What to Know Before Trying a Kidney Cleanse

kidney cleanse
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Located under the rib cage in your lower back, your kidneys are a pair of bean-shaped organs responsible for clearing waste from your body. Each day, your kidneys process about 200 quarts of blood to help remove about two quarts of excess water and waste products from food and the normal breakdown of active tissues.

Kidneys also release three important hormones: erythropoietin (which stimulates the bone marrow to make red blood cells), renin (which regulates blood pressure), and calcitriol (the active form of vitamin D, which helps maintain calcium for bones and for normal chemical balance in the body).

What Is a Kidney Cleanse?

If you consume adequate fluids, which can take the form of foods such as fruits and vegetables as well as water and other liquids, the kidneys are self-cleansing.

A number of products, foods, or specialized diets (typically marketed under the term "kidney cleanse") claim to detoxify the kidneys in order to promote healthy kidney function and prevent kidney stones. Kidney cleanses are also purported to help keep blood pressure in check, improve the functioning of the urinary tract and bladder, boost immunity, and clear toxins from the entire body.

Although the individual components of a kidney cleanse (such as certain herbs, foods, or nutrients) may offer health benefits, there's no scientific evidence to support their use in cleansing the kidneys or preventing kidney stones or infection. If you're interested in taking natural approaches to enhancing your kidney health, talk with your doctor and consider consulting a qualified health professional.

Kidney cleanses vary in approach. Here's a look at some of the most common types of kidney cleanses:

1) Herbs

Some kidney cleanses are based on herbal remedies, such as:

2) Foods

Other kidney cleanses emphasize certain foods, including:

3) Vitamins

Some proponents recommend incorporating the following vitamins and minerals into a kidney cleanse:

In many cases, a kidney cleanse will integrate herbs, vitamins, and minerals into a whole-foods-based diet designed to flush out the kidneys.

Possible Concerns

While kidney-cleanse proponents suggest that they enhance the kidneys' ability to remove waste from the body, their claims are not backed by scientific data. Like other supplements, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn't require products marketed for kidney cleansing be proven safe and effective. While consumers face such risks when purchasing any dietary supplement, these risks may be of greater magnitude with supplements containing a variety of herbs in high doses.

Pregnant or nursing women and children and people with kidney disease shouldn't try a kidney cleanse. You can get tips on using supplements here, but if you're considering the use of a kidney cleanse or supplement, talk with your primary care provider first.

Avoiding or delaying standard care can have serious consequences.

Caring for Your Kidneys

Here are several science-supported methods for caring for your kidneys and reducing your risk of kidney disease:

  • Avoid smoking and excessive consumption of alcohol and caffeine
  • Maintain normal blood pressure and blood sugar levels
  • Keep your cholesterol in check
  • Drink enough water and other fluids
  • Stay at a healthy weight

Although there's no evidence that a kidney flush can help prevent kidney stones, you may reduce your risk by getting enough fluids and cutting back on sodium. People with a history of kidney stones may also want to avoid foods rich in oxalate, such as chocolate, okra, sweet potatoes, sesame seeds, greens, nuts, and spinach.

There is some evidence suggesting that the herb phyllanthus may help prevent the formation of kidney stones. 

Despite claims to the contrary, research shows that a high intake of calcium through foods may decrease the risk for kidney stones. However, taking calcium in supplement form may your increase risk.

Sources:

Curhan GC, Willett WC, Speizer FE, Spiegelman D, Stampfer MJ. Comparison of dietary calcium with supplemental calcium and other nutrients as factors affecting the risk for kidney stones in women. Annals of Internal Medicine 1997 1;126(7):497-504.

The National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse. The Kidneys and How They Work. NIH Publication No. 09–3195
 February 2009

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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