THE BLOG

Let's Drink to Kidney Health (Literally)!

07/14/2014 05:47 pm 17:47:51 | Updated Sep 13, 2014

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If you're wondering how best to promote kidney health, it may be as simple as pouring yourself a glass of something to drink. "A drink of what?" you might ask. No magic potions, but drinks you may already have at home can actually boost your health. And if your cabinets aren't already stocked with these beverages, not to worry, they can easily be added to your grocery list. Here's what the latest research says about the four best drinks for kidney health:

1. Wine
Yes, you read that correctly. Moderate wine consumption could help keep the kidneys healthy, and may protect the heart in patients who already have kidney disease, according to recent research presented at a National Kidney Foundation meeting.

Researchers found that people who drank less than one glass of wine a day had a 37 percent lower prevalence of chronic kidney disease than those who drank no wine at all. Among study participants who had chronic kidney disease, those who drank less than a glass of wine daily were 29 percent less likely to have cardiovascular disease than non-wine drinkers.

When it comes to the protective benefits of wine, less is more. Moderation is key and excess alcohol consumption has been shown to have adverse effects on kidney function. Alcohol can also worsen high blood pressure, a leading cause of kidney disease, so those with poorly controlled blood pressure should limit the amount of alcohol they consume.

So take out your corkscrew, open a bottle of wine and pour yourself a glass. Most people are willing to toast to this kind of research. Cheers!

2. Cranberry Juice
This tart red drink is good for both your urinary tract and kidney health. Cranberries contain compounds that can stop e. coli, the bacteria that causes 80 to 90 percent of all urinary tract infections (UTIs), from "sticking" to the urinary tract wall.

Studies in young women with frequent UTIs show that drinking a glass of cranberry juice each day may help reduce recurrent or repeat UTIs. UTIs are responsible for nearly 10 million doctor visits each year. UTIs occur when bacteria get into the urinary tract (including the bladder) and multiply, resulting in redness, swelling and pain in the urinary tract. Most UTIs stay in the bladder, but if they aren't treated quickly they can travel up the ureter and into the kidneys, causing a more serious and painful kidney infection called pyelonephritis.

Is cranberry juice not your thing? It's not essential that you drink your cranberries. Research also suggests a similar effect from the consumption of other cranberry products, including dried cranberries and dietary supplements. For those with diabetes or at-risk for diabetes, choose low-sugar cranberry products.

With news like this, there's no need to wait until Thanksgiving to enjoy cranberries. Consider adding cranberry products to your grocery list.

3. Lemon- and Lime-based Citrus Juices
Citrus juices that are naturally high in citrate, such as lemonade and limeade, have been shown to offer benefits for kidney stone prevention. Beware of juices with high sugar content though, because the sugar can actually increase kidney stone risk. Instead, buy no-sugar added lemonade, or make your own by mixing lime or lemon juice with water. If needed, use a sugar substitute to cut the tartness. The citrate may prevent calcium from binding with other minerals in the body. This binding process, if it takes place in the kidneys, can form crystals that can lead to kidney stones. There is also some evidence that citrate may prevent crystals that are already present from binding with each other, which prevents them from getting bigger.

Each year, more than half a million people go to emergency rooms for kidney stone problems and roughly one in 10 people will have a kidney stone at some point in their lives. Prevent kidney stones by staying hydrated and incorporating lemon and lime juice in your diet.

4. Water
I saved the best for last, because this one is the most abundantly available and you should drink it every day. Water is essential to life. It performs many important functions in your body like flushing out toxins, transporting nutrients and regulating body temperature. Drinking plenty of water helps to ensure that your kidneys are able to filter wastes and toxins from the blood in order to excrete them as urine. Aim for more dilute urine, as dehydration and kidney stones can occur when you're not drinking enough water.

In the summer especially, it's important to stay hydrated. Sweating, whether due to exercise or the heat of summer, leads to a loss of water in the body. Less water in the body leads to less urine production. The less urine you produce, the greater the chance for stone-causing minerals to settle and bond in the kidneys and urinary tract. Try to drink enough water to keep your urine color light yellow to clear.

What are you waiting for? Pour yourself a glass and sip away. For more information about kidney health, visit the National Kidney Foundation at kidney.org.