Located on either side of your spine at the bottom of your ribcage, your kidneys are are bean-shaped organs that remove waste products from the blood. About the size of a fist, each kidney has about one million nephrons, tiny units inside the kidney where waste removal takes place. Kidneys fail when disease attacks the nephrons, causing them to lose their filtering capacity. A balanced diet featuring specific foods and herbs to nourish the organs, regular exercise and reduced exposure to drugs or toxic chemicals can help strengthen your kidneys and help you maintain optimal renal functioning.
Reduce the workload you place on your kidneys by controlling how much protein you consume. If you have healthy kidneys you can eat up to half of your body weight in grams of protein per day, says Ben Kim, a Canada-based chiropractor and acupuncturist. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds you can safely eat 75g of protein per day. Decrease the amount of protein in your diet if you have kidney damage.
Avoid routine use of over-the-counter steroids and pain pills. Overuse of corticosteroids or of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen, can lead to kidney damage, says Joseph A. Vassalotti, chief medical officer for the National Kidney Foundation.
Include cranberries in your diet. Cranberries have been shown to prevent urinary tract infections that, according to the National Kidney Foundation, can spread to the kidneys. Follow a diet suggested by Joerg Kastner, author of "Chinese Nutrition Therapy," which lists fish, meat, lentils, oats and walnuts as foods that strengthen the kidney network.
Drink the recommended amount of water and fluids each day. Add cranberry juice to your diet to help dissolve kidney stones. Teas made from herbs such as dandelion, cornsilk, meadowsweet, sarsaparilla or plantain leaf, have been used in traditional medicine to help the body eliminate wastes and flush out excess water, although there is no scientific evidence of their efficacy.
Participate in an exercise regimen featuring aerobics and resistance training to maintain optimal body weight, blood sugar and blood pressure levels and reduce your risk of obesity, diabetes and hypertension, disorders that can attack nephrons and over a period of time and reduce kidney functioning.
Consider incorporating therapies used in traditional Chinese medicine, such as acupuncture, acupressure and herbal remedies, which practitioners use to stimulate the kidney meridians and nourish the kidneys.
In addition to helping your body remove wastes, your kidneys balance the body's fluids, release hormones that regulate blood pressure, produce vitamin D, which helps maintain calcium for bones and for normal chemical balance in the body and stimulate the bone marrow to produce red blood cells.
If you have been diagnosed with a kidney disorder, consult your physician before changing your diet or exercise regimen.
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- National Kidney Foundation: How Your Kidneys Work
- National Institutes of Health: The Kidneys and How They Work
- DrBenKim: How to Keep Your Kidneys Healthy As You Age
- Wellness Health Pro: Strengthen the Kidneys Naturally
- National Institutes of Health: Pain Killers and the Kidneys
- The New York Times; Early Warning for a Deadly Kidney Disease; Brody; Sept. 2009
- Better Nutrition; Chinese Herbs Strengthen Kidney Deficiency Patterns in Men; Harder; July 1997
- UPMC: Nutrition and Kidney Disease
- National Kidney Foundation: National Kidney Foundation and Cranberry Marketing Committee Forge New Partnership to Promote Urinary Tract Health
- "Chinese Nutrition Therapy"; Kastner; 2009