Kidney flush or kidney cleanse is in the hype right now. Many people are following one or two days of intense fluid flush believing that it will improve their kidney’s health and flush the toxins out. But is it effective? Can certain fluids help our kidneys flush out toxins?
The proper functioning of our kidneys is very important for a healthy body. It excretes the toxins and helps our body to maintain its normal functioning. So, it’s understandable why people are interested in cleansing their system, especially for those who suffer from issues like recurrent UTI, renal stones, and CKD.
But do certain juices and herbs really help? We’ll explore all major topics related to kidney cleanse including our top 3 fluids for a better kidney function in this article.
What is A Kidney Flush?
Kidney flush or kidney cleanse is believed to help “cleanse” or “flush” the kidney off of toxins, pathogenic bacteria, and other harmful substances that can cause infections, kidney stones, and other chronic kidney issues. Many different types of herbs, vitamins, minerals, and fruit juices are purported as things that help cleanse the kidneys.
However, there aren’t any scientific studies for most of these herbs and fruit juices that are popularly promoted as “kidney cleansers” to prove that they actually improve kidney function.
There are many products available in the market today that claim to help with cleansing a specific organ like kidneys or liver. However, medically, your kidneys are cleansing your system every single second of every single day– whether or not you take some specific herbs or concoctions (that is labeled to help your kidneys flush).
Just like our heart’s job is to pump blood to every single cell, and our lung’s job is to exchange the gases; the job of our kidneys is to cleanse the system and throw out all the toxins.
All of your body’s blood goes through your kidney for cleansing (continuously throughout the day). The toxins are removed during this process and are flushed out through urine. Following this, the clean, free of toxins blood is circulated to every organ (including the kidneys). This is the normal functioning of our kidneys, which do not need any special herbs or supplements. The only thing that is required for this system to work wonderfully is plenty of water, and this is the reason why your doctor tells you to drink 2-3 liters of water each day.
So, technically, kidneys are self-cleansing, and they don’t need any external help to cleanse our system. They are our body’s filter in the first place.
Proper urine formation, in healthy amounts, is proof that your kidneys are working well and are cleansing your system.
The only time kidneys fail to filter out the toxins is when your kidneys are failing– like in acute kidney injury (AKI) and chronic kidney disease (CKD). If this is the case, no amount of “cleansing products” are going to enhance your kidney’s function. Conditions like these require immediate medical attention as they can be fatal. In fact, many herbs and even fruit juices may actually harm your kidneys even more if you have conditions like CKD.
Not all kidney issues are the same and they don’t have a common solution either. Drinking a lot of water may help kidney stones but too much water could be harmful to you if you have CKD.
If you have major issues like CKD, what you need is regular appointments with your nephrologist and a kidney-friendly diet prepared by a licensed nutritionist.
Unfortunately, companies don’t need to take the permission of the FDA to put claims on their products, and this can sometimes bring products in the market that can be a little misleading. Sure, the herbs and supplements sold as kidney cleansers may be super healthy on their own, but really it mostly doesn’t have any effects specifically directed towards the kidney. Kidneys may benefit from antioxidants but antioxidants are not specifically active only on kidneys and you cannot call it a miracle compound for the kidney.
What Are Drinks That Are Good For Your Kidneys?
Simple, plain water is the best way you can flush your kidneys. They are available everywhere and are the most pocket-friendly drink you can get. For most of us, 2-3 liters of water each day will help your kidneys to maintain the good health of your whole body and of course, your kidneys. Although, if you have CKD 2-3 liters of water would be too much for your kidneys to handle. Less is more in cases of CKD.
But otherwise, in healthy individuals, 2-3 liters of water is the minimum requirement of water that you must drink. Studies have shown that people who drink this much water are less likely to develop kidney failure in the long run.
Drinking healthy amounts of water every day also prevents stone formation. Drinking less water allows various compounds to stick with each other and for the stone. But when you drink enough water, the state of supersaturation is prevented, and the stone-forming compounds don’t get a chance to stick with each other.
Additionally, if you have very small stones (<4mm) already formed in your kidneys, drinking a lot of water will flush them out naturally, and prevent them from growing in size and cause further complications.
Water also flushes out the bacteria that may be present anywhere in your urinary tract, and this way it prevents UTI. So, if you have an issue of recurrent UTI, a healthy intake of water every day is your most basic and helpful tool to prevent UTI. For active UTI please consult your doctor.
If drinking plain water is too boring you can flavor your water at home with fruits.
You can read about how much water you should drink every day here (because you don’t want to overdo it either):
2. Watermelon Juice
There’s an interesting case study of a 60-year-old diabetic male with chronic kidney disease. In addition to proper medications and follow-up, he consumed a significant amount of watermelon daily.
His case was studied and it was found that his serum creatinine and BUN level significantly improved over a period of time without any changes in the medications. An improved serum creatinine and BUN levels indicate an improved kidney function. His serum creatinine dropped from 76 to 24 mg/dl over the years. A significant rise of these parameters is noted whenever he stopped taking watermelon and the raised parameters went back to improved levels whenever he resumed watermelon consumption.
This case study proves that watermelon most likely has a very positive impact on kidney function. Although a larger-scale study is desired, watermelon seems very promising.
Including a glass of fresh watermelon juice in your diet could improve kidney function and keep your kidneys healthy.
Please note that watermelon is safe for CKD patients but other melons are not. Avoid melons and their juices if you have CKD.
3. Blueberry Juice
Blueberry is one of the richest sources of antioxidants. The antioxidants predominantly rich in blueberries are phenolics and anthocyanins. Recent studies in animal models have shown that the antioxidants of blueberries are reno-protective in nature.
These antioxidants neutralize the free radicals and reduce oxidative stress on the kidneys. They block the molecular pathways that cause structural damage to the kidneys.
In addition, they also reduce the mean arterial pressure of the kidney, improves the blood supply and filtration by the kidneys.
Another study, again in an animal model, found that blueberries also prevent hyperuricemia-induced kidney fibrosis and improves kidney function. A bioactive compound called Pterostilbene is responsible for this protective action. High uric acid levels are quite common, and if you have hyperuricemia, a blueberry smoothie or juice could be a great option for you.
Blueberries have been shown to have great effects on the kidney, but all berries have a positive impact on the kidney’s health. For example, cranberry juice is believed to be helpful in preventing UTI. To know more about cranberries and UTI, you can check out this article.
Can Anyone Do a Kidney Cleanse?
The problem with many kidney issues is that they don’t show any major symptoms until it’s too late. Even kidney stones may remain in the kidneys for a very long time and when the complications arise people find out that they have stones in their kidneys for the first time.
Issues like UTI and stones can be easily treated, and with regular consumption of a good amount of fluids, you should be able to prevent common kidney issues like UTI and renal stones. If you are healthy you can enjoy any fluids of your choice, because fluid equals kidney flushing.
However, this is not the case if you have AKI or CKD. Your kidneys may not be healthy enough to handle the fluid overload and certain fruits and minerals may actually worsen your kidney function.
if you are middle-aged and above, make sure that you get your general check-up including kidney function tests done at regular intervals. The above-mentioned juices are CKD-friendly, but you should not overdo them. As mentioned above, for CKD limiting your fluid intake is a must.
Before adding any herbs or juices to your diet, research their impact on kidneys and speak to your doctor first.
CKD may present very late but lookout for the following symptoms:
- High blood pressure: CKD can result in hypertension, and hypertension can result in CKD>
- DIabetes: DIabetic nephropathy can occur if your sugar levels remain high for a long period of time. Both hypertension and diabetes are quite often silent until it’s too late. Regular check-up is the key.
- Change in the frequency of urination. CKD can present with reduced urine formation.
- Frothy urine.
- Swelling around the eyes (periorbital edema)
- Swelling around the ankles and shin (pedal edema) that pits (press around the ankle and see if a pit forms)
These are some of the early signs of kidney diseases. If you notice these symptoms in your body, please don’t attempt any kind of cleanse with any fluid without a kidney function test and consultation from a nephrologist.
What Kind of Fruit Juices Are Best To Avoid With CKD?
In CKD, the kidneys don’t function well, and they can’t handle all kinds of food, minerals, and high water load.
As a general rule, you should avoid anything that contains high sodium, potassium, and phosphorus. Be it any fruit, herb, or other food.
Some Examples of Fruits with High Potassium Levels:
- Melons (except watermelon)
Most green leafy veggies are also very high in potassium.
Food Rich in Phosphorus
Most fruits are low in phosphorus levels but the following foods are high in phosphorus.
- Milk and other dairy products
- Soy and soy milk
- Certain cereals
- Chicken, pork, red meat.
To control sodium intake, control salt intake, and packed foods and juices.
If you have CKD please get your renal-friendly diet prepared by a licensed dietician.
What to Keep in Mind While Buying Your Fruit Juices?
You can buy blueberry juice, cranberry juice, or watermelon juice directly from the market. However, make sure that you read the label well. There should be no added sugar, and salt in it. Also check for any added sodium, potassium, and phosphorus levels in the pack.
In generally packed foods contain a very high amount of sodium. Plus there may be many additives. Too much salt and sugar may not be suitable for you if have diabetes and high blood pressure.
Therefore, whenever you can, try to prepare your juices and smoothies at home using fresh fruits.
So, bottom line is that before blindly following any trend, please know that your kidney’s health is not dependent on a 1 or 2-day “kidney cleanse” routine. It’s a regular effort– of drinking healthy amounts of water, keeping a healthy weight, keeping active, eating healthy food, and regular checkups especially if you are at risk of developing CKD.
Sure, add other healthy things to your diet like a lot of healthy juices, herbs, and smoothies, but it’s a cumulative effect of everything that you do that will at the end of the day decide how healthy your kidneys will be in the long-term.