5 Ways to keep your kidneys in great working order

5 Ways to keep your kidneys in great working order
5 Ways to keep your kidneys in great working order. Image source: Unsplash

If I asked you where exactly in your body your kidneys are located – would you be able to tell me? We don’t really think about our kidneys much, until something goes wrong with them, that is. That’s because kidneys are vital to our body’s functioning: they’re the workhorses that remove toxins and waste from our bodies, balance our fluids, help to produce red blood cells, and release hormones that regulate our blood pressure.

As you’d expect, having kidneys that aren’t working properly can lead to serious health consequences. Worldwide, it’s estimated that around 844 million people have chronic kidney disease, which is a long-term condition that needs to be managed through medication, lifestyle and sometimes even more serious interventions like regular dialysis.

To prevent that from happening, maintaining healthy kidneys is best done using a holistic, long-term approach where you create a healthy lifestyle over time. The past week was National Kidney Awareness Week and with that in mind, here are five ways to ensure your kidneys stay in tip top shape:


  1. Stay active

Leading an active lifestyle can help keep your body weight within healthy levels and reduce your blood pressure, which are both factors that help prevent kidney damage. You don’t have to be an ultra-endurance athlete to reap these benefits: moderate but regular movement that gets your heart rate up is just as effective. Find an activity that you can fit into your lifestyle and that you enjoy – whether it’s swimming, yoga or hiking – and try and stick to it on a regular basis.


  1. Eat healthily

There are so many benefits to eating healthily, and improved kidney function is one of them. That’s because eating a balanced diet can help to control your blood pressure, reduce your risk of heart disease and prevent diabetes, all of which can contribute to your risk of developing chronic kidney disease. As part of your diet, keep your salt intake at a moderate level of around 5-6 grams per day (remember that there is often salt already in your food). We know it’s sometimes difficult but try to limit the amount of processed and sugary food you eat, and rather stick to fresh ingredients that are nutrient rich. Also try to include whole grains, fresh fruits and as many vegetables as possible.


  1. Drink enough fluids

Most of us know that it’s important to drink water every day, but it’s especially important in terms of keeping your kidneys healthy, as it makes their job easier to clear excess sodium and toxins from your body. How much water you should drink depends on your individual circumstances, such as how much you exercise, other health conditions you may have, and what sort of climate you live in. General advice, though, is to drink around eight glasses of water (two litres) throughout the day to keep yourself properly hydrated.


  1. Moderate use of over-the-counter anti-inflammatories

Even though they’re commonly available at your local pharmacy, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen can cause kidney damage if you take them too often – even if you have healthy kidneys right now. According to the US National Kidney Foundation, you shouldn’t take NSAIDs for more than 10 days continuously for pain, or more than three days if you have a fever. If you do suffer from chronic pain, speak to your doctor or specialist about alternative measures you can take to manage it, such as massage or acupuncture if you suffer from migraines or arthritis, for example.


  1. Consider other risk factors

While anyone can get kidney disease, some factors increase your risk of developing it, including conditions like diabetes, obesity or high blood pressure. This risk can also be exacerbated if you are over 60, or have a family history of kidney problems. If you think you’re at risk of these other conditions, it may be worth getting tested. Some medical aids such as Fedhealth offer a screening benefit to members where you can check for things like diabetes, heart disease and elevated cholesterol. Gaining an understanding of these parts of your health can help you manage it better overall, including keep your kidneys functioning optimally.


Just like our lungs, heart and liver, our kidneys are crucial to keeping us alive – so it’s worth taking care of them in order to prevent any serious complications in future. As always, knowledge is key when it comes to our health, so the more we know about these hardworking organs, the better we can take care of them.