man holding back to symbolize kidney pain

10 Habits That May Contribute to Damaging Your Kidneys

Your kidneys are a vital organ in your body that most of us don’t think much about. That is, of course, until they stop working properly. Then all of a sudden your world revolves around eating the right things and doing the right things to make them healthy again – or at least not damage them any further. The better option is to take care of your kidneys while they are healthy and avoid the drama altogether. This is how.

10 Habits That Damage Your Kidneys

There are many everyday things that we do or that we consume that you probably didn’t know were damaging your kidneys. Sure, you probably knew they weren’t the healthiest habits or that perhaps they were contributing to the extra bit of weight around your waist. A bit of extra fat on your body, however, is the least of the concern. There are many parts of our regular diet and lifestyle behaviors that damage our kidneys every single day. Avoid these as best you can and you’ll have healthy kidneys for decades to come.

1. High Salt Diet

If you drink a lot of sodas, eat a lot of processed/packaged foods, or eat out frequently, there is a good chance that your sodium intake is too high. Salt, or more specifically, sodium, is a leading contributor to hypertension. Hypertension and high blood pressure put a strain on the kidneys. Particularly those who already have kidney problems need to be extra cautious about their sodium intake. Their kidneys, which already aren’t functioning as they should, will have an even harder time filtering out the excess sodium. This can cause swollen ankles, increased blood pressure, shortness of breath, and even fluid around the heart and lungs. (1)

2. Not Drinking Enough Water Daily

Your kidneys filter a lot of waste out of your body. In order to do this properly, they require quite a bit of water. Being chronically dehydrated can hurt your kidneys over time. You will also be more likely to develop a urinary tract infection or kidney stones. Of course, you don’t want to overconsume water, either. The best way to know is by the color of your urine. It should be like yellow.

Read: Green Tea Extract: ‘The food supplement that ruined my liver’

3. High Potassium for those with CKD

Healthy kidneys do a great job balancing the blood’s potassium level. For those with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), however, this is not the case. People with CKD need to restrict their potassium intake according to their doctor’s orders. This could mean avoiding foods such as (2):

  • Dried apricots
  • Bran and granola
  • Chocolate
  • Lentils and beans
  • Milk and yogurt
  • Molasses
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Peanut butter
  • Salt substitutes

4. Phosphorous for those with CKD

Phosphorus is found in bones and is essential for our health. However, too much for those with CKD is not good. The general population should limit their intake of phosphorus to 700mg per day. This can be done by avoiding the following:

  • Bottled beverages with phosphate added (check the ingredient list)
  • Beer and dark colas
  • Chocolate candy and caramels
  • Chocolate drinks
  • Dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream, and dairy-containing creamy soups)
  • Organ meats
  • Oysters, sardines, and fish roe
  • Processed foods (including pizza, hot dogs, bacon, and sausage)
  • Whole grain bread and bran cereals

5. Smoking

Smoking increases your risk of developing high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. Both of these health problems are the leading causes of kidney disease. Nicotine can also interfere with medications meant to treat kidney disease. If you already have kidney disease, smoking slows blood flow to the kidneys which will make the problem even worse. (3)

6. Alcohol

Alcohol is a toxin and is not good for our health. Chronic heavy drinkers are naturally at the highest risk for doing some serious damage to their kidneys. What many don’t realize, however, is that even a single binge session that entails four or five drinks in less than two hours can cause acute kidney damage. This is because alcohol causes dehydration which makes your kidneys have to work hard to balance your body’s fluids. It also raises your blood pressure and disrupts the hormones involved in kidney function. If you do choose to drink, don’t drink too much or too often.

7. Sodas

Soda drinks are not good for you, both for the salt content and the high sugar content. Diet sodas don’t fare any better, as artificial sweeteners are equally as hard on the kidneys. Do your kidneys a favor and stick to water.

Read: If Your Kidneys Are in Danger, Your Body Will Give You These 21 Signs

8. Pain Medications

We all need the occasional ibuprofen or another over-the-counter pain killer every once in a while. Be careful how often and how much of these you are taking. Large amounts of acetaminophen, aspirin, naproxen, ibuprofen, or the prescription NSAID Celebrex (celecoxib) can damage your kidneys. Speak to your doctor for more information.

9. Overtraining

Working out is crucial for your health and is good for your kidneys as well. Overdo it, however, and it will have the opposite effect. A session that is too intense and that your body is not prepared for can cause something called rhabdomyolysis, which is when damaged muscle tissue breaks down really fast. This puts a huge strain on your kidneys which now have to filter out a big dump of harmful substances into your blood. Be sure to gradually scale up your workouts and do your best to avoid extreme heat and humidity.

10. Protein Intake

Protein is a necessary macronutrient for our bodies. This is especially true if you are trying to build muscle. While people with normal functioning kidneys won’t have a problem with high protein diets, those who do suffer from CKD or other kidney problems will. Be sure to talk to your doctor about what protein intake is best for you given your condition, body size, and general needs. 

Keep Reading: This Artificial Kidney Could One Day Eliminate The Need For Kidney Dialysis


  1. Surprising Things That Can Hurt Your Kidneys.” WebMD
  2. What foods are bad for kidneys?Medical News Today. Zia Sherrell, MPH. March 29, 2021
  3. 8 Ways to Keep Your Kidneys Healthy.” Healthline. The Healthline Editorial Team. May 29, 2020