As we work on maintaining different aspects of our health, one area we need to think about are the different organs in our bodies and how they function individually within the whole of our system. Unless there is a problem, most people don’t think about their organs on a daily basis; they just expect them to be doing their jobs and functioning normally. However, if we are abusing our bodies through inadequate nutrition or undue stress, we may be accumulating damage to our organs that, if it is prolonged and unchecked, can lead to irreversible changes.
That being said, most people don’t think about their kidneys regularly unless they are diabetic or feel low back pain and think it may be their kidneys if there was no physical injury. But our kidneys are working hard for us every day, filtering our blood, removing waste products, balancing our minerals and regulating our body water content. Quite a bit of work when you think about it actually! Therefore, it is important to make sure that we give the kidneys the help they need to allow them to do their job properly.
The easiest way is to ensure that you are drinking plenty of clean, pure water. In practice, we find that many people are chronically dehydrated from a combination of both poor water intake and excessive loss from overconsumption of caffeine and alcohol. For the latter, both of those act as diuretics in the body and cause us to lose more water than we should. (The main reason you have a headache after a night of excessive drinking is because you are suffering from the effects of dehydration. Remember all those trips to the restroom?)
On average, most people should be aiming for a water intake based on their weight. Divide your body weight (in pounds) in half, and this number should be the minimum amount of ounces you need to be drinking each day. I say minimum because if you are sweating at the gym or outside in the sun, your requirements will be even higher. And as was mentioned above, drinks like tea, coffee, wine and beer will increase your need for extra water to minimize their dehydrating effects.
It may also be wise to make sure that you are not consuming an excessive amount of protein. When you consume too much protein, your body must remove more nitrogen waste products (urea) from your blood, which stresses your kidneys. Chronic dehydration can result. As an estimate, the average non-athlete individual may only need a half gram of protein per pound of lean body weight. The key there is LEAN body weight, not your total weight, as fat cells do not need protein to be sustained. In order to find your lean mass, you need to have your body fat percentage measured (this is not the same as your BMI which only compares your weight to your height and is pretty much useless). Once you know your body fat in pounds, subtract that from your total weight and you will have your lean mass that will determine your protein requirements.
As always, these are general recommendations that apply to the “average” population and it is always best to consult with a health professional if you are having any concerns or symptoms. Common signs of kidney problems include frequent urination, problems urinating, pain or burning sensation during urination and constant thirst. Poor kidney function is also associated with a number of other serious health problems, including diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. If you do have any concerns, please call our office to schedule an appointment with one of doctors for further evaluation.