Kidneys are two bean-shaped organs located on either side of the spine, just below the rib cage and behind the stomach. They are about the size of a fist and play a crucial role in maintaining the overall health of our bodies. The kidneys are responsible for filtering and excreting waste products from the body, regulating electrolytes and acid-base balance, controlling blood pressure, maintaining intravascular volume, stimulating red blood cell production, and preserving bone strength.
Given the importance of the kidneys, it is important to take care of them and avoid anything that could harm them. If the kidneys stop working entirely, the body cannot filter and excrete waste products, which accumulate in the body, causing the biochemical makeup to become imbalanced. Additionally, the body will retain extra water, leading to a condition called uraemia. Symptoms of uraemia include swollen limbs, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, skin changes, itchiness, and pigmentation, and breathlessness. When the kidneys lose their function completely, dialysis is necessary, and if left untreated, it can lead to seizures, coma, and death.
To prevent such dire circumstances, we need to take care of our kidneys. Here are some things to avoid to protect them:
Taking Over-the-Counter Painkillers: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin and ibuprofen, which are easily available over-the-counter, can damage the kidneys if taken in excess or too frequently.
Not drinking enough water can lead to dehydration, increasing the risk of developing kidney stones. Drinking enough water helps kidneys clear sodium and toxins from the body. The recommended amount of fluid intake for a healthy person is two liters per day, but this may vary depending on daily activities, health conditions, and climate. People with heart, liver, and kidney issues should consult their doctor to determine the right level of fluid intake.
Smoking reduces the blood flow to the kidneys, impairing their ability to function normally.
Processed meat contains preservatives and high salt content, which can cause high blood pressure and ultimately harm the kidneys. Consuming high amounts of processed meat generates excessive acid in the blood, leading to acidosis, which the kidneys are unable to eliminate quickly enough.
Uncontrolled diabetes and hypertension are major risk factors for kidney disease. High blood sugar levels from diabetes can damage blood vessels in the kidneys, while high blood pressure constricts and narrows blood vessels, reducing blood flow to the kidneys.
To maintain kidney health, it is essential to adhere to a healthy and active lifestyle. It is crucial to have regular kidney function checks and to work closely with a doctor or nephrologist to watch out for any early signs of kidney failure. Managing blood sugar levels and blood pressure, as well as being compliant with medication, are essential in reducing the risk of kidney damage.
In conclusion, our kidneys play a vital role in our overall health, and it is essential to take care of them. By avoiding the above-mentioned harmful habits and adhering to a healthy lifestyle, we can protect our kidneys from damage and ensure their proper functioning for a healthy life.
Dr. Fong Voon Ken
Consultant Nephrologist &
Internal Medicine Physician