Sometimes back pain can be a sign of a much more serious condition.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, more than 26 million Americans have kidney disease and 1 in 3 American adults is currently at risk for developing the disease. In the United States, kidney disease kills more people than breast or prostate cancer (1).
Major risk factors for kidney disease include diabetes, high blood pressure, family history of kidney failure and being 60 or older. Additional risk factors include kidney stones, smoking, obesity and cardiovascular disease.
Why Kidneys Are Important
Kidneys don’t just filter the blood of toxins, they also clear extra fluid from the body, manage electrolyte levels, regulates blood hormone levels, regulates blood pressure, makes new red blood cells and keeps your bones strong. Kidneys are so efficient that it’s possible to survive with just one (2).
The first signs of kidney failure include (3):
- Fatigue, weakness
- Difficult, painful urination
- Foamy urine
- Pink, dark urine (blood in urine)
- Increased need to urinate (especially at night)
- Puffy eyes
- Increased thirst
Perhaps one of the most dangerous side effects of unhealthy kidneys is edema, or water retention, characterized by swollen face, hands, abdomen, ankles and feet. This occurs when the kidneys can’t expel enough fluid or salt from the body. This can lead to diseases of the heart, liver, and other essential organs (4).
14 Kidney-Boosting Foods
Some of the herbs on this list are unsafe for pregnant women and may interfere with prescription medication. Consult with your doctor or naturopath before use.
Cranberry is often used to prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs), which can reach the bladder and kidneys if left untreated (5).
One way that cranberry juice helps prevent urinary tract infections is by making urine more acidic, which also prevents kidney stones. It even prevents bacteria from sticking to the walls of the bladder and the tissues inside the kidneys (6).
Grape seed and skins can be used as a preventive measure against kidney disease in high risk or obese individuals. Its high antioxidant value protects the kidneys from free radical damage and toxins. 15 grapes a day can help keep your blood alkaline and keep your kidneys functioning properly (7,8).
This fruit contains quantities of potassium high enough to protect your heart but low enough to be appropriate for dialysis patients and others with kidney problems (9,10). An apple a day really does keep the doctor away!
Citrus fruits contain high levels of citric acid, which prevents and dissolves some varieties of kidney stones. It works by breaking up stones that have already formed and preventing smalls stones from getting bigger by coating them and preventing materials from attaching and building unto them (11).
Turmeric relieves inflammation in diseased and overworked kidneys. It also prevents blood clots by preventing platelets from clumping together. Its antioxidants even protect your kidneys and liver from damage (12).
Ginger promotes blood flow and helps cleanse the blood of toxins. Additionally, the little root helps heal back pain, which is often an early sign of kidney problems. It’s most well-known as a digestive tonic that relieves vomiting, nausea and stomach upset (13,14).
Dandelion root is a diuretic which relieves edema and relieves some symptoms of PMS. It’s also used to treat treat digestive disturbances and increase bile flow. Traditionally, Native Americans boiled the root in water and drank the tea to treat kidney disease (15,16,17).
This little garnish can we eaten daily to treat urinary tract infection and kidney stones. Drink as a tea to ease edema and constipation (18).
9. Marshmallow Root
While marshmallow root doesn’t taste like the well-known sweet treat, the root is a diuretic increases the secretion and flow of urine. It’s said to promote the elimination of toxins in the kidneys, colon and liver to promote cleansing and healing of your body (19).
10. Gravel root
The route of this pink-flowered plant treats urinary tract problems such as urinary or kidney stones, bladder, urethra and kidney infections as well as painful urination (20).
Stinging nettle is an essential herb for men with prostate problems, which can put extra strain on the kidneys. It treats symptoms of the early stages of an enlarged prostate such as reduced urinary flow, incomplete emptying of the bladder, post urination dripping, and the constant urge to urinate.
It’s also used for urinary tract infections, hay fever (allergic rhinitis), or applied topically to treat joint pain, sprains and strains, tendonitis, and insect bites (21).
12. Celery Seeds
Celery seeds are used as a diuretic, as well as an anti-inflammatory and anti-stress substance which keeps your kidneys going. It’s also used to heal liver and spleen disorders (22).
Like dandelion, this weed has surprising medicinal properties. It fights both inflammation and pain of the kidneys. Its hemostatic abilities can also be used to stop bleeding and prevent blood in the urine (23).
14. Hydrangea root
Hydrangea root may be toxic to household pets, but in humans, it has beneficial effects. It’s used for urinary tract problems such as infections of the bladder, urethra and prostate; enlarged prostate; and kidney stones (24).
Combine the best of this list in this easy-to-drink tea.
- 1 tablespoon of dried Hydrangea Root (Hydrangea arborescens)
- 1 tablespoon of dried Gravel Root (Eupatorium purpurea)
- 1 tablespoon of dried Marshmallow Root (Althea officinale)
- 1 quart of juice (apple, grape, cranberry or melon)
- Use a mortar and pestle to crush all the ingredients together in a fine powder.
- Mix 2 1/2 ounces of the herbs into the apple juice. Place the remainder in a glass jar with a lid and store in a dry, cool place.
- Bring the mixture to a boil and pour into a cup.
- Drink multiple times a day for three days.
- You can also keep it simple by adding the mixed herbs to warm lemon water.
While the above foods will help prevent kidney problems, your lifestyle is most important in keeping these organs healthy.
Most importantly, drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and prevent the formation of kidney stones. It’s also advised to drink responsibly, restrict salt intake and keep your blood pressure and blood sugar stable.