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World Kidney Day — 11 Facts About Your Kidneys and 3 Ways to Keep Them Happy

Your kidneys serve a vital function of filtering wastes from your body, in addition to helping to make red blood cells and keep your blood pressure normal. Although it’s possible to live quite well with only kidney, if neither one works, you can’t live without dialysis.

March is National Kidney Month, and the second Thursday in March is World Kidney Day. In honor of our kidneys, courtesy of MentalFloss, here are 11 tidbits you may not know about these vital organs:

1. They’re lopsided — Your right one is smaller and lower so as to make room for your liver.

2. You only need one — Apparently nature decided that one and a spare would be a good idea, as just one can do the job.

3. They filter a half-cup of blood every minute, for a total of 45 gallons a day.

4. You know that kidneys make urine, but were you aware that infections can cause that pee to back up and cause a “traffic jam” of sorts, that can make you very sick? This is where kidney stones can form too.

5. To that end, kidney stone surgeries have been recorded as far back as the 16th century. Sadly, 25 of 60 patients undergoing this procedure by one physician in 1698 died.

6. A 3,500-year-old papyrus detailing the kidneys and their function shows that the Egyptians were quite aware of how important these organs are to your body.

7. Egyptians weren’t the only ones interested the kidneys, though: The Bible talks about them more than 30 times.

8. If you don’t know what sausage casings, a washing machine and an orange juice can have in common, then you didn’t know — until now — that these three very unconnected things were the components of the first kidney dialysis machine in the 1940s.

9. Many people try to drink a lot of water to stay hydrated and keep their kidneys working — but too much water can be almost as dangerous as too little.

10. Ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen can damage the kidneys, so go low when it comes to using these pain and inflammation relievers.

11. Even though they admit other environmental factors may be at play, some researchers believe climate change may be to blame for an increase in chronic kidney disease in Central America and parts of Asia. It’s particularly a problem in Guatemala.

It’s always fun to learn interesting tidbits like this, but even more fun is learning about easy things you can do right now to address everyday problems. For example, here are three ways to help keep your kidneys healthy:

1. Climate change or not, what you drink in hot weather can have a huge effect on your kidneys. Many are aware of the sugar dangers in soda and that diet sugars aren’t any better, but did you know that the soda in your soda can damage your kidneys? Recent research shows that it causes dehydration, thus making your kidneys work even harder, especially if you’re performing manual labor or exercising in extremely hot temperatures.

2. Poor kidney function is also associated with a number of other serious health problems, including Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Common signs of kidney problems include:

• Frequent urination

• Problems urinating

• Pain or burning sensation during urination

• Chronic thirst

3. Your diet can influence how healthy your kidneys are, beginning with the amount of protein you consume. Many people eat far too much protein and not enough veggies. One study shows that eating three or four servings of vegetables and fruits daily not only can help lower your blood pressure, but keep your kidneys healthy too.

Garlic, onions, cabbage, kale, green tea and olive oil are particularly good for getting antioxidants that can help detoxify your kidneys. Other kidney-healthy foods include red bell peppers, nuts and seeds, apples, pears, peaches, red and purple grapes, coconut oil and wild-caught Alaskan salmon, to name a few.

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