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Your kidneys are vital organs that help detoxify your body by filtering and eliminating waste and producing urine.

Over 2 million Canadians suffer from kidney disease or kidney damage. The risk factors for kidney disease include; being of African descent, eating a diet high in red meat, smoking and obesity. There are also health conditions that may lead to chronic kidney disease including diabetes, and high blood pressure. Therefore, controlling the risk factors for these conditions can translate into healthier kidney function. March is Kidney Health Awareness month, so today we will be exploring foods and drinks to optimize the health of your kidneys.

Cranberry

Cranberries and cranberry juice are popular home remedies for preventing urinary tract infections and the formation of kidney stones. Cranberries acidify the urine and have been shown in some studies to prevent infection-causing bacteria such as E. Coli from adhering to the walls of the urinary tract. However, you don’t have to be prone to urinary tract infections or kidney stones to benefit from including this tangy fruit in your diet. Cranberries are rich in vitamin C and antioxidants that help protect your cells from damage. If you decide to choose dried cranberries, choose a product that is organic, free from sulphites and added sugar.

Cherries

Cherries are the sweeter tasting friend of cranberry, however for a fruit, they are still quite low in sugar. Tart cherry juice has been shown to help the body eliminate excess uric acid. The build-up of uric acid in your blood can lead to a type of arthritis known as gout and the regular consumption of cherries and cherry juice can help reduce inflammation in your blood vessels, protecting your kidneys and heart. You can easily add cherries to both sweet and savory dishes. If fresh cherries are not available, consider frozen.

Fish

If you are interested in preserving the health of your kidneys, your naturopathic doctor may recommend a reduction in the consumption of red meat and an increase in the consumption of fatty fish. Fish is high in protein and contains long chain, omega-3 fatty acids. These are the type of fats that are essential, which means we must obtain them from our diet. Omega-3 fats are anti-inflammatory as opposed to red meat which contains more pro-inflammatory fatty acids. Include two servings of fish such as wild salmon, sardine and herring in your diet on a weekly basis. The regular consumption of fish has been touted for protecting the body from heart disease, reducing cholesterol and decreasing the risk of some cancers.

Water

Water is the most important and essential nutrient for your kidneys. The reminder to drink more water is such a simple recommendation, however, it’s extremely important to remember that low water intake can be a big problem for kidney health. Water functions to remove waste and bacteria from your body. Without water, your kidneys can’t filter properly. Dehydration can increase your risk for kidney stones. Depending on your height, weight and activity level, you may require between 6 and 10 cups of water per day. However, on the other hand, be careful not to overdo the water intake. Drinking too much water within a short period of time can cause electrolytes such as sodium to fall below normal levels, leading to hyponatremia which can be fatal.

Foods to Avoid

Along with considering the foods and beverages that promote good kidney function and health, it’s important to consider the items you should avoid. Processed foods, foods high in saturated fat, refined sugar and red meat can irritate the kidneys. In one study from John Hopkins University, it was found that people who had unhealthy diet patterns, smoked and were obese, had more protein in their urine than people who avoided smoking, and ate a diet high in fresh fruit, vegetables and legumes. If you tend to eat out at fast food restaurants and choose packaged foods on a regular basis, it may be time to re-evaluate your nutritional regimen to include healthier choices.

Good kidney health begins with a healthy and balanced diet. Keep yourself hydrated and avoid eating processed foods on a regular basis. Maintaining a healthy weight and keeping your blood sugar and blood pressure under optimal control will help to reduce unnecessary strain on your kidneys.

Dr. Olivia Rose
About the Author

Dr. Olivia Rose graduated from the University of Guelph with a Bachelor of Science Honours degree in Nutritional and Nutraceutical Sciences and in 2006, she graduated from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine.

In addition to her private practice, Dr. Rose is the director of Fertility Acupuncture Services, a mobile service that brings acupuncture to couples undergoing in vitro fertilization and intrauterine insemination at Toronto fertility clinics. Her special areas of interest include infertility; children and teen health; stress management; weight loss; heart disease; digestive and immune health; skin rejuvenation and pain management. She is a birth doula and has additional training in cosmetic acupuncture and needle-less therapies for skin rejuvenation and joint pain.

Dr. Rose is a sought-after lecturer for community organizations; a freelance writer and mentor to new graduates. She has been interviewed by various media outlets including Global Toronto’s, “The Morning Show”, “News at Noon” and “News Hour”. In her free time, she unplugs at the spa and she enjoys spending quality time with her husband, son and tea-cup Yorkie. For more information on Dr. Rose's practice and special events, please visit - www.oroseND.com