June 21, 2022
We asked our walking encyclopaedias on kidney health, Elmarie Radov and Dejmaine Raju, to give us the no-nonsense answer to this age-old question.
Confusicious once said that we live two lives and the second one begins when we realise we have just one. There is perhaps no truer sentiment to capture the value of our body’s organs than this, especially when we consider the important role our kidneys play in keeping us alive.
This human filtration plant that’s about the size of fist and which is located at the bottom of your rib cage on both sides of your spine, is responsible for so many functions. It filters waste products, excess water and other impurities from your body, regulates the pH of your body, controls your body’s salt and potassium levels, and it also produces hormones that regulate blood pressure and stimulates the production of red blood cells in your bone marrow.
Elmarie Radov, Quality Leader at National Renal Care says the kidneys are also responsible for activating a form of vitamin D that helps your body absorb calcium. Vitamin D is vital for bone health and regulating muscle function.
Post lockdown and the largely sedentary lifestyle we have endured over the past two years, the age-old question about how much water we should drink in a day is more pertinent now than ever. A sedentary lifestyle is harmful to the proper functioning of kidneys.
Ms. Radov says for the average person in good health – 1.5lt to 2lts of water a day should suffice.
“If you are working out, training or even if it is a hot day outside and you are sweating, you need to take in more fluids. If you are a breastfeeding mother or pregnant, you need to take in more fluids. So it really depends on so many factors.”
She says factors could include those who present with risk factors for chronic kidney disease, kidney stones or calcification of your kidneys. In these cases, daily water consumption should range in the 3lt mark.
“The same applies for those with uncontrolled blood sugar (diabetes) and uncontrolled hypertension (high blood pressure). Ms. Radov says these two chronic diseases impact the functioning of the kidneys in tremendous ways and while drinking more water is not the solution to treat the cause, it certainly will aid in offering a laying of protection to the organs.
Dejmaine Raju, Area Manager at National Renal Care says in South Africa, the contributing factor to kidney disease is that we eat poorly, which “needs to be compensated for by participating in regular exercise, which we also fail at.”
Says Ms. Radov, “Left untreated or poorly managed, chronic renal disease gets to a point where the damage is irreversible.” She says at that stage, the lifestyle changes needed to keep a patient alive are extremely sharp and drastic. “Renal failure is a disease that affects the whole family. Your whole diet is going to change, if you undertake hemodialysis, you’ll have to go to the center three times a week for at least four hours – which does not include your travelling time to the dialysis unit and back. It will have an impact on your working hours and your social life.”
The hope, therefore, is that society will appreciate their kidneys more and do what is within their power to protect the organ that sustains them. Ms. Raju says when symptoms arise, it’s critical for patients to present their full history to the attending physician. “A major challenge is that people sometimes do not disclose that they were seen previously for their symptoms, which makes it difficult for a doctor to be aware there is an underlying condition.”
Ms. Radov and Ms. Raju agree that when non-specific or general symptoms arise (like fatigue or nausea), a primary physician might not know to look at chronic kidney disease as the culprit, especially if the doctor does not have your patient file. Always request your patient file if you are changing doctors.
Says Ms. Radov, “Feeling tired, having nausea, vomiting, or having flu-like symptoms can be easily assigned to kidney disease if you are open about your issues with these organs in the past.” She says if you’ve presented with any form of kidney issues in the past, depending on the severity, urine dipstick analysis should be done at least once a year.
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