Optimizing Your Health, Part 11: Optimizing Kidney and Bladder Function
Your body is about 60% water. There's water inside your cells and out. There's water in your bloodstream and in your organs. There's even water inside your bones (synovial fluid) and your spinal cord (spinal fluid).
Like any healthy body of water — a swimming pool, a lake, an ocean — the water in your body needs to stay CLEAN. And to stay clean, it needs a FILTER.
Fortunately, your body has one. In fact, it has two — your kidneys. They filter out toxins and wastes and send them to the bladder for disposal.
The kidneys also help control the alkaline/acid balance of the body (critical for optimal health), cellular levels of electrolytes (potassium, sodium, calcium, magnesium), and blood pressure levels.
Meanwhile, your bladder is the storage container that holds your urine, so you can control your urination to when it's convenient. Unless of course your bladder is irritated, in which case you go when IT wants you to!
If your kidneys and bladder are in tiptop shape, you'll feel clean and clear from the inside out, helping you maintain abundant energy and a sharp mind.
Here are a few simple but highly effective tips for the care and maintenance of your filtering system.
Drink Plenty of Water
It's hard for your kidneys to flush toxins out of your system if you're dehydrated. But exactly how much water should you drink every day? There are a lot of different recommendations — and I think you should ignore them all! Just check your lips and mouth. If they're dry, you need to drink more water. It's as simple as that!
Another simple method is to check the color of your urine. If it's a dull yellow, then there's not enough water diluting it and you should drink more. (Urine can also turn bright yellow from taking B vitamins, but that's different from the murky yellow of overly concentrated urine.)
A third method is that when you feel tired, drink a glass of water and see if your energy improves in a couple of minutes. If it does, you were dehydrated.
Another method, which I often use to tell if I'm dehydrated: when I'm thirsty, I can easily chug a whole glass of water; when I'm not thirsty, I prefer to sip it.
My final tip? To minimize your intake of possibly toxic chemicals in the water supply, drink filtered tap water. I've found that Multi-Pure makes excellent home water filters, which you can easily install at the faucet or the sink.
Keep the System Sterile
Your body's filtering system functions best when bacteria in the system are kept to a minimum. Fortunately, the body does an excellent job of ridding the system of bacteria, washing them out every time you urinate. But two tips can help:
- After a bowel movement, women should wipe front to back, which helps keep nasty bowel bacterial (E. coli) from reaching the bladder.
- If you experience urinary burning or urgency, try D-mannose D-mannose is a natural substance that stops E. coli from sticking to bladder walls. Use 1/2 to 1 teaspoon, dissolved in water, every two to three hours. (Children under 5 should use half that dose.) To outflank frequent bladder problems, take 1/2 to 1 teaspoon a day. Another good idea os that if you tend to develop bladder problems after sexual intercourse (which can also deliver E. coli where it's not wanted), take a dose one hour before and another dose just after intercourse.
Stop Calcium Crystals From Forming
The kidney filters electrolytes like calcium — but too much calcium can precipitate into sharp-edged crystals that can literally rip up the delicate tissues of the kidney and the urethra (the tube between the kidney and bladder). Fortunately the amount of calcium in the diet doesn't cause these crystals. So enjoy high-calcium foods!
The main way to keep calcium dissolved so it doesn't form crystals? Get enough magnesium, which counterbalances calcium. 200 mg a day is a good dose. Vitamin B6 (25 mg daily) is also helpful.
Increase Your Potassium Intake
Maintaining healthy blood pressure levels also keeps your kidneys healthy. And the best way to keep blood pressure optimal is by getting enough of the mineral potassium. Coconut water is an excellent source. (I drink Zico, the Safeway brand — it's 100% natural and inexpensive.) Tomato juice and V8 juice also deliver plenty of potassium. Bananas and avocado are excellent food sources.
Other nutrients that optimize blood pressure include magnesium and coenzyme Q10.
Cut Back on Sugar
Maintaining optimal blood sugar levels also helps protect your kidneys. The best way to do that is to not overdose on sugar! The average American eats 140 to 150 pounds of sugar a year. An easy way to start cutting back? Limit (or completely eliminate) your intake of the four types of foods that are loaded with added sugar: fast food, processed food, sodas and fruit drinks.
As women age, they can start to leak urine during laughing, sneezing or coughing. An easy solution? Use vaginal bioidentical estrogen/progesterone cream, applied daily by the urethra, the outlet for urine.
Kegel exercises — repetitive squeezing of the pelvic muscles used to stop the flow of urine — can also help. Simply tighten the muscle for a few seconds while laughing, sneezing or coughing, to decrease the risk of linking. Over time, using kegels to prevent leakage will become second nature. To learn how to do kegel exercises, see this online guide from the Mayo Clinic.
If there is blood visible in your urine, and you have fever and back pain, see your doctor immediately — these are signs of a kidney infection, which can cause severe damage to your kidneys if left untreated.
Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D. is one of the world's leading integrative medical authorities on fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. He is the lead author of four research studies on their treatments, and has published numerous health & wellness books, including the bestseller on fibromyalgia From Fatigued to Fantastic! and The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution. Dr. Teitelbaum is one of the most frequently quoted fibromyalgia experts in the world and appears often as a guest on news and talk shows nationwide including Good Morning America, The Dr. Oz Show, Oprah & Friends, CNN, and Fox News Health.