Loving your kidneys


Your kidneys are responsible for removal of toxins and control of the environment in your body. The kidneys filter blood and remove products of metabolism and toxins ingested. They also excrete excess water and minerals and make sure the body remains in balance. Kidneys also produce hormones like erythropoietin- which stimulates the bone marrow to make red blood cells. Bone and mineral balance also depend heavily on good kidney function.

Normally each person is born with two kidneys. Each kidney can function on its own and people can survive with one kidney (although it’s better to have two!). Kidney failure occurs when both kidneys are severely damaged and the toxins, fluids and electrolytes accumulate to abnormal levels. When a person has end stage kidney failure there is a risk of life-threatening complications. At this stage dialysis or a kidney transplant may be needed to preset life and wellbeing.

Risk factors and Causes of kidney failure

In South Africa and many other areas of the world the commonest risk factors for kidney failure are Diabetes Mellitus and Hypertension. Often these conditions occur together in the same person. Lifestyle, dietary issues and our stressful way of life have markedly increased the number of people struggling with these conditions. If someone is diagnosed with Hypertension or Diabetes they should attend regular follow up and be screened for kidney disease. This is done by testing urine for protein and blood for a kidney function test. Early detection of kidney disease can allow adjustments in treatment and advise to reduce the risk of progression.

Other causes of kidney disease include autoimmune disease, genetic conditions and damage to kidneys by medication-especially anti-inflammatory pain killers (NSAIDS). Use of medication should be under the supervision of a medical practitioner to prevent long term complications.

The following general tips are useful to protect one’s kidney (and general) health.

  1. Eat a healthy diet including lots of green leafy vegetables. Avoid take aways and foods with a lot of salt. Drink sufficient water especially on hot days or when exercising. Your thirst will guide you.
  2. Avoid energy drinks and sugar containing soft drinks and prefer water.
  3. Keep your weight down with a healthy lifestyle. Avoid fad diets and stimulants for weight loss
  4. Avoid unnecessary medicines. If you need painkillers for more than a few days consult your doctor.
  5. Report any changes or abnormalities in your urine output or composition to your doctor.
  6. Your health practitioner should regularly check your blood pressure, sugar and urine – even during routine visits
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