enough water helps to clear sodium and other toxins from your kidneys and lowers the risk of chronic kidney disease.

While the amount of water a person should drink per day largely depends on their overall health and lifestyle, the minimum should be at least 1.5 to 2 litres per day. You’ll also know you’re hydrated if your urine is pale yellow almost clear in colour. You can speak to your GP about a more personalised water intake based on your health.

It’s also important for those who have had kidney stones to drink more water as it helps prevent any future stone deposits.  

7. Maintain regular testing

Did you know you can lose 90% of your kidney function before any symptoms appear?

Kidney Research UK have a 1 minute online test to help check your level of risk for kidney disease and failure.

Of course, you should also speak to your GP about regular testing for kidney health to ensure nothing is missed. This is initially done through blood and urine testing, and if there’s anything that needs to be further investigated they will guide you from there.

8. Get enough quality sleep

Our kidney function is regulated by our sleep-wake cycle (when you fall asleep and when you wake up) which helps coordinate the organs’ workload over 24 hours. So essentially, if you’re not getting enough sleep - which is a solid 8-9 hours a night - this will throw your sleep-wake cycle out of whack and may compromise the quality of your kidney function.

If you struggle to get enough sleep, or good quality sleep, speak to your doctor about how you can improve it. Sometimes simply not using your phone or any tech devices an hour before bedtime, having a comfortable room temperature and a good quality pillow can already make a significant difference.

You can read more about how to have a good night’s rest online at the Sleep Health Foundation.

9. Limit alcohol intake

When you think of how your body processes alcohol, you might automatically think of your liver.

But drinking alcohol can also affect your kidney health as it dehydrates them, making them less able to filter blood, and regulate fluid and electrolytes. Alcohol can also disrupt hormones related to kidney function and raise blood pressure.

In fact, regular heavy drinking has been shown to double the risk chronic kidney disease. So speak to your doctor about what level of alcohol is safe for you to consume based on your overall health. And remember, if you are drinking, do so responsibly.

10. Stress-less!

High levels of stress can actually lead to physical changes in the body such as an increased heart rate, a spike in blood pressure and increased levels of fats and sugars in the blood stream. Over time, these physical changes can cause problems with your kidneys, and even kidney disease, as it interferes with blood circulation and blood vessels, two crucial elements of kidney function.

If you find you’re experiencing a high amount of stress regularly, try relaxing techniques such as yoga and meditation to help balance and calm the mind and relieve stress. Exercising and eating a balanced diet will also help manage stress symptoms. If the stress continues to occur, speak to your doctor.