The kidneys are two small organs located on either side of the spine, below the ribs. They play an important role in getting rid of excess waste, balancing electrolytes, and creating hormones.
In the absence of disease, a well-rounded diet and adequate water intake are usually enough to keep your kidneys healthy.
However, certain foods, herbs, and supplements can help support strong kidneys.
From your morning glass of water to that extra cup of herbal tea, here are four ways to cleanse your kidneys and keep them functioning strong.
Hydration is key
The adult human body is composed of almost 60 percent water. Every single organ, from the brain to the liver, requires water to function.
As the filtration system of the body, the kidneys require water to secrete urine. Urine is the primary waste product that allows the body to get rid of unwanted or unnecessary substances.
When water intake is low, urine volume is low. A low urine output may lead to kidney dysfunction, such as the creation of kidney stones.
It’s crucial to drink enough water so that the kidneys can properly flush out any excess waste materials. This is especially important during a kidney cleanse.
The recommended daily intake of fluids is roughly 3.7 liters and 2.7 liters a day for men and women, respectively, according to the Institute of Medicine.
Choose foods that support kidney health
Grapes, peanuts, and some berries contain a beneficial plant compound called resveratrol.
In one animal study, researchers found that treatment with resveratrol was able to lower kidney inflammation in rats with polycystic kidney disease.
A handful of red grapes makes a great afternoon snack — and they taste even better frozen!
Cranberries have often been praised for their bladder health benefits.
A clinical trial in Nutrition Journal demonstrated that women who consumed sweetened, dried cranberries daily for two weeks experienced a decrease in the incidence of urinary tract infections.
Dried cranberries are a deliciously sweet addition to trail mix, salads, or even oatmeal.
Lemon, orange, and melon juice all contain citric acid, or citrate.
Citrate helps prevent kidney stone formation by binding with calcium in urine. This inhibits the growth of calcium crystals, which can lead to kidney stones.
In addition, drinking a cup of fresh juice per day can contribute to your daily recommended fluid intake.
Brown seaweed has been studied for its beneficial effects on the pancreas, kidneys, and liver. In a 2014 animal trial, rats fed edible seaweed for a period of 22 days showed a reduction in both kidney and liver damage from diabetes.
Try a packet of dried, seasoned seaweed the next time you’re craving a crunchy snack.
Many people believe that avoiding calcium can help to prevent kidney stones. In fact, the opposite is true.
Too much urinary oxalate can lead to kidney stones. Calcium is needed to bind with oxalate to reduce the absorption and excretion of this substance.
You can meet the recommended daily intake of 1.2 grams of calcium by consuming high-calcium foods, such as soy or almond milk, tofu, and fortified cereals.
Drink kidney-cleansing teas
Stinging nettle is a perennial plant that has long been used in traditional herbal medicine.
Stinging nettle leaf contains beneficial compounds that can help to reduce inflammation. It’s also high in antioxidants, which help to protect the body and organs from oxidative stress.
Hydrangea is a gorgeous flowering shrub, well-known for its lavender, pink, blue, and white flowers.
A recent animal study found that extracts of Hydrangea paniculate given for three days offered a protective effect against kidney damage. This is likely due to the antioxidant capabilities of the plant.
Sambong is a tropical climate shrub, common to countries such as the Philippines and India.
In one study, researchers found that a Blumea balsamifera extract added to calcium oxalate crystals decreased the size of the crystals. This could potentially prevent the formation of kidney stones.
Supplement with supportive nutrients
Vitamin B-6 is an important cofactor in many metabolic reactions. B-6 is required for the metabolism of glyoxylate, which can become oxalate instead of glycine if B-6 is deficient.
As mentioned above, too much oxalate may lead to kidney stones.
Supplement with a daily B-complex vitamin that provides at least 50 milligrams of B-6.
The standard American diet is often high in inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids and low in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.
Research suggests that high levels of omega-6 fatty acids may lead to kidney stone formation. An increase in omega-3s can naturally decrease the metabolism of omega-6s, with the best intake ratio being 1:1.
Potassium is a necessary element of electrolyte balance and pH balance of urine.
Therapy with potassium citrate can potentially help to reduce the formation of kidney stones, especially in people who experience recurring episodes. For those with a history of other kidney problems, talk to your doctor before you take potassium supplements.
Supplement with a daily multivitamin or multimineral that contains potassium.
Sample two-day kidney cleanse
Once you have incorporated these foods, herbs, and supplements into your diet, you may want to consider taking your kidney support to the next level.
This sample two-day kidney cleanse is thought to help strengthen your kidneys and detoxify your body, but there’s no research to support a cleansing action. This plan, however, utilizes foods to support kidney health.
- Breakfast: 8 ounces each fresh lemon, ginger, and beet juice, plus 1/4 cup sweetened, dried cranberries
- Lunch: Smoothie of 1 cup almond milk, 1/2 cup tofu, 1/2 cup spinach, 1/4 cup berries, 1/2 apple, and 2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
- Dinner: Large mixed-greens salad with 4 ounces lean protein (chicken, fish, or tofu), topped with 1/2 cup grapes and 1/4 cup peanuts
- Breakfast: Smoothie of 1 cup soy milk, 1 frozen banana, 1/2 cup spinach, 1/2 cup blueberries, and 1 teaspoon spirulina
- Lunch: 1 cup hot millet topped with 1 cup fresh fruit and 2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
- Dinner: Large mixed-greens salad with 4 ounces lean protein (chicken, fish, or tofu), topped with 1/2 cup cooked barley and a drizzle of fresh lemon juice plus 4 ounces each unsweetened cherry juice and orange juice.
Most healthy people don’t need to flush or cleanse their kidneys. Still, there are plenty of beneficial foods, herbal teas, and supplements that can support kidney health.
If you have a history of kidney problems, talk to your healthcare provider before trying a kidney cleanse. Drink plenty of fluids regardless of what you try.
The bottom line is that if you are looking to help your kidneys cleanse your body, try slowly incorporating some of the suggestions above.
As always, discuss any dietary or health changes with your doctor ahead of time — especially before doing a cleanse of any kind.