Although your kidneys provide lifesaving functions, you probably don’t give them much thought. But taking some easy steps to improve kidney health and occasionally using a cleanse can help these important organs.
Your kidneys are much like your other detoxification organ, the liver. Both of these parts of the body filter your blood and detoxify it from metabolic wastes. Your kidneys, however, are even more crucial to sustaining your life minute by minute than your liver is. Kidneys filter about 50 gallons of blood every day, out of which about two quarts of urine are produced and eliminated. If it weren’t for this urine being produced, the minerals and electrolytes (sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, etc.) that drive many body functions, influence your pH and maintain your fluid status would be in serious jeopardy… fast. Ask any dialysis patient, and you’ll discover why they go three times weekly — rain or shine — to the dialysis unit for life-preserving functions.
There’s more your kidneys do for you, but these functions are not needed so acutely. They secrete renin, the initiating hormone of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system for blood pressure control, and erythropoietin to stimulate red blood cell production; and they convert vitamin D to its active form.
Do you ever think about the health of your kidneys? Probably not, unless you have a comorbid disease, such as diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure, heart disease, gout, anemia or high cholesterol, or if you are overweight. Most patients (86 percent) with advanced chronic kidney disease have at least one accompanying illness. Other risk factors for chronic kidney disease include smoking, drinking alcohol often, taking prescription medications, eating a lot of salt, routinely consuming junk foods, rarely exercising or being over the age of 65. If you are reading this, now you’ve been warned.
Discover How Well Your Kidneys Are Working
Your doctor can give you a good idea of your kidney function by checking a urinalysis and these basic serum tests: blood urea nitrogen (BUN), creatinine and albumin. However, the simplest measurement of kidney function is your glomelular filtration rate (GFR). It is a formula widely accepted since 2002 that gives a very accurate measurement of the GFR using only four variables: serum creatinine, age, race and gender. If you learn your serum creatinine level (call your doctor if needed), you can quickly find out your GFR at this link: http://www.davita.com/gfr-calculator/index.cfm.
The first thing you can do to care for your kidneys would be to eliminate the causes and risk factors for kidney disease that I listed above (like diabetes).
Next, take a look at your dietary habits and consider how to consume predominantly alkaline foods. It just so happens that the best foods for a healthy kidney are also the best foods for health in general:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables in high amounts, mostly raw if possible.
- Fresh fruit juices and fresh lime-aid (water, lime juice, stevia).
- Omega-3 oil sources: cold water fish (e.g., salmon), seeds/nuts (e.g., flaxseed, butternuts, hempseed, walnuts, pecans, hazel nuts), and oils (from kiwi, flax chia seed).
- Eggs. (Put one in your daily smoothie.)
- Sprouted grains. (Breads are not alkaline, but sprouts are.)
As you turn to alkaline, high-fiber, nutrient-dense food, you’ll need to minimize:
- Processed foods, carbonated drinks and bottled fruit juices.
- Refined carbohydrates (white flour, white rice, white sugar foods).
- Animal meat.
If you have kidney disease already, be sure to learn from a renal dietitian the foods that are low in sodium and low in potassium. Here’s a great list of these: http://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/potassium.cfm.
Along with an alkaline, high fiber, nutrient-rich diets, remember that table salt (99.9 percent sodium chloride) is not what you want in your food. Sea salt may be slightly better because it contains some minerals (depending on which brand), including magnesium, calcium, sulfur, bromide, iodine, zinc, potassium and iron. I read many health claims on the Internet about sea salt, but I cannot find peer-reviewed science for or against it. Better to limit your salt intake to 1,500 mg daily (1/2 to 3/4 tsp.) and increase other seasonings to make your food dishes taste good. Consider these: bay leaf, cardamom, basil, dill, ginger, curry, marjoram, sage, tarragon or thyme.
Finally, you can use a liquid cleanse (with emphasis on “cleansing” your kidneys) with herbal teas and supplements. Refer to the lemonade cleanse (aka the Master Cleanse, described online at http://mastercleansesecrets.com/step3.php), plus you should also drink a lot of tea. I believe a cleanse benefits anyone with kidney disease and anyone who has a comorbid illness or other risk factors for kidney disease.
A cleanse begins with at least a week-long modified dietary “pre-phase.” This simply gets you prepared to lower the burden on the kidneys during the cleanse. As you might have guessed, it means to clean up your diet by eliminating processed foods, refined carbohydrates, sweets and meats. Your diet during this week ideally will consist of seeds, nuts and vegetables (raw and in soups). Include brown rice, lentils or beans, vegetables and lots of onions, ginger and garlic.
During your three- to 14-day liquid “kidney” cleanse, in addition to the lemonade drink, consume as much tea as you can (at least two cups daily). The tea should contain herbs in combination known to be cleansing to the kidneys. These include: marjoram, burdock root, cat’s claw, comfrey root, chicory root, fennel seed, uva ursi, gravel root, hydrangea root, marshmallow root, golden rod herb, holy basil, juniper berries and red clover.
Be prepared for some detoxification symptoms such as an acidic body odor, irritability, tiredness or even a depressed mood. It will take your constant effort to feed your mind and spirit with higher vibrational energy (great music, meditation, prayer, laughter, loving service and friendship, etc.).
One additional supplement known to help clean up debris in your blood and decrease inflammation is known as proteolytic enzymes. I’ll address this and its usefulness in kidney health in my next article.
To feeling good for life,
Michael Cutler, M.D.
Easy Health Options
 Gullion CM, Keith DS, Nichols GA, Smith DH. Impact of comorbidities on mortality in managed care patients with CKD. Am J Kidney Dis. 2006;48:212-220.
 National Kidney Foundation (February 2002). “K/DOQI clinical practice guidelines for chronic kidney disease: evaluation, classification, and stratification”. American Journal of Kidney Diseases 39 (2 Suppl 1): S1–266.