The kidneys, often overlooked, are actually key players in maintaining our overall health. A ‘healthy kidney’ is not just an organ, but a health guardian, constantly working to balance and maintain our well-being. The functioning of the kidneys is not just important, it’s crucial. The significance of keeping these organs in good condition should be a top priority for all of us.

This essay discusses the importance of the kidneys and their main functions. It also briefly covers the main diseases and the causes of diseases, as well as provides some naturopathy and supplement therapy to keep the kidneys healthy. Understanding the importance of the kidneys is crucial for every patient and every person in general, as these can be considered their main internal organs.

Function of Kidneys

The kidneys, with their intricate system, filter the blood to remove toxins and impurities, producing urine to excrete waste and excess fluids. This filtration process is a marvel, enabling the body to maintain the right conditions inside itself. Every day, your kidneys filter about 120 to 150 quarts of blood, collecting one to two quarts of waste to flush away in your urine.

They also play a role in maintaining the balance of electrolytes—the different ions, including sodium, potassium, and calcium, to name only a few, that allow these important chemicals to be properly held by cells for normal cell function. Kidneys also modulate blood pressure by altering the volume of saltwater and secreting the enzyme renin, which governs the constriction of blood vessels.

Another crucial homeostatic function, the body’s acid-base balance, is also overseen by the kidneys. They reabsorb bicarbonate from urine and indirectly excrete basic hydrogen ions to prevent a sudden shift in blood pH, thereby averting an acid or alkali assault on the body.

The kidneys are the producers of significant hormones, such as erythropoietin, which stimulates the bone marrow to generate more red blood cells to transport oxygen throughout the body, and calcitriol, the active form of vitamin D that is vital for calcium absorption and bone formation.

Common Kidney Diseases

Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) has differing stages depending on how much renal function a person sustains over the long term. Stage five is end-stage renal disease (ESRD), where kidney function has reached a final stage. Unless a person has a kidney transplant or receives dialysis, they will not survive. Symptoms become evident rather slowly and may include fatigue, edema, and changes in the frequency of urination. Early detection and treatment help to keep CKD at a lower stage.

Acute Kidney Injury (AKI)

Acute kidney injury (AKI) refers to the sudden loss of kidney function over hours to days that results from a finite set of causes. This includes severe infection, dehydration, or exposure to toxins, which can first present with deteriorating function, followed sometime later by a decrease in urine output, swelling, and confusion before mounting a recovery. Treating acute kidney injury (AKI) focuses on addressing the underlying conditions. However, it primarily involves providing supportive care and often arises from unsuccessful outcomes rather than expected successes.

Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are hard deposits that form inside the kidneys by crystallizing from minerals and salts. A stone may be small (less than 5 millimeters to larger (up to 10 mm or more). If it is large enough, it will move into the urinary tract and can be extremely painful when it passes through. Symptoms can include severe pain in the back, side or groin, blood in the urine, and a frequent urge to urinate. Reducing oxalate in your diet and staying hydrated will help you prevent kidney stones.

Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD)

Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD), a genetically inherited disorder, is characterized by the growth of multiple cysts over both kidneys. The cysts can increase in size and, over time, be expected to enlarge the kidneys, causing a decline in kidney function and future complications, such as high blood pressure and kidney failure. Common symptoms include back or side pain, excessive or frequent urination, and kidney infections. Management of PKD involves controlling symptoms, monitoring kidney function, and medication.

image of a kidney with a kidney stone

Root Causes of Kidney Diseases

Hypertension

High blood pressure, or hypertension, damages blood vessels in the kidneys and impairs their ability to filter out impurities, depleting their long-term ability to sustain kidney function. Controlling hypertension through lifestyle changes and medication can prevent kidney damage.

Diabetes

Diabetes (diabetic nephropathy) is a leading cause of CKD. High blood sugar levels can damage the kidneys’ filtering units, glomeruli. Good blood sugar control with diet, exercise, and medication can decrease the risk of kidney damage significantly.

Infections and Autoimmune Diseases

Infections and autoimmune diseases, such as glomerulonephritis and lupus, can damage kidneys. Rapid infection treatment and management of autoimmune conditions are critical for kidney health.

Genetic Predisposition

Some kidney diseases are hereditary, and PKD is a good example. These disorders are often identified through family history, and regular screenings may lead to early detection and management of the condition.

Lifestyle Factors

The authors of this project stated that an unhealthy lifestyle, including poor diet, insufficient water intake, and substance abuse, may lead to renal disease. These measures will help prevent kidney problems by promoting a healthy lifestyle.

image of an individual getting screen for kidney  disease

Naturopathic and Supplemental Treatments

Dietary Modifications

A balanced diet is important to keep the kidneys healthy. Decreased salty and processed foods can prevent high blood pressure and kidney damage. Fresh and frozen food, which is better than canned food, allows us to have many kidney-friendly foods, such as berries, leafy greens, garlic, and fish.

Herbal Remedies

Nettle leaf, dandelion root, and corn silk can be beneficial herbal supplements for the kidneys. They act as natural diuretics, flush out extra fluids and acidity, and help reduce inflammation. Natural treatments for the kidneys should not replace prescribed medication if recommended by a doctor, so it is best to consult a physician.

Supplements

It’s important to remember that certain supplements can be beneficial for kidney health. Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory effects that may help kidneys. Prebiotics and probiotics can support gut health, which in turn contributes to kidney health. Additionally, taking vitamin D can help maintain bone health, which is crucial for preventing kidney stones. It’s always best to consult with a medical professional before starting any new supplements, as they may interact with medications or cause side effects.

Lifestyle Changes

Maintaining healthy lifestyle habits can have a major impact on kidney health. Maintaining a healthy weight range through regular exercise and maintaining a balanced diet helps ward off high blood pressure and other factors that can lead to chronic kidney disease. It is important to stay well-hydrated for overall health because proper hydration supports kidney function and helps the body flush out toxins through urine. Quitting smoking and reducing alcohol consumption can also help protect kidney health and prevent potential damage caused by these habits.

Conclusion

Because of their wide-ranging functions, general health needs to understand the etiologies of these common kidney diseases. Many naturopathic and supplemental preventative medical interventions can help prevent kidney disease and, in many cases, restore and maintain kidney health. With these treatments, we can help keep our kidneys functioning well and enjoy good health for many years to come.

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