The kidneys are a pair of bean-shaped organs found in the upper part of the abdomen, with one to each side of the spine. The sole purpose of the kidney is to eliminate toxins from the bloodstream, effectively removing waste products through urine formation. While this is the main function of the liver, it is also tasked with the maintenance of water levels in the body, either by draining excess water or retaining water during times when the body needs more. In addition to this, the kidneys are also required for the maintenance of calcium and phosphate levels in the body. Other functions of the kidney include regulation of blood pressure and the production of red blood cells in the body.
For the kidneys to function optimally, it is important to take care of these organs. There are a number of symptoms that indicate the kidneys are not functioning as they should. A number of these symptoms may be non-specific, but if you have cause for concern, it helps to get professional medical attention.
The symptoms range from changes in the colour, smell and amount of urine produced, vomiting, dizziness and anemia. Some people will experience sudden pain in the body and others may find it difficult to adjust to daily tasks owing to the fatigue and itchiness that characterizes kidney disorders. This is important to note because there are a number of habits and lifestyle tendencies that cause damage to the kidneys. Read on for more of these habits and what you can do about it.
1. Poor Water Intake Habits:
This is one of the leading cases of kidney damage, and the reason is simple. Not drinking enough water means that the kidneys are not able to function properly. This happens because the kidney’s main function is waste elimination. When the body does not get enough water, the blood becomes laden with toxins.
This interferes with the body’s ability to get rid of toxins which in turn compounds the kidney damage. In line with this, the urine produced in such instances is little, has a deep yellow colour and may sometimes have a characteristic odor.
According to research, it is recommended that a healthy person takes at least 10 glasses of water every day to keep the kidneys performing optimally. An important habit to take up, drinking water frequently also helps with clear skin and body hydration.
If you are not accustomed to taking water regularly, consider starting small and building on the habit over a period of time. Use a water bottle and place it where you can see it as a simple reminder. You may add fresh cucumber or mint to liven up the taste of the water.
Note however, that while drinking water is a great habit, overdoing it will actually place a strain on the body, interfering with its function too.
2. High Intake of Salt:
Second to lack of adequate water, consuming high amounts of salt is known to damage the kidneys and is often a precursor to an array of health problems. At the core of this is the fact that the kidney oversees the metabolism of sodium in the body. This sodium is obtained from the diet.
When taken in high amounts, it means that the kidneys have to work harder in order to remove the increased amount of salt. The result of this is that the kidneys are unable to regulate the amount of water, effectively allowing retention in the body organs. Increased amount of water in the body has a significant impact on the blood pressure as it causes a sharp rise, thus predisposing one to different forms of kidney disease.
As a general rule, the recommended daily amount of salt is 5 grams. To put this in perspective, consider that 1 teaspoon of salt equals about 6 grams. To help with this, make efforts to avoid adding salt to food while at the table; instead add a reasonable amount while cooking.
3. Taking lots of Protein in your Diet:
Proteins, whose building blocks are amino acids, are an integral part of the body’s metabolic processes in excess amounts however, proteins increase the chances of getting kidney disease. To explain this, it is vital to note that among the kidney’s functions is the need to get rid of excess nitrogen in the body.
While adequate amounts or protein are metabolized and the nitrogen excreted effectively, high amounts of the protein place a strain on the kidneys as it increases the pressure associated with filtration at the glomerular level. to counter this, it helps to go easy on the amount of red meat you consume – particularly for those who have a history of kidney disorders.
4. Irregular Bladder Emptying:
For many people, the need to take a leak is often determined by the urgency of the matter at hand. While it may not seem important, keeping a full bladder over a prolonged period of time despite the need to pee is one of the risk factors associated with kidney damage. And the reason is simple – when purine is contained in the bladder over a period of time, it creates a perfect base for bacteria to breed.
These harmful bacteria easily cause infections that affect the urinary system. Left unchecked, the infection easily spreads to the kidneys. In addition to this, keeping a full bladder places increased pressure on the kidneys, making it likely for an individual to start experiencing incontinence. For those who consistently delay the need to pee, it is best to change this behavior in order to protect the kidneys.
5. Excessive Alcohol Intake:
Alcohol intake done in moderation is perfectly okay, but excessive drinking does cause extensive damage to the kidneys. As with other toxins, alcohol has to be excreted via the kidneys. When taken in high amounts the alcohol is metabolized, leading to the production of a by-product known as uric acid.
This acid accumulates in the kidney tubules so that over time, the tubules get obstructed. The result is impaired kidney function which, if not checked, causes kidney failure. What’s more, alcohol intake has been associated with dehydration. This compounds the effects of over drinking in an alcoholic’s kidneys.
Take care of your kidneys by restricting the amount of alcohol you take. If you are struggling with alcoholism, consider getting professional help or joining a support system to kick the habit and keep your kidneys in great condition.
6. Regular use of Pain Medication:
For a good number of the people, the use of pain medication comes without a second guess. It is almost natural to pop up a tablet or tow to manage pain as well as help reduce fever and inflammation. Whilst doing this from time to time is not likely to cause harm, excessive use of pain killers poses damage to the kidneys.
Studies show that the excessive use of pain medicine, also known as analgesics, is likely to reduce the flow of blood to the kidneys. Over a period of time, this destroys the function of the kidneys. Long term use has even been linked to kidney failure and/or chronic kidney disease. In fact, for those whose kidney function is impaired, it is important to use pain killers only under the guidance of a professional doctor.
In normal cases, it is best to take the pain medication as directed and for the shortest period of time until the pain subsides. This is recommended to avoid tolerance which causes one to need a higher dose for the same level of pain due to continued use.
7. Excessive Caffeine Intake:
Too much caffeine in the bloodstream is likely to cause kidney damage because of its dehydrating effect on the body. When the kidneys try to filter this excessive caffeine, this places great strain on the organs. Typical of such situations, urine becomes extremely dark colored due to the dehydration.
Additionally excess amounts of caffeine have been linked to the formation of kidney stones which result from the crystallization of compounds within the kidney’s structure. To reduce the risk of kidney damage when using caffeine, moderation is key. In line with this, ensure that you take adequate amounts of water while limiting the consumption of energy and soft drinks.
8. Cigarette Smoking:
Cigarette smoking is known to be a leading cause of lung diseases, but did you know that smoking also has an effect on kidney function? One of the side effects of smoking is the narrowing and hardening of the blood vessels, a condition known as atherosclerosis.
This impacts blood pressure and makes it difficult for the kidneys to function. In addition to this, the blood supply to key organs such as the kidneys is interrupted. To reduce the risk of kidney damage, it is always wise to stop cigarette smoking altogether. As with many addictions, the best way to do this is to seek medical help as well as join a support group for accountability purposes. Stop cigarette smoking and stay healthy.
9. Eating lots of Processed Foods:
Turns out processed foods are not only bad for your weight, they are also a poor eating habit that increase the risk of kidney disease. The reason for this is that processed foods have lots of additives, key among them sodium and phosphorous.
As mentioned above, the kidneys are tasked with regulating the amounts of sodium and phosphorous in the body. Increased processed foods place a great strain on the kidneys, and this predisposes junk eaters to kidney damage. Add to this the fact that junk eating is also often accompanied by alcohol intake and it is easy to see why it is a habit that is best avoided altogether.
10. Poor Sleeping Habits and Inadequate Rest:
Getting rest is important for the proper functioning of the body. This is often overlooked, and many people get away with thinking it has no effects. Research however, paints a different picture: lack of rest and poor sleeping habits have been linked to kidney damage. As with other organs in the body, rest and downtime allow the cells to renew, hence allowing for optimal function.
When one’s sleep is continually disrupted, the kidney, arguably one of the busiest organs in the body, is affected. The end result is kidney damage. Research also shows that poor sleeping habits add to the risk of hypertension and atherosclerosis, both of which have a direct bearing on how the kidney functions. Simply try to get a good night’s sleep to counter deprivation. It helps to build on habits that allow restful sleeping such as meditation, gentle exercises and bed-time routines.
In addition to these common habits, others that may lead to kidney damage include leading a sedentary lifestyle, deficiency of certain minerals and/or vitamins as well as skipping drug intake for those with pre-existing conditions and especially those that impact the circulatory system. If you suspect that you have a kidney disorder, make sure you get a medical consultation to help chart the way forward and get early treatment if need be.