The human body is a magnificent compilation of systems. Each system is imperative to health in a unique way. Your kidneys are part of the urinary system. Kidneys have a specific, important job to do; they filter blood and create urine as a waste by-product. In addition to these main functions, your kidneys also help regulate your blood pressure and produce red blood cells in your bone marrow. If your kidneys are not functioning properly, you’ll know it! In fact, you’ll become severely ill and possibly wind up in a life-threatening situation. There are several bad lifestyle habits that are far easier to develop than they are to break that can do serious damage to your kidneys.
Break these bad lifestyle habits before they ruin your kidneys
The following list shows six habits that many people have in life that may be doing a lot more harm to their health than they realize:
- Not drinking enough water each day
- Eating sugar, especially processed sugar
- Eating processed foods
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Not getting an adequate amount of sleep
- Being sedentary/sitting for long periods of time
This list is a recipe for disaster when it comes to the health of your kidneys! Having even one of these bad habits can cause kidney damage. If you have more than one or (shudder) ALL of these habits, your health (and, perhaps, your life!) depends on you making some lifestyle and dietary changes. In short, if you don’t stop these bad habits now, you’ll undoubtedly pay a big price later, perhaps sooner than you think.
A look at each of these bad lifestyle habits in relation to kidney function
As much as 60% to 70% of your body weight comes from water. This article discusses chronic dehydration as a common health problem in our society. Water helps remove waste from your blood (through urine). It also keeps your blood vessels open so that nutrient-filled blood can move through your body to your kidneys. This system of movement drastically slows down and becomes “clogged” if you will, when you are not drinking enough water each day. Dehydration can cause permanent kidney damage!
Natural sugars, as those that come from eating fresh fruits and vegetables, are not only not bad for your health, they’re necessary for good health. Eating processed sugar, on the other hand, is terrible for your health. Studies show that sugar consumption wreaks havoc on your liver and often leads to obesity, which places you at risk for Type 2 diabetes. If your blood sugar is too high, it can cause severe kidney damage. It’s important to remember that there are high levels of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), (i.e., processed sugar) in many foods, not just candy and sweets. You’ll find added sugars like HFCS in boxed cereals, crackers, chips and other processed foods, as well.
Speaking of processed foods
The more whole foods you eat, the better it is for your health. On the contrary, the more processed foods you eat, the greater risk you have of severely damaging your kidneys. Eating processed foods on a regular basis is one of the bad lifestyle habits you need to break if your goal is to improve kidney function. Such foods are loaded with sodium and phosphorous, of which either, in excess, are bad for your kidneys. Eating processed foods also increases the risk of developing “leaky gut syndrome,” which, in turn, often leads to kidney damage. The term “processed food” is typically defined as any food item that has been cooked, canned, frozen, packaged or changed in nutritional composition.
Way back when, when TV dinners became a thing, busy moms thought it was the greatest invention since sliced bread. Little did they know how absolutely disastrous such “meals” would be to human health over the course of a lifetime. These highly processed foods are full of chemicals and ingredients that are toxic to human health. If you eat a lot of processed food, it’s a bad habit worth breaking for the sake of your kidneys!
Alcohol is okay in moderation
Many people choose to abstain from alcohol for a variety of reasons. Others imbibe alcoholic beverages on occasion. It’s not uncommon for people to develop a habit of drinking too much alcohol. “Too much,” is, of course, a subjective term. How much is too much? If it’s negatively affecting your mental, emotional or physical health, it’s too much. As far as kidney damage is concerned, consumption of alcohol alters (changes) the function of your kidneys. More specifically, it makes it difficult for your kidneys to filter blood, which, as mentioned at the beginning of this post, is one of their primary functions.
Alcohol can also cause dehydration (which is why you should always simultaneously drink water while drinking alcohol). You’ve just read how damaging dehydration can be to your kidneys. Some of the symptoms associated with alcohol-related kidney damage are :
- Decreased urination
- Swollen legs, ankles, or face
- Trouble breathing/shortness of breath
- Nausea or vomiting
- Chest pressure or pain
Regarding kidney health, drinking too much alcohol is at the top of the list of bad lifestyle habits that place your kidneys at risk. Drinking wine, in moderation, has been shown to be beneficial to health in many ways. Just make sure you’re making informed decisions if you plan to drink alcohol, so you clearly understand the potential negative effects it can have on your kidneys.
Sleep is a critical component to kidney health
The function of your kidneys is actually regulated by your sleep/wake cycle! Studies show that people who lack adequate amounts of sleep over an extended period of time tend to suffer kidney decline before those who get sufficient amounts of sleep on a regular basis. Lack of sleep increases a risk for diabetes, which can cause kidney damage. Lack of melatonin, which is a sleep-inducing hormone, also appears to have a negative effect on the kidneys.
Your body needs to move throughout the day
Most people’s immune systems and overall health would improve if they would just get up and move around more often throughout the day! Sitting for long periods of time, otherwise known as a “sedentary” or “inactive” lifestyle is associated with myriad ill-health issues, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer. As for your kidneys, while doctors and scientists aren’t quite sure exactly how sitting for too long causes detriment to kidneys, they know, through studies, that it does.
Your body was made to move. Whole body movement is necessary for good health. You don’t have to be hitting the gym five days per week if that’s not your thing. You do, however, have to get up and move your entire body for at least 15 to 30 minutes at a time on a regular basis, throughout the day. Go for a walk, and, if you do, take big strides and swing your arms. Bend, stretch, dance or run. Especially if you sit for a long time to do your work, take breaks and make sure you are moving your whole body enough to raise your heart beat!
Take a good look at these six bad habits that can cause damage to your kidneys. We’re coming to the end of 2021, so it’s a good time to start thinking ahead to the new year. Set some goals. Make some plans. Resolve to be proactive to improve your health. And, while you’re at it, why not start by making positive lifestyle and dietary changes? Your kidneys will thank you!