Your kidneys are two small, bean-shaped organs that sit below the ribs on either side of the spine. Roughly the size of a fist, kidneys are in charge of filtering the blood and removing toxic substances from the food we eat, expelling these toxins out in the form of waste products. Kidneys also help maintain the delicate balance of fluids in the body.
If our kidneys are not working properly, our body cannot function. The breakdown of kidneys can lead to Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), an umbrella term that covers various conditions that damage your kidneys and decrease their performance ability. The major causes of CKD are high blood pressure and diabetes, but anyone can be at risk of potential kidney disease. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can dramatically decrease your risk. It’s important to know what can cause kidney damage, so here are some of the top damaging factors to your kidneys.
1. Red Meat
Red meat is a great source of protein, but did you know that including too much meat in your diet can put you at a higher risk of kidney disease? Red meat intake (mostly pork) was strongly associated with an increased risk of end-stage renal disease, the loss of normal kidney function. The relationship was also “dose dependent”, meaning the higher the consumption, the greater the risk. A study, conducted by Dr. Woon-Puay Koh, followed 63,257 adults in Singapore for an average of 15.5 years and found that people consuming the highest amounts of red meat had a 40% increased risk of developing the end-stage renal disease (ESRD).
In social settings, alcohol is the most acceptable drug of choice. Alcohol is technically a depressant, which means it slows down your brain and affects the way it sends and receives messages. It can also badly damage your kidneys by changing the way they function. But you may be asking yourself why? Alcohol causes changes in the function of the kidneys and makes them less able to filter the blood; an extremely important function. Alcohol has many other harmful effects. Aside from damage to your kidneys, excessive alcohol consumption also puts you at a higher risk of hypertension and stroke. According to the National Kidney Foundation, more than four alcoholic drinks a day can have a negative effect on your health and worsen kidney disease.
3. Table Salt
This is a strange one because salt is essential for our health. It helps regulate our blood pressure, control fluid balance, and helps our muscles and nerves function correctly. It can also be used as a remedy for heat stroke, soothe sore throats and treat tooth and gum issues. But even though it’s an important part of our diet, too much can cause a lot of damage. Table salt is a very common staple in many households all over the world but is considered to be the least healthy type of salt. Sodium balance in the human body is extremely important. A high salt diet will alter this sodium balance, causing the kidneys to have reduced function and remove less water resulting in higher blood pressure. This puts strain on the kidneys and can lead to kidney disease.
For many, caffeine is essential to starting every day – especially in coffee form. Caffeine is a natural stimulant, found in many different foods and drinks like coffee, tea, cocoa, and chocolate. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) consider caffeine to be both a drug and food additive, and it is likely to be the world’s most popular stimulant. According to the 2013 online survey conducted by the National Coffee Association, over 587 million cups of coffee are drunk per year in the US alone. But even though caffeine is a popular pick-me-up, there can be detrimental side effects. Because caffeine is a stimulant, it speeds up the central nervous system, making the brain send and receive messages at a faster rate than usual. Caffeine stimulates blood flow, which places additional stress on the kidneys, and this can also increase blood pressure.
5. Artificial Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners have been around since the 1800s, with saccharin the first to be discovered. Many people who already struggle with weight or diabetes will often turn to these sweeteners as a substitute for regular sugar. There are many various types of artificial sweeteners these days, including aspartame, found in Equal and NutraSweet; sucralose, found in Splenda; acesulfame, found in Sunette and Equal Spoonful; saccharin, found in Sweet ‘N Low; and xylitol, found in Perfect Sweet. Artificial sweeteners are highly addictive. Too much can cause headaches, migraines, weight gain, and increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. A diet high in sugars and sweeteners also puts you at risk of dental problems like cavities and tooth decay. Research published by the National Center for Biotechnology found that two or more servings per day of artificially sweetened soda was associated with increased chances of a decline in kidney function in women.
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