Summer season is here, and one needs to make appropriate lifestyle changes to stay healthy. Kidneys have to work extra hard during summer season to maintain fluid and electrolyte balance and thus need extra care when the temperatures rise. Dehydration can lead to acute kidney injury while drinking sugary drinks can also take a toll on kidney health. It is important to consume plenty of water and electrolyte-rich fluids when the mercury rises. Eating a healthy and balanced diet, exercising regularly, managing blood sugar levels and blood pressure can also protect your kidneys in extreme heat. Coconut water, lemon juice and buttermilk must be added to the daily diet, while aerated beverages, tea and coffee must be avoided. (Also read: Weak kidneys? 6 effective home remedies to help improve kidney function)
How summer heat affects kidneys
“Kidney plays a critical role in mantaining salt and water balance in body besides removing toxins. For performing these functions, it requires blood supply at rate of 1 litre/minute. In states of dehydration the blood supply is reduced and hence kidney function worsens. It is estimated that CKD and/or acute kidney injury (AKI) are present in 15% of individuals who frequently work in hot environments. The risk is greater in extremes of age (new-borns and elderly) as well as those with diabetes or pre-existing kidney disease,” says Dr Sanjeev Gulati, President, Indian Society of Nephrology and Principal Director, Nephrology and Kidney Transplant at Fortis Group of Hospitals NCR.
“Heat waves can lead to dehydration, which can impact kidneys. When the body is dehydrated, the kidneys work harder to maintain the right balance of fluids and electrolytes in the body. If dehydration is severe, it can lead to kidney damage. To manage kidney health during a heat wave, it’s important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and other fluids like coconut water, lemon juice, and buttermilk. Avoid sugary drinks and caffeine, which can increase the risk of dehydration. It’s also advised to stay indoors during the hottest parts of the day and to wear light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing to stay cool,” says Dr. Nipun A C, Senior Consultant, Urology, Pristyn Care.
“Several research studies support the hypothesis that heat stress induces tubular kidney injury, which is worsened by higher core temperatures, dehydration, longer work durations, muscle damaging exercise, and consumption of beverages containing high levels of fructose. Hence during summer months there is an increased risk of acute kidney injury due to dehydration. The risk is higher if there are associated infections with diarrhoea or vomiting or inadvertent intake of painkiller (NSAIDS). This injury can be low-grade, as assessed with kidney injury markers or overt AKI which is a clinical diagnosis that typically occurs subsequent to exertional heat stroke in the setting of occupational heat exposure. Not only that repetitive kidney injury caused by physical work in the heat can progress to chronic kidney disease,” adds Dr Gulati.
“Extreme heat can have a significant impact on kidney health. One of the primary ways that heat can affect the kidneys is by causing dehydration. When the body loses fluids through sweating, the kidneys have to work harder to filter out waste and toxins. This extra strain can lead to kidney damage or even kidney failure if left untreated. In addition to dehydration, extreme heat can also cause an imbalance of electrolytes in the body. Electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium, help regulate various bodily functions, including kidney function. When electrolytes are imbalanced, it can interfere with the kidneys’ ability to filter waste and toxins, leading to kidney damage.
Another way that extreme heat can impact the kidneys is by causing heat exhaustion. This condition occurs when the body becomes overheated, leading to symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, and confusion. If the kidneys do not receive enough blood flow, they may not be able to function properly, leading to further complications,” says Dr. Pradip Saruk, MBBS, MD, DM(Nephrology), Consultant Nephrologist & Transplant physician, CARE CIIGMA Hospitals Aurangabad.
Lifestyle changes to boost kidney health in summer
“The most important thing we can do to keep our kidneys healthy is to drink enough water. Generally, one should take 2-3 litres of water a day. This requirement may increase in case the weather is hot and if we are dehydrated. So, drinking less water puts us at risk of dehydration and developing acute kidney injury. In summers, the risk of acute diarrhoea diseases is more, and therefore, it is very important that the food and water that we consume are from a clean and hygienic source. Athletes and marathon runners need to be more careful in the summers as the risk of dehydration is more, says
Dr Mohit Khirbat, Consultant, Nephrology, CK Birla Hospital, Gurugram.
“In case of any dehydration due to heat exposure or due to gastroenteritis, it is important that you seek medical help early before the kidneys get affected. On the other hand, if we drink enough water during the summer as well as during any situation where there is acute water loss such as in acute gastroenteritis there is a good chance that we will recover faster and also our kidneys will remain healthy,” says Dr Khirbat.
Dr Nipun shares lifestyle modifications that are important for keeping your kidneys healthy in summer season.
1. Follow a healthy diet: Eating a balanced diet low in salt, fat, and sugar can help prevent kidney disease. Foods high in antioxidants, like fruits and vegetables, can also protect the kidneys from damage.
2. Drink adequate fluids: Dehydration can be a risk factor for kidney stone formation. Kidney stones are solid masses made up of crystals that form in the kidneys when there is an imbalance of fluids, minerals, and waste products in the urine. When there is not enough water in the body, the urine becomes more concentrated.
3. Regular exercise: Regular exercise can improve kidney function by lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
4. Limit smoking and alcohol: Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can damage the kidneys and increase the risk of kidney diseases.
5. Monitor blood pressure and blood sugar levels: High blood pressure and diabetes are two of the leading causes of kidney disease. Monitoring these levels regularly can help prevent kidney damage.
6. Regular check-ups: Regular kidney function tests can help detect any problems early on and avoid surgical interventions for severe or chronic kidney stones allowing for prompt treatment and management.
Dr Sanjeev Gulati shares golden rules to protect kidneys during summer months:
– Avoid strenuous outdoor activities during peak hours of high temperatures (12 PM-4 PM)
– Keep yourself well-hydrated with water/juices. Avoid beverages and colas.
– Avoid self-medication with pain killers.
– Patients with high blood pressure are advised to monitor BP and reduce medications if required.
– Patients with diabetes are advised to control blood sugar as high sugar puts them at risk of dehydration.
“To manage kidney health during extreme heat, it is crucial to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and electrolyte-rich fluids. It is also important to maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, managing blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and avoiding smoking. If you experience symptoms of dehydration or heat exhaustion, seek medical attention immediately to prevent further damage to the kidneys. With proper care and attention, you can protect your kidney health during extreme heat and maintain optimal kidney function,” says Dr Saruk.