What you must know to protect your kidneys

By naturopath Margaret Jasinska

Did you know that kidney disease impacts 1.7 million Australians each year? Kidney-related disease kills more people every year than prostate cancer, breast cancer or even road traffic accidents yet more than 10 percent of people who have Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) are not even aware they have it.

You probably don’t often think about your kidneys. If you have never experienced a problem with them you would have no reason to. However, kidney disease tends to creep up on people, not causing symptoms until it becomes severe. It’s possible to lose up to 90 percent of kidney function and not experience any symptoms.

The kidneys are bean shaped organs that are the size of a clenched fist.  They are located near the middle of the back, just below the ribcage. The main job of the kidneys is to remove waste products from the blood, where they are excreted into urine. The kidneys filter an average of one litre of blood each minute!

Unfortunately, the number of Australians getting sick or dying from kidney failure is rapidly rising; this is often due to avoidable factors such as high blood pressure and high blood sugar. Fortunately many of these deaths can be prevented.

Risk factors for chronic kidney disease

Risk factors for chronic kidney disease include:

  • High blood pressure. If undiagnosed or untreated, high blood pressure can cause significant damage to the kidneys. This is because the excess pressure places stress on the delicate capillaries within the kidneys, damaging them.
  • High blood sugar.  Diabetes greatly increases the risk of kidney damage.
  • Kidney infections.
  • Autoimmune disease of the kidneys, such as glomerulonephritis.
  • Chronic use of some medications
  • Obesity
  • Cigarette smoking

The kidneys usually cope well with minor damage, and can still carry out their functions well.  If kidney function falls below 25 percent, serious health problems develop.  If kidney function drops below 15 percent, dialysis is usually required.

How to protect your kidneys

The most important things you can do to protect your kidneys are:

  • Avoid becoming overweight or a type 2 diabetic. If you do have diabetes, try to get your blood sugar as close to normal as possible. See our book Diabetes Type 2: You Can Reverse It Naturally.
  • Get your blood pressure checked and make sure it is not too high. Insulin resistance is the biggest cause of high blood pressure. There is information about how to reverse that in the book I Can’t Lose Weight and I Don’t Know Why.
  • Treat all urinary tract infections promptly.
  • Drink enough water so that your urine is fairly clear, with a mild yellow tinge.
  • See your doctor if you experience pain in your mid to lower back. Your kidneys are just below your bottom ribs.
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