Are You Damaging Your Kidneys without Knowing it?

By Dr. Ben Kim
DrBenKim.com

Before we look at some of the most common ways in which you might be damaging your kidneys, here are a few of the many reasons why having healthy kidneys is absolutely essential to your overall health:

  1. Your kidneys produce a hormone called erythropoietin that has the important responsibility of stimulating your bone marrow to produce red blood cells.
  2. Your kidneys produce renin, a hormone that helps to regulate your blood pressure.
  3. Your kidneys produce calcitriol, a hormone that is essential to your ability to absorb calcium from the foods that you eat.
  4. Your kidneys filter waste products and excess fluid out of your blood and eliminate them as urine.
  5. Your kidneys help to regulate your electrolyte levels by filtering out any excess minerals that are floating around in your blood circulation.

Here are some important ways to protect your kidneys from premature damage and disease:

  1. Donít force down 8-10 glasses of water per day unless your thirst dictates it
    Your body is not a long plumbing tube that gets cleaner by forcing more water through it. Every time you drink water that your body doesnít need, your kidneys are forced to spend energy to filter out this excess water. This filtration process puts significant burden on the tiny blood vessels that line your kidneys, which can contribute to the development of chronic kidney disease.
    The amount of water that you need depends on a variety of factors. Eating lots of water-rich foods like vegetables and fruits decreases the amount of water you need to drink. Living in a warm climate, regular exercise, sweating, and eating salt all tend to increase your need to drink water. Ultimately, the amount of water you drink should be determined by your sense of thirst on a moment-to-moment basis.

  2. Donít eat too much protein
    Eating more protein than you need leads to greater workload on your kidneys, which must filter excess protein and a waste product called blood urea nitrogen (BUN) out of your blood. This increased workload can contribute to premature breakdown of the filtration mechanism in your kidneys.
    If you have healthy kidneys, you can safely eat up to half of your body weight (in pounds) in grams per day. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you can safely eat up to 75 grams of protein from whole foods per day. If you have problems with your kidneys, you should decrease this amount to a level that results in a healthy blood urea nitrogen level.

    The link between eating too much protein and developing kidney disease is one that is not often talked about by supporters of a high-protein diet. While it is important to keep your blood sugar and insulin at healthy levels by avoiding sugar, sweeteners, and simple carbohydrates, please know that a high-protein diet poses many dangers to your health, especially if most of your protein is cooked. Your health is best served by replacing simple carbohydrates with lots of high quality fat, and moderate amounts of healthy protein and non-starchy vegetables.

  3. Donít take over-the-counter pain pills on a regular basis
    Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), and aspirin are clearly known to cause kidney damage and disease if taken on a regular basis. Acetaminophen (Tylenol and Excedrin) can also cause kidney damage and failure if used on a regular basis. All of these over-the-counter pain medications probably donít pose significant danger if your kidneys are relatively healthy and you use them for emergencies only.

    As many professional athletes have discovered during the past several years, regular use of prescription anti-inflammatory pain medication like Vioxx, Indocin, and Naprosyn poses even greater danger to kidney health than over-the-counter pain killers.

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