Framing the Conversation
It is time for Thanksgiving, and Americans everywhere are spending time with family and friends, enjoying each other’s company and meals we will be dreaming of for weeks to come. It is a time for giving thanks, and appreciating our loved ones. In doing so I must recommend that we turn an eye towards our children’s health, as there is amounting research that shows American children are damaging their kidneys early in life, leading to kidney dysfunction as adults.
While this topic is not the most giving of holiday cheer, it is import to be thankful of the research and sacrifices made by others, so that our children can live healthier lives. The statistics on this issue, will help you to see why this needs to be discussed. Each year more Americans die to kidney disease than breast cancer or prostate cancer with an overall prevalence of about 15% in adults of the general population as reported by the Chronic Kidney Disease Initiative or CDC.
What’s worse about this already bleak picture is that the prognosis for kidney disease is dismal. Dialysis is notoriously difficult on patients, and because the kidneys act as the body’s filtration system, when they start to go many other components of health fall to the wayside as well. Adding to the horrific nature of kidney disease is the fact that most people who suffer in the early phases of kidney disease or early kidney dysfunction do not realize they have symptoms with research suggesting that only 10% of those who need treatment realize they have an illness.
This is mainly due to the fact that the symptoms are subtle and can be confused with any number of causes, so that when you experience them, in all likelihood, your kidney health will be one of the last things to come to mind. Headaches and loss of concentration, high blood pressure, and urinary issues are all potential signs of kidney dysfunction. But therein lies the catch; many of us experience these symptoms regularly due to stress, dehydration, irregular diets, etc. While these facts are alarming, the good news is that prevention and intervention are pretty straightforward.
The main method of preventing the kidney dysfunction that leads to chronic kidney disease is a commitment to the basic principles of nutrition and self-care. In other words, to preserve your kidney health you need to eat right and drink right, advice that is normally actualized in the fast-approaching resolutions for the new year. Unfortunately the new year follows back to back holidays where we celebrate plentitude and feasting.
Depending on your family traditions, these holiday traditions may be doing some serious damage to your kidneys, which will affect your energy levels, clarity of mind, and blood pressure--which is not the best way to start of the new year. But fear not! This guide will walk you through some quick tips to make sure your beloved kidneys see the first days of 2020 in good health.
The Short-hand Guide to Healthy Kidneys
1. Meat isn’t the only player in the game.
During the holidays, one of the largest burdens we place on our kidneys is through our overconsumption of meat. Whether its turkey, ham, or beef, the meat is broken down in the body and produces waste products, which greatly tax the kidney. The best solution here is not to completely remove the wonderment of Thanksgiving turkey from your menu, rather it is just to remember to supplement your plate with all the other non-meat dishes available to you, so you aren’t taking in too much meat--as alluring as the post turkey-binge naps may be.
2. Salt is your enemy!
Look--my name is Jake and I’m a recovering salt addict--there, I said it. If you are like me, and I bet the chef of your family is, then salt makes everything better. Unfortunately the one thing it does not make better is your kidneys. In fact, an excess of salt in your diet leads to increased sodium in your blood, which is reported to be a key component of kidney dysfunction. A great solution here is to explore other spices. There are many, many spices to employ in your recovery from salt addiction--use them. And do not be afraid to speak up to your family about salt content in the family feast, as you can feel justified in knowing that you truly have their best interest in mind.
3. Hydration is your best friend.
If salt is your enemy, then water is your best friend. Staying hydrated is absolutely crucial to helping your body move fluids through your kidneys, thus assisting in the filtration process. If you are a neat-freak or unapologetic salt addict then it is all the more important to focus on hydration in order to help your kidneys carry the burden placed on them. It is important to note here however that if you suspect that you suffer from kidney disease that excess water intake can actually be harmful to your kidneys as they will struggle to keep up with the filtration of large quantities of water.
4. Be Wary of Medications and Supplement Intake.
In 2019, many of us take medications and more of us take supplements. The simple fact though is that these things do tax our kidneys, so as me move through the holidays it may be best to take a few days off of your non-essential supplements or medication routine--within reason of course, and as always with the case of doctor prescribed medication, consult your physician for individual advice.
5. Exercise, exercise, exercise!
This guide would be incomplete if we did not mention the great effects of exercise on kidney health. Exercise--even very basic exercise--greatly benefits the kidneys by improving the body’s ability to regulate blood pressure, which is directly related to adverse conditions within the kidneys. Couple with this the laundry list of other benefits, and you have a crucial component of surviving the holidays. If exercise is not your thing, don’t worry--even just 15 minutes a day of cardio will assist an overall wellness of your body and your kidneys.
5. What About Intervention?
Unfortunately many of these steps are geared towards prevention of kidney dysfunction, and intervention will be a much more complicated topic. Ultimately each individual’s body is different, and so if you expect that you may have kidney dysfunction, or worse kidney disease, then the most responsible advice is to seek out a physician. Worldwide, kidney disease kills over a million people a year, mainly due to slow-moving advances in healthcare technology which might identify kidney dysfunction, but luckily in America the technology is improving year over year.
Companies over the years have continually developed new methods for testing kidney functionality within a research setting, which contributes to more testing options for individuals and may lead to more patients identifying their illness before it progresses. Currently there are several tests that your physician can administer to identify the presence of kidney dysfunction, and designate a level of kidney disease if it does exist. So if you have read this article and believe that you might be suffering from kidney disease or dysfunction, then do not wait; go see you physician immediately.
If you do struggle with kidney disease, then as described above the holidays represent a particularly challenging time. Do not hesitate to speak with your family about all of the components of the holidays, which can inhibit your health and satisfaction--after all the holidays are a time meant to be enjoyed by everyone.