The kidneys are important organs of the urinary system.
They constitute the filtering apparatus that clears the blood from waste products.
But they do much more than producing urine.
Healthy kidneys are also important to maintain healthy blood pressure.
They regulate our blood levels of electrolytes and produce a hormone that increases the number of red blood cells.
Then, how can I improve my kidney function naturally?
This article will discuss how to keep the kidneys healthy through your lifestyle and other recommendations.
But first, let’s make a few concepts clear. How do you know you have kidney problems? Can your kidneys heal over time?
What does it mean when your kidney function is low?
The kidneys are organs near your back on each side of the spine. They are the size of your fists and contain structures called nephrons.
These are formed by different types of cells, creating a tubular form through which blood components go in and out. After the exchange of substances that happens in the nephrons, your kidneys will produce urine.
Low kidney function is a reduction of nephron activity in the kidneys. This can be due to an autoimmune disease such as glomerulonephritis.
Regardless of the cause, the nephrons are damaged and stop filtering blood in most cases. Sometimes that makes the affected kidney like a broken colander, and patients start throwing protein in the urine.
The glomerular filtration rate indicates how your kidneys work. In chronic kidney disease, this measure drops gradually, and the late stage of the disease is characterized by complete anuria.
In other words, patients can no longer urinate. They need kidney support to perform their functions through dialysis.
Then, how to take care of your kidneys and prevent this from happening? Before discussing how to keep your kidneys healthy, how can you be sure kidney function is affected?
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Signs of low kidney function
There are plenty of signs and symptoms you can notice in case your kidney function declines. They include muscle weakness, weight loss, leg cramps, easy bruising, edema and swelling, cold intolerance, and nausea with or without fatigue.
But is there a more specific way to know if you have this problem or not? That is through blood tests and urinalysis.
A kidney health check will give you the following signs (1):
- A blood test will give you high creatinine levels. This is a waste product, and healthy kidneys easily handle it. Blood creatinine levels increase when kidney function decreases.
- Another test is the glomerular filtration rate (GFR). This is an estimated measure of how much blood is processed by the kidneys. When the glomerular filtration rate drops, it is due to chronic kidney disease or another problem.
- In a urinalysis, kidney disease gives a positive result for protein because you’re losing albumin in the urine.
Can kidneys heal over time?
Patients may have severe kidney injuries if their glomerular filtration rate is very low. The same goes if the amount of protein in the urine is very high.
In such cases, restoring kidney function might not be possible, and only a kidney transplant will solve the problem.
But if your health condition is starting, there’s much to be done with your healthcare team. They will instruct you on how to help your kidneys and what to avoid.
For example, it might be essential to quit smoking in your case and drink more water. Your doctor might recommend reducing protein from your diet and reducing salt intake.
But how to repair the kidneys when there’s an injury? Is it possible? It depends on the stage of your condition and what type of kidney injury you have.
In most cases, acute kidney failure can heal, and there are ways to improve kidney function in these patients.
When injuries are more severe, the process can take very long because the kidneys do not regenerate like the skin and other tissues.
However, a study points out that the kidneys repair themselves. The process is prolonged, and they might be unable to regenerate a severely damaged organ. But you can boost the regenerative potential with a few lifestyle modifications (2).
10 natural ways to improve your kidney function
After receiving the diagnosis of kidney disease, you probably want to care for your kidney health. You only have two of these wonderful organs, and a kidney transplant is a very complex procedure.
But how to improve kidney function naturally? These recommendations may contribute to repairing your kidneys naturally, especially if your condition is not yet severe:
1) Drink enough water
Water intake is essential if you have kidney problems. You need to stay hydrated, and it will prevent further damage while giving your kidneys a constant flow of liquid to avoid working forcefully. As a plus, you will likely reduce the chance of kidney stones.
2) Keep your blood sugar levels in check
Kidney failure is often a consequence of diabetes. Thus, if you have this condition, it is essential to maintain close control of your blood sugar.
Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is also crucial, even if you do not have diabetes. The section below lists some recommended foods to enhance kidney function.
3) Monitor your blood pressure
Cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure damage the kidneys. In most cases, you don’t realize that when blood pressure is high, it is destroying your kidneys. Thus, monitoring your numbers is essential, even if you don’t have symptoms.
If you have blood pressure problems, follow the recommendations to reduce salt intake and inform your doctor if you don’t reach your blood pressure goals.
4) Engage in regular exercise
Physical activity can revive the kidneys by simultaneously tackling several causes of kidney disease. It helps you improve your blood sugar levels, improves blood pressure, and prevents kidney damage.
5) Maintain a healthy weight
Obesity is associated with high blood pressure and diabetes. They are the leading causes of kidney injuries and damage.
Maintaining a healthy weight will spare your body from the metabolic consequences. However, do not engage in strenuous exercise without consulting your healthcare provider.
6) Stop smoking
If you’re interested in increasing kidney function, you need to stop smoking. Can you heal your kidneys if something else is doing the opposite?
Smoking increases the risk of kidney cancer by around 50%. It also restricts blood flow and increases cardiovascular risk.
7) Use over-the-counter medications sparingly
If your kidneys are not functioning as they should, you must be careful around medications.
Even over-the-counter meds such as ibuprofen can further damage your kidneys. You may need dose adjustments according to the stage of your disease.
8) Get enough sleep
Your organism goes through repair mode every night, including your kidneys. Most kidney health improvement associated with cell regeneration happens when you’re sleeping.
So, practice sleep hygiene every night and try to get your 7 or 8 hours of sleep.
9) Consult your doctor regularly
Kidney disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes are not always apparent at first sight. How to strengthen the kidney if you don’t realize it receives constant damage? Consult your doctor regularly.
10) Adopt a kidney diet recipe as instructed by your doctor
Depending on your condition, your doctor may recommend reducing the intake of protein foods. Low protein diets are recommended to reduce acidosis and facilitate your kidneys’ work.
How can I increase my GFR naturally?
According to a study about chronic kidney disease, kidney function improvement is possible regardless of the stage of the disease.
Of course, kidney healing depends on many factors, and it may work better in some people than others. What’s good for your kidneys may not reduce GFR readings in other people.
However, three main recommendations may operate based on the evidence (3):
- Living a healthy lifestyle, especially by adopting a nutritious diet, limiting alcohol intake, exercising, and managing stress.
- Preventing vitamin D deficiency, especially if you live in northern latitude countries, during winter, if you do not receive much sunlight, and if you are dark-skinned or a senior.
- Solving metabolic conditions that may complicate things, especially type 2 diabetes.
What foods can repair kidneys?
Healthy food sources are natural kidney healers and are always available at a low cost compared to medications and medical procedures.
Now that you know what lifestyle is good for kidney health, let’s dive deeper into recommended foods to improve kidney function naturally (4):
This group of fruits includes blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries. They fight damage by free radicals in your kidneys through a potent antioxidant activity.
This food is very high in vitamins and antioxidants. It also provides plenty of fiber that modulates blood glucose levels. You can say it is a very complete source of health in case of kidney damage.
This is a highly anti-inflammatory oil with extra antioxidants if you buy extra virgin olive oil.
When autoimmune problems and inflammation contribute to kidney problems, it is an excellent food to include in your diet.
Instead of using salt in your diet, you can replace it with garlic powder. It is much more beneficial and gives you plenty of vitamin B6 and C.
They have low potassium levels and very high vitamin A, vitamin C, and antioxidant contents.
A variety of fruits
There are plenty of fruits to choose from, but the most important are probably cranberries, red grapes, apples, and pineapples.
- Apples help with constipation and cholesterol rises.
- Red grapes have a potent antioxidant known as resveratrol.
- Cranberries are excellent for preventing urinary tract infections.
- Pineapples have low potassium and salt content while providing plenty of vitamin B.
Protecting your kidneys can be as easy as adopting a few lifestyle measures. However, the results of your attempts may depend on the severity of your kidney problem.
Studies show that improving kidney health is possible. The main focus should be on preventing more damage by treating underlying conditions such as diabetes and hypertension. Then, you can help your organism further by adopting antioxidant and anti-inflammatory foods to your diet.