Kidney Detox is popular these days. No, let me rephrase. Detox regimens are a rage!
But are they necessary? And do they really help?
Let’s find out.
WHAT IS A KIDNEY DETOX?
A range of specialized diets packed with greens, some other veggies, fruits, herbal teas, and even pills or other concoctions based on these food items are marketed as “Kidney Cleansers” nowadays. These products claim to improve your overall kidney health by “detoxifying your systems”, preventing kidney damage from toxins, stone formation & infection. Some regimens are even said to help you keep your blood pressure in check and “boost your immunity” (a very vague but successful marketing phrase).
DO KIDNEYS REALLY “NEED” IT?
Not really. Our Liver and Kidneys themselves are the most efficient and self-sufficient detoxifiers found in nature. In good health, these are hard-wired to handle unwanted metabolic products in our body and eliminate them via solid waste and Urine respectively.
I found this “advice” on using Baking soda to “flush” your kidneys of all toxins the other day. Do not fall for such misleading information. It’s preposterous. Please note, our organs must not be equated to toilet pipes where “flushing” would work. Rather these are extremely sophisticated colonies of living cells that are actively involved in “processing & re-absorbing” what’s useful while discarding what’s not. Stuffing your system with additional food items supposedly packed with nutrients that have general health benefits (E.g. in weight loss or improved digestion) would only end-up burdening your liver and kidneys with more digested food to process. Moreover, doing so in a haphazard manner also “breaks the routine work-flow” of all your organs from time-to-time. Nature is organized. It does not like disorder. Failing this rule of thumb, you can always expect your body to retaliate unpleasantly. (More on this HERE)
MEDICAL CONCERNS ON DETOX DIETS
It is true that herbs, fruits, and veggies are rich in vitamins and minerals. But it’s great only when consumed in recommended quantities set by standard committees, such as the Food and Nutrition Board, National Academies. “Kidney Cleanse” options available in the market have some obvious disadvantages when you look at it from the medical point of view:
1. INTERRUPTS ORGAN WORK-FLOW
Our organs adapt better to gradual lifestyle changes and sustained balanced diets. On the contrary, detox diets are abrupt, temporary and infrequent in nature. The ultimate effect is a sudden break in the usual workflow of your organ systems in a haphazard manner. This does more harm than good.
Would you be comfortable working in the Sahara Desert the whole week, suddenly wake-up in Antarctica for the weekend in summer clothes? No? It’s the same with your organs. Abrupt changes don’t bode well.
2. TOO GENERIC
Kidney detox diets are generic in nature. They do not account for individual nutritional requirements based on one’s health needs. Taking detox pills claiming to help you boost your immunity or keep your blood pressure in control to improve kidney function, without consulting a registered medical doctor is especially dangerous.
3. FLUID OVERLOAD CONCERNS
Nowadays, the errant concept of “flushing our systems of toxins” has creeped-in. So you’ll see a lot of detoxification plans advise smoothies, juices, herbal teas etc. However, sometimes, over-enthusiasm to adopt healthy lifestyles can make us forget about the fact that just like everything else, water intake has a recommended daily allowance as well. For most of the population, this range is 2-2.5 litres daily.
Exceptions would apply if you are:
1. A heart patient
2. On dialysis
3. Have medical conditions where your medical team has advised you to tweak your fluid intake, such as urinary stones
4. Underwent kidney transplant/ bladder surgery
5. Do heavy-duty work or live in arid or humid geographical locations.
Consistently, stuffing our bodies with fluid-based detox diets can, unfortunately, lead to “fluid overload”. This is detrimental to our Heart and Kidneys.
4. HIGH POTASSIUM CONTENT
Most fruits & greens “advised” during a kidney detox tend to be high in a mineral called Potassium. While it is an essential mineral, just like any other foodstuff, there is a fixed safe limit (3500-4700 mg/day) for its daily intake.
This limit varies with different medical conditions as well.
Going for a Detox would mean stuffing yourself up with excess Potassium. Doing so will overburden your kidneys with the job of removal of this excess potassium & fluids.
This will simply defeat the entire purpose of helping your kidneys relax!
In addition, high potassium (especially in the context of kidney disease) could potentially disrupt a normal heart rhythm. So, if you have problems with your blood pressure, continued, unsupervised intake of high potassium could make matters difficult.
5. NOT APPROVED BY REGULATORY BODIES
The DIY detox regimens (diets/pills) do not undergo the strict regulatory approval procedures put in place by the US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) to prove if they are safe for use on humans or how effective they are.
6. EVIDENCE OF KIDNEY DAMAGE
There is no demonstrated evidence of added benefit with such occasional, abrupt kidney detox regimens. On the contrary, some green smoothies have been reported to contain high amounts of a substance called Oxalate which encourages kidney stone formation. With continued intake, it has been reported to actually damage the kidney tissue itself, which is again counter-productive.
You can read the article here.
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO HELP OUR DETOX-SYSTEMS?
The easiest way to keep your body free of toxins is to abstain from consuming products that have obvious toxic effects. Well, that’s a no-brainer!
To help your natural detoxification system (Kidney and Liver) stay hunky-dory, the following strategy is by far the most reliable:
Consult a doctor to rule out any undiagnosed & untreated medical conditions such as Diabetes, Hypertension (High blood pressure) or other chronic conditions that could damage these organs. Please note, the mere absence of obvious symptoms is not a reliable way to conclude if you are completely healthy or not.
Drink adequate water adjusted for your health status. For most of the population, this range is 2-2.5 litres daily.
Exceptions: Heart patients, Dialysis, having conditions where your medical team has advised you to tweak your fluid intake, doing heavy-duty work or live in arid or humid geographical locations.
Good hydration ensures proper blood circulation, better cellular health, prevents kidney stone formation, helps keep a normal pH range of urine to help fight urine infections and ultimately ensures an efficient detoxification system in your body.
Instead of stuffing yourself with nutrient-rich food randomly, please adopt a sustained, holistic approach by means of a balanced diet consisting of recommended quantities of all nutrient classes tailored to your individual health status, designed in consultation with a registered dietician.
Avoid, reduce or eliminate preventable risk factors for Kidney and Liver diseases, from your daily life:
Say no to obesity. Get regular exercise as your health permits and maintain a healthy weight for your height, age, and metabolic needs.
Take measures to keep your Blood Pressure and Blood Glucose levels in check.
Hypertension (high blood pressure) and Diabetes mellitus account for three-fourths of all Kidney failure cases worldwide. If you already have either or both these conditions, take your medication on time & follow all diet modifications religiously.
If you are a habitual heavy drinker, consider reducing your alcohol intake to moderate levels (1 drink a day). And if you drink less frequently, consider quitting. Recent research points out that alcohol does not qualify for obtaining a “safe limit for consumption” anymore.
Quit smoking tobacco, marijuana and allied products.
Smoking is an established risk factor for chronic kidney disease. Consult your doctor to know if it would be safe for you to go for cessation measures such as E-cigarettes (vaping). If you don’t smoke, please do not start vaping.
Hence, random “kidney cleanses” amidst generally unhealthy life choices will not help you keep your systems free of toxins. All you need is to follow the 3 steps below to ensure seamless kidney and liver health:
Adopt a balanced diet with recommended quantities of all major nutrient groups. Practice sustained moderation in food habits.
Ensure optimal water intake adjusted to your individual health needs.
Take control and gradually eliminate preventable risk factors for kidney disease from your lifestyles, such as obesity, high blood pressure, high blood glucose, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption.
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