Years ago I was a dialysis nurse and I could not believe what I learned about these little organs in your body and how they actually work. First let’s note that these are bean-shaped and about the size of a fist. The kidneys are located near the middle of the back, on each side of the spine. Kidneys, if healthy, are working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; they are like a built-in water treatment plant! Their main job is to filter the blood – to maintain a balance of water and chemicals. Every day these amazing little organs filter out about 2 quarts of wastes and fluid in the form of urine.
Unfortunately, many persons suffer with kidney disease so it is so important to try to maintain a healthy diet to prevent any damage to the kidneys. According to many researchers, there are 15 “super foods” for your kidneys. Be sure to pick these foods up and add them to your diet for keeping these organs healthy:
- Red grapes
- Olive oil
- Egg whites
- Red bell peppers
I personally have added cranberry juice to my diet to prevent urinary tract infections (UTI). This helps by making urine more acidic which helps keep bacteria from attaching to the inside of the bladder. Many of the other foods listed are low in potassium, high in fiber and contain antioxidants.
As nurses, we are most interested in why the kidneys might fail. The two most common causes for kidney disease are diabetes and high blood pressure. In diabetes, the body does not use up glucose like it should and therefore the glucose remains in the blood. This can act like a poison and cause damage to the nephrons. With high blood pressure, the small vessels in the kidney are damaged and hence, cannot filter the wastes. For these two conditions, medications such as ACE inhibitors (angiotensin-converting enzymes) and/or ARBs (angiotensin receptor blockers) are used to slow the progression of kidney disease. Other causes of kidney disease include poisons and trauma, congenital and inherited kidney disease, regular pain-killer usage and some over-the-counter medications if used for a long period of time.
Finally, we will cover the three main ways that kidneys fail. First, there is acute kidney injury (also called acute renal failure) which starts very quickly. This could be due to an acute loss of blood or from an accident which injures the kidneys. Acute kidney injury may be reversed but it can also lead to permanent loss of kidney function. Next there is chronic kidney disease which is more common and happens slowly. This condition has a high risk of death from a stroke or heart attack. In the early stages of this disease, there may be warning signs and symptoms that include feeling tired, urinating more or less frequently, swelling in the hands or feet, nausea and/or vomiting, muscle cramps, trouble concentrating or even feeling itchy or numb. Finally, there is end-stage renal disease and these people need dialysis or a kidney transplant to remain alive.