March Is National Kidney Month


Time to Consider Your Kidney Health

Millions of Americans don’t know they have chronic kidney disease (CKD). Two simple tests – one blood and one urine – can detect CKD and all people at risk for CKD should be tested each year by their primary care professional.

In the meantime, be a part of the kidney health movement. Share the news about the importance of kidney health and awareness of preventing CKD.

When it comes to vital organs, hearts get all the love. But kidneys are just as essential to keeping us healthy. “Everybody needs them! They take care of your heart, and the rest of your body! Take your healthcare into your own hands and ask your primary care professional about your kidneys,” says National Kidney Foundation Medical Advisory Board Chair, Carol Kirila, DO, FACOI of Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences. They are our body’s small, but powerful, chemical factories; working 24/7 to remove waste and keep our blood pressure in check. As a matter of fact, when kidneys stop working, so do you.

Here are the 5 top jobs healthy kidneys perform

1. Remove waste from the body

Think of your kidneys as your body’s filter. The kidneys perform their life-sustaining job of filtering and returning to the bloodstream about 200 quarts of blood each day. 1-2 quarts are eliminated from the body in the form of urine which contains wastes and extra fluid. This prevents buildup of wastes to keep your body healthy.

2. Regulate blood pressure

Healthy kidneys produce a hormone called renin to help the body control blood pressure and cause blood vessels to constrict. Kidneys can ask for higher pressure if it seems too low, or try to lower pressure if it seems too high.

3. Control the production of red blood cells

Your kidneys make a hormone called erythropoietin. Erythro-poietin tells bone marrow to make red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen from your lungs to supply all your body’s needs. Red blood cells give you the energy you need for daily activities.

4. Produce an active form of vitamin D for healthy bones

Vitamin D comes from two sources in people: exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet B radiation, or absorption from food or vitamin pills. Kidneys convert vitamin D from supplements or the sun to the active form of vitamin D that is needed by the body.

5. Control pH Levels

pH is a measure of acid and base. Your kidneys maintain a healthy balance of the chemicals that control acid levels. As cells break down, they make acids. The foods you eat can either increase or lower the amount of acid in your body. Your kidneys balance the pH of your body by either removing or adjusting the right amounts of acid and buffering agents.

Let’s give kidneys some love – heart your kidneys for a change!


Nearly 2,000 people in Missouri and 500 people in Kansas are waiting for a lifesaving transplant. Nearly 80% of them need a kidney. Three-quarters of adults in both Missouri and Kansas are officially registered organ and tissue donors. But the need for organ donors continues to outpace the number of registrants. Join the organ donor registry or  learn more about becoming a living donor at

Plant-based diets may help keep your kidneys in top shape

In March, people around the world will be sharing tips and advice about the theme of this year’s World Kidney Day –– Kidney Health for Everyone Everywhere, which is intended to raise awareness about kidney disease and to give everyone a chance to prevent it with access to proper screening and a healthy lifestyle.

Our kidneys keep us alive. Without working kidneys, the only options are dialysis or transplant. And there is no cure for chronic kidney disease (CKD), which is on the rise at an alarming rate.

The best defense against CKD and to protect these vital organs is not to compromise your kidneys in the first place.

A plant-based diet that limits meat and processed foods is one of the ways to keep your kidneys in excellent working order, research suggests. A plant-based diet  might also help ward off a further decline in kidney function in those who already have CKD.

A plant-based diet may also help control weight, maintain healthy blood sugar levels and healthy blood pressure, produce less of a dietary acid load, suppress inflammation, and reduce intake of saturated fats. “There is ample evidence to support the advantages of eating plant based however it may not be appropriate for everyone. Plus there is a lot of inaccurate information related to nutrition out there. If you are considering making significant changes to eating or have a medical condition that requires you to follow a specialized eating plan it is best to consult with a Registered Dietitian before getting started,” says NKF Kidney Health Ambassador Becky Deen, RD, LD, LMNT in Liberty, MO.

Going plant-based doesn’t mean you have to cut out meat or dairy altogether from your everyday menu, but just that you limit animal-based foods. Some even suggest going meatless just one day a week, as promoted by the Meatless Monday campaign. “My family’s favorite meatless meal is vegetable soup. It is packed with nutrients, filling, and especially nice to have during the cold winter months,” says Deen. She’ll be teaching attendees about kidney friendly recipes like this one this spring at the National Kidney Foundation’s Kidney Social Summit on March 24th, visit for details.

What Is a Plant-Based Diet?

Plant-based diets are heavy on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, unsalted nuts, and healthy oils, while cutting down on animal-based and processed foods.

If you go more plant-based, add more beans, peas, lentils and fruits and vegetables to your diet. Then cut down on salt, dairy, eggs, fish, meat, poultry, processed breads and other foods with preservatives, pasta, refined or sugared cereal, white rice and canned foods.

If you are not on dialysis, which requires a special diet, pick from several diets like the Mediterranean diet or the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet to get started. Wife of a kidney patient, and avid NKF Kidney Health Ambassador, Bernie Kline says, “Besides just feeling better, we discovered the beauty and color of REAL food! I can easily spend 75% of my time in the grocery store in the produce section because that’s where the REAL food is located. We also discovered different kinds of grains like farro and quinoa. It’s fun to find new recipes to use them. Not all are successes, but failures make for lively dinnertime conversation!”

Further, to keep your kidneys healthy, don’t just change your diet. NKF recommends that you should maintain a healthy weight; don’t smoke; exercise regularly; don’t overuse non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or other over the counter painkillers; maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels; maintain healthy blood sugar; have an annual physical; and get tested for CKD. And of course, find out if kidney disease runs in your family. For more on plant-based diets and kidney health, visit or call the NKF Cares team at 1.855.NKF.CARES or email


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