March is kidney health month. Many of my readers know that I have chronic kidney disease, so I thought I would share a few tips to keep the kidneys healthy.
Kidney disease is known as the silent killer. There are very few symptoms until your function drops very low. And the symptoms you experience could be attributed to many other illnesses or just simple stress. Now, at 13% function, the only symptoms I experience are exhaustion and headaches. If I eat too much salt I also swell up though. I was diagnosed when I was just shy of 25 and the reason they found it so early was that I had gout. It’s highly unusual for a 25 year old female to get gout so they did some exploring to see if I had early arthritis. That wasn’t the case, for me it was due to my kidneys not filtering well enough and urich acid crystals building up in the big toe. It was shocking to hear the diagnosis and I can remember feeling so unsure of what the future would hold for me. At the time the doctor thought I would need a transplant within 10 years. I just turned 49.
A couple of things happened over the years. One is that my kidney doctor decided to take a then radical approach to the disease. He started me on blood pressure medication that opens up the arteries in the kidneys and helps them to function better. This is now a very common treatment. The other thing that happened is I got sober and ended up leading a very healthy lifestyle. The combination of these two things has meant keeping my kidneys functioning much longer than they would have. It doesn’t mean I’m out of the woods, there is no cure for kidney disease. But I’ve managed it well and when I do receive a transplant I’m in a far better position to come through the surgery ok.
For me, they aren’t sure what caused kidney disease; it could be related to injury to the kidneys when I had an extremely high fever as an infant. It probably wasn’t helped by all the drinking I did earlier in my life either. But for many people kidney disease is a result of lifestyle. Diabetes can lead to kidney disease. So what can you do to keep your kidneys healthy? Here ar a few tips:
- Eat healthy- more fruit and veggies, healthy fats, good levels of protein
- Exercise- it helps your muscles but it also keeps your weight healthy which puts less pressure on kidneys as well as the heart
- Less salt- for me, my salt intake needs to be around 1500 mg a day. For the undiseased kidney the recommended amount is less than 2500 a day. This means eating less processed foods which tends to be very high in sodium. I have a theory that reducing salt intake is way more important for overall health than we think. That’s simply based on how I feel when I get too much. I get what I call a salt hangover when I have too much. I have a feeling people who eat too much salt are not even aware that they feel a little crappy all the time. The same can be said about refined sugar, but I digress.
- Don’t smoke- This is important for all of your organs. Smoking restricts the blood flow impairing function to all organs, including kidneys.
- Hydrate- drink an appropriate amount of water. The kidneys need to keep wet!
Keeping healthy is so important for good quality of life. That doesn’t mean that if you develop a disease life is over, but it is inconvenient. If you can, prevent disease. If that’s not in the cards for you, live life to the fullest by staying as healthy as possible – you’re worth it!