The kidneys are an essential organ of the human body. They play a crucial role in the make-up of blood and the regulation of blood pressure. They flush out toxins from the body and maintain the required state of chemical balance. They assist in maintaining a healthy acid-base balance, optimum fluid, and electrolytes. In certain instances, kidneys also regulate the glucose balance and keep the bones healthy.
On this World Kidney Day (10th March 2022), The Channel 46 focuses on everything that you need to learn about kidney disorders and do more in order to keep them healthy.
Food Habits That Can Cause Kidney Diseases
Unhealthy lifestyle habits have been proven to be closely associated with disorders like hypertension and diabetes mellitus, which may, in turn, result in kidney diseases. Besides, there are a host of lifestyle behaviours that may result in or aggravate kidney diseases.
Let’s take a look at these lifestyle habits.
1. Consumption Of Processed Foods
Processed foods comprise high levels of sodium and phosphorus, excessive quantities of which are detrimental to your health. Besides, they are also high in calories. A high intake of sodium may lead to hypertension, while a high intake of calories can cause obesity. High blood pressure and obesity can adversely affect kidney health. Research has indicated that excessive intake of phosphorus from processed foods may be harmful to the kidney and bones, even among people with no kidney disorders.
2. Excessive Intake Of Painkillers
Arbitrary and irresponsible consumption of painkillers may cause a host of medical conditions, including kidney disorders. Kidney damage may occur if you take large quantities of over-the-counter (OTC) medications like aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. A study revealed that 3% to 5% of new cases of chronic kidney failure occur annually due to the overuse of painkillers. Ideally, even these OTC medications should be taken as per a doctor’s prescription.
3. Following An Irregular Sleep Pattern
The sleep-wake cycle defines kidney function like blood flow in the kidneys, the way it handles water and salt, and also hormone secretion of blood production. New studies have shown that lack of sleep may spur kidney disorders, especially among women. The kidney functions differently during the day and the night because the needs of the body vary throughout the day. The physiology of the organ gets altered by short sleep changes, which may damage the kidneys.
4. Sedentary Lifestyle
A recent study has claimed that a sedentary lifestyle is closely associated with kidney disease, although it has not discussed the reasons behind the same. It may be due to the fact that a sedentary lifestyle affects blood pressure levels and glucose metabolism, harming the health of the kidneys.
5. Intake Of Foods That Are High In Sugar
Excessive intake of chocolates, packaged juice, desserts, and soda leads to a host of health conditions like diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and even direct kidney injury. High sugar levels can narrow down the vessels and clog them. Without sufficient blood, the kidneys may become damaged.
6. Excessive Intake Of Protein
A high intake of protein can increase the acid burden on the kidneys. Not just that, it is also known to change the micro-circulation of blood flow in the kidneys. The recommended quantity of protein is 0.8 g/kg of body weight. Studies have shown that a plant-based protein diet may be more beneficial for those with a moderate kidney disorder. Hence, a diet that is high in protein can be harmful to patients with kidney diseases as the body may find it a challenge to process and eliminate the waste products of protein metabolism.
7. Smoking Cigarettes
Smoking is harmful to various organs, including kidneys. It can increase the risk of high blood pressure and also aggravate kidney disease among diabetics. The risk is high even when an individual has stopped smoking. It can lead to kidney cancers and damage the cardiovascular system, causing poor blood flow to the kidneys and also leading to the damage of kidneys.
8. Excessive Amounts Of Alcohol
Heavy drinking, or anything over four drinks a day, is linked to a doubled risk of chronic kidney disease. The risk of developing kidney disorders increases further among people who drink excessively and smoke. In fact, the risk of chronic kidney disease increases by five times among smokers who are also heavy drinkers than those who either smoke or drink alcohol excessively.
9. Over-consumption Of Caffeine
Caffeine, being a stimulant, raises blood flow and blood pressure, and exerts pressure on the kidneys. Consuming large amounts of caffeine is also believed to cause kidney stones. Hence, a moderate intake of caffeine is recommended. The ideal quantity of daily caffeine consumption is believed to be 300 mg.
10. Insufficient Intake Of Water
Sufficient intake of water helps the kidneys to flush out sodium and toxins from the body. It is also essential for avoiding the development of kidney stones. Drinking 1.5 to 2 litres of water daily is mandatory unless you have kidney failure or kidney disorder and have to restrict your water intake.
Kidney Disorders Explained
Types Of Kidney Disorders
Kidney diseases can be broadly categorised under two classifications:
1. Acute Kidney Injury
This occurs due to the inability of your kidneys to flush out toxins and waste products from your blood. When this happens, the waste in your blood may reach dangerous levels, leading to your blood’s chemical makeup getting out of balance. Acute kidney failure does not take much time to develop. It takes less than a few days to a few weeks to occur. However, it is more common among individuals who are already hospitalised, more specifically among critically ill people who require intensive care.
Acute kidney failure needs intensive treatment as it may prove to be fatal. But, it is also reversible among individuals who are otherwise healthy. There are wide chances of them returning to normal or almost normal kidney function.
2. Chronic Kidney Disease
Also referred to as chronic kidney failure, chronic kidney disease occurs when one loses their kidney function gradually. In an advanced stage of this kidney condition, extremely high levels of waste, fluid, and electrolytes can get stored in the body. Only a few symptoms of the medical condition may be experienced during the early stages but, by the time the symptoms become apparent, the kidney function is severely impaired.
Treatment for this medical condition involves slowing the progression of kidney damage, generally by controlling the underlying cause. It may progress to a fatal case of end-stage kidney failure unless dialysis (artificial filtering) is performed or a kidney transplant is done.
Causes And Risk Factors Of Kidney Diseases
- Kidney diseases like infections and inflammatory conditions of the organ can be triggered among people across ages.
- There are certain kidney ailments that are more common among children like congenital anomalies or genetic disorders.
- However, most disorders of the kidneys develop in old age as a result of ageing, loss of renal mass, or as side-effects of other disorders like hypertension, and diabetes mellitus, among others.
Symptoms Of Kidney Diseases
Possible symptoms of acute kidney failure are:
- Decreased production of urine
- Swelling in your legs, ankles or feet as a result of fluid retention
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain or pressure
- Irregular heartbeat
- Seizures or coma (severe cases)
Signs and symptoms of chronic kidney disease, in case of the slow progression of kidney damage:
- Loss of appetite
- Shortness of breath, when fluid builds up in the lungs
- Sleep problems
- Urinary problems
- Swelling of feet and ankles
- Persistent itching
- Uncontrollable hypertension or high blood pressure
- Reduced mental sharpness
- Muscle twitches and cramps
- Chest pain, if fluid builds up around the lining of the heart
Kidney Disease Among Women
The incidence of kidney diseases is observed to be higher among women than men on a global level. Women may also develop kidney diseases as a side-effect of other health conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, kidney infection, scleroderma, and lupus.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) has been observed only among a few women with Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD). This emphasises the fact that the medical conditions are not related. However, women with chronic kidney disease may experience irregular periods. Menstruation may even stop once the woman starts undergoing dialysis.
Over-The-Counter Supplements For Kidney Diseases
Nutritional supplements are not regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). Hence, many of these supplements may not offer you the desired results. In reality, they may prove to be dangerous for you, especially for those who have kidney diseases. There are no one-size-fits-all nutritional supplements. What may have suited some well might not be the best solution for others. For instance, supplements for bodybuilding, weight loss, and those that are meant for boosting energy are generally not recommended for kidney disease or failure. Even some herbal products may not only harm your kidneys but may aggravate a kidney condition.
Kidney Donation Procedures In India
There are two processes by which you can donate your kidney in India:
1. The Living Donation Process
In this process, you—the living donor—has to undergo certain medical tests to confirm whether you are medically compatible with the recipient. Only after all the tests confirm that you are compatible with the recipient can you get a nod on the transplant.
2. The Deceased Donation Process
The deceased donor is usually someone who has suffered a brain haemorrhage or has had a fatal head injury. Once they have been declared brain stem dead by healthcare experts and the donor’s family gives consent, the organ retrieval process can begin and the kidneys can be redirected to the next person on the transplant list.
Know more about kidney donation in India
Now, you have a comprehensive understanding of the types, symptoms and causes of kidney diseases, and foods that are harmful to kidney health. We always believe when it comes to your health, knowledge is power. Learn more about your health condition and consult a doctor before you take medication for your symptoms. You can also do your part and sign up to be an organ donor to help others in the future.
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