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The Importance of Kidney Health

Updated: Feb 28

The kidneys are most known for removing waste products and excess bodily fluid. While removing waste and excess fluids, the kidneys also regulate the body's salt, potassium, and acid content. The kidneys produce hormones that affect other organs' functionality, making kidney health crucial, especially when detoxing.

doctor holding a kidney for kidney health

Kidney health isn’t something I’ve ever deeply thought about. Not until I did an Embark DNA test for my dog, which came back that she was at higher risk of developing Hyperuricosuria and Hyperuricemia or Urolithiasis (HUU). Unfortunately, Fiona inherited both copies of the SLC2A9 gene variant tested, meaning she’s more prone to urate kidney and bladder stones. No wonder she always gets urinary tract infections (UTIs). 

Of course, once I learned this, I dug into kidney health research. I quickly learned about purine’s effect on the kidneys. For those who may not know, purine is naturally found in meat and, when broken down, forms into uric acid before it’s eliminated via urination (1). 

Too much purine can lead to HUU in dogs and GOUT in humans. In other words, Fiona’s meat-based raw diet needed some adjustments. I won’t get into that, but I will discuss all things kidney health related, so let’s get to it!


Understanding Kidney Health

The kidneys are most known for removing waste products and excess bodily fluid. The kidneys remove waste via urination to help maintain a stable balance of its natural chemicals. While removing waste and excess fluids, the kidneys also regulate the body's salt, potassium, and acid content. 

Aside from removing waste and fluid, the kidneys also produce hormones that affect the functionality of other organs. For instance, the kidneys stimulate red blood cell production and balance electrolytes while maintaining optimal pH levels and bone health (2).

Let’s make this simple -- the functions of the kidneys include (3):

  • Removing waste products from the body

  • Removing drugs from the body

  • Balancing the body's fluids

  • Releasing hormones that regulate blood pressure

  • Producing an active form of vitamin D to promote strong, healthy bones

  • Controlling the production of red blood cells 

The Eye-Kidney Connection

Ophthalmology Times published an article demonstrating the eye-kidney connection via optical coherence tomography (OCT) scans. The ​article​ discussed how the kidney and eye are structurally and functionally similar and that diseases of these organs may present similarly through common pathways (4). It's almost like the gut-brain connection, isn't that interesting? 

The kidneys and eyes share a common link; risk factors associated with kidney disease can lead to eye problems and vice versa (5). It’s not uncommon for optometrists to have patients with systemic disease(s) diagnosed following the onset of ocular signs and symptoms (6). No wonder a 2014 study emphasized distinguishing between possible underlying causes of exudative retinal detachment (ERD), such as an isolated ocular disorder or a vision impairment secondary to systemic diseases like nephrotic syndrome and renal failure (7)! 

Signs of Unhealthy Kidneys

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). Of course, not everyone will get full-blown kidney disease, so let’s also discuss the general warning signs of kidney problems (8):

  • Chronic fatigue

  • Poor sleep, including sleep apnea

  • Itchy skin

  • Swollen face and feet (due to sodium retention)

  • Electrolyte imbalances 

  • Muscle cramps

  • Breathlessness

  • Brain fog

  • Dizziness

  • Low appetite

  • Foul breath

  • Foamy, brown, or bloody urine

Of course, if you’re 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 (9):

  • People who are over 60 years old

  • People who were born with 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

Influences on Kidney Health

Many things influence kidney health, from the foods we eat to the medicine we take, even the environmental toxins surrounding us. Some of the most common threats to kidney health include the following:

  • Over-the-counter medications, especially nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (10). 

  • Smoking slows blood flow to essential organs, including the kidneys, and can exacerbate the effects of kidney disease (11).

  • Alcohol consumption can make the kidneys less capable of filtering your blood and even worsen kidney disease (12).

  • Too much salt can cause swollen ankles, puffiness, a rise in blood pressure, shortness of breath, and fluid around your heart and lungs due to sodium and fluid retention (13).

  • Too much tea, especially black tea, can deposit oxalic acid into your kidneys and interfere with removing waste from the blood, even resulting in kidney stones (14). 

  • Certain antibiotics, like aminoglycosides interfere with the kidney’s filtration process, exposing them to high levels of toxins (15). 

  • Carbonated beverages are linked to diabetes, hypertension, and kidney stones, all direct factors of chronic kidney disease (16). 

  • Excess saturated fats and cholesterol are linked to heart disease, a direct risk factor for kidney disease (17).

  • Too much sugar can lead to high blood sugar levels (180 mg/dl), forcing the kidneys to spill sugar into the urine, and in diabetics, this can cause kidney damage (18).

Of course, kidney health (and support) is crucial, especially when detoxing. So, how do we maintain optimal kidney health? I recommend controlling and managing blood pressure, weight, and blood sugar first.

As the kidneys filter out waste and extra fluids from the blood, they use blood vessels. If the blood vessels become damaged due to high blood pressure, the nephrons (the kidney’s basic structural and functional unit) stop receiving the oxygen and nutrients needed to function correctly. Not only does this cause kidney malfunction, but it may also damage the kidneys’ arteries, leading to poor filtering, kidney damage, and the inability to regulate blood pressure (19).

Additionally, being overweight can increase the risk of diabetes and high blood pressure, in turn increasing the risk of kidney disease (20). That brings us to excess glucose in the bloodstream, which can cause the kidneys to filter too much blood. That extra work often leads to the kidney’s inability to filter or function correctly, inducing diabetic kidney disease (21).

Many foods promote kidney health, including but not limited to:

  • Apple cider vinegar (22)

  • Avocado oil (23)

  • Beans (24)

  • Blueberries (25)

  • Broccoli (26)

  • Carrots (27)

  • Cranberries (28)

  • Garlic (29

  • Nuts, including nut milk (30)

  • Pumpkin seeds (31) – learn the benefits of pumpkin seed

  • Strawberries (32)

  • Tomatoes (33)

  • Whole grains (34)

I also created simple-to-follow steps categorized by beginner, intermediate, and advanced. I recommend starting with the beginner steps while adding in and working through the intermediate and advanced steps to optimize your kidney health.

Beginner steps to positively influence kidney health:

  • Increase water consumption.

  • Focus on consuming whole foods and incorporating foods from the list above.

Intermediate steps to positively influence kidney health:

Advanced steps to positively influence kidney health: 

  • Eliminate or limit pharmaceutical medications (do this to the best of your ability with the help of a trusted medical professional).

  • Consider supplements like Earthley's UT-Relief.


I also suggest encouraging lymphatic drainage via dry brushing or 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 (35).”

To help promote lymphatic drainage, I highly suggest Earthley’s Lymphatic Cream, which helps tackle lymphatic congestion, reduce soreness, and improve overall health. Please note lymphatic drainage and massage are not recommended for those with congestive heart failure, a history of blood clots, a history of stroke, a current infection, or liver or kidney problems. 

⚠️ Warning: The Holistic Hipppie is not a functional medicine practitioner. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This content is not medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure, or replace medical guidance. The Holistic Hipppie assumes no liability for the application of the information discussed.

Have you ever worked on your gut health? If so, how did it go for you?



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