Keeping your kidneys healthy
by Mike Thomas, Oelwein Daily Register
Originally printed in the Oelwein Daily Register & Independence Bulletin Journal Health Beat. Reused with permission.
March is National Kidney Month and the organ is vital in filtering blood, removing waste and controlling the body’s fluid balance.
Dr. Daniel Leisinger from MercyOne Oelwein Family Medicine said the most important thing to maintain good kidney health is to drink plenty of water.
Leisinger added that adults should go to a doctor to get their kidneys checked out to ensure there are no problems.
“If you have no other health concerns, probably once a year would be good to get a basic metabolic evaluation to make sure your basic kidney functions are ok,” Leisinger said. “If you have other conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes; you probably should get it checked twice a year.”
Conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure can lead to kidney complications, and even kidney failure.
Leisinger said kidneys wear down as people age and that senior citizens are more vulnerable to kidney issues.
“Everything wears out eventually,” Leisinger said. “Just the process of aging would put them at a higher risk of problems with the kidneys. [Older patients should] make sure that their chronic health conditions are well controlled, and also make sure that they are drinking plenty of fluids.”
Another problem that can cause problems to the kidneys is over-the-counter medications like antacids, aspirin and ibuprofen.
“Every chemical that exits the body either has to be detoxed through the liver or the kidneys,” Leisinger said. “Ibuprofen is definitely one thing that gets detoxed by the kidneys, so if you take too many of those, it can be hard on the kidneys.”
Leisinger said that drinks such as soda and alcohol can be rough on the kidneys.
“Usually the advice is if you are going to drink anything like that, drink an equal amount of water just to keep the kidneys flushed,” Leisinger said.
Kidney stones are the most common disorder that happens, as the National Kidney Foundation estimates that one in ten people will have a kidney stone in their lifetime.
Some of the signs of having a kidney stone is severe abdominal or lower back pain, a stomach ache that doesn’t go away, fever, nausea, vomiting, foul-smelling urine and blood in urine.
Leisinger said the exact cause of kidney stones are unknown.
“Some people just develop them,” Leisinger said. “There are also some medications that could put people at higher risks of developing kidney stones. One of the things [I recommend] is to drink plenty of fluids to keep the kidneys well flushed. It won’t absolutely cancel your chances of getting a kidney stone, but it will reduce it.”
Once the kidney stone is passed, a doctor will analyze the composition of the kidney stone to see what it is made of. The four main types of stones are calcium oxalate, uric acid, struvite and cystine.
“Not all of the stones are made up the same,” Leisinger said. “If they look at that, they can often tell and then from there they can give you a better idea of what you need to avoid. But it’s not necessarily a blanket statement where if you avoid this, it will decrease your chances of kidney stones.”