The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs, each about the size of a fist, located just below the rib cage on each side of the spine. Every single day, the kidneys filter about 120-150 quarts of urine, waste and excess fluid to prevent the buildup of waste in the body. The kidneys keep electrolyte levels stable and produce hormones that help regulate blood pressure, make red blood cells and keep bones strong.

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If the kidneys sound pretty important, that’s because they are. Healthy kidneys are vital to keeping everything in the body running smoothly. Damage to the kidneys can often go unnoticed, so it’s important to take preventative measures to ensure kidney health. Here’s a list of ten common habits that you might not realize are putting a lot of pressure on your kidneys and may lead to serious kidney damage over time.

1. Not Drinking Enough Water

One of the important functions of the kidneys is to filter blood and get rid of toxins and waste materials that can harm the body. When you don’t drink enough water, those toxins and waste materials start to accumulate, eventually causing severe damage.

2. Consuming Too Much Salt

The body does need sodium to work properly, but an excess of sodium can cause damage. Most people consume too much, which can raise blood pressure and put stress on the kidneys.

3. Consuming Too Much Sugar

Studies have shown that people who consume two or more sugary drinks a day are more likely to have protein in their urine. Protein in urine is an early sign that the kidneys are not doing their job properly.

4. Holding Urine

This might sound odd, but almost everyone does it. The urge often comes during a car ride, in the middle of a phone call, or when there isn’t a bathroom nearby. Holding in urine on a regular basis increases pressure, which can lead to kidney failure and kidney stones. When nature calls, it’s best to listen.

5. Being Deficient in Vitamins and Minerals

Eating a healthy diet is important for overall health, including kidney function. There are multiple deficiencies that can increase the risk of kidney stones or kidney failure, such as Vitamin B6 and magnesium. 

6. Drinking Coffee in Excess

Caffeine can raise blood pressure and put extra stress on the kidneys, just as salt can. Over time, excess coffee consumption (or caffeine consumption) may lead to kidney damage.

7. Consuming Too Much Animal Protein

Consuming an excess of animal protein (especially red meat) increases the metabolic load on the kidneys. The more animal protein one consumes, the harder the kidneys have to work, which can cause stress and lead to kidney damage.

8. Not Getting Enough Sleep

Chronic sleep deprivation is linked to many health problems, including kidney disease. The body works while sleeping to repair kidney tissue that may be damaged, so depriving the body of sleep makes it harder to heal.

9. Abusing Painkillers

Both over-the-counter and prescription drugs are commonly taken for aches and pains without concern about the harmful side effects that may arise. Excessive use or abuse of painkillers can lead to severe kidney and liver damage.

10. Drinking Excess Alcohol

Most people enjoy a glass of wine or a beer here and there, but more than one drink several times a week can raise the risk of kidney damage. Alcohol puts stress on the kidneys and the liver.

Dr. Axe will teach you how to keep your kidneys healthy!