As with most health conditions, the best treatment for kidney problems is prevention. If you've ever passed a kidney stone, you're probably willing to do anything to prevent it from happening again. (It's been said that it's as painful as delivering a baby.) And if your kidneys are starting to have problems, which can lead to kidney failure, you will want to do everything in your power to avoid dialysis and the potential need for a kidney transplant.
But what about everyone else who has never experienced kidney stones or failing kidneys? Is there something that's not too inconvenient to help avoid future potential kidney issues? Would you believe that it could be as simple as drinking adequate amounts of water?
I'm surprised at how many patients I see that when I question them on how much water they drink, they think drinking 2 or 3 glasses a day is adequate...or simply drinking lots of soda or coffee! If you skip the rest of this article - here's what you need to know: You need to drink half your body weight (in pounds) in ounces of water daily. So if you weigh 200 pounds, you need to drink about 100 ounces of water every day. Coffee and soda does NOT count - and if you are a coffee or soda drinker, you need to add extra water intake to flush out and re-hydrate your body from the damaging effect these drinks have on your kidneys. The stronger the coffee, the more water you should add.
How do you know if you're not getting enough water? Chapped lips are a clue. If your lips are dry and chapped, and you're always using lip balm, the chances are that you're dehydrated. You can also do the pinch test: Pinch the skin on the back of your hand. Healthy hydrated skin should recoil almost immediately. If it takes several seconds to smooth out, the chances are high that you're not drinking enough water. (Obviously, skin elasticity decreases with age.)
A great habit to get into is to drink a couple of 16 oz. glasses of water as soon as you get up in the morning. You lose a lot of water throughout the night, and likely haven't had any water intake for at least 8 hours. This starts the day off right, and then you only need a few more glasses of water throughout the day to remain fully hydrated.
If your urine is dark, discolored or cloudy throughout the day, like it is first thing in the morning - you are likely not getting enough water. If you take vitamins (like vitamin C or B), it may be a darker yellow the first few hours of the day, but it should become clear throughout the rest of the day. If it's not...DRINK MORE WATER. If it's reddish or cloudy, this could be an infection. Consult a doctor for a urinalysis (preferably a functional medicine doctor, unless you want to end up on antibiotics). The same thing goes for burning with urination, frequent urination, or pain or itching. (Low back pain can also suggest kidney infection). If you are tender to a light punch/pounding just below the ribs on the back - called "Murphy's sign", this can be indicative of a kidney problem.
If you've had recent lab work performed, markers you can check that indicate possible dehydration are:
Hemoglobin (HGB)) - Levels above 14.5 suggest possible dehydration
Total Red Blood Cell count (RBC) - Levels about 4.5 suggest possible dehydration
Creatinine - Levels above .90 indicate possible kidney insufficiency
Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN) - Levels above 18.0 suggest kidney problems or dehydration
Sodium - Levels above 140 could suggest dehydration
Potassium - Levels above 4.50 could suggest dehydration
Chloride - Levels above 106 could suggest dehydration
Phosphorus - Levels above 4.0 suggest possible kidney dysfunction
Total Protein - Levels above 7.4 suggest possible dehydration
Albumin - Levels above 5.0 suggest possible dehydration
Homocysteine - Levels above 10.0 could suggest kidney disease
Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR) - Levels below 60 indicate kidney disease/failing kidneys
These lab markers are not meant to be interpreted individually, but as a pattern. If you suspect kidney disease or problems, consult a functional medicine doctor. There are lots of products that you can take to support your kidneys, as well as even REVERSE Chronic Kidney Disease/Failure. The first thing to do, however, is find out if your kidney issues are due to a poor diet, inflammation, liver problems, a leaky gut, dehydration, an infection, etc. That can only be done by a doctor of functional medicine. The medical approach is all the same: Medicate you until the kidneys fail, and then provide dialysis or a total kidney replacement. (Or antibiotics for a urinary tract infection.)
Your kidneys are your filtration system to excrete waste and keep your minerals balanced. They are vital to your health, and deserve whatever care it takes to keep them healthy. Simply drinking adequate amounts of water and getting regular exercise for circulation will do wonders for kidney health (like routinely changing the oil in your car). Do yourself a huge favor, and don't neglect this simple and important habit.
Wishing you Abundant Health.