What Habits Can Damage Your Kidneys?


7 Min Read

Diabetes and hypertension are common causes of kidney disease. There are less obvious triggers you should be aware of. Control your sugary indulgences. Smoking constricts, and clogs renal arteries. Not urinating often increases kidney stones risk. Exercise, avoid whole grains, oatmeal, meat, nuts, salt, sugar, alcohol, etc., and drink lots of water. Take analgesics and antibiotics as prescribed.

An estimated 20 million Americans are believed to have kidney disease, with thousands more potentially at risk of developing kidney problems or damaging their kidney.1 Kidney damage doesn’t usually happen overnight. It is a steady process that occurs over several years as a result of some poor lifestyle choices and improper management of other conditions like diabetes.

As one study observed, the more bad habits you have, the worse it gets. Researchers found that test subjects with 3 to 4 bad habits dubbed “unhealthy lifestyle behaviors,” grew their risk of developing chronic kidney disease by 337 percent compared to people who had no bad habits.2



Smoking adversely impacts your blood pressure. You also increase cardiovascular risk by smoking since it increases your heart rate, narrows your blood vessels in the kidneys, damages arterial branches, and causes arteriosclerosis in the renal arteries. These in turn stack the odds against you when it comes to kidney damage.3

Smoking is deadly for those with diabetes because it increases your chances of having kidney problems. You also run the risk of losing kidney function faster than non-smokers. The good news is, if you are a smoker and you quit, you decrease your risks significantly.

Constantly Holding It In


Not urinating often enough can be bad for your kidneys. Nature’s call is meant to be answered in a regular, timely manner and if you don’t, your body and kidneys, in particular, retain all the toxins meant to be expelled. Over time, this can actually lead to incontinence as well as kidney stones and other kidney damage.

Indulging Your Sweet Tooth Too Often


Having too much sugary, sweet food like desserts, candy, and packaged snacks and sodas can be bad for your kidneys. As one study confirmed, consuming too much fructose could bring on a rise in uric acid levels and ultimately lead to cardiorenal disease.4 Those with diabetes are already at high risk of developing renal problems. Having too much sugar in your diet can worsen this situation. Be sure to read food labels and pick foods which are low in sugar and pack in more fiber.

Not Monitoring Your Blood Pressure


It is important to keep track of your blood pressure since hypertension is a leading cause of kidney damage. Keep to the recommended levels set by your doctor or healthcare provider and take measures to control it if you have high blood pressure. This is usually set at under 140/90 mm Hg.5

Winging It With Medication


Sticking to the prescriptions your doctor has given you is important. Certain medication can cause kidney damage if taken incorrectly or not closely monitored. If your doctor has suggested a specific dosage for a fixed duration, take it only for that long and no more. OTC pain medications like the easily available aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen are all bad for your kidneys if taken regularly or on a daily basis. Certain antibiotics (aminoglycosides, amphotericin B, cephalosporins, bacitracin, and vancomycin) can also be harmful if you have kidneys that are already under pressure.6

Skipping Exercise


Exercise is good for the body’s circulation and can help you manage conditions like blood pressure and diabetes better. If you are overweight or obese, exercise can help you reduce weight and cut the load on your system. As one study showed, weight loss can positively impact renal function in severely obese individuals. For everyone else, exercise helps keep the body and cardiovascular system in good working order.7

Not Eating Right


Eating healthy may not always mean you’re eating right when you have kidney trouble.

If your kidneys are already strained, things change a little. Your doctor may suggest a diet that has less potassium and phosphorus. That means traditionally “bad” foods like white rice, white bread, and pasta suddenly become good for you. In fact, the whole-grain versions which are high on phosphorus will need to be avoided. Also pass up on phosphorus-rich oatmeal, nuts, lentils, bran cereals, fish, meat, and poultry. Colas are a no-no too. To cut down on potassium, you will need to steer clear of some vegetables and fruit like tomatoes, potatoes, bananas, and oranges as well.

Eat plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit (especially apples, peaches, green beans, carrots), rice milk instead of dairy, and corn and rice-based cereals. 8

Protein must be consumed in moderate quantities. Plant protein sources and certain animal protein sources like chicken and fish are easier on your kidneys. Heart-healthy foods are a good idea in general because they also help manage your weight, diabetes, and blood pressure. Certain nutrients like magnesium and vitamin B6 are good for preventing kidney stones.

Binge Drinking Or Heavy Alcohol Consumption


The kidneys help the body filter out harmful substances from the body, including alcohol. So when you drink heavily, your kidneys come under tremendous pressure. Doing this on a regular basis can cause damage to the renal system.

Alcohol is extremely dehydrating, and an excess level in your body can cause organs to be inadequately hydrated and hamper their performance. Alcohol is also a cause of liver disease, which in turn interferes with the regulation of blood flow to the kidneys.9

Going Heavy On The Salt


High levels of sodium in your diet, whether in the form of salt in your cooking or more commonly through hidden sources, are potentially problematic, especially if you have a tendency for hypertension. Many snack foods, most junk food, canned foods, and packaged foods contain high amounts of sodium, so cut down on these. Opt for fresh cut fruit, vegetables, nuts, or homemade snacks instead. Limit sodium intake to under 2,300 mg a day.10

Not Drinking Enough Water


Kidneys depend on the adequate flow of fluids to work properly. Staying hydrated is important to help them flush out the toxins from your body. The National Kidney Foundation recommends staying hydrated as one of the “9 Things That Everyone Should Do” for good kidney health. The National Health Service in the UK also mentions dehydration as a cause for kidney damage and kidney stones.11

References   [ + ]

1.Kidney Disease Basics, National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
2.Chang, Alex, Linda Van Horn, David R. Jacobs, Kiang Liu, Paul Muntner, Britt Newsome, David A. Shoham et al. “Lifestyle-related factors, obesity, and incident microalbuminuria: the CARDIA (Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults) study.” American Journal of Kidney Diseases 62, no. 2 (2013): 267-275.
3.Orth, Stephan R., and Stein I. Hallan. “Smoking: a risk factor for progression of chronic kidney disease and for cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in renal patients—absence of evidence or evidence of absence?.” Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology 3, no. 1 (2008): 226-236.
4.Johnson, Richard J., Mark S. Segal, Yuri Sautin, Takahiko Nakagawa, Daniel I. Feig, Duk-Hee Kang, Michael S. Gersch, Steven Benner, and Laura G. Sánchez-Lozada. “Potential role of sugar (fructose) in the epidemic of hypertension, obesity and the metabolic syndrome, diabetes, kidney disease, and cardiovascular disease.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 86, no. 4 (2007): 899-906.
5, 8, 10.Diet and Lifestyle Changes, National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
6.Which Drugs Are Harmful To Your Kidneys? National Kidney Foundation.
7.Chagnac, Avry, Tali Weinstein, Michal Herman, Judith Hirsh, Uzi Gafter, and Yaacov Ori. “The effects of weight loss on renal function in patients with severe obesity.” Journal of the American Society of Nephrology 14, no. 6 (2003): 1480-1486.
9.Alcohol And Your Kidneys, National Kidney Foundation.
11.Symptoms of Dehydration, NHS UK.
CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.

CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.