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How to Keep Your Kidneys Healthy

You may not know, but taking care of your kidneys can make all the difference in how you feel today and, most importantly, for your longevity. Your kidneys are an incredibly essential organ for the proper functioning of your body. They actively eliminate toxins that could harm us and it’s thanks to them that our bodies maintain a healthy balance of water, salts, and minerals in our blood.

With this in mind, we’ve put together this guide to help you learn best practices for healthier kidneys and a longer life. Don't wait until you're in pain to start taking care of them!

What Are Your Kidneys’ Function?

Kidneys are about the size of a fist and are shaped like a bean. Their job is to remove wastes and excess water from the blood. These waste materials are expelled from the body in the form of urine, helping to maintain our body's balance of chemicals (mainly sodium, potassium and calcium). 

Kidneys also produce hormones that are part of the system that controls blood pressure and stimulate the bone marrow to produce red blood cells.

Causes of Kidney Pain

There are different conditions that can cause pain in the kidneys, which can range from mild to extremely difficult to bear. According to the American Kidney Fund, the main causes of kidney pain are:

Kidney stones

Nephrolithiasis or urolithiasis is a medical condition in which mineral deposits that accumulate in the kidney — kidney stones — cause pain as they pass through the urinary tract. 

Urinary tract infections

These types of infections occur in the kidneys, ureters, bladder or urethra. Mostly in the lower parts of the system (the urethra and bladder), but they can spread to the kidneys if not treated promptly. Women have a higher incidence of this type of disease because their urethra is shorter than men's, making it more likely for bacteria to enter their system.

Kidney cancer

Renal cancer is characterized by unrestrained multiplication of malignant cells in the kidneys. Without treatment, this condition can spread to other parts of the body through a process called metastasis. There are several types of kidney cancer, including clear cell carcinoma, granular cell carcinoma, transitional cell carcinoma, Wilms' tumors, and renal sarcomas.

Acute kidney injury

When someone's kidneys stop working for a period of two days or less, it’s called acute kidney injury (AKI). This disease is serious and must be treated immediately, but fortunately there are treatments to cure it and the damage caused is almost always reversible.

Nephrotic syndrome

When a person's kidneys are not working properly, the set of symptoms is known as nephrotic syndrome. They include: higher protein levels in the urine, low protein levels in the blood, high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, increased risk of developing blood clots, and swelling. This condition has various causes, but always indicates a failure of kidney function.

10 Home Remedies for Kidney Pain

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If you feel pain on one or both sides of your lower back, chances are that the discomfort is coming from your kidneys. You should visit your doctor if the pain is severe or persists for more than two days. However, in case the pain is mild and recent, you can try to relieve it with some of the following home remedies: 

1. Drinking more water

    Drinking enough water is key to keeping your kidneys healthy. Dehydration can cause kidney stones to form and make it more difficult for them to pass through. In addition, the passage of water through the kidneys helps to flush out other accumulated impurities, cleansing these important organs.

    2. Applying hot compresses on the lower back

      One of the easiest ways to relieve kidney pain is to apply heat to the area of the lower back, sides, and abdomen. You can do this by means of hot compresses or taking a hot bath.  

      3. Dandelion tea

        Thanks to its diuretic effect, dandelion tea is effective in relieving some kidney ailments. By increasing the body's urine output, dandelion tea can aid in the effective elimination of toxins or minerals accumulated in the kidneys that may be the cause of your discomfort.

        4. Lemonade all day

          If your kidney pain is caused by kidney stones, "lemonade therapy" may help. Drinking lemon water increases citrate levels in your urine, which can help dissolve the minerals that make up kidney stones. Make a drink with four ounces of lemon juice diluted in half a gallon of water and drink it throughout the day. 

          It's important not to add sugar because, according to information provided by Dr. Ramy Youssef Yaacoub, professor of urology at the University of Irvine School of Medicine, this ingredient can increase the risk of developing kidney stones. 

          5. Consuming basil

            Basil has properties that promote good digestion, aid relaxation, and is also a diuretic. Thanks to this last characteristic, basil can help get rid of kidney stones and cleanse the urinary system. Prepare a tea with its leaves or add it as a condiment to your meals. 

            6. Try Watermelon!

              Watermelon also has diuretic effects and contains high levels of potassium, which can help break up kidney stones. Making a tea with its seeds is also effective in cleansing the kidneys. We must emphasize that you shouldn't add sugar to these beverages.

              7. Taking olive oil as a supplement

                According to a study published in the journal Nefrología, organic extra virgin olive oil has positive effects on people with chronic kidney disease (CKD). Taking a tablespoon of this oil every day in the morning can help improve the functioning of your kidneys.

                8. Celery-Up

                  In addition to containing high levels of fiber, vitamins B1, B2, B6 and B9, beta-carotene, calcium, zinc, potassium and magnesium, celery is excellent for cleansing the kidneys. This edible plant helps relieve inflammation and fight urinary tract infections. You can choose to make juice with its stalks or eat the seeds as part of your diet.

                  9. Resting

                    When you're experiencing pain due to kidney stones, body movements can cause the stones to shift in the kidneys, resulting in bleeding. If possible, try to lie down in bed to rest and prevent this from happening. It’s typically better to lie on your back or your stomach, because lying on your side may put pressure on one of your kidneys and worsen the pain. 

                    10. Follow your doctor's instructions

                      When in doubt - consult your doctor and follow their instructions precisely. The National Institute of Health provides an excellent physician-developed guide with the most pertinent recommendations for taking care of your kidneys. We encourage you take a look.

                      Risk Factors

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                      Anyone can suffer from diseases that affect the kidneys. However, according to the American Kidney Fund, there are four main risk factors that make it more likely that someone will be affected by these ailments. These factors are:

                      • Diabetes. Diabetes is the most common cause of kidney diseases in the United States. Maintaining a proper diet, taking medications, and exercising can help minimize the impact of this disease. 
                      • Hypertension. This disease is the second leading cause of kidney disease. Because the kidneys produce hormones that regulate blood pressure, hypertension can also be a symptom of kidney problems. 
                      • Family history. Some kidney ailments are hereditary. Therefore, if your family has a history of kidney disease, you should take extra precautions and check with your doctor regularly.
                      • Race or ethnicity. Hispanics are among the ethnic groups that have a higher propensity to develop kidney disease. Science has not found the exact cause of this correlation; however, it's important that you be informed of this and take extra precautions if you’re a part of this community. 

                      When Should You See a Doctor?

                      Doctors who specialize in kidney care are known as nephrologists. See your doctor as soon as possible if any of the following symptoms appears:

                      • Foamy urine
                      • Unexpected anemia
                      • Lower back pain
                      • Change in urine color
                      • Blood in urine
                      • Difficulty urinating, or constant urge to urinate
                      • Bitter taste in the mouth
                      • Unexpected weight loss
                      • Vomiting
                      • Nausea

                      FAQ

                      How to tell if a back pain is coming from the kidneys?

                      Because the kidneys are located under the rib cage toward the back, kidney pain can easily be mistaken for simple back pain. The following characteristics may indicate that the pain is coming from the kidneys:

                      • The pain is located on one or both sides of the lumbar area; that is, in the lower back.
                      • The pain does not become more intense or calm down with movement.
                      • The pain spreads to the lower abdomen or groin.

                      What test detects kidney problems?

                      There are two main types of laboratory tests used to diagnose kidney problems:

                      • A blood test to measure the glomerular filtration rate (GFR).
                      • A urine test to detect the levels of albumin (a type of protein) in urine.

                      Where are the kidneys located?

                      Kidneys are located behind the liver and stomach in the upper back part of the abdomen. They are partially protected by the rib cage and have a membrane that protects them from infection called the renal capsule. In addition, they have a fatty lining (perirenal fat) and a layer of connective tissue (renal fascia) that separates this fat from the rest of the body's lipids.

                      Your Health Comes First!

                      We hope you find this information helpful and that you feel more informed on the main risk factors for kidney disease, as well as some effective home remedies to stay healthy. We also remind you that SABEResPODER has the PODERsalud program, which offers access to discounted medical services for only $16.95 per month. Be sure to check it out!