X-ray

An X-ray shows a patient's renal system with bilateral kidney stones. Nevit Dilman photo

This summer has been amazing here in Kodiak! The sunny days and mild temperatures have enticed us outside, and even made us hot and sweaty at times!

Drinking enough water can be challenging in the heat, since we can lose up to two liters an hour in sweat alone in extreme temperatures or activity. How much water do we need? The average person needs about 64 ounces a day, but more with sweating or drinking caffeinated beverages or alcohol.

Overconsumption of water is possible but rare. If large amounts of water (over one liter an hour) are imbibed over a short period with inadequate electrolyte intake, then the body’s sodium level may drop and cause brain swelling. The best way to gauge if you are drinking enough water is to look at the color of your urine. It should be almost colorless and without much odor. If it is dark yellow or has a strong odor, then you may be dehydrated.

Kidneys are the unsung heroes of our bodies. Kidneys filter 180 liters of water every day, and reabsorb 99 to 100 percent of many electrolytes like sodium, chloride and bicarbonate. Kidneys remove toxins from our blood and aid in the metabolism of many medications. Kidneys also make hormones that regulate important functions in our body like blood cell production, blood pressure, calcium levels and bone reabsorption.

Taking care of our kidneys is a priority because people with impaired renal (kidney) function can be six to eight times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease or other causes than people with normal kidneys.

The best way to prevent kidney disease is to drink enough fluids and eat a healthy diet. Keeping diseases like diabetes and hypertension in good control is also important, as well as maintaining a healthy weight.   Fruits and vegetables can improve kidney health, and increased fiber in the diet can decrease the risk of kidney stones.

Anti-oxidant foods can help keep kidneys healthy by reducing harmful free radicals. Cherries, strawberries, blueberries, grapes, onions and bell peppers all contain natural anti-oxidants. Eating more fish and using olive oil for cooking are both good diet changes for your heart and kidneys. Try to cook meals from scratch, rather than eating premade, processed foods.

A simple blood test and urine test can be enough to check for kidney disease. People over 60 or with diabetes or hypertension are at increased risk for kidney disease. African, Hispanic and Asian Americans, along with Native Americans and Pacific Islanders, are all at increased risk for kidney disease. Having a close family member with kidney disease also increases risk.

Signs of kidney disease can include high blood pressure, more frequent urination, puffiness around the eyes, swelling in the hands and feet, or blood or protein in the urine. Talk to your doctor if you think you might have kidney disease.

Kidney stones are a common problem affecting our population. 80m percent of kidney stones are composed of calcium, and usually the calcium has bound with oxalate to form stones. Too much animal protein, vitamin C, or oxalate in the diet can increase the risk of kidney stone formation. Oxalate is present in rhubarb, spinach, peanuts, cashews and almonds. Many conditions increase the risk of kidney stones, like diabetes, hypertension, gout and obesity. Once you have had a stone, your risk of having another stone is 10 to 30 percent in the next three years. Drinking more fluids can help reduce kidney stone formation.

So if you find yourself stressed out at work, and are tempted to drink too much coffee, remember your kidneys and drink water as well!

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).

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