Be Kind to Your Kidneys! 3 Essential Ways to Support Renal Function
Western medicine reveres the heart, the digestive tract and the brain. But our kidneys? Not so much. We often pay little attention to this amazing organ, which in Chinese medicine is considered the cornerstone of health.
And why should you care about your kidneys? Because you won’t get too far without them! They perform numerous essential tasks including maintaining fluid and electrolyte balance; aiding the production of important hormones (like calcitriol, the active form of vitamin D); the excretion of ammonia, urea, and toxic compounds like heavy metals. In other words, if your kidneys are functioning well, so will the rest of you. High blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and more can be the result of ravaging the kidneys with a low-fiber, low-nutrient, typical Western diet, which is why I urge you to become more kidney-conscious!
One simple way to preserve and care for your kidneys? Eat beautifully – and by that I mean load up your plate at every meal with a colorful array of vegetables – and few if any processed foods. A gorgeous plate full of greens, yellows, purples and reds may make the life-changing difference between renal success – and renal failure!
Here are a few more ways to help keep your kidneys humming with health:
Total Acid Load. The kidneys are in effect your renal thermostat, ensuring the proper acid/base balance that’s essential for health. A diet that’s heavy in animal protein (meat, poultry, fish, eggs) and light in plant foods (beans, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds), results in an unfavorable, too acidic environment, which over-taxes your kidneys. Instead, be kind to your kidneys and re-design your plate to include a high plant-to-animal ratio at every meal. Think of the animal protein portion of your plate as an accent item, not the centerpiece.
Mineral Balance. There is a dynamic and complex relationship between some of the major minerals (sodium, potassium, calcium) that influence kidney health. Unfortunately, the average processed-foods-packed American diet skews your sodium-to-potassium balance in the wrong direction, chipping away at your renal health the more processed junk you eat. All that excess sodium stuffed inside those processed foods throws off your calcium balance, contributing to progressive loss of bone mineral content, further compromising not only kidney but bone health as well. One more reason to eat your veggies? A plant-packed diet will also help reduce the risk of kidney stones.
Fluids. Another simple way to care for your kidneys is to drink up! Though fluid needs are individual and influenced by your overall health, physical activity and environmental factors, the general rule of thumb for healthy individuals is to drink ½ your body weight in ounces (ex. 140 lbs =70 ounces fluid) every day -- in addition to the fluid you take in from your daily 8-10+ servings of veggies and fruit.
The good news is that with a thoughtful diet – one that’s colorful and loaded with veggies, fruit and fluids – you can do quite a bit to support the health of your kidneys. But if you have a renal disease or kidney problems, it’s essential that you work with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist/Board Specialist in Renal Nutrition (www.renalnutrition.org) to create a personalized nutritional plan to support the health of your kidneys.
To care for your health on the go, check out App-solutely Fabulous: 6 Fave Nutrition Apps for Healthy Eating Newbies.