Your kidneys weigh only 5 ounces each, yet 20 percent of your blood flow is traveling through them at any given time. Each possessing about one million individual filtration units called nephrons, the kidneys continually process blood to remove waste, maintain a healthy balance of nutrients and pH and produce urine. Certain foods offer nutritional and healing qualities to assist your kidneys in their day-to-day functions.
Kidney disease may be caused by numerous factors. Chronic use of alcohol or tobacco, exposure to solvents, chemotherapy, pesticides in foods and snakebites can all contribute to kidney disease. Improper kidney function can lead to water retention and buildup of toxins in your bloodstream. Although kidney disease requires medical attention, certain foods may help slow the progression of kidney disease. Check with your physician if you plan to change your diet to address kidney dysfunction.
Cranberries can help your kidneys fend off infection. Cranberry juice prevents bacteria from clinging to the membranes that line the urinary tract. Cranberries also contain oxalates, which can combine with calcium to form kidney stones, leading some experts to warn patients with kidney stones to avoid cranberries. However, some research has shown they have the opposite effect and may help dissolve kidney stones. A study published in the November 2003 issue of the journal “BJU International” found that participants who consumed cranberry juice showed decreased oxalate and phosphate excretion and lower concentrations of calcium oxalate in their urine compared to those who drank water. Researchers concluded that cranberry juice may offer protection against kidney stone formation.
Cucumbers are a high-water-content vegetable that offer beneficial properties for kidney health. Cucumbers help prevent excess uric acid, which can lead to kidney stone formation. Their high potassium content makes them a good food for promoting healthy blood pressure. The kidneys do this by maintaining proper levels of potassium and other minerals that help the body retain or release water.
A high-fiber diet may also discourage kidney stone formation. Phytates in fiber prevent calcium oxalate and calcium phosphate from crystallizing. A laboratory animal study published in the January 2007 issue of the journal “Frontiers in Bioscience” found that phytate-containing diets resulted in no calcium deposits in the kidneys, while animals that ate diets without phosphate developed calcium deposits in kidney-filtering tubules and blood vessels. Researchers concluded that phytates may inhibit calcium crystal formation. Further research is needed to confirm these preliminary results.
Parsley offers diuretic benefits and may promote passing of kidney stones or prevent stones from forming, according to New York University Langone Medical Center. The compounds apiol and myristicin in parsley increase the production of urine, helping to flush out stones and crystals. Bacteria are also swept out of the kidney and urinary tract, making infections less likely. Researchers of a laboratory animal study published in the Winter 2012 issue of “Urology Journal” found that parsley extract significantly decreased calcium oxalate deposits, making it therapeutic for preventing kidney stones.
Watermelon may help cleanse toxins and waste from your urinary tract, slowing the progression of damage to kidney tissues. This food is a rich source of vitamin A, which helps improve immune system function, preventing viruses and bacteria from causing additional kidney damage. Watermelon also contains vitamin C, which acidifies your urine to remove calcium deposits that may cause additional damage.
Legumes contain an amino acid called arganine, which may inhibit the production of lysine, a substance that can damage your kidneys. Arganine may help slow the progression of kidney disease and prevent additional damage, according to Phyllis Balch. Black beans, chickpeas, lima beans and lentils all contain arganine.
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