It’s vital to hydrate properly to keep your kidneys running smoothly, and avoid developing painful conditions such as kidney stones.
We all know that we’re supposed to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and other fluids throughout the day. Water is vital for every part of your body to function, and dehydration is bad for you as it stops the various systems in your body from working properly. Your kidneys are particularly reliant on getting enough water to work properly in extracting waste from your body. Drinking enough water is vital for good kidney health – but why?
What do my kidneys do?
The kidneys are responsible for many important and highly complex processes that take place continuously in your body to keep you alive. They filter your blood and remove waste products and excess fluid. They regulate the levels of salt, potassium and acid in your body.
They also produce hormones that regulate your blood pressure and control the production of red blood cells. Water is vital to enable your kidneys to keep doing all of these jobs.
When you are properly hydrated, it also keeps your blood vessels open so that oxygen and nutrients can travel freely to the organs that need them, including your kidneys1.
Drinking enough water
To help you make sure you’re drinking enough water, it’s best to listen to your body. Drink enough water (and other healthy fluids such as juice, milk and tea) to quench your thirst and keep your urine light yellow or colourless. While some people recommend drinking eight glasses of water per day, this is just a general rule and everyone is different.
Sometimes you’ll need less than this and sometimes you’ll need more. If it’s particularly hot or if you’re exercising regularly, you’ll need extra water to replenish what you lose through sweating. Isotonic sports drinks can help you hydrate faster during or after strenuous exercise but shouldn’t be a replacement for water outside of these times.
How to avoid UTIs and kidney stones
Your kidneys and urinary system are susceptible to various uncomfortable conditions, including urinary tract infections (UTIs) and kidney stones. You can reduce your risk of developing both of these common complaints by drinking plenty of water and staying well hydrated.
In the case of UTIs, water helps to dissolve the antibiotics used to treat UTIs and makes them more effective. Drinking enough water also helps produce more urine, which helps to flush out infection-causing bacteria2.
Drinking enough water and staying hydrated is one of the best things you can do to avoid kidney stones. Kidney stones are less likely to form if there is plenty of fluid in your urinary system2.
Around half of people who have had kidney stones will get them again within five years, so if you’ve experienced this painful condition before it’s particularly important to make sure you always drink plenty of water3.
All about kidney stones
Kidney stones is a common condition. It affects around three in 20 men and two in 20 women3, and it appears to be on the rise among people of all ages4. They form when there is an excess of waste material, salt or minerals in the kidneys, which clump together to form ‘stones’. Some go undetected and pass out painlessly in the urine, but more commonly they get stuck and block part of the urinary system. This causes severe abdominal pain and can lead to a urinary tract infection (UTI)3.
Most cases of kidney stones can be treated with medication, but larger kidney stones may need to be broken up using ultrasound or laser treatment. In some cases, keyhole surgery is needed to remove the kidney stone directly. You can find out more about the prevention and treatment of kidney stones in this Q&A with Mr Ben Grey, a BMI Consultant Urological Surgeon.
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