Take care of your kidneys

by Karen Bowen

Your rig’s air, fuel, and oil filters capture impurities to prevent damage to the system. Similarly, your kidneys filter impurities from your blood to prevent toxins from damaging your body. Active 24/7, well-functioning kidneys eliminate one to two liters of waste-filled urine daily.

Proper kidney function is vital for good health – your entire blood supply filters through your kidneys every five minutes. Unfortunately, kidney disease is not always recognized, since there are few signs or symptoms in the early stages. By the time chronic kidney disease is diagnosed, kidney function may already be seriously and irreversibly impacted.

Early signs may appear consistent with other unrelated, physical conditions. These signs can include: low energy levels; weakness; reduced cognition; poor appetite; nausea and vomiting; insomnia; muscle twitches/cramps; persistent itching; high blood pressure; swelling in the hands and feet (fluid retention); and chest pain, if the fluid builds up in the sac around the heart; or, shortness of breath, if the fluid builds up in the lungs. However, other obvious signs may be more easily recognized: painful urination; dark and/or cloudy urine; foul/strong smelling urine; blood in the urine; passing stones in the urine; and/or severe lower back pain.

The following risk factors also increase your likelihood of developing chronic kidney disease, such as: abnormal kidney structure; aging; diabetes; high blood pressure; cardiovascular disease; smoking; obesity; ethnicity (African-American, Native American or Asian-American); and/or a family history of kidney disease.

As well, pre-existing health conditions can lead to this condition. Your doctor is likely already monitoring your kidney function if you’ve been diagnosed with: Type 1 or 2 diabetes; high blood pressure; glomerulonephritis (inflammation of glomeruli – the kidney’s filtering units); interstitial nephritis (inflammation of the kidney’s tubules and surrounding structures); polycystic kidney disease (caused by prolonged obstruction of the urinary tract due to enlarged prostate, kidney stones and some cancers); vesicoureteral reflux (causes urine to back up into your kidneys); and/or pyelonephritis (recurrent kidney infections.)

Chronic kidney disease affects more than just your urinary tract. Potentially, it can lead to complications, like: fluid retention, causing swelling in your arms and legs, high blood pressure, or fluid in your lungs; a sudden jump in blood potassium levels, which could impact your heart and become life-threatening; cardiovascular disease; weakened bones with increased risk of fractures; anemia; decreased sex drive, erectile dysfunction or infertility; central nervous system damage, causing difficulty concentrating, seizures or personality changes; decreased immune response, increasing your susceptibility to infection; pericarditis, an inflammation of the saclike membrane surrounding your heart; and eventually – irreversible kidney damage, requiring either dialysis or a kidney transplant to survive.

So, to reduce your risk, in addition to the usual – quit smoking, eat well, avoid caffeine, avoid alcohol, etc. – consider the following:

Long-distance truck drivers may experience a higher incidence of kidney bruising or damage compared to other occupations, so adjust your seat comfortably and use a good quality seat cushion to absorb the vibrations caused by road bumps, potholes, and rough terrain.

Drink enough water to transport toxins freely and efficiently throughout and out your urinary tract. According to Dr. Tim Mathew, national medical director at Kidney Health Australia, “The main risks for people who drive for a living is…relative dehydration. Drivers should ensure that they drink at least two liters of water per day – and even more in the hotter times of the year.”

According to a study published in the American Journal of Kidney Disease, sitting for long periods can contribute to kidney problems, but reducing sitting time and increasing activities boosts kidney health. Health experts recommend exercising every day enough to get a little out of breath – for around 30 minutes. Improve the circulation to your kidneys and lower extremities by regularly getting out of your vehicle and stretching your legs.

Your kidneys – filters are built for a lifetime. Be careful to maintain them.


Karen Bowen is a professional health and nutrition consultant, and she can be reached at karen_bowen@yahoo.com.

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  • Since my failed knee operation 5 years ago I have constantly suffered from swollen feet and legs also I take tablets for My passing of urine and at 84 years of age I wear disposal nappies thanks to the hospital inserting instruments. Catheters I think as they were in and out constantly while I was hospitalised so can I ask you please if there is any way first of all to treat my swollen feet or to eliminate wearing nappies and if you can even suggest something I will be forever grateful
    Have a nice day and many thanks just for listening