Does Chronic Stress Affect Your Kidneys?
Approximately 37 million people in the U.S. alone are estimated to have chronic kidney disease. Because of this, kidneys are in high demand and the waiting list to receive one is very long. Education on how to keep your kidneys healthy is important — which is why March is Kidney Awareness Month! Even if you do not suffer from kidney disease it is important to know what your kidneys do so you can take care of them. Prevention is always the best medicine.
Your kidneys are in charge of removing toxins from your body. They also help remove drugs, regulate blood pressure, balance the body’s fluids, and control the production of red blood cells. They are shaped like beans and we have one on each side of the body. They are behind the stomach and are located right under the ribcage. Signs of a troubled kidney include: not being able to concentrate, chronic fatigue, frequent trips to the bathroom, swollen legs/ankles/feet, dry itchy skin, and being overly stressed. If you are having any of these symptoms, please consult with your healthcare provider.
Sitting on top of each kidney are the adrenal glands. These glands are responsible for secreting hormones. One hormone that these glands secrete is called cortisol, which is known as our stress hormone. When our body is under stress, the adrenal glands constantly release cortisol which results in a number of different symptoms: headaches, high blood pressure, digestive issues, exhaustion, aches and pains, weight gain, lowered immune system and more.
There are many causes of kidney disease but this week’s blog will focus primarily on how chronic stress affects your kidneys and some ways to lower your stress levels.
When your body is under a constant state of stress, your heart rate and blood pressure rise. When this happens, more strain is put onto the kidneys making it difficult for them to work properly. This is how chronic stress affects the kidneys. Now when we say stress we are not just referring to the stress that comes with a busy week. Chronic stress can be caused by a multitude of things: it may come from physical stresses that are placed on the body when an individual is in pain or sick; it may come from emotional stress from past traumas or abuse; it may even come from chemical stresses from our environment, diet and lifestyle choices. Any form of long term stress can cause someone’s body to begin to perform poorly, including the kidneys.
When we ignore our stressors we are actually doing more harm than good. Stress takes a toll on our body. This is why it is important for everyone to not only listen to their body when something feels off, but to also develop personal ways to manage stress. Stress management habits are unique to everyone and people may find some things more therapeutic than others:
Some standard stress relieving habits can be:
- Meditating: Meditation is a way to create mindfulness and bring yourself into the current moment. By practicing meditation daily you can expect to find yourself focusing more on the present moment rather than worry about the past and the future.
- Exercising: Exercising is another stress management method that is customizable. Your idea of exercise could be walking, running, weight lifting, yoga, or pilates. Whatever your form of exercise is, by practicing it daily you can expect to not only burn off calories, but also stress from the day.
- Reading: Reading is a way to remove yourself from your day and dive into a story. Whether you are a fiction or non-fiction fan, reading can help you create a new habit that does not involve mindless scrolling.
- Deep breathing: There are many ways to practice breath work, but all of them can result in a decrease in stress. By practicing with your breath, you are drawing yourself back into the current moment and neglecting the overthinking of the past or future. Plus, breath work practices also help to improve blood circulation and oxygen flow throughout the body.
- Therapy: Therapy is often looked at as a last resort for people with stress, when that should not be the case. Therapy is a way to release all of the things that are building up on your chest and let them go to an unbiased individual. Therapy is one of the easiest ways to truly vent out all of the stress that you may be feeling.
Take this month as an opportunity to learn more about your kidneys and how to keep them healthy. Focus on discovering ways that you can improve your kidney health as well as ways to manage your stress levels. Not only will your kidneys reap the benefits, but the rest of your body (and mind) will as well.