Our kidneys are one of the most vital organs required for maintaining our body’s health and wellness. Everyone knows they have kidneys, but few people know what they do. Well, March is National Kidney Month, so there’s no better time to learn about how your kidneys help you!
Your Kidneys and You
Kidneys are responsible for filtering our blood of toxins that could slowly build up and eventually poison our systems. Kidneys are also responsible for removing excess water from our bodies and regulating our blood’s pH balance. Maintaining this balance means our kidneys prevent our blood from becoming too acidic or too alkaline (basic). If our blood becomes too basic or too acidic, it can damage the other cells and organs of the body and quickly lead to death.
Unfortunately, kidney disease’s noticeable signs and symptoms do not appear until there is moderate- to severe-loss-of-function. Even then, most people only notice an elevation in their blood pressure, also known as hypertension.
The renal (kidneys) and cardiovascular (heart) systems are closely linked as well. Often, when there is a disease or chronic conditions that affect one of the systems, the other system will also develop complications or chronic illnesses.
For example, chronic hypertension (high blood pressure) often leads to edema or swelling of the lower legs. The heart is working harder to try and pump the blood throughout the body. In turn, the kidneys must work harder to filter the blood and are under more pressure, resulting in excess fluid accumulating in the lower legs. If hypertension is left unchecked, this fluid will accumulate in other vital organs, including the kidneys themselves. Lungs and the respiratory system can contribute to kidney failure and heart failure. Other common chronic conditions that affect the renal system are diabetes and urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Along with chronic conditions that can affect kidney function and health, there are numerous medications that clients may be on that will affect kidney function and urinary output, such as diuretics like Furosemide (aka Lasix) and Hydrochlorothiazide. These medications work on the kidneys to increase urine output, especially for those with excess fluid build-up in the extremities (aka edema).
Eating Right for Your Kidneys
We can help protect our kidneys by maintaining a healthy, balanced diet and drinking plenty of water. Water helps to flush waste products from our blood as well as keep our bodies hydrated. Most adults require 1500-2000 mL of fluids a day. Fluids include all beverages, such as water, juice, coffee, tea, soup, etc., and anything that melts at room temperatures, such as ice, popsicles, ice cream, and Jell-O.
Cranberries and cranberry juice are an excellent treat to keep our kidneys healthy. When shopping for cranberry juice, read the labels, and choose a product with little to no sugar added sugar, where cranberries a significant ingredient. Keep in mind, many juice brands contain very little actual fruit content and are loaded with sugar, decreasing the nutritional impact of the juice you’re drinking.
Another option for those who do not like cranberry juice is a cranberry supplement, available over the counter in most vitamin and mineral sections of grocery stores and pharmacies. Apples, mushrooms, kale, cauliflower, and egg whites are all additional foods that have tremendous benefits for our kidney function. You should avoid drinking too many fluids that are considered diuretics, such as coffee, tea (green or black), sodas or pop, and alcohol.
How You Can Help Kidney Health
As graduates of Heritage College, we can help advocate the benefits of healthy diets and fluid intake to our clients. As Pharmacy Assistants, graduates can help educate clients on the importance of drinking adequate fluids (especially water) and provide education on monitoring fluid intake for clients that may be on fluid restrictions due to decreased kidney function or other chronic conditions. As well, you can educate a patient on their medications may affect kidney function.
As Medical Office Assistants, graduates may assist clients and physicians with intake and output records, blood pressure monitoring, education on healthy diets for diabetes, heart disease, chronic urinary tract infections, and many other chronic conditions. Helping clients understand the positive outcomes of healthy balanced diets, benefits of healthy blood pressure and adequate fluid intake are things graduates can do every day to provide clients with maintaining healthy kidney function.