The kidneys are a pair of organs situated at the back of the abdomen, below the diaphragm on each side of the spine just under the rib cage and weigh about 150gm each. Its functions are to regulate blood pressure, reduce acidity (metabolic acidosis), dispose of waste material from the blood, regulate water and fluid balance, produce erythropoietin to build new red blood cells and keep the acid/ alkaline balance controlled. The wastes flushed out from the kidneys (excess Sodium, nitrogen, aluminium, urea, metabolic wastes) are removed from the body via the urine.
Healthy kidneys act like a filter to remove wastes and fluids from the circulating blood, they keep the proper balance of salts and acids in the body and produce hormones. Every day our kidneys filter 200 litres of blood which is an essential process and they remove about 2 litres of waste products which are diluted in water. To remove this waste and extra water, blood enters the kidney through the renal artery and is then cleaned in the kidney as it passes through tiny filters called nephron. One kidney contains about one million nephrons and each nephron contains a filtering apparatus called a glomerulus. Cleaned, fresh blood then returns to the circulation via the renal vein and the wastes taken from the blood via filtration are excreted via the bladder and urine.
A decrease in kidney function takes place over many years; people can survive quite well with a decline in kidney function or a loss of one kidney. However, it is essential that extra health improvements are put in place to ensure that the percentage of healthy kidney function left is optimal. As kidney disease progresses, the symptoms can include changes in the urine (reduced volume, discolouration, blood or pus), nausea and vomiting and appetite loss. Other symptoms include swollen or numb hands and feet (because of water retention), weakness and lethargy, darkened skin and muscle cramps.
The kidneys, stress hormones and emotions
In energetic medicine the kidneys house the emotion of fear and therefore many symptoms of anxiety, depression and stress are exhibited when there is an adrenal or kidney weakness. The adrenals sit on top of the kidneys and produce cortisol when stressed. Cortisol is a stress hormone which contributes to feelings of tension, irritability and unease due to it irritating the nerve endings. The adrenal’s stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline as well as rennin angiotensin also influences blood pressure. It is of benefit to try to reduce and manage stress so that there is a decrease in the production of stress hormones which atrophy the kidneys further and reduce filtration.
Ailments which may affect kidney function
- congestive heart failure
- degeneration of the kidneys may occur as one of the symptoms of Legionnaire’s Disease
- Diabetes mellitus may increase the risk of kidney disease
- Hypothyroidism may impair the optimal functioning of the kidneys
- Obesity places an extra strain on the kidneys
- Autoimmune diseases such as Lupus Erythematosus may cause degeneration of the connective tissue of the kidneys
Diet tips for kidney health
- Drink herbal teas such as Dandelion Leaf and Green Tea as they support the function of the kidneys filtration and are also gentle diuretics
- The best advice to support the role of the kidneys is to ensure adequate fluid intake, at least 2 litres of water/ day. There is a saying which goes “the solution to pollution is dilution” which explains the role the kidneys place in removal of wastes from the body
- Reduce diuretics in the diet such as sugar, tea, alcohol, coffee and carbonated drinks. As these place an extra burden on the kidneys filtration and cause the body to loose more water and puts the sodium and potassium levels out of sync
- An alkaline diet rather than an acidic diet cleanses and tones the kidneys. An alkaline diet involves eating foods such as plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, lemon juice, water, brown rice, miso soup and vegetable juices. An acidic diet is foods like sugar, wheat, dairy, red meat, oranges, alcohol, preserved and processed foods. I have attached an acid/ alkaline sheet which may help you to decide which foods to eat to address alkalinity and healthy kidney function
- Have a vegetable juice each day to encourage liver detoxification and kidney filtration. Some ideas are fresh juiced beetroot, carrot, celery and ginger or watermelon or pineapple, green apple and mint
- Reduce foods such as sugar, tea, coffee, alcohol, soft drinks and table salt (an alternative for this is Celtic Sea Salt) as these tend to hold onto fluid in the body
- Decrease sodium (table salt) consumption in your diet and replace with sea salt or vegetable salt. Sodium is important for the health of the kidneys but not in excessive amounts. Sea salt is rich in many minerals without being refined and does not contain aluminium (used in table salt to keep the salt dry)
- Vegetable broths are very nutrient rich for the health of the kidneys as well as alkalising excess acidity levels to help take the burden off the kidneys filtration system. You can make a broth by boiling kidney beans and a mix of vegetables such as onions, celery, carrot, beetroot, spinach, sea salt, wakame (sea vegetables/ seaweed) and drinking a cup of the broth daily. This recipe is also very rich in minerals which again will help to fortify and nourish the kidneys
- Caffeine, simple sugars and sugar alternatives (sorbitol) irritate the kidneys
Lifestyle factors for Kidney health
- Heavy metals such as cadmium, lead, mercury and aluminium dramatically reduce kidney function
- Some pharmaceutical medications cause holding of fluids and decreases in kidney function, so speak to your GP about possible side effects from any medications you may be currently taking
- Reduce alcohol intake as alcohol can dramatically reduce kidney function by causing a diuretic action, dehydration and placing a burden on the kidneys to remove the ethanol from the system
Natural remedies for Kidney health
- Spirulina, Wheat Grass and Chlorophyll nourishes and tones the kidneys and increases the amounts of waste removed via filtration, it is also a blood cleanser and alkaliser
- Herbs to improve the functioning of the kidneys are Borage, Chapparal, Cornsilk, Dandelion leaf, Goji Berry, Alisma, Poria, Ginkgo biloba, Green Tea, Lemon Grass (tea), Milk Thistle, Rehmannia, Parsley, Celery, Juniper, Roship (tea), Sarsaparilla, Bearberry and Golden Seal
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