Experts List 6 Things Your Kidneys Wish You’d Stop Doing 2023

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Kidneys perform many vital tasks. According to the National Kidney Foundation (NKF), kidneys generate hormones that control blood pressure, bone health, pH levels, and red blood cell production. Despite being vital, we abuse our kidneys daily.

That’s why we contacted S. Adam Ramin, MD, a urologist and medical director of Urology Cancer Specialists in Los Angeles, who says there are various ways you may be harming your kidneys without recognizing it. Learn the six things your kidneys wish you’d quit doing and how simple lifestyle changes might enhance your kidney health.

Excess salt

If you have renal disease, reducing your salt intake can help. The NKF recommends 2,300 mg of salt for healthy persons and 1,500 mg for patients with renal disease or high blood pressure.

“When you eat too much salt, the kidneys retain water to dilute it,” says Ramin. This protects our hearts by balancing blood chemical levels. “Over time, stressing the kidneys can damage them and the heart muscle,” he says. Next time you eat, taste before seasoning. Add a pinch if necessary. Ramin advises choosing a flavorful alternative without sodium.

Overprocessed meals

In a 2022 Nutrition study, those who ate the most ultra-processed foods had the greatest rates of chronic renal disease. “The human body and its filtration system, including the kidneys, weren’t designed to process the ‘fast foods’ our society so readily consumes today,” Ramin tells Best Life. “Too much of these foods over a long period effectively shut down the way our bodies handle waste from them.”

The urologist adds that many doctors advise eating “everything in moderation,” but this can be misleading, especially when it comes to fast food. “One person’s moderation is another’s overkill. He advocates eating a mix of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and water. “Doing so will help leave a lot less room for the foods that can ultimately ruin your kidney health.”

Overeating red meat

Animal-based proteins strain the kidneys as they filter blood. “Red meat tops that list,” Ramin says. He advises that frequent red meat eating increases kidney stone risk.

Kidney stones are painful, but red meat-heavy diets have worse consequences. Red meat consumption was “strongly associated” with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) risk in a dose-dependent manner, according to a 2017 Journal of the American Society of Nephrology study. Poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy did not raise ESRD risk.

The study authors and Ramin advise replacing red meat with plant-based proteins. Nuts, seeds, whole grains, beans, legumes, and high-protein veggies like peas and broccoli are kidney-healthy.

Diet Sodas

The Mayo Clinic says healthy adults can take artificial sweeteners in moderation. “Some research on long-term, daily use of artificial sweeteners suggests a link to a higher risk of stroke, heart disease and death overall,” their experts say.

Ramin notes that one study showed artificially sweetened diet Coke may harm kidneys. “A number of years ago, it was reported in an 11-year research study done by Harvard Medical School of more than 3,000 women that diet soda was associated with a doubled increase in declining kidney health,” says Ramin, adding that sugar-sweetened soft drinks did not show the same results. He said the study concluded that artificial sweeteners in these beverages cause kidney damage.

“My advice: stick to water,” says the urologist. “It has zero calories and is so much better for nearly every organ system in your body, including your kidneys.”

Overusing alcohol or painkillers

The NKF says having four alcoholic drinks a day doubles your risk of chronic kidney disease. Smoking increases risk. Heavy drinkers who smoke are at greater risk of renal disease. “Heavy drinkers and smokers have five times the risk of chronic kidney disease,” the association warns.

The NKF also warns that drug abusers risk kidney disease. NSAIDs and analgesics are also over-the-counter painkillers. “Reduce your regular use of NSAIDs and never go over the recommended dosage,” their specialists advise.

Caffeine overload

Finally, Ramin advises limiting caffeine use. “Because caffeine is a stimulant, too much of it can increase blood pressure, which increases stress on the kidneys and makes them go into ‘overdrive,'” he says, adding that renal failure can result.

“Avoid the risk by reducing your intake to no more than one or two daily cups of coffee,” Ramin advises. If you have a kidney issue, consult a doctor or trained dietician about how much caffeine is healthy for you.

Best Life provides the latest information from experts, research, and health agencies, but it is not a substitute for professional advice. Consult your doctor for health questions.

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