These Everyday Habits Could Destroy Your Liver

As the largest organ in the body, the liver stores nutrients and breaks down toxins. Unfortunately, diagnoses of liver cancer have tripled since the ’80s. “It’s an organ you could easily trash if you don’t take good care of it,” Dr. Rohit Satoskar told WebMD. “And once you trash it, it’s gone.”

The rate of liver disease is so high because people unknowingly damage it with daily habits. Taking common painkillers and even herbal supplements can cause long-term consequences. To avoid the habits that will hurt your liver, you’ll first want to learn about them.

Watch Out For Supplements With Green Tea Extract

A shopper looks among health supplements at a drugstore.
Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Dietary supplements aren’t hard to get, but they can harm your liver over time. In 2017, the National Institute of Health conducted a study linking liver damage to dietary supplements. According to the research, weight loss and bodybuilding supplements pose the most risk.

But those weren’t all. Some supplements made for depression, sexual performance, and digestive issues were also flagged. Of all the ingredients, the two most dangerous were anabolic steroids and, oddly enough, green tea extract. Check with your doctor if you’re concerned about your current supplements.

Even Herbal Supplements Can Hurt

A man holds marigold herbal supplement capsules with the bottle nearby.
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Getty Images

Yes, some organic herbal supplements can damage your liver. “All-natural” does not mean non-toxic. In a 2017 study in Hepatology, researchers reported that herbal supplements caused 16% of liver disease cases in the past eight years. And more supplements are sold every year.

Which supplements pose the biggest threat? WebMD lists the main culprits: aloe vera, comfrey, cascara, chaparral, black cohosh, ephedra, and kava. Before you begin taking herbal supplements, talk to your doctor. Many of them can negatively interact with medications, as well.

As Always, Drink More Water

Diana Francisco grabs an armful of the few remaining bottles of water at a Walmart.
Kat Wade/Getty Images
Kat Wade/Getty Images

The liver processes your body’s waste, and it needs water to flush the toxins through. As a result, dehydration can war out the liver. “As the liver loses hydration, it also loses its organ reserve, or what it uses to take care of the rest of the body,” explains osteopathic physician Michele Neil-Sherwood.

Not only does water help liver function, but it also sweeps away toxic tissues, essentially cleaning the organ. According to liversupport.com, the best times to drink water are after waking up, before meals, and before and after exercise. These will nourish your liver when you’re likely to be dehydrated.

It’s Okay To Drink Coffee

A woman drinks Starbucks coffee in a red cup.
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Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Believe it or not, research has shown that drinking coffee may prevent liver disease. In 2016, the British Liver Trust examined several studies and concluded that coffee might protect against fatty liver disease, cirrhosis, and liver cancer. In one study, drinking two or more cups of coffee a day reduced the risk of cirrhosis by 66%.

That’s not to say that you should over-caffeinate. Researchers agree that a moderate coffee intake is all you need, which the European Food Safety Authority defines as three to five cups a day. Just make sure your coffee isn’t loaded with sugar!

Limit Sugar — Especially Corn Syrup

A molten mixture of corn syrup, water and sugar is poured out and then pulled to make cherry hand pulled lollipops.
Cindy Yamanaka/Orange County Register via Getty Images
Cindy Yamanaka/Orange County Register via Getty Images

You’ve probably heard the health advice “don’t eat too much sugar” before. But you may not have known that over-indulging in sugar could result in trouble. The biggest danger is high fructose corn syrup, another word for 55% fruit sugar and 45% glucose. According to Harvard Health Publishing, this chemical results in many liver complications.

The liver is the only organ that can process high fructose corn syrup. As a result, it builds up in the liver quickly. Through a process called lipogenesis, the liver cells create a fat, which can eventually add up to cause fatty liver disease.

Don’t Procrastinate On Oral Health

A dentist cleans a patient's teeth.
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FRED TANNEAU/AFP via Getty Images

Skipping a dental checkup may have more dire consequences than a cavity. Research suggests that there’s a connection between tooth health and liver disease. In 2015, scientists examined thirteen studies and reported that oral disease was found in over 70% of patients with cirrhosis.

More research is needed to clarify the link between liver disease and oral health. Although researchers don’t understand the connection, inflammation in the gums and teeth seems to affect the liver. Prioritize your dentist visits because those will help your liver, too.

Don’t Lean On Over-The-Counter Painkillers

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Pinterest/alimubashir00

For years, researchers have warned people that taking too many over-the-counter painkillers can cause liver damage. The culprit is acetaminophen, which is found in drugs like Tylenol and Aspirin. When acetaminophen breaks down, it produces the compound NAPQI, which is harmless until it interacts with a compound in the liver.

The FDA recommends staying under 325 mg per dose. The daily maximum is 4,000 mg, the same amount as one Extra Strength Tylenol pill. To be safe, follow the dosage recommendations. “Even a small amount more than directed can cause liver damage,” the FDA announced.

You’re Likely Eating Too Much Salt

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JOEY MCLEISTER/Star Tribune via Getty Images

The recommended daily amount of salt is between 2,000 and 2,400 mg. Unfortunately, most people eat more than that. Kristen Roberts, a clinical professor of Internal Medicine at Ohio State University, says that most Americans consume over 5,000 mg of salt per day.

How does this affect the liver? An over-salted diet creates water retention, which overworks and inflames the liver. People with pre-existing liver conditions have to adhere to a low-sodium diet. To prevent this, watch out for processed foods that often use salt as a preservative.

Don’t Eat High Glycemic Foods Before Bed

A refrigerator is open at night.
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Getty Images

High glycemic foods are those which contain a high amount of carbohydrates, including white bread and potatoes. Their makeup can put the liver into overdrive, but especially at night. According to Dr. George Kosmides, the liver mainly works at night, and sleeping after eating these foods forces it to work harder.

Foods that contain vegetable oils–such as margarine and shortening–can also produce this effect. Instead of snacking on late-night cereal, opt for fruits, vegetables, or dairy, says Dr. Kosmides. In particular, beets and carrots can help the liver rebuild overnight.

Exercise Every Week — Not Just During A Diet

Clint Findley exercises on the stationary bike at the gym.
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Paul Aiken/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images

Exercise isn’t just for dieting. It also helps your body detoxify, which improves your liver. During a 2015 study in Biomolecules, rats who ran frequently ran had fewer fatty deposits and inflammation in their liver. The exercise even prevented fatty liver disease from chronic drinking.

More research is needed to determine how much exercise is needed. The study focused on aerobic exercise, also called “cardio,” which includes running, walking, and swimming. In general, try to work out at least two to three times per week.

Make Sleep A Priority

A shopper takes a nap on a bed in Ikea.
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Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Everyone has a sleepless night once in a while. But if you’re consistently getting under seven hours of sleep, your liver may suffer the consequences. Researchers from the Baylor College of Medicine explain that chronic sleeplessness creates its own set of genes. These genes interrupt acids that promote healthy liver function.

The study, published in Cancer Cell, concludes that abnormal liver function may prompt the development of tumor cells. Concerningly, 80% of Americans have their sleep disrupted regularly. Remember that your liver works mostly at night, so make those seven to nine hours of sleep a priority.

Cut Out Sugary Drinks

A glass of coca cola sits next to a glass of orange lemonade.
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Yes, sugary drinks are yummy. But the more you drink, the more you could potentially damage your liver. During a 2015 study, researchers linked the consumption of sugary drinks to a higher risk of fatty liver disease. Diet sodas did not have this effect, states the research in The Journal of Hepatology.

How much is too much? According to research in Pediatric Obesity, drinking two sweetened beverages a day is dangerous for your liver. Replace your sweet iced tea with unsweetened tea, and your juice with herb-infused water.

Eat More Fruits And Vegetables

A wooden box contains vegetables and fruit, such as carrots, potatoes, onions, apples and a white cabbage.
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Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images

For the sake of your liver, you’ll want to eat a fruit and vegetable during every meal. Produce contains high amounts of antioxidants, which are essential for liver health. In 2015, scientists connected oxidative stress with a higher risk of liver disease. It also restocks the liver’s natural antioxidants that it uses to detoxify chemicals.

High-antioxidant foods include blueberries, strawberries, spinach, green beans, artichokes, beets, and kale. The research, published in the World Journal of Gastrointestinal Pharmacology and Therapeutics, also recommended turmeric and green tea as a source of high antioxidants.

Trans Fats Scar The Liver

Food packages labeled with trans fats are shown.
Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Artificial trans fats are unsaturated fats found in hydrogenated oils (as opposed to naturally-occurring trans fats in animal and dairy products). Although trans fats are in a lot of processed foods, they’re not healthy for your liver. During a 2010 study by the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, researchers recorded that trans fats scar your liver.

In particular, combining trans fats with fructose and sucrose–which many processed foods do–increased the risk of fatty liver disease in mice. According to BMC Nutrition and Metabolism, trans fats create oxidative stress in the liver, which inflames it. That’s another reason to limit trans fats in your diet.

Why You Should Monitor Your Weight

A person stands on a scale to weigh himself.
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Joan Slaking/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Although many people see weight as a self-esteem reflection, doctors view it as a health predictor. An often-overlooked consequence of obesity is developing fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Remember that an “unhealthy” weight varies from person to person.

Weight-based fatty liver disease is distinguished from that caused by drinking. But according to doctors, it causes the same amount of liver damage, even in patients who have never had a drink. Eating well and maintaining exercise will prevent this illness. Talk to your doctor about your range of healthy weight.

It’s Time To Tackle Chronic Stress

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DUANE BRALEY/Star Tribune via Getty Images

The mind and body are so intertwined that prolonged stress can cause disease, including liver disease. In 2015, researchers from the University of Edinburgh discovered that those who suffered from psychological distress were more likely to get fatty liver disease. “Psychological distress” includes anxiety and depression.

Earlier findings back up this conclusion. According to the World Journal of Gastroenterology, stress increases inflammation that may lead to cirrhosis. While stress isn’t a daily habit per se, not seeking a cure could injure your liver over time.

Are You Getting Enough Vitamin B12?

A spilled bottle of vitamins B12 pills is displayed.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Vitamin B12 is essential for healthy liver function. It helps the flow of bile in the liver and decreases the likelihood of liver disease and hepatitis. The recommended daily dose of vitamin B12 is 2.4 mcg. Many people get this amount through foods like eggs, tuna, beef, cheese, chicken, and pork.

If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, however, you’re at risk of a vitamin B12 deficiency. Some breakfast cereals and brown rice are fortified with vitamin B12. If you’re under 50, you may not need a supplement, but talk to your doctor if you’re worried.

Beware Of Heavy Drinking

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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Chronic drinking remains the biggest cause of fatty liver disease. According to the American Liver Foundation, 15% of heavy drinkers develop liver scarring, a precursor to liver disease and cancer. Once you have an illness like cirrhosis, your only remedy is to limit your drinking.

“However much is ‘too much’ for you can result in ongoing [liver] inflammation and overwork,” says gastroenterologist Dr. John Iskander. If you’re a legal adult, it’s safe to drink in moderation. But beware of binging and overdoing it during your nights out.

Put It Out

Two people walk away from an ashtray.
Pedro Fiúza/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Pedro Fiúza/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Lighting up doesn’t just harm your lungs; it also hurts your liver. According to a 2018 research in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, smoke increases the risk of fatty liver disease by up to 46%. The more dominant the habit, the higher the risk becomes.

Like other liver-damaging habits, smoke raises oxidative stress. As the liver works to break down the toxins, these dangerous chemicals kill off healthy liver cells. If you’re at risk of liver disease, you’ll want to make a change soon.

Don’t Ignore Your Cholesterol

A man from the cholesterol foundation shows the result of a blood test for cholesterol screening.
Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Unfortunately, many Western diets include high cholesterol. If you’re ignoring how much you’re eating, you might be at risk for liver disease. Specifically, LDL is “bad” cholesterol that leaves fats around the liver, while HDL is the healthy type. Too much LDL could produce liver disease, which, in turn, creates more LDL.

Although the liver normally processes cholesterol, too much of it can build up to create the harmful compound NAFLD. As your liver struggles to process cholesterol, it produces more cholesterol. If you already have high cholesterol, you’ll want to monitor it, as you have a greater risk of liver disease.

You’re Eating Too Much Red Meat

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Peter Dench/Getty Images
Peter Dench/Getty Images

Don’t worry, we’re not vegans who secretly want to steal all your bacon and destroy it. With that being said, you might want to consider cutting back on bacon, burgers, and other red meat products. The 2018 study found that eating a lot of red meats and processed foods can cause serious liver damage and insulin resistance.

When participants ate an increased amount of red and processed meats they had a 50 percent increased risk of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). A simple solution? Change out your usual burger for chicken, turkey, and fish.

Be Safe Or Hepatitis Will Wreak Havoc

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Tobias Schwarz / AFP / Getty Images
Tobias Schwarz / AFP / Getty Images

Did you know that hepatitis B and C are the main causes of liver cancer worldwide? If you haven’t been vaccinated against Hepatitis B, you are at a higher risk of contracting the disease and hurting your liver.

Hepatitis is most commonly spread through shared needles, unprotected intimacy, and on very rare occasions, through blood transfusions. If you’re getting a tattoo, check the sterilization practices of your local tattoo parlor and in general stay safe in all of your personal activities. Untreated Hep C can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer, liver failure, and even death.

Eating A ‘Heavy’ Dinner

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Christophe Gateau/picture alliance via Getty Images

Eating a balanced diet is important and eating the right foods at the right time is also a big consideration when it comes to protecting our liver from damage. Eating heavy and rich foods right before bed is believed to put additional pressure on the liver. Over time, this may cause liver damage.

Want to eat a cheeseburger? Choose that option for lunch or an early dinner. At night, choose a healthy snack such as grapefruit, blueberries, cranberries, and grapes. All of those foods have been shown to promote a healthy liver.

Skipping A Simple Test During Annual Checkups

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Sergei Karpukhin / TASS via Getty Images
Sergei Karpukhin / TASS via Getty Images

Our annual doctor visits tend to test for cholesterol, blood pressure, and heart disease but often skips a simple liver function test. Sadly, you can develop a liver condition that isn’t related to bad habits and you might not show symptoms.

Simple ALT and AST tests can check for certain enzymes in the liver. “These tests are part of a routine chemistry panel and is typically covered by insurance, so it’s a great place to start,” says Elliot Tapper, M.D., an assistant professor of gastroenterology and a liver specialist at the University of Michigan.

Kick Saturated Fats To The Curb

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Paul J Richards / AFP via Getty Images
Paul J Richards / AFP via Getty Images

Saturated fat intake, according to a study from“Diabetes Care” could be worse for your liver than sugar or unsaturated fat. Researchers gave 1,000 extra calories a day to 30 overweight participants. The extra calories were split up into groups that included saturated fat, unsaturated fat, or simple sugars.

Three weeks after the study began researchers examined metabolic outcomes. Intrahepatic triglyceride, a marker for fatty liver disease, had increased by a shocking 55% in the saturated fat group. In the unsaturated fat and simple sugar groups the increase was only 15 and 33%. Once again, a balanced diet is your best bet for liver health.

You Ignore 20 Signs That You Might Have Liver Damage

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Will Russell/Getty Images
Will Russell/Getty Images

We’ve focused thus far on all the habits you are actively engaging in that could cause harm to your liver but what about a step that could cause further harm. There are various warning signs that can help you realize your liver is in trouble.

Among the warning signs are incredibly itchy skin, a yellow tint to your eyes or skin, sudden weight gain, sudden weight loss, red palms, a sudden shift in sleep schedule or memory loss. You might also suffer from exhaustion, a lack of appetite, enlarged breasts in men and a change in personality. Also be on the lookout for developing bruises too easily, swollen ankles and legs, confusion, random body pains, bloating, dark urine, a lack of concentration, constantly feeling chills, and dry eyes or dry mouth.

These Everyday Habits May Damage Your Kidneys

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BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

According to the National Kidney Foundation, kidney disease kills more than 90,000 Americans annually. That’s more than breast cancer or prostrate cancer. If we want to live long, healthy lives, we need to take care of our kidneys. But our daily habits might be preventing us from doing that.

It’s not too late to unlearn these habits. Simple changes to your diet, supplements, and sleep will prevent kidney disease in the future. New habits may also prevent other illnesses such as diabetes. For the sake of your kidneys, change these everyday habits.

Use Herbs Instead Of Salt

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Mario Tama/Getty Images
Mario Tama/Getty Images

Eating excessive amounts of salt upsets the balance in your blood, which makes your kidneys struggle to remove water. According to 2018 research in the Journal of Clinical Hypertension, this could lead to kidney disease. Unfortunately, many Western diets tend to overindulge in salt.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that people limit their salt intake to one teaspoon per day, or 2,300 mg. That’s about one-third less than most people consume. Watch out for high sodium in pre-cooked and processed foods, as this is where kidney damage can sneak up on you.

Don’t Take Too Many Pain Relievers

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KAREN BLEIER/AFP via Getty Images
KAREN BLEIER/AFP via Getty Images

According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, heavy use of pain relievers like Tylenol results in 5,000 cases of kidney failure in the U.S. each year. But how much is too much? Researchers noted that the most dangerous time to take painkillers is after fasting. If you take pain relievers with food occasionally for a headache, you should be fine.

According to Stanford medical professor Dr. Grant Lipman, pain relievers decrease the blood flow to your kidneys. Over time, this could cause your kidneys some serious strain. Dr. Lipman says that one in five marathon runners will develop the risk of kidney damage.

Treat Yourself When You Get Sick

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Christina Sabrowsky/picture alliance via Getty Images
Christina Sabrowsky/picture alliance via Getty Images

The Center for Disease Control estimates that most people get two to three colds a year. Although these common illnesses are annoying, don’t ignore them. The longer you’re sick, the more antibodies your body will produce. Over time, these antibodies may inflame your kidneys.

Don’t be one of the 72% of Americans who go to work while sick. Be very cautious of bacterial infections such as strep throat and ear infections, because these have the highest risk of straining your kidneys. Take care of yourself to get well as soon as possible.

Don’t Hold It In

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Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images
Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

Believe it or not, holding in your pee is a primary cause of kidney problems. Dr. Cheamandeep Bali of Toronto Naturopathic Health Clinic told Huffington Post that ignoring nature’s call causes many health problems. The longer that urine stays in your body, the more bacteria it produces. When bacteria travels to your kidneys, you’re in trouble, Dr. Bali says.

Urologist Mark Gordon says that most people use the restroom eight to 10 times a day. Sometimes, you have to hold in your urine, but don’t make that a routine. If you have to go, you have to go.

Don’t Light Up

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Most people know that smoking hurts your lungs and heart. But did you know that it damages your kidneys, too? During a 2000 study in Annals of Internal Medicine, chronic smokers (current and former) had a higher risk of kidney disease. Substance abuse creates creatinine that injures your kidneys.

To make matters worse, this kidney damage does not create symptoms. So people might be poisoning their kidneys without even knowing. The one bright side is that former smokers have less damage than current smokers. It’s never too late to quit.

The Danger Of Processed Foods

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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

To stay fresh for longer, processed foods often contain high amounts of sodium, which will damage your kidneys. But that’s not the only kidney-harming nutrient in processed food, according to NEPHCURE Kidney International. Other culprits include potassium and phosphorus.

While kidneys usually filter through potassium levels, too much potassium can put a strain on kidneys. The same goes for phosphorus. People with weak or ailing kidneys have to limit the amount of potassium and phosphorus they consume. If you eat processed foods sparingly, you won’t have this problem.

Steer Clear Of Soda

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Unsplash/@elijahsad

Unlike other drinks, soda provides no nutrients other than sugar. A typical 12-ounce soda has as much sugar as three and a half donuts. Researchers agree that drinking two or more sodas a day doubles your risk of kidney disease.

And it’s not just the sugar. In 2007, researchers noted that cola increases kidney risk due to its phosphoric acid. This acid threatens to mess with gene mutation to damage kidneys over time. Limiting your soda intake to one a day will drastically improve your health. Better yet, restrict your soda splurge to once a week.

When You Stay Up Late, Your Kidney Overworks

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Godong/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Godong/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

In 2016, researchers from the University of Chicago linked poor sleep to a higher risk of kidney disease. Participants who slept 6.5 hours a night had a 19% higher chance of kidney failure. The reason is that your sleeping cycle tells your kidneys when to work and when to rest.

Researchers for the National Kidney Foundation explain that when you stay up late, your kidneys continue to work hard. Over time, chronic sleep disruption can tire out these organs. Remember that you need between seven and nine hours per sleep every night.

Stick To Your Prescription

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Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Take your daily medications as prescribed. Even if you feel better, stopping or pausing your medication can hurt your kidneys. In particular, blood pressure and pain medications put a strain on your kidneys if you take them sporadically. Some can cause a “rebound” where a patient experiences a second heart attack or kidney failure.

Kidneys benefit from routine. If you change your medication every day, you’ll throw your entire body off. Talk to your doctor about whether your medication could harm your kidneys. Some antibiotics pose a substantial threat to kidney health.

Research Your Supplements Before You Take Them

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Darren McCollester/Getty Images
Darren McCollester/Getty Images

If you take daily supplements or vitamins, beware. High doses of certain supplements have been reported to harm your kidneys. A 2012 review by the American Society of Nephrology pinpoints the main culprits: cranberry, willow bark, wormwood oil, licorice, geranium, and vitamin C.

In particular, high doses of vitamin C and cranberry increase your risk of kidney stones. If you have a pre-existing condition, such as diabetes or an auto-immune disorder, consult your doctor before taking supplements. Even natural supplements like turmeric will hurt your kidneys if combined with certain medications.

You’re Exercising, Right?

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Leon Neal/Getty Images
Leon Neal/Getty Images

Regular exercise isn’t just for dieters. It’s also for those who care about kidney health. The National Kidney Foundation states that exercise lowers blood pressure, improves sleep, and enhances muscle function. In other words, exercise reduces all the major risk factors for kidney disease.

You don’t have to go hard to see the benefits. During a 2019 study, people with kidney disease benefited from 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. That’s a little over 20 minutes of walking, gardening, dancing, or biking per day. Plus, exercise releases endorphins to help you feel happier.

Don’t Go Too Hard At The Gym

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Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images
Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images

It is possible to exercise yourself to death. Rhabdomyolysis, often called Rhabdo, is a syndrome caused by muscle breakdown. When several muscles are injured, they release enzymes that hurt your kidneys. In 40% of cases, this can result in kidney failure.

Rhabdomyolysis is dangerous but rare. Dr. Maureen Brogan of New York Medical College says that most cases occur during the first class. For instance, if a person goes to hard during their first time cycling, they’re at a higher risk. Muscles need to build up slowly, so don’t push yourself too hard.

Lighten Up On The Energy Drinks

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Unsplash/@neonbrand

Researchers are demanding that the FDA regulate energy drinks, which they have yet to do. Why? Because a study in Frontiers in Public Health links kidney disease to energy drinks, especially in children. Excess caffeine produces high blood pressure and stress, all of which lead to kidney damage.

Another concern revolves around the amino acid taurine. Often found in energy drinks and sports supplements, taurine tackles the kidneys head-on and is potentially dangerous to those with chronic kidney disorders. Until more research is done, err on the side of caution and limit your energy drinks.

Are You Drinking Enough Water?

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Jack Taylor/Getty Images
Jack Taylor/Getty Images

One of the kidney’s main roles is to filter water, so you must keep it hydrated. The National Hydration Council reported that most kidney stones result from chronic dehydration. When you’re dehydrated, your urine has a higher concentration of minerals. These minerals can form crystals inside your kidney that grow into stones.

According to the National Kidney Foundation, there’s no hard rule on how much water you should drink. The Institute of Medicine estimates nine cups a day for women and 13 for men. But your recommended water intake varies depending on how thirsty you feel.

Too Much Red Meat Is Toxic

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Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

While eating red meat is healthy on occasion, consuming too much will hurt your kidneys over time. The Journal of the American Society of Nephrology confirms that red meat is “possibly kidney toxic.” The reason is still unclear, but researchers suggest that red meat may produce too much dietary acid.

On the flip-side, plant-based proteins repair kidney injury. According to the research, replacing one serving of red meat per week lowers your risk of kidney disease by 62%. It’s a tiny change that could impact your health in the long run.

You May Want To Stand Up More Often

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Marty Caivano/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images
Marty Caivano/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images

If you have a sedentary job, you’ll want to watch out. Sitting for extended periods every day results in a higher risk of kidney disease. During a 2018 study in PLoS One, researchers found that an extra hour of physical activity per day reduces your chances of kidney failure significantly.

Researchers still don’t understand why sitting encourages kidney disease. Dr. Thomas Yates of the University of Lancaster suggests that exercise leads to lower blood glucose and cholesterol. High blood sugar and blood pressure both contribute to kidney failure. Standing instead of sitting will improve your kidney health.

Skip The Butter

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Godong/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Godong/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

A recent health trend advocates for replacing margarine with butter. In terms of your kidneys, this isn’t a good option. Butter contains saturated fats which, in high amounts, can damage your kidneys. According to the National Kidney Foundation, these fats raise LDL cholesterol (the “bad” kind) that harm your kidneys.

You can enjoy butter in small amounts, but don’t eat it every day. If you use margarine instead, look for one with no trans fat or “hydrogenated” fats. Trans fats are worse than saturated fats in raising LDL cholesterol.

Try Not To Overeat, Even During The Holidays

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Unsplash/@abimiller

During holidays and celebrations, many people treat themselves by eating too much. But overeating strains your kidneys, according to Dr. Sreedhar Mandayam of Baylor College. The more you eat, the harder your kidneys work to sift through all the food, says Dr. Mandayam.

The worst overeating combination involves a lot of protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Unfortunately, most Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners include these. You can indulge occasionally, but take care not to overeat regularly. Limit your portion sizes and only eat when you’re hungry, not tired or bored.

Work To Lower Stress

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Unsplash/@benwhitephotography

Chronic stress leads to kidney disease. For years, researchers have agreed that stress harms your kidney health, although they still don’t understand why. In Advances in Chronic Kidney Disease, scientists speculate that stress raises blood pressure, which scars your kidneys over time.

When people feel stressed, their eating and sleep often decline, which can become a cause for kidney problems. If you’re struggling with chronic stress, tackle it first by contacting a mental health professional. It could be the root of your other health problems.

Substitute Sugar

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Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

In moderate amounts, sugar isn’t a problem for your kidneys. The issue arises when your blood sugar rises too high. According to the American Diabetes Association, high blood sugar and diabetes force the kidneys to filter too much blood. Overworking can cause the kidneys to develop diseases over time.

Researchers from the University of Montreal found a symbiotic relationship between diabetes and kidney disease. Diabetes causes kidney disease, and kidney disease can cause diabetes. Get your blood glucose checked regularly to prevent the chance of both diseases, and limit your sugar intake.

Artificial Sweeteners Aren’t Much Better

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Mario Tama/Getty Images
Mario Tama/Getty Images

While a packet of Splenda may lower your calorie count, a growing body of research suggests that it harms your body. During a 2009 study, researchers discovered that drinking diet soda (an artificially-sweetened drink) increases the risk of kidney disease by 30%.

According to the researchers, less than two artificially-sweetened drinks per day won’t hurt your kidneys. Although more research needs to be done on the topic, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Replace your artificial sweeteners with honey or Stevia if you want a sweet iced tea.

Only Drink In Moderation

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Blick/RDB/ullstein bild via Getty Images
Blick/RDB/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Drinking forces your kidneys to filter more harmful substances. If you drink frequently, you’ll cause your kidneys to overwork. The National Kidney Foundation defines over-drinking as “more than four drinks daily.” One drink equals a single glass, 12-ounce bottle, or shot.

On the other hand, a 2005 study discovered drinking in moderation may benefit your kidneys. Participants who had at least seven drinks per week (one or two glasses every day) experienced a 30% lower risk of kidney dysfunction. If you are a drinker, limit your servings to stay healthy.

Don’t Use Bodybuilding Medications

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Jerod Harris/Getty Images for MusclePharm
Jerod Harris/Getty Images for MusclePharm

Athletes who use steroids may gain muscle, but they’ll cripple their kidneys. During a 2009 study, researchers found that nine out of ten bodybuilders developed kidney scarring from bodybuilding medications. When the athletes stopped using these steroids, their kidneys healed over time.

The American Society of Nephrology advises against steroids. They can raise your cholesterol, lower protein in your blood, and cause swelling–all of which harm kidneys. While you can take steroids for some kidney treatments, don’t take bodybuilding medications recreationally.