Living With One Kidney

One kidney is quite capable of performing the normal functions of both kidneys. The power and resilience of a single kidney is quite remarkable.

Most humans are born with two kidneys but in rare cases, some people are born with one. There are others who may have had two kidneys at birth but may have lost one through injury, disease or surgery (for example when a person donates a kidney).

Whatever the circumstances that may have caused an individual to have a single kidney, it is possible to lead a healthy, normal life.

The kidneys perform a number of different functions in the body but its primary function is to remove toxins and waste products. The kidneys are the body's natural detoxification system, responsible for removing waste products and excess water and salt from the blood. Their workload is quite heavy and they filter close to 200 liters of blood, on a daily basis.

In addition to filtering the blood, the kidneys also maintain the blood's correct volume and concentration... but that's not all. They also regulate blood pressure and the body's pH balance, process vitamin D and produce certain hormones.

Remarkably, one kidney can adequately perform all these important tasks. However, it is wise not to overburden a single kidney, by engaging in practices that may cause unnecessary stress to this organ. Poor dietary and lifestyle habits can overwork the kidney, causing diminished kidney function and lead to kidney failure. Taking some simple proactive steps can help to preserve and prolong kidney health.

If you have one kidney, it is advisable to consult your health care provider to determine precise measures you should take to minimize the risk of kidney failure.

The tips provided below should be considered as a general guide. These are practical tips that can be applied by persons with a single kidney (and also those with two).

Kidney Care Tips:

  • If you have one kidney, the first and most important tip or advice is to have regular medical checkups. Monitoring kidney function will help to detect any early signs of kidney stress or other problems. When you have a single kidney, early detection of kidney problems is crucial. This could mean the difference between maintaining a healthy kidney or developing kidney failure. Early detection allows for timely treatment and, if necessary, adjustment of habits or diet. Problems are likely to be exacerbated with a single kidney than with two. It is, therefore, advisable to have your kidney checked at least once a year.

  • Adopt and maintain a healthy balanced diet. Diet is essential to any program of health. To maintain proper metabolic organ function, you must eat healthy. Food is like the fuel that determines whether our internal engine runs smoothly or literally shuts down. Just as you ensure that the correct fuel goes into your automobile, you should also ensure that the correct foods go into your body.

    It is unfortunate that most modern western diets are far from what is considered a minimum healthy diet. There is a lot of published information about healthy eating, so there is little reason not to eat healthy. While it is true that modern lifestyle has become very hectic, it is the more reason to take care of our bodies.
    It is important to set priorities and ensure that maintaining a healthy diet is somewhere at the top of the list.
    The key to a healthy diet is to increase consumption of plant-based foods while reducing consumption of refined and oily (fried) foods. A good place to start is by concentrating on foods within the super foods category.

  • Adequate consumption of water is another key aspect of kidney health. This is important whether you have one kidney or two. Almost all metabolic functions of the body require water. In general, water helps to maintain the right volume and concentration of blood and other fluids within the body, but its comprehensive functions extends beyond this. It contains a set of properties that facilitates proper biological functions.

    Water is essential for biological functions and must be continuously replenished, as it is constantly lost mainly through urination, respiration, and sweating. An average adult requires between two (2) to three (3) liters daily, depending on body size and weight.
    ...So, if you have one kidney, drink lots of water... if you have two kidneys, drink lots of water... even if you have three kidneys, drink lots of water!

  • Exercise regularly! Physical exercise is an important element of optimum kidney health. This is especially important if you are living with a single kidney.

    Exercise helps to lower or control blood pressure and increases insulin sensitivity, helping to prevent against type II diabetes (adult onset diabetes). Both hypertension and diabetes are major underlying factors responsible for kidney failure, so it is important to guard against them. In addition to diet, exercise plays a key role in preventing and controlling these two serious conditions.

    There are many other benefits of exercising. When you engage in physical exercise, the blood and other substances are stirred and toxins and other waste products are eliminated more efficiently. It also helps to improve circulation and other metabolic functions. This allows oxygen and essential nutrients to be transported more efficiently around the body, resulting in better overall health.
    It is advisable to check with your doctor before starting any program of exercise. Start slowly and then gradually increase intensity. Whether or not you have one kidney, regular exercise should become a lifestyle habit.

  • Detox at least once per year. Detoxing is a process that helps to rid the body of toxins that may have built up over time. Toxins are typically caused by polluted air and water and processed food chemicals. If these toxins are allowed to accumulate, they can cause serious health problems.

    The body has its own detoxification systems. Toxins are mainly eliminated by the colon, the liver and the kidneys. Detoxification is a naturally occurring process whereby the body rids itself of toxic substances through sweat, urine, and feces. Sometimes, however, the body is not able to eliminate these toxins as efficiently as it ought to and they hang around in our lymphatic and digestive systems longer than they should. This can be dangerous, especially if you have just one kidney. Consequently, it is important to embark on a detoxification program at least once a year.

    You should talk to your physician or a registered dietitian to help you develop a detox plan that suits your body's and personal health status.
    A proper detox lasts about a week and involves eating a nutritious, well-balanced diet that's high in essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, drinking plenty of water and clear fruit juices, and getting enough rest. There are also some good natural detox products that assist the body to eliminate toxins, which may have built up in the body. A naturopathic doctor can recommend a product, appropriate to your particular needs.

  • Finally, anyone living with one kidney should consider using supplements regularly, to compensate for any nutritional deficiencies in their diets. Generally, most of us do not receive adequate nutrients from our food. A prolonged deficiency of nutrients can result in a depleted immune system, leading to the onset of various diseases. It is therefore important to consume adequate nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, fatty acids or amino acids, daily. Consult your health care provider or dietitian for recommended supplements suitable for your particular needs.

Although these tips are mainly for persons living with one kidney, they can be beneficial to anyone interested in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Every individual has unique requirements, so it is important to be guided by your doctor to help ensure that you are taking measures relevant to your particular circumstances. This is especially important for persons living with one kidney. Regular consultations with your health care provider will not only help with preventative health care but is also important for monitoring kidney function.