The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs, each about the size of a fist. They are located just below the rib cage, one on each side of the spine. Every day, the kidneys filter about 120-150 quarts of blood to produce about 1-2 quarts of urine. The kidneys work around the clock; a person does not control what they do. They filter our blood, produce hormones, absorb minerals, produce urine, eliminate toxins, and neutralize acids. So as one of the most important organs in your body, your kidneys deserve some love.
Kidney failure may occur from an acute situation that injures the kidneys or from chronic diseases that gradually cause the kidneys to stop functioning. Here is a list of 12 common habits that put a lot of pressure on your kidneys and can cause serious damage over time.
1. Using Artificial Sweeteners
Sugar consumption, especially in the form of fructose, has been hypothesized to cause kidney disease. Research supports a causal role of sugar in several kidney disease risk factors, including increasing serum uric acid levels, diabetes, and obesity. There is no evidence that sucrose is any safer for the kidney than high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) because both are similar in composition. Individuals who consume a diet high in artificially sweetened drinks are more likely to experience a decline in kidney function, according to a paper presented at the American Society of Nephrology’s annual meeting in San Diego, California.
2. Consuming Too Much Caffeine
Caffeine is a bitter substance found in coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolate, kola nuts, and certain medicines. It has many effects on the body’s metabolism, including stimulating the central nervous system. Caffeine can place a strain on your kidneys. Because caffeine is a stimulant, it can stimulate blood flow, increasing blood pressure and stress on the kidneys.
A 2002 study in Kidney International showed that long-term caffeine consumption exacerbated chronic kidney failure in obese and diabetic rats (1). Caffeine consumption has also been linked to kidney stone formation by increasing calcium excretion in urine (2).
3. Consuming Genetically Modified Foods
Genetically modified foods develops while fears raises and spreads among citizens. If you happen to be a person with kidney disease, you may feel more troubled for the news that a study showed genetically modified foods can cause liver and kidney damages.
The research on genetically modified foods showed that, animals who are fed on the “advanced” crops appeared to have signs of organ damages within 3 months. According to the experiment, rats which ate the GM maize had statistically significant signs of liver and kidney damage. Each strain was linked to unusual concentrations of hormones in the blood and urine of rats fed the maize for three months, compared to rats given a non-GM diet. The result is the former rats show a less kidney and liver functions than that of latter rats. In addition, the female rats fed GM foods also indicated high fatty substances levels and high blood sugar levels.
4. Consuming High-Sodium Foods
Your body removes unwanted fluid by filtering your blood through your kidney, via osmosis, to draw excess water out of your blood. This requires a balance of sodium and potassium to pull the water across the wall from the bloodstream into a collecting channel in the kidney. A high salt diet will alter this sodium balance, causing the kidneys to have reduced function and remove less water resulting in higher blood pressure. This puts strain on the kidneys and can lead to kidney disease.
A high salt intake has been shown to increase the amount of protein in the urine which is a major risk factor for the decline of kidney function. There is also increasing evidence that a high salt intake may increase deterioration of kidney disease in people already suffering from kidney problems.
5. Overusing Analgesics
Analgesics are medicines that help to control pain and reduce fever, and some types also decrease inflammation. Heavy or long-term use of some of these medicines, such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and higher dose aspirin, can cause chronic kidney disease known as chronic interstitial nephritis. Both over-the-counter and prescription pain medications can damage and reduce blood flow to the kidneys. Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) are a main culprit. As many as 1 to 3 percent of new cases of chronic kidney failure each year may be caused by pain medication overuse (3).
Until 2003, the data on the risk of smoking-associated chronic kidney disease in patients of the general population were scarce. The Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial (MRFIT) investigated 332,544 men and documented that smoking was significantly associated with an increased risk for ESRD (End Stage Renal Disease) but the magnitude of the effect was not reported, and no baseline creatinine and proteinuria measurements were available.
7. Magnesium Deficiency
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant cation in the body and plays an important physiological role in many of its functions. Magnesium balance is maintained by renal regulation of magnesium reabsorption. The exact mechanism of the renal regulation is not fully understood.
If you don’t get enough magnesium, calcium can’t get properly absorbed and assimilated, which can result in calcium overload and kidney stone formation. To prevent that, consume green leafy vegetables, beans, seeds and nuts. The mighty avocado is a good source of magnesium as well.
8. Not Drinking Enough Water
Your kidney’s most important function is to filter blood and eliminate toxins and waste materials. If you don’t drink enough, the toxins can start accumulating in the blood, as there isn’t enough fluid to drain them through the kidneys. The National Kidney Foundation suggests drinking at least 12 glasses of water per day.
9. Not Emptying Your Bladder Early
When nature calls, you should listen. Retaining urine in your bladder is a bad idea. If done on regular basis, it can increase the urine pressure in your kidneys and lead to renal failure or incontinence.
10. Consuming Too Much Protein
Without protein, our bodies would be unable to heal from injury, stop bleeding or fight infection. That’s why eating protein is so important to staying healthy. The average person needs between 40-65 grams of protein each day.
However, protein can be tricky for people with chronic kidney disease. Although protein is a necessary nutrient, patients are often faced with the dilemma of having to limit protein intake.
11. Alcohol Consumption
Both acute and chronic alcohol consumption can compromise kidney function, particularly in conjunction with established liver disease. Investigators have observed alcohol-related changes in the structure and function of the kidneys and impairment in their ability to regulate the volume and composition of fluid and electrolytes in the body.
Chronic alcoholic patients may experience low blood concentrations of key electrolytes as well as potentially severe alterations in the body’s acid-base balance. In addition, alcohol can disrupt the hormonal control mechanisms that govern kidney function.
12. Lack of Exercise
Exercise is another good way to protect your kidneys. A large study published in 2013 in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology suggested that postmenopausal women who exercised had 31% lower risk of developing kidney stones. Generally speaking, maintaining a healthy weight will reduce your chances of kidney stones.