3 Must-Have Tips For Kidney Health, From An Internal Medicine Doctor
When you imagine a healthy metabolism, chances are you don't think about your kidneys. Well, you should!
As board-certified internal medicine doctor Richard Johnson, M.D., explains on this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast, metabolic syndrome and early kidney disease are deeply intertwined. The more markers of metabolic dysfunction you have—high blood pressure, cholesterol, uric acid, and so on—the higher chance you have chronic kidney disease.
The kicker? Much like metabolic syndrome, kidney disease typically remains silent until it becomes a problem.
So what can you do today to ensure the health of your kidneys and prevent painful kidney stones? For starters, Johnson recommends asking your doctor for a cystatin C blood test (listen to the episode to learn more about it). From there, you can follow his lifestyle tips below:
Mind your diet
We generally encourage a balanced approach to all of the above, but if you have any concerns with your kidneys, you might want to be extra vigilant of your intake. "There is absolutely no doubt that high-sugar diets make kidney disease worse," Johnson adds.
It's actually fructose that's the culprit, he adds: When you eat sugar, glucose and fructose separate in the gut, and you absorb them on their own. And "Fructose is the driver of uric acid and of kidney disease," he shares.
Now, you might be thinking: Doesn't fruit contain fructose? You're absolutely right, but according to Johnson, the amount is pretty minimal. "Even though fruit contains some fructose, it's so much less than a soft drink," he explains. Let's try to look at the big picture, here, instead of splitting hairs.
Processed red meat, additionally, causes your body to produce a lot more uric acid. "When you're eating red processed meats a lot, your uric acid probably is going to be pretty high, and you should get it checked," he notes. As a refresher: When your body is producing too much uric acid, it can build up and lead to the formation of urate crystals. Over time, these crystals can cause gout and kidney stones2.
Take vitamin C
If you'd like to lower your uric acid (which, again, can be good for your metabolic and kidney health), Johnson recommends supplementing with vitamin C.
"Take 500 milligrams of vitamin C twice a day," he says. "Besides being a great vitamin and antioxidant that keeps systems healthy, it actually lowers uric acid. It makes you excrete it." In fact, research on over 47,000 men3 found that those taking a daily vitamin C supplement had a 44% lower risk of developing gout. And another meta-analysis4 specifically found that taking a vitamin C supplement for 30 days reduced uric acid in the blood, compared to a placebo.
Just know that not all vitamin C supplements are created equal. Here, you can browse our favorite high-quality options on the market.
Drink lots of water
The key to preventing kidney stones? Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. "Dehydration is the No. 1 cause of kidney stones," says Johnson, so you want to keep an eye on your daily water intake—especially if you're one to indulge in sugary soft drinks.
"When you get dehydrated, your urine starts to concentrate, because you hold on to the water as much as possible," he explains. "The calcium and uric acid in the urine go up," he adds, which can ultimately lead to kidney stones.
That said, make sure you stay hydrated throughout the day—Johnson recommends drinking six to eight glasses of water per day, but that number can vary from person to person. As a general rule: If your pee isn't a light yellow color, you might not be getting enough H2O.
We need to talk more about kidney health. Your kidneys and metabolism are more connected than you think, and according to Johnson, you could be losing kidney function for a while and not even know it. Knowledge is power, so make sure you understand your baseline—then follow the above tips to maintain optimal kidney health.