Do you need an organ cleanse?

Updated: Jul 01, 2019, 08:11 IST | Suman Mahfuz Quazi | Mumbai

The latest fad diet involves eating foods that purify the kidneys, but experts say it’s not supported by scientific evidence. Doctors and nutritionists debate the kidney cleanse

Most of us are aware of the saying about there being no shortcuts in life; and now might be a good time to start taking the adage seriously.

Piggyback riding on the general brouhaha around conscious eating, scores of unverified articles online and "life coaches" are doling out unsolicited advice on how to live and eat. Information on alluring week-long regimes, drastic diets and eating fads, as such, are ubiquitously available on the Internet, but it is important to take a minute before jumping on the bandwagon with a blindfold over your eyes. And while a five-day juice cleanse might seem like the best way to address months of binge-drinking, the truth is, such regimes - colon cleanse, food restriction and liver detox included - have no credibility. Yet, online shopping portals are buzzing with adverts for Ayurvedic products that promise better health. Among them, supplements designed for a kidney cleanse show up, too.

Abhay Sadre

An emerging trend, kidney cleanses involve following a strict diet, comprising specific foods and herbs, for a short span of time. However, Dr Abhay Sadre, consultant nephrologist at Nephroplus, a Mumbai-based dialysis centre, points out the glaring contradiction here. "The kidneys are organs that clean the body. It makes no sense to clean them," he says, adding, "It is popular now, because of the marketing gimmicks of the companies that want to sell you spurious medicines. It might make patients happy momentarily, but it doesn't work."

To cleanse or not to cleanse

Neha Dhulla
Neha Dhulla

In fact, though wildly popular, detox regimes have so far no empirical or scientific data backing their efficacy. So, then, what is it that's drawing people to them like flies to honey? "Any detox method typically is of a very short duration - either a few days or one to two weeks. Your heart, liver, kidney and other organs will function well and get rid of the toxins naturally if they are fed a well-balanced diet. So, my understanding is that such diets works more psychologically than scientifically," explains Neha Dhulla, manager of clinical practices and nutrition at Dr Muffi's Digestive Health Institute. "It is believed that consuming certain types of liquids, like herbal teas and other foods can help the kidneys cleanse themselves for better functioning. However, since there is little evidence to support this claim, a holistic diet with adequate hydration is more advisable," she adds.

But why or when does one need to start worrying about their kidneys' health? It is frankly hard to tell. Our lifestyles in general could posit a threat to the endocrine system - consumption of processed and ready-to-eat food, excessive sodium intake, not drinking water at regular intervals (which could lead to kidney stones), excessive drinking or smoking, increased red meat consumption and a sedentary life, all could prove to be detrimental to our kidneys. "In India, we are finding an increased use of Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) or painkiller medicine misuse, which can be pursed over the counters. Consumption of these drugs can affect our kidney adversely, too," Dr Sadre elaborates.

Be that as it may, our kidneys play many significant roles in our bodies - from filtering the blood to removing waste products and excess fluids from the body through urine; regulating the fluid and electrolyte balance, which is crucial for maintaining an overall chemical balance, to regulating body temperature and removing toxins and drugs from the system. They also help regulate blood pressure and play an important role in the activation of Vitamin D required for the body.

Why does it matter?

Minal Shah
Minal Shah

So, it is essential that we take care of our kidneys, and if not cleanse it per say, then, follow simple rules that aid them in performing their natural functions better. A simple diet comprising fresh fruits and vegetables in every meal could help. Minal Shah, senior nutrition therapist at Fortis Hospital, Mulund, suggests, "Stay hydrated through the day, include fruits and vegetables in your diet, like grapes and cranberries as they contain antioxidants, and Omega-3 fatty acids through foods like fish, nuts and seeds."

Chandan Chaudhari
Chandan Chaudhari

But what about those who follow vegan, paleo or keto diets? Dr Chandan Chaudhari, consultant nephrologist at Wockhardt Hospitals, Mumbai Central, explains that such diets are designed for weight-loss. Since obesity is anyway counter-productive to good kidney health, those observing these diets are safe. "However, if a person is absolutely fit and healthy, but is unnecessarily following a keto diet, then it may harm their kidneys, too," he cautions. "There is ongoing research in the medical field on the gut-kidney axis, where they are saying that if there are abnormal bacteria in your intestine it may aggravate the possibility of diseases in the kidney. Having a natural diet can help your bacterial flora in the intestines to be in a healthy position and that may indirectly help your kidneys," Dr Chaudhari adds, exemplifying the symbiotic and correlative nature of our bodies, where an anomaly in the heart could impact the lungs.

At the end of the day, it boils down to an informed and comprehensive approach towards one's mental and physical routine, and it is the only route, whether a shortcut or not.

Take care of them

Maintain adequate hydration - water becomes the most important fluid in one's diet. Apart from these, include coconut water, buttermilk, lime juice, vegetable juice and fruits in your diet.

Keep your diabetes and blood pressure under control as it helps maintain kidney health. Uncontrolled sugars and disrupted heart function further worsens kidney function.

Ensure your weight is close to your ideal body weight. Being obese can affect the health of your heart and lead to diabetes.

Check on your cholesterol level.

Stay physically active. Including moderate-intensity exercise regularly. It will keep your weight in check and sugars under control.

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