World Kidney Day is on 8 March 2018, it is a global awareness campaign aimed at raising awareness of the importance of our kidneys for good health. Women have unique risks for their kidney health. That’s why this year, World Kidney Day is dedicated to women.

So why are kidneys important? Here is some of what they do:

  • Make urine
  • Remove toxins/wastes and extra fluid from your blood
  • Control your body’s chemical balance
  • Control blood levels of many minerals including sodium and potassium, controlling blood acidity and blood pressure
  • Help keep your bones healthy
  • Help you make red blood cells

How do you know if you are at risk of kidney disease?

Diabetes and high blood pressure are key risk factors for Chronic Kidney Disease. If you have one or more of these risk factors it is advised that you have regular kidney checks, (ask your GP):

  • you have diabetes
  • you have high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • you are obese
  • one of your parents or other family members suffers from kidney disease
  • you are of African, Asian, or Aboriginal origin

Here are some tips to reduce the risk of developing kidney disease

  1. Move your body and keep fit

Keeping fit helps to reduce your blood pressure, reducing the risk of Kidney Disease. Movement is also important to control your blood sugar levels, keep your muscles and bones strong enough to carry your body, eliminate toxins from your body and encourage a healthy heart and healthy circulation.

  1. Control your blood sugar levels

About half of people who have diabetes develop kidney damage, so it is important for people with diabetes to monitor their kidney function. Refer to the dietary tips at the end of this article.

  1. Monitor and manage your blood pressure

We all know that high blood pressure can lead to a stroke or heart attack but did you know that it is also the most common cause of kidney damage?

  1. Manage your stress

Stress contributes to high blood pressure, inflammation, insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease.

  1. Keep well hydrated

Consuming plenty of fluid (approx. 2 litres a day) helps the kidneys clear sodium, urea and toxins from the body which, in turn, results in a significantly lower risk of developing chronic kidney disease, according to researchers in Australia and Canada. Your needs may be higher (closer to 3 litres) depending on size, age, sex, climate, exercise, existing kidney stones etc.

  1. Don’t smoke

Smoking reduces blood flow to the kidneys, impairing their ability to function properly. Smoking also increases the risk of kidney cancer by about 50%.

  1. Be aware of the risk of over the counter medications and get advice from your Doctor and Pharmacist

Common drugs such non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen are known to cause kidney damage and disease if taken regularly such as in cases of chronic pain.

  1. Manage you bladder health

If you have a tendency towards cystitis (urinary tract infections), please seek medical help. Untreated, the bacteria can move to your kidneys causing a serious kidney infection.

How to eat to support kidney health

To manage blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes risks it is important to eat a balance of protein, good fats and colourful vegetables. Don’t avoid fat, just stick to eating real foods. Fresh (not tinned) beetroot is very good for lowering blood pressure. Reduce caffeine and reduce packaged foods, particularly those high in sugar and salt. The recommended sodium intake is 5-6 grams of salt per day (around a teaspoon). The recommended intake for sugar is no more than 6 teaspoons per day (24g). High amounts of sugar in the diet can lead to inflammation, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and insulin resistance which can all contribute to diabetes, kidney disease, obesity and dementia.

Foods to include:

Avocado, cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, real butter, ghee, oily fish, eggs, grass fed beef, chicken, walnuts, sunflower seeds, pepitas, fresh beetroot, celery, onion, garlic, seasoning herbs, loads of greens and blueberries. Eat full fat dairy, eg full fat Greek yoghurt, full fat milk, real full fat mayonnaise.

What to avoid:

Reduce packaged foods high in refined carbohydrates and sugar (muffins, biscuits, cakes, pies, ready-made meals, confectionery etc). Reduce bread, pasta, potatoes, corn and rice. Avoid margarine and vegetable oils like canola and sunflower oil. Any product containing trans-fats, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. Avoid low fat products (eg low fat milk, yoghurt, dressings, mayonnaise etc), low fat usually means high sugar. The fat is beneficial for health, the sugar is detrimental to health. Just eat real food!

When you eat a healthy diet and manage your weight, this can help prevent diabetes, heart disease and other conditions associated with Chronic Kidney Disease.

If you are concerned about your kidneys, if you have urinary tract infections that don’t clear or if you have dark urine, please see a doctor immediately. By the time you get symptoms, there may already be considerable damage to your kidneys so if in doubt, always seek medical attention.

Fiona Kane is a Nutritional Medicine Practitioner, Holistic Counsellor, Transformational Life Coach, Professional Speaker, Podcaster and writer on Health and Nutrition and the founder of Informed Health Pty Ltd, holding an Advanced Diploma of Nutritional Medicine, Diploma in Holistic Counselling and Life Care and Certificate in Transformational Life Coaching. Fiona is registered and accredited with Australian Traditional-Medicine Society (ATMS), Australia’s largest professional association of complementary medicine practitioners. Fiona has been in practice for 11 years.