15 Common Habits That Can Damage Your Kidneys (Backed by Scientific Studies)

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15 Common Habits That Can Damage Your Kidneys

Did you know that you can live a pretty normal life with only 20% of your kidney function? That is why a steady decline and gradual damage to your kidneys can often go unnoticed for a long time. Sometimes, even common habits can cause damage to your kidneys, and when the problems are finally discovered, it can be too late.

Our kidneys are amazing organs. They produce hormones, filter blood, absorb minerals, produce urine and maintain a healthy acid-alkaline balance. There is no life without the kidneys, and the Chinese view them as the seat of essential life energy.


Looking after your kidneys goes hand in hand with looking after your health and well-being. After all, you want your kidneys to thrive and serve you well for the foreseeable future.

Here is a list of habits that can cause kidney damage or chronic kidney disease according to medical studies.

Common Habits That Can Damage Your Kidneys (Backed by Scientific Studies)

1. Consuming too much sugary drinks

A study carried out on employees at Osaka University in Japan suggested that drinking two or more soda drinks a day (diet or regular) may be connected with a higher risk of kidney disease. 12,000 employees were included in the study, and those that consumed larger amounts of soda were more likely to have protein in their urine (proteinuria).

Protein in urine (proteinuria) is an early sign of kidney damage, but, when discovered at that stage, the disease can still be reversible.

The scientific study also concluded that “sugary soda consumption may be associated with kidney damage.”

2. Smoking

Smoking has been linked to atherosclerosis (narrowing and hardening of the arteries). The narrowing and hardening of blood vessels affects the blood supply to all vital organs, including the kidneys.

According to a study published in Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, two cigarettes a day are enough to double the number of endothelial cells present in your blood. This is a signal of arterial damage. The Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology cites many different studies conducted since 2003 which all link smoking to decreased kidney function.

Smoking is one of the bad habits mentioned in my previous article about habits to stop right now if you want to be healthy.

3. Vitamin B6 deficiency

A healthy diet is important for good kidney function. According to studies performed at the University of Maryland Medical Center, vitamin B6 deficiency increases your risk of kidney stones.

For optimal kidney function, you should consume at least 1.3 milligrams of vitamin B6 daily. The richest sources of this vitamin include fish, chickpeas, beef liver, potatoes and starchy vegetables, and non-citrus fruits.

4. Lack of exercise

Exercise is another good way to protect your kidneys.

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A large study published in 2013 in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology suggested that postmenopausal women who exercised had 31% lower risk of developing kidney stones. Generally speaking, maintaining a healthy weight will reduce your chances of kidney stones, so get moving.

Further reading: Read my article about how to treat kidney stones naturally.

5. Magnesium deficiency

If you don’t get enough magnesium, calcium can’t get properly absorbed and assimilated, which can result in calcium overload and kidney stone formation. A scientific study concluded that “Magnesium treatment in renal calcium stone disease is effective with few side effects.”

To prevent magnesium deficiency, consume green leafy vegetables, beans, seeds and nuts. Avocado is a good source of magnesium as well.

Further reading: Find here the top signs that you have magnesium deficiency and what to do about it.

6. Frequent sleep disruption

The scientific magazine, World Journal of Nephrology, reports that chronic sleep disruption can cause kidney disease.

Further reading: find 23 dangers of sleep deprivation in my previous article.

7. Not drinking enough water

Our kidneys need to get properly hydrated to perform their functions. If we don’t drink enough, toxins can start accumulating in the blood, as there isn’t enough fluid to drain them through the kidneys.

A scientific study from 2011 found that higher fluid intake could protect against chronic kidney disease.

Another study looked at the association between kidney function and urine volume. It concluded that higher fluid intake could protect your kidneys.

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Doctors from Mayo Clinic suggest drinking 8 glasses of water per day. An easy way to see if you’re drinking enough is to check the color of your urine.

8. Not emptying your bladder early

When nature calls, you should listen. Retaining urine in your bladder is a bad idea. Persistent or chronic urine retention can increase your risk of urinary tract infection which can lead to kidney infection.

9. Consuming too much salt (sodium)

Salt is important for the body, but you should limit your sodium intake. Over consumption of sodium can raise your blood pressure and put too much strain on the kidneys.

A scientific study found that over consumption of sodium can increase the risk of chronic kidney disease in people with high blood pressure.

It’s interesting to note that the same study found that low sodium intake can also increase the risk of kidney disease.

The American Heart Association recommends a maximum consumption of 2,300 milligrams (mgs) sodium a day (about 1 tsp. of salt).

Further reading: Read my article about different types of salt and their benefits.

10. Not drinking enough coffee

We often assume that coffee is bad for us, however drinking coffee may actually protect your kidneys.

A scientific study suggests that drinking coffee can decrease the risk of developing chronic kidney disease.

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Another study involving a Korean women found that drinking 2 or more cups of coffee daily can protect the kidneys.

11. Pain-killer abuse

Way too often we take medications too fast, in too big doses and not in the right way. When pain occurs, it’s so easy to just swallow the pill. But you should think twice especially when using pain killers for chronic pain.

According to the Korean Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, drug abuse can be toxic to the organs in your urinary system.

Another study suggests that there is a link between opioid use and kidney disease.

All pharmaceutical drugs come with side effects, and some may cause damage to the kidneys. Having said that, there are some drugs that you should be taking. See the next point.

12. Missing your medications

High blood pressure and type 2 diabetes are two very common health conditions that are often brought on by our lifestyle and unhealthy diet.

If you already have them, be aware of the damage they can cause to your kidneys and protect your precious organs by taking the prescribed medications.

Further reading: read my articles about the best 22 foods to control diabetes and how to reduce high blood pressure naturally.

13. Consuming too much protein

According to Harvard University, consuming too much protein in your diet can harm the kidneys.

The medical journal, ISRN nutrition, suggests that eating too much protein can increase your risk of developing kidney stones.

The byproduct of protein digestion is ammonia – a toxin your hard-working kidneys need to neutralize. More protein means more effort for the kidneys, which may, over time, lead to decreased function.

14.  Not treating common infections quickly and properly

We are all guilty of sometimes ignoring simple colds and flu, and pushing our bodies to the brink of exhaustion. But that can cause kidney damage.

One study has shown that flu can be associated with kidney disease.

Further reading: Find here top 10 natural treatments for cold and flu.

15. Too much alcohol consumption

The toxins found in alcohol not only damage the liver, but also your kidneys.

The medical journal Alcohol Research Current Reviews suggests that chronic alcohol consumption can cause kidney damage.

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8 Responses to 15 Common Habits That Can Damage Your Kidneys (Backed by Scientific Studies)

  1. nangbia tatu dui says:

    Good knowledge

  2. Tahir bukhari says:

    I really glad to read your comments on kidney protection pl keep it up.

  3. Lara says:

    Thank you for the great research. I’m curious on the protein point, is that all proteins or just meat proteins? I eat a plant based diet, and I love my beans and lentils! Of course it’s all balanced with lots of fruits and veggies too, but I’m curious for the rest of my family. I know a lot of the dangers with eating too much meat, and this is just one more. Thanks again!

    • Jenny says:

      Hi Lara, this is a good question. WebMD website talks generally about proteins and says: “If you have any kidney problems, eating too much protein puts added strain on your kidneys. This could worsen kidney function” (http://www.webmd.com/diet/high-protein-low-carbohydrate-diets). I also had a look at MedicineNet.com and they talk about how much dietary protein should people consume (http://www.medicinenet.com/how_much_dietary_protein_to_consume/views.htm). At the last paragraph they talk about consuming excess proteins and the effect on the kidneys, and also there they don’t distinguish between plant based proteins to meat protein. From what I understand the daily intake recommendation of protein refers to both plant and meat protein – read the full article in MedicineNet.com

      • danny says:

        From what I undedstand from my neph meat proteins esp from red meat are difficult to digest by our kidney unlike proteins from plant/vegs.

  4. Jerry says:

    Good information! Item # 15 is not good for me I took 1L of beer everyday. I don’t eat meat(especially pork), process food/junk food and I only eat fish(from sea)and vegetables.

  5. Judy says:

    Lara, a recent study at the University of Manitoba suggests that plant protein is protective of the kidneys, whereas animal protein is not.

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