Your Quickstart Guide to Keeping Your Kidneys healthy
Yup, it’s the sparknotes to one of the most common body systems that goes awry. Why there isn’t a module on keeping your kidneys clean and healthy in school…well perhaps that’s low on the list of high priority Irish school reforms…but it would save the public and the state (also funded by the public) a good packet in doctor visits and prescribed antibiotics if we put these little vital organs towards the top of our agenda BEFORE they start to misfire.
But let’s save that rhetoric for another soap box. What we have at any stage in life is the opportunity to reverse our health trends and if, for you, bladder urgency, frequency, or nagging stinging on urination is a common feature (and even if it’s not), then it’s time to get out your pen and paper and put the following tips on today’s to-do list.
Suffering In Silence – What Your Kidneys Are Up To
While they sit there unassumingly below our ribs, nested either side of our spine, our kidneys are doing some powerful work. If our body was a swimming pool, we’d be able to see the work our kidneys were doing, because our swimming pool would stay lovely and clear, with all the toxic shite (just swap the autumn leaves and slimy pond algae for proteins and other metabolic wastes) filtered out in a murky, cloudy coalescence that we may or may not support drinking from time to time in a crazy thing called auto urine therapy. And no, we haven’t tried. But we might.
Looking after kidneys with food – do’s and don’ts
- Ginger/warming foods – they’re deeply supportive to your kidneys who hate the cold. If it’s spicy it’s probably a good kidney food. If it’s a cucumber, it’s probably not.
- Salt – your kidneys love salt, in Traditional Chinese Medicine salt is seen as kidney food, and salt helps to restore fluid balance in the tissues, which kidneys are responsible for managing. Not crap table salt. Good stuff – pink Himalayan salt has to be mined from the earth where it sits accumulating minerals for millions of years, so has a preponderance of minerals that present to your kidneys the buffet they fully deserve.
- Water – less water puts more pressure on your kidneys. Don’t water fast on a stressful day. A minimum of 2 litres straight water every day is smart thinking. Every cup of regular or green tea or coffee robs you of a chunk of minerals, so add another cup of water back in to top up.
Don’t Eat These
- Oxalate – you’ll find it in spinach, kale and other greens. Cooking them properly mostly breaks down this compound that contributes to kidney stones.
- Sugar – the more glucose in your blood stream the harder your kidneys have to work to filter it. Diabetes is the cause of almost half of all renal (kidney) failures. The easiest and the hardest thing to cut out.
- Coffee – it’s a diuretic, which means it puts the squeeze on your kidneys and adds to their already hectic load. They filter all the blood in your body around 24 times every day – up to 200 litres of it. If your blood is a more concentrated source of wastes the kidneys need to remove it puts them under more strain. So go easy on coffee even if it’s perking you up, it’s playing havoc with the wee kidney beans.
- Alcohol – plays a nasty role in kidney health – both as a diuretic and for its disruptive effect on blood sugar balance, causing peaks and troughs that knock your kidneys off kilter.
- Dense protein – amino acids are filtered from the blood stream via the kindeys and so diets that are consistently high in poor quality, or more processed protein especially, run the risk of kidney damage long term and put them under pressure in the short term. Thinking specifically of creatine, if you’re a gym bunny and taking stacks of the stuff, perhaps lay off if you sense the irritating onset of a UTI.
Okay Now That’s the Mainstream Stuff….Time To Get Weird
Eastern medicine – Kidneys and vatta energy
There are no large scale laboratory studies to suggest that those who suffer UTI’s more often are also more likely to be anemic. There are smaller scale ones that are fairly convincing, as anemia leads to a susceptibility to all forms of infection. But if you head to India or China some similar traits are shared energetically by these types and we see them countless times as corollaries on our shop floor. Those who find it their energy is easily sapped, that they don’t have huge stamina, who have cold fingers and toes…they are so so often the types who suffer from UTI’s also. They’re referred to as Vatta types in Ayurvedic medicine – those with a constitution that doesn’t hold onto nutrients well, those fold who often are quite cerebral, spending a lot of time in their head, with a really fast mind that jumps from one thing to the next, and they benefit from the grounding nourishment of spices, root vegetables, and herbs that pull them out of their head and into their body.
Female Health and Kidneys
Sorry ladies it’s your particular cross to bear in this case – as due to your shorter urinary tract, the pesky bacteria that claws onto the lining of the urinary tract and bladder wall is just more likely to gain access to your bodies. There’s also a couple of major dont’s here to take note of –
- Synthetic underwear – all of your body parts need to breathe, synthetics usually inhibit this, and synthetic underwear is strongly connected with recurrence of bladder and urinary tract infections.
- Sex – this actually is probably the most important point in this chat. Any disruption to the pH in your vagina, urinary tract etc, that leads to raising the alkalinity in those areas can give rise to yeast infections like thrush, vaginosis, urinary tract infections etc. So whether it’s a condom, or some other birth control that requires insertion, they’re all ‘foreign’ objects and may cause issues. Even using essential oils in the bath can disrupt these fragile ecosystems so please look before you leap!! Especially if you suffer recurrent issues with UTI’s etc, considering abstaining altogether for a few weeks could be a good plan, along with addressing the issue with your partner and seeing how you can approach it together.
- Menstrual Care Products – as above, any tampons, especially synthetic ones, that require insertion, will break down the mucosal layer and expose the lining of the vaginal walls to invasive yeasts and bacteria.
Kidneys – The Water Regulator
If you visit Japan in their winter, you’ll find a lot of the population, women especially, wearing scarves around their midriffs. They’re called harimakis, and they are designed to warm an organ in our body that’s especially susceptible to cold – our kidneys.
If you can’t lay your hands on a harimaki – try making a ginger compress! It’s the most lovely, warming feeling when you have a bladder infection. Just make a paste with hot water and ginger powder then lay it out on a sheet of muslin cloth or a thin towel, fold it over a few times and lay on your front with the towel over your kidneys and a hot water bottle on top.
Interestingly the season for all UTI’s is autum for sure, with the spike coming just as the cold weather kicks in. In esoteric celtic terms, autumn is also the water season, and hence all watery related issues come with it. Thinking of the water in those kidneys, and then all the watery mucous that streams out of our airways as autumn takes hold. And in those eastern traditions, spices like chilli, ginger, turmeric etc have drying, heating properties that prevent stagnation and support the removal of these watery energies from our bodies – back to that pond analogy – stagnation breeds bugs!
What’s Behind the Barage of Bad Bugs??
If you’re unlucky enough to suffer from regular recurrent UTI’s the usual reason for this recurrence is because the nature of the infective bacteria is that they break down the mucosal lining in the urinary tract – the protective lining that stops bad things from living there, and provides a nice cushy home for the “friendly” bugs. The exposed lining of the urinary tract becomes inflamed and with repeat infection can become ulcerated. Like scar tissue, this ulcerated stuff doesn’t really behave like a regular urinary tract lining, and prevents the mucosal layer from healing over the top. When you take antibiotics for a urinary tract infection it’s like a double whammy in the form of an antibacterial military coup, cos it knocks out the good bacteria, and raises the pH, leaving a power vacuum, paving the way for the more opportunistic bacteria like E.Coli to gain a foothold in the environment. Darned insurgents!?!?
When Kidney Issues Just Go Too Far For Healthfood Help
So there are things natural health can’t be relied upon to support – if we had spent half as much on natural health research as we did on drug research in the past 60 years it might be different – but it is what it is. Until A&E departments are staffed with herbalists, we need to be really cautious to say – if you have a UTI situation that develops with a fever and/or kidney pain it’s straight to the GP for you. Arm yourself with the nutrients and knowledge to support yourself, and ask your pharmacist doctor to make sure they’re happy with you partnering their antibiotic pills with your herbal potions.
Preventative Herbal care
What to take when you feel the telltale tickle of the UTI
Golden Rod Tea
It’s the mildest option, but really, when an infection is somewhere in your waterworks, often the best way to get to it is via the same system!! The herbs in A.Vogel’s Golden Rod and Knotgrass Tea contain anti-infective and toning properties that serve to heal and strengthen the bladder, urinary tract and kidneys. Try 4 cups a day, each brewed for around 7-10 minutes and sipped as opposed to gulped. Its tonic properties also help to reduce spasticity in the bladder, reducing the frequent urge to run to the bathroom, one of the less fun features of a UTI.
The source of a powerful little simple sugar known as d-mannose, cranberry juice is one of the staples for those who deal with recurrent UTI’s 50-100ml taken in a glass of warm water 4 times per day is a great companion to the tea above! Mannose is not like other sugars that feed the E.Coli bacteria as we outlined above. Instead, mannose actually binds the pesky bug and prevents it getting its hooks into the lining of the urinary tract, helping to flush it out of your system.
Solidago Complex Tincture
The next step up in your arsenal, if you need more acute support – then this extract is for you my friend. A tincture is a powerful extract, usually made with ethanol these days, that makes a more potent cocktail than a tea, and gives you more powerful protection. So if you’ve caught the infection a little later than you’d like, or if you’re really suffering, then pop A.Vogel’s Solidago Complex in your trolley and rest easy. We recommend 25-30 drops for acute use only, taken in a little water around 4 times per day.
This is a great herb, one that supports fighting infections that lie anywhere in the mucosal linings of our digestive tract, our airways or indeed our bladder. Take a 1ml dose in a little water up to 4 times a day until and even for a few days after the symptoms have cleared. Combine safely with the remedies above.
Okay so the final, nuclear option – it’s this guy – pure d-mannose in powder (more effective) or tablets (if you’re on the move). It’s the weaponised version, and the priciest at nearly €40 per tub, but ask yourself – what’s the price of feeling better. If you’re not in a position to pay for this guy, then taking all the guidance above will usually do the trick. But for those of you (and us!!) that find fighting the battles on all fronts a bit challenging when life gets in the way, d-mannose powder is your ally. 1 rounded teaspoon taken every two hours should be enough to see your nasty UTI kept at bay. But like we said before – don’t push it. If your symptoms are pushing towards the kidneys and/or you’re feeling ghastly, don’t hesitate to go see your doc. And come see us after to get put back together with good food and the lifestyle switches that will put you back on top of your game.
But wait. One more thing. We’ve almost fully forgotten the terrain. That mucosal layer ht