10 Things that are Actually Damaging Your Kidneys

The more you learn about what your kidneys do for your body, the more you will be amazed.

The kidneys contain specialized cells, known as glomeruli, which work as small filters. These filters aid in removing toxins from the blood flowing in the capillaries for excretion in the urine. According to the National Institutes of Health, the kidneys filter more than 200 quarts of blood each day, filtering out about 2 quarts of waste products.

At the same time, the kidneys help in retaining essential nutrients within your bloodstream. Hence, keeping your kidneys healthy and functioning is essential for both nourishing and detoxifying your body.

What you eat and drink as well as your lifestyle has a direct impact on the health of your kidneys.

In fact, regularly eating a lot of unhealthy foods can increase the strain on your kidneys and even damage structures within your kidneys over time.

Even if you have kidney disease, you can benefit from improving your diet and lifestyle as well as looking after your health the way your doctor advises. You can continue to live productively for years without any major complications.

Remember, no two cases of kidney disease are the same. Your exact diet and nutrition plan depends upon how well your kidneys function and the extent of any impairment. However, there are some general dietary and lifestyle recommendations that can help people with kidney disease.

1. Red Meat

Diets high in animal protein, such as red meat, can cause kidney damage. In fact, a high-protein diet may cause or exacerbate existing kidney problems. Protein metabolism puts a heavy load on the kidneys, making it more difficult to eliminate waste products. Animal protein metabolism even leaves an acidic residue in the body.

A study published in 2016 in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology reports that red meat intake was strongly associated with an increased risk of kidney failure among Chinese adults in Singapore who were followed for an average of 15.5 years.

Moreover, a diet rich in animal proteins increases the risk of developing urinary stones.

Eat the right amount and the right types of protein from plant and animal sources. Talk to your dietitian about how to choose the right combination for you.

2. Alcohol

A little alcohol—one or two drinks now and then—usually has no serious effects. But drinking too much can be bad for your kidneys and even worsen kidney disease.

According to the National Kidney Foundation, high alcohol intake can cause changes in the function of the kidneys and make them less able to filter the blood. In addition, alcohol dehydrates the body, which can affect the normal functioning of cells and organs, including the kidneys.

A 2009 study published in Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation reports that alcohol consumption, particularly heavy drinking, is likely to be a significant modifiable risk factor for the development of albuminuria, which is a sign of kidney disease.

A recent 2015 study published in the International Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Research also suggests that chronic alcohol consumption is associated with renal dysfunction.

High alcohol intake has profound negative effects on the kidneys and their role in maintaining the body’s fluid, electrolyte and acid-base balance. This in turn can increase the risk of a host of kidney-related problems.

If you need to drink, moderate drinking is fine, which means one drink a day for women and older people and two drinks a day for men. However, it’s best to first check with your doctor.

3. Table Salt

Your body needs a little bit of sodium in order to maintain a proper fluid balance, but an excess can be damaging for your kidneys. When you eat more salt, your kidneys respond by retaining water in order to dilute this electrolyte in your bloodstream to help your heart function properly. This places a load on the kidneys.

High salt intake also increases the amount of protein excreted in the urine, which in turn increases the rate of deterioration of renal function.

A 2009 study published in the American Society of Nephrology reports that people who consume a diet high in sodium are more likely to experience a decline in kidney function.

Along with the kidneys, high salt intake can also be damaging to your heart and aorta.

The recommended amount of salt is no more than 5 grams a day (1 teaspoon of salt is about 6 grams). More than this amount is harmful for your kidneys as well as your overall health.

If you must add salt, use just a pinch of high-quality Celtic or Himalayan sea salt.

4. Caffeine

Caffeine found in coffee as well as tea, soda and other foods also puts a strain on your kidneys. Being a stimulant, caffeine accelerates blood flow, increasing the blood pressure and stress on the kidneys.

A 2002 study published in Kidney International reports that long-term caffeine consumption exacerbated chronic kidney failure in obese and diabetic rats. Caffeine intake, especially on an empty stomach, is also linked to kidney stone formation.

Another study published in 2004 in the Journal of Urology also reports that caffeine intake may modestly increase risk of calcium-oxalate stone formation.

On top of that, caffeine has a diuretic effect, which means it can lead to dehydration, a risk factor for kidney stones.

Caffeine in moderate amounts will not cause health problems for most people. Drink no more than one to two cups of coffee, or up to three cups of tea, per day. Also, limit your intake of other sources of caffeine like soft drinks, energy drinks, chocolate, cocoa and some medications.

5. Artificial Sweeteners

If you have switched to artificial sweeteners for health reasons, think twice. Just like refined sugar is bad for your health, so are artificial sweeteners.

Artificial sweeteners have a negative impact on kidney function.

A 2009 study published by the American Society of Nephrology found that people who consume a diet high in artificially sweetened drinks are more likely to experience a decline in kidney function.

A 2011 study published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology reports that consumption of more than two servings per day of artificially sweetened soda is associated with a two-fold increased odds for kidney function decline in women.

Another 2013 study published in Advances in Chronic Kidney Disease also reports that dietary sugar and artificial sweetener intake leads to chronic kidney disease.

To help your kidneys function properly, skip the artificial sweeteners and stick with stevia or honey to add sweetness to your beverages or food.

6. Dairy Products

The problem with dairy products is similar to that of other animal proteins. Its intake increases the excretion of calcium in the urine, which has been associated with a higher risk of developing kidney stones.

Dairy products are a great source of protein, but when suffering from kidney disease, it is important to balance the right amount of protein from all food sources, including dairy sources. A decline in kidney function can cause protein waste products to rise to an unsafe level in the body.

When suffering from kidney disease, your kidneys cannot remove any extra phosphorus that is not used by the body each day. This can cause high phosphorus levels in the blood, which in turn can cause bones to lose calcium as well as skin problems.

Plus, the potassium in dairy products can build up in the blood when kidney function decreases. This in turn can cause heart and muscle problems.

Looking at the drawbacks for people with kidney problems consuming dairy products, it is best to limit the amount of dairy products in your diet.

7. Carbonated Beverages

Carbonated beverages, such as sodas and energy drinks, are associated with the formation of kidney stones as well as kidney disease.

With their high concentration of sugar or artificial sweeteners, caffeine and phosphoric acid, these beverages are not good for your kidneys in many ways.

A 2007 study published in Epidemiology shows that drinking two or more colas per day was associated with an increased risk of chronic kidney disease.

At the same time, excess soda intake can contribute to weight gain and increase your risk of Type 2 diabetes, which in turn also raises your chances for kidney disease.

Instead, drink plain water with organic lemon or homemade iced tea to quench your thirst.

8. Smoking

It is well known that smoking has negative effects on the lungs and heart, but it is also bad for your kidneys. Certain toxic substances in tobacco smoke are to blame.

A 2000 study published in Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation reports that smoking can be bad for people without renal disease and in patients with primary renal disease.

A 2010 study published in BMC Public Health also highlights the association between smoking and chronic kidney disease.

A recent 2016 study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association reports that smoking is associated with rapid renal function decline.

In addition, diseases that affect the kidneys like diabetes and high blood pressure are also exacerbated by smoking.

As smoking is not good for any part of your body, it is time to quit. Get help from friends, family members or professionals to quit smoking.

9. Genetically Modified Foods

Any food that has been genetically modified, such as some varieties of corn, soy, rice, sugar cane, sugar beets and canola, is not good for people suffering from kidney problems. Such foods can affect the health of your kidneys due to the high levels of oxalates, which bind with calcium in the kidneys to form kidney stones.

A 2009 study published in the International Journal of Biological Science analyzed three types of genetically modified Monsanto corn and found that they had negative health effects on the kidney and liver functioning of rats. The researchers concluded that the three varieties tested created a state of hepatorenal (liver and kidney) toxicity.

Another study published in 2015 in Environmental Health reports that glyphosate-based herbicides, which are the major pesticides used worldwide, pose health risks to the liver and kidneys, although low environmentally relevant doses have not been examined.

Along with genetically modified foods, you must not consume other oxalate-rich foods, including rhubarb, concord grapes, strawberries, sweet potatoes, spinach, summer squash, beets, leeks, tea, coffee, nuts and tofu. Stick to organic foods as much as possible.

10. Fluid Intake

One of the main functions of the kidneys is to balance fluid in the body. With kidney disease, your body will not be able to get rid of excess water. Although it may sound harmless, excess water in the body can cause high blood pressure and may eventually contribute to heart disease.

Hence, when you suffer from kidney disease, you must drink the ‘right’ amount of water each day. People who are on dialysis will need to drink much less water.

Excess water intake with kidney disease will only put more pressure on your kidneys. So, do not overdo it.

The recommended amount of fluid intake varies, depending upon the extent of your kidney damage. Your doctor will tell you about your fluid intake amount and you must stick to it.

It is true that dealing with fluid restriction can be very difficult. To keep your thirst under control, gargling with ice cold water, sucking an ice cube or chewing gum can be helpful

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