From thy heart, thy lungs, viscera and sides; from thy kidneys, spleen and liver we tear out the disease. – Atharva Veda
Many of us do not know the importance of drinking water, an essential nutrient.
We are substituting water instead with tea, coffee, alcohol and other beverages. These contain caffeine, alcohol, sugar, artificial sweeteners, or other chemicals, that act as strong dehydrators.
Many people also don’t realise that the natural thirst signal of the body is a sign that it requires pure, plain drinking water. In its place, most of us have an impulsive tendency to opt for beverages in the belief that they can satisfy our body’s water requirements. This is not good for your kidneys.
Likewise, excessive overuse of antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, among others, cause subtle, undetectable kidney damage, diabetes, and high blood pressure [hypertension]. Some slimming medications can also cause renal disease. Other causes of chronic kidney disease include HIV infection, sickle cell anaemia, heroin abuse, kidney stones, chronic kidney infections, and certain cancers.
A normal kidney is essential to ensure our wellbeing; knowing how it works, therefore, will help us understand them better.
Each of the two kidneys we have is composed of about a million tiny units called nephrons. As blood passes through the nephrons, a complex interaction occurs. This results in the elimination of wastes from the blood.
When these waste materials enter the urinary tract, they are excreted as urine.
The kidneys process about 200 litres of blood every day and produce about two litres of urine. They free our body of toxic elements like lead, cadmium, mercury etc. They also help maintain electrolyte balance and regulate blood pressure.
When kidney stones are formed they greatly impair the kidneys’ “filtering” ability. This consequently increases and raises the body’s general level of toxicity, leading to infection, high blood pressure, heart disease, brain disorders, cancer etc.
When something’s wrong
A dark or whitish colour under the eyes, puffy or swollen eyes, particularly in the morning, deep wrinkles under and around the eyes, denote that not all is well with your kidneys. Other problem signs include chronic pain in the lower back, swelling of feet and legs, constant fear, or anxiety. High blood pressure, low backache, kidney stones, frequent urinary tract infection, cysts or tumours of the urinary tract, discoloration of the urine, scanty, foul smelling urine, and “tardy” voiding may all indicate that your kidneys need cleansing.
Flushing out the toxic build-up from your urinary tract is termed as kidney cleansing. Flushing helps your kidneys to function better, wash out stones, and prevent repeated infection. This is suggested to regulate our blood pressure and have a beneficial effect on kidney and bladder function. After cleansing, the kidneys start voiding a good amount of normally-coloured, or normally smelling, urine. This indicates normal functioning of the kidneys.
A suitable kidney detoxification programme, done under the guidance of a qualified therapist, coupled with dietary and lifestyle changes can help improve and sustain your health and wellbeing.
Kidney detoxification plans
This is a programme that usually lasts for 1-4 weeks depending upon factors like the health status of the individual, age, and strength. Some commonly used kidney cleansing procedures are:
Cider vinegar. Cider vinegar is endowed with flushing power. It helps the kidneys and bladder benefit tremendously by flushing out toxins. Therapists recommend two teaspoons of cider vinegar in a glass of water, six times a day during cleansing. It would be beneficial to drink a couple of glasses of water in the morning, adding one teaspoonful of cider vinegar in each drink. Some therapists recommend comfrey tea to be first taken in the morning with a teaspoon of cider vinegar. It creates adequate cleansing action.
Water fasting involves taking large quantities of water for a specified period of time without food. Juicing [or juice fasting] is an excellent way to cleanse and detoxify the kidneys. It is less severe than water fasting since it provides the body with nutrients, minerals, enzymes and the energy needed to support various metabolic processes during fasting. Several herbal recipes are also used to induce a thorough kidney cleanse. Some of them include hydrangea root, gravel root, marshmallow root, ginger, fresh parsley etc.,
Total kidney cleanse is a two-part blend of herbs and potassium citrate that helps to cleanse the kidneys, urinary bladder, and urinary tract. Total Kidney Cleanse Part-I, consists of cranberry extract. It helps to promote the normal healthy sterile environment of the urinary tract. Part-II of the plan contains alkalising compounds [potassium citrate] that help “calm” the kidneys, bladder and the urinary tract. It includes stinging nettle, corn silk, parsley leaf, dandelion extract, and horsetail herb extract. There is also an evening formula that is used. It contains Uva ursi leaf extract and potassium citrate. Uva ursi, a herb, is traditionally used to help fight bacteria in the urinary tract and cleanse the urinary tract. Total Kidney Cleanse is a 30-day cleansing plan. [Note: Some therapists also recommend two capsules of a standard kidney cleanse plan in the morning and two capsules at night]. 8-10 glasses of water every day are also recommended during the plan.
Home plan. Here is a home recipe that is claimed to help cleanse the kidneys. Take 1/2 cup dried hydrangea root, 1/2 cup gravel root, 1/2 cup marshmallow root, four bunches of fresh parsley, goldenrod tincture, ginger capsules, Uva ursi capsule, vegetable glycerine, Vitamin B6 250 mg, magnesium oxide 300 mg, or 1/4 cup greens. Measure 1/4 cup of each root and soak them in 10 cups of cold water, using a non-metal container and non-metal lid [a dinner plate will also do]. After four hours [or, overnight] soaking, heat to boiling and simmer for 20 minutes. Drink 1/4 cup as soon as it cools. Pour the rest through a bamboo strainer into a sterile pint glass jar and several freezable containers. Refrigerate the glass jar. Boil the fresh parsley, after rinsing, in one quart of water for three minutes. Drink 1/4 cup when cool enough. Refrigerate a pint and freeze one pint. Throw away the parsley. Now — pour together 3/4 cup of the root mixture and 1/2 cup parsley water, filling a large mug, each morning. Add 20 drops of goldenrod tincture and one tbsp of glycerine. Drink this mixture in divided doses throughout the day. Keep it cold. Do not drink it all at once. You may get a stomach ache and pressure in the bladder. If your stomach is very sensitive, take half this dose. Also, save the roots after the first boiling and store them in the freezer. After 13 days when your supply runs low, boil the same roots a second time, but add only six cups of water and simmer for only 10 minutes. This concoction will last for another eight days — i.e. for a total of three weeks now. You may cook the roots a third time, if you wish, but this may reduce the potency of the preparation. After three weeks, repeat with fresh herbs.
You need to do the kidney cleanse for six weeks to get good results. Speak to your therapist to find out a plan that suits your need best.
Herbs for kidney cleansing
Herbs that are often advocated to cleanse the kidney usually have multiple actions. They enhance immunity, and they also have anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and antiseptic properties. They help excrete toxins, thanks to their diuretic action [improved urine excretion] and anti-oxidant nutrients.
Couch grass or dhub grass, which is commonly called durva [Cynodon dactylon], is highly recommended. This is a diuretic with many benefits
Uva ursi [bearberry] is a urinary antiseptic and astringent herb. It also has an antibacterial effect on the kidney
Horsetail is high in silica [sand]. It is a diuretic used as an astringent in genito-urinary problems. It has been found to reduce toxic levels of lead in the body.
Juniper berry [hapusha or Juniperus communis]. The oil in juniper is stimulating to the kidney nephrons and provides good support to the urinary system. Juniper contains vitamin C and other nutrients. It acts as a diuretic, bactericidal and uterine stimulant and helps rid the body of wastes and toxins. It also helps to alleviate fluid retention and helps to prevent urinary tract infections
Parsley is an excellent diuretic. It is used in oedema [swelling] and urinary stones. It is believed to increase the elimination of waste products like urea, and other acidic metabolites. Parsley should, however, not be used in pregnancy
Nettle, a diuretic, is highly nutritious, with vitamins and minerals. It also contains chlorophyll and beta-carotene, vitamins A, B2 [riboflavin], C and E, calcium, potassium, and iron. Nettle has been known to increase the elimination of uric acid, a waste product
Gokshura [Tribulus terrestris] is a rejuvenating herb. It is used in ayurveda to support proper functioning of the urinary tract and prostate
Dandelion root is a good general detoxifier. It has a high content of potassium which makes it a well-balanced diuretic. In traditional Chinese medicine, this herb is used to reduce heat and resolve dampness in painful urinary dysfunction.
Dos and Don’ts
Drink sufficient water according to the season, type of work you do, or occupation
Maintain a healthy blood pressure [120/80 mm Hg]
Limit medications and never take drugs which are not prescribed
Adopt a healthy lifestyle and balanced diet
Maintain a regular exercise routine
Increase your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables
Minimise stress. Practice meditation, t’ai chi, and other relaxation techniques.
Avoid excessive salt intake
Avoid all beverages and food that have preservatives, or colours
Say no to alcohol, red meat, drugs etc.,
Try and avoid food — fast- or junk-food — that increases blood sugar and cholesterol.
Shantala Priyadarshini, MS [Ayurveda], is an academician-researcher. Her areas of special interest are: chronic degenerative eye conditions, compromised states of immunity, cancer and auto-immune disorders. She lives in Mysore.
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