As a first step to kidney health, a good diet is crucial. By helping your kidneys control body chemistry with a healthy diet, you prevent kidney disease or failure and other health issues arising. Healthy diets mean you are less likely to have a build-up of excess fluid and waste material. Poor kidney function can lead to heart disease or stroke or even cancer.
Some people experience mild pain or tenderness over the kidneys as a result of bacterial infection that has not been diagnosed. Seek professional advice and get a blood test. Sometimes it's simply a chill on the kidneys - not helped by current fashion trends! Many women now wear low cut jeans and short tops even in winter, which exposes the area of the kidneys to the winter chill. It's much safer to ignore such an uncomfortable fashion and wear warm clothing covering your lower back to protect your kidneys.
Some common disorders are:
Cystitis - with or without passing blood in the urine
Acidosis - here the kidneys are not able to eliminate enough acid/losing excessive bicarbonate in the urine.
Diabetic nephropathy – develops due to diabetes.
Glomerulonephritis - an inflammation of the glomeruli, the tiny filtering units of the kidneys
Polycystic Kidney Disease - known as PKD or PCKD, an inherited disease where the kidneys develop many cysts and become enlarged.
Nephrotic Syndrome - a nonspecific disorder occurring when the kidneys' glomeruli are damaged, causing leakage of protein into the urine and edema. The kidney ailments MCG (Minimal Change Disease) and FSGS are causes of this syndrome. MCG is often used interchangeably with Nephrotic Syndrome.
Kidney Stones - there are several types as explained below:
Calcium stonescan manifest due to hyperparathyuroidism or high levels of oxalates, a compound found in some foods. You can develop uric acid stones if you have low urine output, a diet high in animal protein, increased consumption of alcohol, gout, IBS, or by ingesting pharmaceutical drugs.
Struvite stonesare large stones, which can be serious and are also known as infection stones when kidney or urinary infection is present.
Cystine stonesresult from a chemical called cystine and develop when there is too much cystine in the urine also known as cystinuria.
Kidney stones manifest when certain substances in the urine, including calcium, oxalate, and sometimes uric acid, crystallize. These minerals and salts form crystals, which can then join together and form a kidney stone. Kidney stones usually form within the kidney, where urine collects before flowing into the ureter, the tube that leads to the bladder. Small kidney stones are able to pass out of the body in the urine and may go completely unnoticed by you. But larger stones can be painful and create blockages needing treatment.
Importance of nutrition
The digestive process in the stomach and intestines produces waste, which is excreted by your kidneys. If your kidneys are not functioning properly, waste builds up in the bloodstream resulting in weakness, fatigue or illness.
Protein is challenging to digest and any insufficiency of digestive enzymes may contribute to toxic build up. Protein is essential for building, repairing and maintaining a healthy body, fighting infections and healing wounds. Urea is a by-product of protein that needs to be excreted by the kidneys. Excess protein in the diet may be counterproductive so aim to achieve a balance and drink plenty of spring or filtered water (1.5 – 2 litres daily), depending on climate and physical activities or exercise.
Insufficient protein causes
Loss of muscle bulk or strength leading to wasting
Lack of energy
Excess protein contributes to:
Bad taste in mouth and bad breath
Nausea and vomiting
Poor memory and concentration
High protein foods
Dairy (cheese, yoghurts, milk)
Nuts and seeds
Sodium (salt) contributes to fluid retention and is a problem with processed foods, many of which have excess salt even if it's not immediately obvious to your taste. Salt increases thirst so that you consume more fluid than the kidneys can eliminate. All plants contain natural sodium so you may not need to add salt if you eat more plant food. Otherwise, opt for bladderwrack, kelp, or celery or natural vegetable stock. As rock and sea salt are natural salts, the body instinctively knows how to metabolise them unlike the common table salt (this also includes those with iodine added since it is chemical salt).
Avoid processed/salted foods, caffeine and alcohol. If you must consume some alcohol, ensure you follow with a large glass of spring or mineral water.
Excess fluid results in:
Swelling of ankles, feet, hands, puffy eyes, increased circumference in thigh and tummy
High blood pressure
Shortness of breath
Potassium is an essential mineral for healthy nerve endings and helping muscles work well. If potassium levels in the blood are too high or low, an irregular heartbeat can occur. Potassium outside the normal range can trigger adrenal excitation and cause the heart to stop!
Potassium and sodium play a key role together in maintaining fluid balance and blood pressure. Research indicates 2:1 intake of potassium to sodium lowers the risk of death from cardiovascular disease by 50%.
Blood tests can reveal your potassium and sodium levels and the amount of urine you excrete.
Healthy Potassium foods
Fresh fruit/vegetable juices
Bananas, apricots, rockmelons, avocados, spinach, mushrooms, pumpkin, potatoes, leafy vegetables, (most plant foods)
Fresh homemade soup
High complex grains/cereals/breads
Nuts and seeds
Organic cocoa and chocolate (without sugar)
Super Foodscontain antioxidants, which eliminate free radicals:
Barley grass, spirulina
Kidney health affects bones
Calcium and phosphate maintain strong and healthy bones. Poor kidney function results in higher levels of phosphate causing:
High phosphate foods:
Nuts, seeds and nut (peanut or almond) butters
Dried peas, beans
Sardines, fish pastes
Drink approximately 1.5 - 2 litres of filtered or spring water a day, depending on activity and season. There are many filters available; the more costly ones are very effective in eliminating toxic minerals and metals and sediments that build up in pipes leading to your taps. Boiling water is another good option. You can add a few drops of liquid oxygen, or colloidal silver to counteract bacteria or add a thick slice of lemon.
Exercise helps maintain kidney health by lowering blood pressure, increasing insulin sensitivity and preventing Type 2 diabetes.
In Oriental medicine, the kidney is a Yin organ associated with the emotion of fear. People who are continual fearful may experience weakening kidneys. So relax, meditate, send loving positive thoughts and gratitude to your kidneys. Heal your fears and let them go. Hypnotherapy can also be helpful in overcoming fears and anxieties.
The kidneys is also known as the House of Willpower enabling you to set goals.
Do not self prescribe with kidney remedies as you may create other problems and make matters worse. A qualified Naturopath who practises herbal and homoeopathic medicine and nutrition is skilled to help you so consult a healthcare professional if you experience any of the above issues.
Sydney-based Lyn Craven is a practitioner of naturopathy, nutrition, medical herbalism, Bowen therapy, Reiki energy healing and meditation, and is a corporate health presenter/consultant with 19 years' experience in natural therapies. www.lyncravencorporatehealth-naturopath.com
Lyn Craven is a practitioner of Naturopathy, Bowen Therapy, Energy/Reiki therapist, meditation teacher and Corporate Health Consultant. She is also a health researcher/writer and has produced a meditation CD assisting people to manage anxiety and stress. She runs a private practice in Sydney and can be contacted on +61403 231 804