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Natural detoxification: the key to better kidney and liver health

January 24, 2019 (Updated: August 3, 2021)
Lily Moran

Your body is bombarded by toxins with every breath, bite, and step you take. Your kidneys do a miraculous job of finding them in your blood, removing them, and excreting them in your urine. Without this vital process, toxins would build up in your body and damage your other organs.

And it’s not just toxins. You have a delicate alkaline/acid balance in your body, and too much on either side of the pH scale can have dangerous consequences.

Who manages that balance? Your kidneys.

But your kidneys aren’t bulletproof. They’re vulnerable to toxic overload if you don’t protect them. You’d get worn out too, if you spent every second of your life filtering away hazardous substances.

Why your kidneys need your help

There are three types of serious kidney disease—most are preventable and many reversible if addressed and corrected in their early stages. Like many of life’s ailments a healthy diet, exercise and social engagement can help prevent kidney disorders from getting a toehold in your body.

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is the most common kidney disease. The kidneys become less effective over time, often showing no symptoms until the disease has taken hold. Patients may then experience numbness or swelling in the hands and feet, frequent urination, nausea, anemia, and poor appetite.

Diseases and conditions that cause chronic kidney disease include:

  • Type 1 or type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Prolonged obstruction of the urinary tract, from conditions such as enlarged prostate, kidney stones, and some cancers
  • Vesicoureteral reflux, a condition that causes urine to back up into your kidneys
  • Recurrent kidney infection
  • Certain medications, particularly NSAIDs (painkillers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen)

The Mayo Clinic tells us that the most important causative factor is high blood pressure. You and your doctor should work together, using dietary and other lifestyle changes to help lower your blood pressure and prevent kidney damage. If those don’t help, and your blood pressure remains too high, CKD can lead to end stage renal disease (ESRD).

End stage renal disease occurs when CKD reaches an advanced stage and is as serious as it sounds. Your kidneys are pretty much shot—permanently damaged and barely functional. Diabetes is the most common cause of ESRD. High blood pressure is the second most common cause. Other problems that can cause kidney failure include:

Daily dialysis or a kidney transplant are the only options.

Acute kidney failure (ARF) is when your kidneys abruptly stop working because of an injury or ingesting toxic substances. ARF may respond well to treatment, if it’s treated early and the kidneys are not severely damaged. If there aren’t any other problems, your doctor may recommend changes to your diet, the use of medications, or even dialysis. In some cases, the kidneys can actually heal themselves—no intervention needed.

Kidney cancer isn’t common, but we’re seeing it more frequently. There are few early symptoms. But as the cancer progresses, patients may experience blood in the urine, on-and-off fevers, fatigue, back pain, and weight loss.

Kidney cancer can be treated with surgery, radiation, and assorted drugs, depending on its location, size, type, and the overall health of the patient.

Keeping your kidneys healthy

Start by asking your doctor for blood panel readings of your BUN (blood urea nitrogen) and creatinine levels and your eGFR (Estimated Glomerular Filtration Rate) numbers. Here’s what you’ll get.

Test Testing For Healthy Results
BUN Kidney and liver function 10-20 mg/dl
Higher indicates kidney problem
BUN/creatinine ratio Kidney efficiency 10-20:1
Higher ratios OK in men and older people
eGFR Kidney damage Greater than 60 mg/min

Scores from these tests tell you how strong your kidneys are now. But again, beware—kidney diseases can be symptom-free. A healthy score doesn’t mean you can go merrily on your way.

But you can be reasonably merry if you’re wary—and help your kidneys keep clean of junk. Remember, some toxins are 100% unavoidable, but sticking to a predominantly healthy diet and lifestyle are your first line of protection for these vital organs.

Here’s how to do the same for your other heroic detoxifier.

Keep your liver clean and it returns the favor 1,000 percent

The liver is your largest internal organ, with a to-do list that’s more than 500 functions long. Need to send some iron, folate, vitamins A, D, and B12 out to do their jobs? Ask the liver. Need some hormones activated, or other vitamins, minerals, carbs, or protein put on standby for when they’re needed? The liver mans the switches.

Then, of course, there’s the liver’s main job—nonstop detoxing. Everything you eat has to drop in to visit the liver as your food begins its journey through your body. Unfortunately, so much of today’s foods include countless damaging toxins: heavy metals, pesticides, pathogens, and so on.

The liver is the bouncer at the door, sorting out and throwing out bad visitors, like parasites and viruses, while helping good visitors find their healthy ways from ingestion to digestion to distribution to elimination as waste.

But as with your kidneys, too much can just be too much. And disease lies in wait.

Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver. You can catch it if you drink water or eat food that’s been contaminated with the stool of someone with the virus. You can also catch it by eating raw shellfish from water that has the virus in it or by having unprotected sex with someone infected with the virus.

Hepatitis A can be extremely unpleasant but is rarely dangerous. Almost everyone who gets it makes a full recovery, usually without medical intervention.

Hepatitis B has a far nastier side. If untreated, it can cause liver scarring, liver cancer, liver failure, and death.

But, like hepatitis A, your body can fight off this disease on its own. Your doctor might prescribe bed rest.

That said, if you think you’ve been exposed to the virus, get to a doctor as soon as possible. The earlier you get treatment, the better. The doctor will give you a vaccine and a shot of hepatitis B immune globulin. This protein boosts your immune and helps it fight off the infection.

Hepatitis C is also a virus that attacks the liver. It gets there the same ways as hepatitis A and B: direct contact with infected body fluids, typically through injection drug use and sexual contact, contaminated food and drinks.

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Chronic Inflammation Decoded

Once in the liver, Hep C impedes its detoxification processes. That’s an open door for invaders that a healthy liver would get rid of. Pathogens running amok means significant inflammation, the precursor to nearly all liver and other diseases.

Hepatitis C calls for special caution among Baby Boomers. Because, until 1992, routine blood screenings for injections and blood transfusions couldn’t spot the hepatitis virus. What was considered safe turned out not to be.

The CDC called hepatitis C a “silent epidemic” affecting some 3.5 million Americans—75 percent of whom are Boomers. They don’t know when or how they got it, and have no symptoms to warn of impending trouble. But it seems certain that hundreds of thousands of them who had blood transfusions, unsafe sex, or shared needle use prior to 1992 are very much at risk and should be tested right away.

As with threats to your kidneys, many liver diseases remain in hiding, symptom-free, for years, emerging at full strength only when it’s far more difficult, if not impossible, to treat than when they originated.

But there is good news. Working as a team, you, your kidneys, and your liver can slow or stop nearly every kidney and liver disease early in its tracks.

How to practice kidney and liver safety

Here are reliable, safe, and effective ways to keep your liver and kidneys functioning at full strength.

Work up a sweat

Sweating does a lot more than cool you off. It provides one more avenue for the excretion of toxins. Where and how you sweat isn’t important. Steam room, sauna, exercise or workout—all are fine.

But what’s best is exercise. The right workout works wonders for your overall good health. In fact, many physicians are coming to realize that exercise is one of the top three health makers, along with a healthy diet and an active mental and social life.

Now throw in the fact that your fat can be home to up to 100 times more toxins than in your blood. Working up a sweat that burns fat washes those toxins right out of your life. And gives your cardiovascular and circulatory systems a healthy workout at the same time.

Be sure to drink plenty of fresh, filtered water before, during, and after sweating, to aid in excretion and prevent dehydration.

Skin brushing

You wouldn’t believe how much waste and toxins are excreted through the pores in your skin every day. Would you believe it’s up to two pounds? Yup, that’s the magic number. Skin brushing has been done for centuries, to help that cleansing along. Even back then, our ancestors realized that glowing skin and complexion went hand in hand with brushing.

That’s because in addition to brushing away those toxins, vigorous skin brushing removes the old, dead skin cells, actively and thoroughly, instead of letting them sit around all day while they slowly fall away.

Brushing also gets your circulation going, helping your skin “breathe” easier. And what a great, tingly feeling! Good medicine!

Eat to keep your acids and bases in balance

Your healthy body depends on a delicate balance of acidity and alkalinity. Your lungs and kidneys ordinarily manage that balance nicely. But when they’re overloaded, there can be too much or too little of one or the other. The result is acidosis.

Symptoms differ depending on whether your lungs or your kidneys are at their limits, but some shared acidosis outcomes include:

  • Fatigue, sleepiness, drowsiness
  • Tiring easily
  • Confusion
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headache

We can literally eat away the causes of acidosis, and ease the burdens on our livers and lungs at the same time. The Standard American Diet is the key—it’s got to go. All of the unnatural, unhealthy, processed food? Replace it with a Mediterranean style diet: try to buy local and organic when you can. Avoid processed foods in favor of foods rich in healthy oils (i.e. olive, avocado), stick to low or no added sugar or salt, and enjoy a few servings of organically-raised or grass-fed meats and wild fish (3 servings/week). Use the Mediterranean diet as your model. Wonderful things will happen.

You can test your acidity level to find out whether or not you’re overly acidic. Just purchase some pH test strips and add a few drops of saliva or urine. The strips will come with a color-coded scoring system to tell you where you fall. Scores under 7.4 mean you’re acidic and need to get back in balance by consuming some alkaline foods and beverages.

Juice fasting

This is one of the simplest, most effective, and delicious favors you can do for your liver and kidneys, as well as your digestive system.

Now, don’t go thinking fasting is too hard or it’s just for monks in the mountains seeking enlightenment.

All you have to do is go for one day, for starters, with no solid food—only juice. Talk about a break for your detoxers. A whole day without piles of food banging on their doors every minute? Wow.

Start with one day and see how you feel. If you feel fine, indeed, as most people do, you can go for up to 3 days.

That’s not to say you should swap out your food for store-bought, sugar-sweetened fruit juices. I’m talking about freshly made juices…from a masticating or centrifugal juicer.

You can juice just about all fruits and vegetables. Here’s just one recipe many people fall in love with—a delicious combination of kale, spinach, parsley, cilantro, or other organic greens. Of course you can experiment with your own combination of juices or find plenty of other recipes online.

Fasting not only detoxes, but you get a great bonus benefit—Fasting two to four days at a time every six months causes stem cells to awake from their normal dormant state, and start regenerating” These tiny miracle workers specialize in organ repair

Another benefit? Studies with lab animals show that the ones that fast intermittently live longer than those that eat normally.

Keep your frontline defenders in fighting shape

Your kidneys and liver depend on you—help them help you.

That’s taking good care. Go for it, for a healthy, happy life.


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