Cleansing and detoxing are buzz words in the health and nutrition world nowadays. Did you know that your kidneys provide a “detox” service to your body 24 hours a day, every single day for your entire life? Along with your liver, they do a better job at extracting and removing toxins than any at-home juice “cleanse” ever will.
We rarely acknowledge all the hard work our kidneys do until they stop doing it so well. Then we’re in trouble. Don’t let it get to that point – there are a few easy ways to keep your kidneys healthy. Read on to discover how to cleanse your kidneys naturally with these foods and herbs.
How Kidneys Work
Your kidneys are a pair of bean-shaped organs located near the middle of your back – one on each side of your spine. Their job is to filter your blood. Your kidneys remove toxins and waste from the bloodstream, balance body fluids and form urine. All of the waste products and excess water become urine which then moves to the bladder through the ureters. (source)
Why Should You Do a Kidney Cleanse?
If your kidneys start to have problems and don’t function optimally, waste will build up in your body, causing damage all through your system. (source) “Cleansing” your kidneys is just a buzzword – it’s not actually possible nor necessary to cleanse your kidneys. If your kidneys are truly malfunctioning, you’ll know about it, and a home “detox” program won’t help you – you need to be in hospital.
However there are some minor ailments which can impede our kidneys and urinary system function without shutting them down completely, e.g. kidney stones, calcium and citrate accumulation, dehydration, hypertension and urinary tract infections to name but a few. There are some steps we can take to prevent these, whether you want to call it a “cleanse” or just healthy habits is up to you.
Nearly everyone can benefit from a kidney-healthy habits. Even if you’re already in good health, it will help prevent ailments developing in the future. (source)
Symptoms of Kidney Problems
If you have a kidney problem, the symptoms you’ll experience depend on the exact nature of the illness – whether it’s an infection, a stone or something more serious. Some signs to look out for include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Lethargic feeling
- Increased urination
- Abdominal or lower back pain
- Dark urine
- Burning or painful urination
How to Cleanse Your Kidneys Naturally With These Foods and Herbs
Let’s start with the basics, water is one of the most important beverages for healthy kidneys. You should aim for a minimum of 8 glass spread throughout the day to prevent kidney stones. Drinking lots of water helps dilute substances that form kidney stones and flushes bacteria out from your urinary tracts. (source)
2. Cranberry Juice
Cranberry extract is often found in commercial medicines for kidney and urinary health. A study in BJU International found that cranberry juice consumption can reduce kidney stone formation. It works by lowering calcium oxalate and phosphate levels – the main substances which make up kidney stones. (source)
3. Citrus Fruits
Citric acid found in lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruits help dissolve small kidney stones. Lemon and lime juice, being the most acidic (and therefore least palatable) give the best results. (source)
4. Fish High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
A study found that dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids had a protective effect on kidneys. Foods high in omega-3 include salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines. (source)
Watermelon contains a lot of water, fulfilling point #1 and it may also act as a diuretic – increasing urine output and removing more waste from the body. (source)
6. Pumpkin Seeds
Magnesium in pumpkin seeds may help control blood pressure. High blood can cause kidney damage. Pumpkin seeds have been used as an alternative supplement for treating bladder irritation and kidney infections, however there is insufficient evidence to support this.
It’s suggested that compounds in pumpkin seeds cause an increase in urination which helps relieve bladder discomfort. (source)
The spice ginger comes from the root of the plant. There is some evidence that ginger can protect the kidneys from toxin damage such as alcohol or chemotherapy. (source)
8. Chanca Piedra
Chanca Piedra is a herb. The name in Spanish means “stone breaker” as it’s been used for kidney health by South American people historically. (source) Some research suggests that after using conventional shock wave therapy to break up kidney stones, chanca piedra helps the body eliminate them if they are located lower in the urinary tract. (source)
Again, scientific evidence is inclusive but hydrangea has been used in Native American folk medicine to treat kidney stones. It’s theorised that substances in hydrangea may cause increased urine output. (source)
10. Uva Ursi
The leaves of the uva ursi plant are used to make traditional remedies for urinary tract disorders including kidney, bladder and urethra infections, inflammation of the urinary tract, increased or painful urination and excess uric acid. Evidence is insufficient but it’s theorised that uva ursa can reduce bacteria in the urine and has anti-inflammatory effects. (source)
Another Native American traditional medicine, the herb goldenrod has been used historically to treat the urinary system. Evidence is insufficient but it’s suggested that goldenrod has anti-inflammatory properties and acts as a diuretic. (source)
Dandelion is a herb traditionally used to prevent urinary tract infections. There isn’t enough scientific evidence to determine whether or not it is effective. It may increase urine production and decrease inflammation. You can brew a tea using any fresh or dried parts of the dandelion plant. (source)
13. Stinging Nettle
Stinging nettle is a plant traditionally used for urination problems. Stinging nettle leaf was used as a diuretic in ancient Greece. Scientific evidence is not sufficient to determine whether or not it is effective but it has been associated with treatment of nighttime urination, too frequent urination, painful urination, inability to urinate and irritable bladder.
It’s theorised that stinging nettle contains compounds that decrease inflammation and increase urine output. You can make nette tea by steeping fresh or dried nettles in hot water. (source)
Parsley is a herb traditionally used to treat urinary tract infections (UTIs), kidney stones and increase urine production. You can use it as a garnish or make parsley tea. (source)
15. Juniper Berries
Juniper is a tree – the berries are used to make traditional remedies. Evidence is insufficient but it’s been used to treat urinary tract infections and kidney and bladder stones. It’s theorised that juniper berries contain chemicals that decrease inflammation, fighting bacteria and increase urination. (source)
If you are worried about your kidney health, please have it investigated by a health professional. If you have kidney disease, DO NOT use the remedies above as your dietary requirements must be restricted to prevent worsening of the disease.
The remedies and foods above can interact with prescription medicines and ongoing health conditions. I recommend that you only use them if your kidneys are already in good health as an occasional boost.
I like to use the foods above when I feel a urinary tract infection coming on or as often as I remember to prevent kidney stones (fingers crossed, I haven’t had them yet). The herbal remedies don’t have much evidence to support them so your mileage may vary. I prefer not to use them as doses and side-effects haven’t been fully determined.