Kidney cleanse regimens and other detox diet plans are ubiquitous. But, do these kidney cleanse diets actually work? Who should follow a kidney cleanse or detox?
What Is a Kidney Cleanse Diet?
There is no formal definition of a “kidney cleanse”. However, this term is usually used to refer to strict diet regimens, supplements or drinks that claim to cleanse your kidneys of “toxins”.
Apple cider vinegar, hydrangea tea, lemon juice, basil, kidney beans or any number of “kidney cleanse” supplements are commonly recommended as a way to detox your kidneys.
Do You Need a Kidney Cleanse?
One of the main kidney functions is to get rid of extra water, vitamins, minerals and waste products that can build up in your body. Your kidneys, along with your liver, do a great job of getting rid of that extra waste!
In fact, many kidney cleanse recommendations about actually harm you.
Possible Dangers of a Kidney Cleanse
Perhaps the biggest risk of many kidney cleanse regimens or meal replacements is that they do not offer well balanced nutrition. Meals should include at least one food from all food groups to give you a variety of vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrate and fat.
Replacing a meal with a shake, tea or smoothie puts you at risk of nutrient deficiencies. Skipping a few meals likely isn’t going to have lasting effects. However, if you skip meals, or drink a kidney detox beverage in place of a meal, for a day or more, you are putting yourself at risk.
The risks of a kidney cleanse are even greater for these groups.
- People who have lost a lot of weight quickly without trying
- Chronic diarrhea
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Bariatric surgery
- Critically ill
Dangerously High Consumption of Nutrients
When a specific food is consumed in very high amounts outside of a well balanced diet, food can contribute to dangerously high nutrient intake.
However, when very high oxalate foods are eaten in abnormally high amounts (such as in shakes, smoothies or juices), oxalate can add up. Extremely high intake of oxalate can cause kidney damage or kidney stones. Both juices and green smoothies have been linked to nephropathy.
Consuming abnormally high amounts of certain foods can also cause high blood potassium, especially in people with kidney disease.
Strict regulation of how much food or water you can consume can cause dehydration. Dehydration can cause dizziness, confusion, fatigue and even death in extreme cases.
Dehydration can also cause irreversible damage to your kidneys.
Poorly Regulated Supplements
Unfortunately, supplement and health claims are not well regulated. Supplements can claim to be helpful for any medical condition without scientific proof.
What Can I Do For Kidney Health?
Luckily, there are many things you can do to help your kidneys stay healthy!
Kidney Healthy Foods
One of the best things you can do to protect your kidneys is to eat a healthy diet! Eating primarily fruits, vegetables, plant proteins and whole grains is good for your kidneys.
Controlling how much protein and sodium (salt) you eat can protect your kidneys too.
What to Drink for Kidneys
By far, the best thing to drink for your kidneys is water. Drinking enough water can help prevent kidney stones and keep your kidneys working!
Can I Improve Kidney Function?
If you have a medical diagnosis of kidney disease, the goal is to stop your kidney function from getting worse.
Here are some tips to help control kidney disease and stop kidney function from getting worse:
- Help control your blood pressure by limiting sodium, eating lots of fruits and veggies and exercising at least 30 minutes each day
- Help control your blood sugar by choosing healthy whole grains, eating plenty of veggies and being physically active
- Follow up with your kidney doctor regularly
- Take your medication exactly as prescribed
If you do not have kidney disease, your kidneys are likely working perfectly! You do not need to do anything to help them work better. Ask your doctor how well your kidneys are working.