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Kidney Cleanse

What Should I Know About It?

By

Updated June 25, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Located near the middle of your 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 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), 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?

The kidney is actually self cleansing if you consume adequate fluids, which can take the form of foods such as fruits and vegetables as well as water and other liquids.

Typically marketed under the term "kidney cleanse" or "natural kidney cleanse," a number of products (or specialized diets) 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 functioning of the urinary tract and bladder, boost immunity, and clear toxins from the entire body.

Benefits of a Kidney Cleanse

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

Kidney Cleanse Recipes

Kidney cleanses vary in approach. While kidney-cleanse proponents suggest that these approaches enhance the kidneys' ability to remove waste from the body, their claims are not backed by scientific data. Here's a look at some of the most common types of kidney cleanse.

1) Herbs

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

  • dandelion
  • marshmallow root
  • juniper
  • nettles
  • parsley
  • red clover
  • ginger
  • goldenrod
  • 2) Foods

    Other kidney cleanses emphasize certain foods, including:

  • watermelon
  • lemon juice
  • cranberry juice
  • pumpkin seeds
  • 3) Vitamins

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

  • vitamin B2
  • vitamin B6
  • magnesium
  • In many cases, a kidney cleanse will integrate herbs, vitamins, and minerals into a whole-foods-based diet designed to flush out the kidneys.

    Caring for Kidneys

    Here are several science-supported methods of 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 plenty of water (at least eight glasses daily)
  • stay at a healthy weight
  • Kidney Stones

    A kidney stone is a hard mass that forms from crystals that have separated from the urine within the urinary tract. In most cases, kidney stones develop because calcium oxalate within the urine has crystallized.

    Symptoms of Kidney Stones

    Usually marked by extreme pain in the area of the kidneys or in the lower abdomen, kidney stones may also cause difficulty urinating, blood in the urine, nausea, and fever.

    Preventing Them

    Although there's no evidence that a kidney flush can help prevent kidney stones, you might reduce your risk by drinking lots of water 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. See more about Phyllanthus.

    Despite claims to the contrary, research shows that a high intake of calcium through foods may decrease risk for kidney stones. However, taking calcium in supplement form may 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. "They Kidneys and How They Work." NIH Publication No. 09–3195
February 2009

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