How to Keep Your Kidneys Healthy

Chad Birt

Written by Chad Birt on Thu Sep 14 2023.

Friends exercising together.

The kidneys are some of the hardest working organs in your body. They process up to 150 quarts of blood per day, filtering out waste and toxins and producing urine. 

Most of us take our kidneys for granted; as long as they function, we rarely think about them. But if you’re one of the 37 million Americans with kidney disease, they’re a top priority. Even if your kidneys are healthy, keeping them that way is essential. Below, we highlight some tips for doing just that.

What You’ll Need

Keeping your kidneys healthy doesn’t require special equipment. Maintaining an active lifestyle and eating nutritious meals goes a long way toward optimal kidney health. 

You might benefit from buying a water bottle if you don’t stay hydrated. But other than that, all you need is a good attitude and a willingness to try new things.

How to Keep Your Kidneys Healthy - A Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Eat a Balanced Diet

“Diet plays a bigger role in kidney health than many folks realize,” says Dr. Naheed Ali, MD, PhD, a physician and health writer. “By integrating about five servings of fruit and vegetables daily, complemented with starches and proteins, you can do your taste buds a favor, and your kidneys too.” 

Conversely, you should avoid certain foods if you have kidney disease, including those high in potassium, phosphorus, and sodium. “Consuming too much salt is the leading cause of kidney stone formulation,” says Dr. Ali. “Remember, not all salt is created equal. Aim for about 6 grams a day from mostly unprocessed sources.”

Limit brown rice, bananas, oranges, processed meats, and tomatoes. 

Try to prepare fresh meals most of the time, rather than relying on prepackaged, instant, or premade meals. 

Step 2: Sweat It Out

Getting your heart rate up is good for your brain, heart, and kidneys.

“Strive for around 150 minutes of moderate exercise weekly,” says Dr. Ali. “Not only is it a mood booster, but it also lends a helping hand to your renal pals. Think of exercise as a mini vacation for your kidneys.”

Dr. Dimitar Marinov, PhD, a physician specialist in nutrition and dietetics agrees, adding that exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight and reduces the risk of conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes, which are detrimental to kidney function.”

“Regular physical activity also improves cardiovascular health, benefiting kidney circulation. However, it’s crucial to consult with your doctor before starting a new exercise regimen, especially if you have kidney disease!”  

Step 3: Quit Smoking and Limit Alcohol 

Smoking is bad for your heart and lungs, but it also increases your risk of kidney problems. Quitting is one of the best ways to reduce the risks associated with kidney failure and kidney cancer. 

“Smoking narrows blood vessels, reducing circulation to the kidneys and impairing their function,” Dr. Marinov explains. “Alcohol, on the other hand, leads to dehydration which puts additional stress on your kidneys. Quitting smoking and moderating alcohol intake can significantly improve kidney health and your overall well-being.”

Step 4: Manage Stress Levels

“Stress is like an uninvited guest that overstays its welcome,” says Dr. Ali. “And, believe it or not, it can meddle with our kidneys’ performance.” 

That’s because chronic stress increases the risk of high blood pressure and inflammation, “both of which can harm the kidneys over time,” says Dr. Marinov. “Stress management techniques, like mindfulness meditation, yoga, and deep breathing exercises can help reduce stress and promote general kidney health. These practices also aid in managing conditions that may affect the kidneys.” 

Step 5: Practice Chronic Disease Management

Having chronic kidney disease increases your risk of other health problems, including high blood pressure, iron deficiency anemia, and weakened immunity. 

“Our body systems are incredibly interconnected,” explains Dr. Ali. “Managing chronic conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes can be a lifeline for your kidneys. It’s like ensuring all of the parts in an intricate machine are well-oiled and function properly.” 

Chronic disease management requires a multi-faceted approach. 

“Medication adherence, regular checkups, and a balanced lifestyle that includes a kidney-friendly diet and exercise can help mitigate the risks associated with these chronic conditions,” says Dr. Marinov. 

Step 6: Drink Plenty of Water

You need to stay hydrated to help your kidneys function properly. 

“Drinking water throughout the day is essential for kidney health,” explains Dr. Marinov. “It helps your kidneys filter waste and toxins from your blood. Conversely, insufficient water intake can lead to kidney stones and urinary tract infections.” 

Step 7: Prioritize Rest and Sleep 

There’s a reason people are encouraged to get between seven and eight hours of sleep a night. 

“Quality sleep is essential for overall well-being, including kidney health,” Dr.  Marinov says. “Sleep deprivation can contribute to hypertension and impaired kidney function. From my experience, establishing a bedtime routine and creating a conducive sleep environment can promote better sleep quality.”

To increase the likelihood of restful Z’s, keep electronics out of your bedroom, stick to a regular bedtime, and set the thermometer to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Step 8: Visit Your Doctor for Routine Checkups

An annual physical exam and lab testing are essential to staying on top of your kidney health. That’s particularly true if you have high blood pressure or diabetes, as both can lead to kidney damage.

You might also benefit from regular kidney function tests. “Kidney function tests, such as estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) and serum creatinine tests, help detect kidney issues early,” explains Dr. Marinov. “For example, if you have a family history of kidney disease, kidney function tests are vital to monitoring your health and well-being.”

How to Keep Your Kidneys Healthy - Commonly Asked Questions

1) What are the symptoms of poor kidney health?

Kidney disease doesn’t always present symptoms early on, but as the condition progresses you might experience nausea and vomiting, abdominal cramping, loss of appetite, and changes in urination. Other telltale signs of kidney disease include swelling in the legs and feet (edema), trouble sleeping, and dry, itchy skin.

2) Who is at risk of kidney disease?

Kidney disease affects people of all ages and races, but several factors can increase your risk, including heart disease, older age, and excess weight or obesity. You’re also more likely to develop kidney disease if you have a family history of the condition or an inherited kidney disorder.

3) Will I need dialysis if my kidneys are unhealthy?

It depends. When kidney disease is caught early on, it’s possible to prevent it from worsening. But if you have chronic kidney failure (CKF), your kidneys can’t remove waste from your blood. In this case, the only treatment options are dialysis or a kidney transplant. Your healthcare provider can make personalized treatment recommendations based on your symptoms and health history.

Have Questions About Kidney Health? We’re Here to Support You!

At Carewell, we regularly help family caregivers and their loved ones navigate the ups and downs of chronic kidney disease. Whether you have questions about a kidney-friendly diet or need help choosing a blood pressure monitor, we’ve got the knowledge and expertise to assist.

Our friendly Care Specialists speak English and Spanish and are available 24/7. Call (800) 696-CARE or send an email to today!

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Chad Birt
Chad Birt

Chad Birt is a freelance medical writer who resides in Astoria, Oregon. When he isn't behind a keyboard, you can find him hiking, camping, or birdwatching with his wife Ella and their two dogs, Diane and Thoreau.