Kidney disease is the 9th leading cause of death in the United States. One third of American adults over the age of 65 years struggle with chronic kidney disease. Throughout America, we have almost an obsession with consumption of protein. As the average American’s diet has increased animal protein consumption; the deterioration of kidney health has increased. Perhaps, we need to focus less on protein (especially animal protein from meat, dairy, and eggs) and focus more on adequate consumption of fiber.
Let us discuss what our kidneys do, why we need to be kind to our kidneys and more specifically what lifestyle behaviors negatively and positively affect our kidney health.
Our kidneys are a pair of organs with the primary responsibility to filter our blood and remove waste and maintain fluid balance and electrolyte levels. Our blood circulates through our kidneys multiple times per day. The process is simple, blood enters the kidney, waste is removed and salt, water and minerals and maintained. Filtered blood goes back into the body and waste gets turned into urine and moved to the bladder. Through healthy living, this process works efficiently, and our kidneys stay in good health; however, increasingly more Americans are struggling with kidney related health problems including but not limited to infections, inflammation, an overactive immune system, kidney stones, edema, cysts, acute and chronic renal failure, dehydration, and end-stage renal disease.
Lifestyle risks that negatively affect our kidney health include:
- Consuming an unhealthy high protein, high fat diet
- Being overweight and obese
- Having diabetes
- Having high blood pressure
- Avoiding toxic metal consumption
There is good news; however, that our lifestyle matters, and we can be kind to our kidneys by:
- Hydrating and drink plenty of water throughout the day
- Eating well by consuming a mostly or all whole-food, plant-based diet including (fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, legumes)
- Consuming phytates (beans, nuts, seeds, grains, and other unprocessed plant-based foods)
- Limiting/avoiding animal products (meat, dairy, and eggs) and its corresponding animal fat, protein, and cholesterol
- Limiting/avoiding high fat meals (animal products and processed oils)
- Reducing sodium intake
- Minimizing refined sugar products
- Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight
As you prepare for and work towards your goal of improving your kidney health focus on progress, not perfection. Please remember that you can improve your daily lifestyle and your health.