31 Kidney Health Tips for Optimal Kidney Health

Updated: Aug 20

The kidneys are most known for their responsibility to remove waste products and excess fluid from the body through urination to maintain a stable balance of its natural chemicals. This function is needed due to the importance of regulating the body's salt, potassium and acid content, all performed by the two kidneys.

The kidneys also produce hormones that affect the functionality of other organs, for instance, stimulating red blood cells production, balancing electrolytes, maintaining healthy bones, and maintaining an average pH level (1).


Functions of the Kidneys

  • Removes waste products from the body

  • Removes drugs from the body

  • Balances the body's fluids

  • Releases hormones that regulate blood pressure

  • Produces an active form of vitamin D that promotes strong, healthy bones

  • Controls the production of red blood cells (2)

When the kidneys gradually lose their ability to function, it's called chronic kidney disease or chronic kidney failure. There may not be any signs at the early stage, and symptoms are often nonspecific, meaning other illnesses cause them.


Signs of Chronic Kidney Disease May Include:

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Loss of appetite

  • Fatigue and weakness

  • Sleep problems

  • Changes in how much you urinate

  • Decreased mental sharpness

  • Muscle twitches and cramps

  • Swelling of feet and ankles

  • Persistent itching

  • Chest pain, if fluid builds up around the lining of the heart

  • Shortness of breath, if fluid builds up in the lungs

  • High blood pressure (hypertension) that's difficult to control (3)

So what can we do to prevent these types of things from happening? You're about to find out with these 31 kidney health tips for optimal kidney health.

 

1. Avoid OTC Medications, Especially Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs).

NSAIDs stands for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and is classified as a drug that reduces ongoing inflammation, pain, and fevers and causes ulcers in the stomach, and promotes bleeding.


Examples of OTC & Prescription NSAIDs:

  • Aspirin

  • Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil)

  • Naproxen (Aleve, Anaprox, Naprelan, Naprosyn)

  • Celecoxib (Celebrex)

  • Diclofenac (Cambia, Cataflam, Voltaren)

  • Indomethacin (Indocin)

  • Oxaprozin (Daypro)

  • Piroxicam (Feldene)

Side effects of NSAIDs:

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Constipation

  • Decreased appetite

  • Rash

  • Dizziness

  • Headache

  • Drowsiness

  • Kidney failure

  • Liver failure

  • Ulcers

  • Prolonged bleeding after injury or surgery (4)

People with chronic kidney disease are frequently advised not to take NSAIDs due to their correlation with causing acute kidney injury and progression of kidney disease.


Research has found that 5% of those with moderate-to-severe kidney disease used over-the-counter NSAIDs regularly. That same research found that two-thirds of those same people with moderate-to-severe kidney disease used over-the-counter NSAIDs regularly for more than a year (5).


Feel free to check out my article, The Truth About Acetaminophen, here, which has been linked to damaging the kidneys even though Tylenol claims to be safe for the kidneys.


2. Control Your Blood Sugar Levels

High blood sugar levels can damage the kidneys and result in them failing, leading to kidney disease. Unfortunately, excess glucose in the bloodstream can induce the kidneys to filter too much blood, and that extra work often leads to their ability to filter not functioning correctly, generally leading to diabetic kidney disease (6).


3. Monitor Your Blood Pressure

Many fail to realize that the kidneys and circulatory system depend on each other to keep you in good health. As the kidneys filter out wastes and extra fluids from the blood, they use blood vessels. If you allow the blood vessels to become damaged due to high blood pressure, the nephrons that filter your blood stop receiving the oxygen and nutrients they need to function correctly. Not only does this cause the kidneys to malfunction, but this may also damage the kidneys arteries, which will not only result in poor filtering but will also damage the kidneys themselves, causing them not to regulate your blood pressure (7).


4. Monitor Your Weight

Being overweight may increase your risk of kidney disease since being overweight can directly increase your diabetes and high blood pressure. Both of these conditions are the most common causes of kidney disease (8). With that said, maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for not just your kidney health but your overall health too.


5. Drink Water

About 60% of our body is made up of water, and every part of our body needs water to function correctly. When it comes to the kidneys, water helps remove wastes from your blood during the process of urination. Water also aids in keeping blood vessels open so the blood can travel without restrictions. Plus, water helps prevent kidney stones and UTIs, so be sure you’re getting your liquid intake for each day (9). For kidney health, it’s recommended 13 cups of water for men and 9 for women.


6. Get Your Heart Rate Up

When I say get your heart rate up, I mean to exercise. Why? Well, here's a few things exercise is advantageous for:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight

  • Preventing many diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and kidney disease

  • Controlling blood pressure and cholesterol

  • Building strength and endurance

  • Preventing injuries

  • Building self-confidence and self-esteem

  • Promoting better sleep

So what types of exercise can give you these benefits? Here are a few:

  • Walking

  • Doing household chores

  • Gardening

  • Biking

  • Swimming

  • Climbing stairs

  • Hiking (10)


7. Quit Smoking

There are various health risks associated with smoking, including:

  • Lung cancer

  • Bladder cancer

  • Lung disease

  • Mouth cancer

  • Heart disease

  • Pancreas cancer

  • High blood pressure

  • Cervical cancer

  • Stroke

  • Pregnancy complications

  • Kidney cancer

  • Early menopause

Of course, since this specific article is about kidney health, we will focus on what it does to the kidneys. Smoking can affect the effectiveness of medications used to treat high blood pressure; uncontrolled and poorly controlled blood pressure is the leading cause of kidney disease. Not just that, but smoking also slows the blood flow to essential organs such as the kidneys and can make the effects of kidney disease even worse (11).


8. Adopt A Plant-Based Lifestyle

Research confirms that eating whole grains, nuts, fruits, and vegetables is one of the most effective ways to keep your kidneys healthy. These results occur for several reasons, including:

  • The proper foods can help keep you healthy and fight chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

  • Plant-based diets help prevent kidney disease for those struggling with type 2 diabetes.

  • Animal protein produces immense amounts of acid in the blood, which is harmful to the kidneys and can cause the kidneys not to eliminate the acid fast enough, known as acidosis (12).

There are several types of plant-based lifestyles, but not all of them are healthy. To learn more about the benefits of adapting a plant-based lifestyle, check out my article Why Adopt A Plant-Based Lifestyle, here.


9. Detox Your Kidneys

Properly functioning kidneys are essential. The kidneys perform crucial functions to keep the body running smoothly, including filtering toxins from the blood, regulating blood pressure, and balancing mineral levels.


To keep the kidneys functioning properly, sometimes you need to consume certain foods, drinks, and herbs to help cleanse them and help them perform best such as:

  • Apple Cider Vinegar

Habitual intake of apple cider vinegar grants toxins the ability to flush out of the kidneys.

  • Kidney Beans

Consuming kidney beans assists in the removal of waste and toxins from the kidneys and aids in flushing kidney stones out.

  • Lemon Juice

Lemon juice promotes the filtration and flushing out of wastes and other toxins in the kidneys.

  • Watermelon

Watermelon encourages hydration and the cleansing of the kidneys while ensuring the kidneys remain functioning correctly.

  • Pomegranate

Pomegranate is effective in removing kidney stones due to its high potency of potassium.

  • Basil

Basil can be successful in ridding kidney stones and improving the overall functionality of the kidneys.

  • Dates

After soaking for 24 hours, then removing the seeds, dates are an efficient way of dissolving and flushing out kidney stones due to being rich in fiber, which also aids in reducing the risk of kidney stones.

  • Dandelion

When consumed in tea form, dandelion (root) helps cleanse the kidneys, stimulates bile production, and improves digestion by minimizing the kidneys' waste (13).


Some steps you can take to improve kidney health and even help cleanse your kidneys are:

  • Drink more water

  • Reduce sodium intake

  • Make dietary changes (14)

10. Limit Your Alcohol Intake

The kidneys are responsible for filtering harmful substances from your blood, including alcohol, but alcohol can change the function of the kidneys and make them less capable of filtering your blood. The lack of filtering occurs because alcohol dehydrates the body and affects the kidney's ability to function correctly, which is why it's essential to drink water for the best kidney function.


According to the National Kidney Foundation:

“Drinking alcohol can affect many parts of your body, including your kidneys. A little alcohol—one or two drinks now and then—usually has no serious effects. But drinking too much can harm your health. It can also worsen kidney disease (15).”

11. Reduce Salt Intake

Did you know that salt actually reduces the amount of urinary protein, which is a major risk factor for developing kidney disease (16)?

Fun Fact: Table salt is a combination of two minerals-about 40% sodium and 60% chloride.

The approximate amounts of sodium in a given amount of salt is:

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt = 575mg sodium

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt = 1,150mg sodium

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt = 1,725mg sodium

  • 1 teaspoon salt = 2,300mg sodium

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300mg of sodium per day and is leaning more towards an ideal limit of 1,500mg per day for an adult (17).


Unfortunately, most Americans have way too much sodium in their diets, and if you already have unhealthy kidneys, this may cause swollen ankles, puffiness, a rise in blood pressure, shortness of breath, and fluid around your heart and lungs due to extra sodium and fluid buildup (18).


12. Eat Cranberries

Cranberries can prevent the development and growth of ulcers and bacteria in your urinary tract while also helping the present bacteria and ulcers become more acidic, which helps keep bacteria from attaching inside the bladder. While it’s doing this, it’s also protecting your kidneys (19).


So add some fresh cranberries or even some cranberry juice to your cart during your next shopping trip.


13. Meditate

Meditation is a technique often used for stress-reduction designed to encourage training the mind to focus and redirect your thoughts. When mindful meditation is done correctly, it leads to a heightened state of awareness and consciousness with many positive impacts on your health and overall well-being (20). Recent studies with chronic kidney disease patients have shown that meditation can alleviate some of the biological body responses produced by these patients. According to UCLA Health:

“Mindfulness meditation has been shown to reduced BP, HR, inflammation, anxiety and improve quality of life in normotensive individuals (21).”

To learn how to meditate, check out my article 10 Reasons to Meditate For Self-Care, here.


14. Encourage Lymphatic Drainage & Massage Techniques

According to the Frontiers website:

“Lymph passes from 4–5 renal hilar lymphatics on each kidney to various groups of aortic lymph nodes. Most lymph draining from the kidney collects in the cisterna chyli and is drained via the thoracic duct into the central venous circulation in the neck (22).”

To help promote lymphatic drainage, I highly suggest Earthley’s Lymphatic Cream, which helps tackle lymphatic congestion, reduce soreness and improve overall health and lymphatic massage techniques.


⚠️ Warning: Lymphatic drainage and massage is not recommended for those with congestive heart failure, history of blood clots, history of stroke, current infection, liver or kidney problems.


15. Drink Tea But Not Too Much

Of course, tea is healthy for you, but too much can be detrimental to your kidneys. Tea, especially black tea, is full of oxalic acid, a compound found naturally in many foods, and when taken in excess, can deposit into your kidneys and interfere with removing waste from the blood, even resulting in kidney stones (23).


16. Take Apple Cider Vinegar

Many people recommend taking 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar as a natural remedy and preventative measure for kidney stones. Not only will it help them soften, break down and dissolve, but it will also assist with pain and inflammation caused by kidney stones. Apple cider vinegar is also an excellent option for cleansing the kidney and the liver (24).


Not everyone can handle the taste of apple cider vinegar, so I recommend MaryRuth’s Apple Cider Vinegar Gummies.


17. Limit Antibiotic Use

Many fail to understand that just because a doctor prescribes it or because it’s FDA approved doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe to use. Several classes of antibiotics can harm your kidneys in different ways. Some are more sensitive to the toxic effects of drugs like aminoglycosides such as tobramycin due to their role in the kidney’s filtration process that exposes them to high levels of toxins (25).


18. Avoid or Limit Soda

Carbonated beverages, particularly cola beverages, contain phosphoric acid and have been associated with urinary changes that promote kidney stones. Carbonated drinks are also linked to diabetes, hypertension, and kidney stones, all direct factors of chronic kidney disease (26).


19. Eat Blueberries

Studies have shown a blueberry-enriched diet improves renal function and oxidative stress. The improvement of renal function is due to the antioxidants in blueberries that help with oxidative stress and inflammation. In one study, they found that rats that were fed a blueberry-enriched diet for 15 weeks were protected from damage caused by inflammation-induced renal damage (27).


20. Eat More Carrots

Research has found that beta-carotene reduces inflammation and helps repair damage to kidney-filtering structures known as tubules (28). Beta carotene is the pigment in a plant that gives it a vibrant red, orange, or yellow color. Beta carotene is considered a provitamin A carotenoid, which means that the body can convert it into vitamin A. Beta carotene is also a potent antioxidant; antioxidants can help fight damage from harmful free radicals (29). The buildup of free radicals has been linked to chronic diseases, such as cancer and heart disease.


Check out my vegan-friendly, plant-based, soy-free Air Fried Carrot Bacon recipe, here.


Check out my vegan-friendly, plant-based, soy-free Air Fried Carrot Hot Dogs recipe, here.


21. Cut Down On Saturated Fats

Saturated fats, the harmful fat, are found in animal-based products and some plant-based products, but there’s a big difference between animal products and plant-based products; cholesterol. Plant-based products do not contain cholesterol; cholesterol is only found in animal products. With this said, saturated fats and cholesterol are directly linked to heart disease, a direct risk factor for kidney disease (30).

Some foods that contain saturated fat:

  • Lamb

  • Pork

  • Poultry (with skin)

  • Beef fat

  • Lard and cream

  • Butter

  • Cheese


22. Limit Processed Foods

Processed foods are loaded with sodium and phosphorus. Studies have shown that high phosphorus and sodium intake may be harmful to the kidneys. Plus, I already discussed sodium levels and how it harms your kidneys (31).


Keep in mind; processed food is not limited to just animal products. Processed foods that should be restricted aren't just limited to animal products but plant-based processed foods too. As someone who has adapted a plant-based lifestyle, I try to limit my processed foods to once a week.


23. Eat Kidney Beans

Kidney beans get their name due to their resemblance to the kidney organ. Not only does it resemble the kidneys, but it’s also quite beneficial for promoting kidney health, although you should limit consumption if you have kidney disease. Kidney beans contain many soluble and insoluble fibers while remaining low in fat, enhancing heart health and lowering your risk of kidney disease (32).


24. Practice Good Oral Hygiene

Unfortunately, periodontitis and other oral conditions are common in patients with chronic kidney disease and increase morbidity and mortality due to inflammation, infections, and other complications.

“The consequences of poor oral health may be more severe in CKD patients because of advanced age, common comorbidities such as diabetes, concurrent medications, and a state of immune dysfunction that may increase the risk for systemic consequences of periodontitis and other oral and dental pathologic conditions. Poor dentition and other signs of poor oral health should be an alarm clock also at early stages of CKD (33).”

25. Get Your Sleep

We all acknowledge that a good night’s slumber is good for your health, and getting enough sleep is beneficial for cardiovascular health and vital for kidney function.

“Kidney function is actually regulated by the sleep-wake cycle. It helps coordinate the kidneys’ workload over 24 hours,” Dr. McMullan said. “We also know that nocturnal patterns can affect chronic kidney disease and that people who sleep less usually have faster kidney function decline. What we’re doing now is looking at the specific hormones that may be behind these declines (34).”

26. Avoid or Limit Fructose

Fructose is a kind of simple sugar that makes up 50% of table sugar (sucrose). The thing about it is, glucose and fructose are metabolized very uniquely by the body. While every cell in the body can utilize glucose, the liver is the only organ that can metabolize fructose in notable amounts. When people eat high in calories and high in fructose, the liver gets overloaded and turns fructose into fat. According to Healthline:

“Many scientists believe that excess fructose consumption may be a key driver of many of the most serious diseases of today. These include obesity, type II diabetes, heart disease and even cancer (35).”

According to one study, fructose may be a risk factor for chronic kidney disease amongst many other medical conditions (36).

27. Avoid Excessive Sugar

Sugar itself isn’t problematic, but issues may arise when blood sugar levels get too high. Once the blood sugar level gets too high (180 mg/dl), the kidneys start to spill sugar into the urine, and in diabetics, this can cause kidney damage (37).


28. Make The Switch To Olive Oil

Heart-healthy fats like olive oil may guard against kidney disease. In one study, they found the Mediterranean-style diet, rich in olive oil, lowered the risk of rapid kidney function by 42 percent (38).


29. Avoid Excessive Amounts of Fried Foods

A “Southern-style diet” has been associated with a 50 percent higher risk of death from kidney disease. This type of diet is often filled with fried foods, sweet drinks, and processed meals. This combination of foods and beverages is believed to cause issues with filtering out the harmful fats, sugars, and minerals in such a diet (39).


30. Get Your Greens In

Dark leafy greens such as kale and spinach are packed with vitamins A and C, calcium, and other minerals essential to kidney health and are listed as one of the top healthiest foods (40).


If leafy greens are something you struggle to consume, try Earthley’s Greens Powder to get what you’re missing.


31. Get Your Renal Function Tested

If you’re someone who’s at greater risk of kidney disease or damage, it’s a good idea to get regularly tested to make sure.

Those who are high risk are:

  • People who are over 60 years old

  • People who were born at a low birth weight

  • People who have cardiovascular disease or have a family with it

  • People who have or have a family history of high blood pressure

  • People who are obese

  • People who believe they may have kidney damage (41)

⚠️ These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA, and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure anything.


What's your favorite way to support kidney health?


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