The kidney is a vital organ for its ability to regulate salt, acid, and potassium and remove excess fluid and waste from the human body. Kidneys are also responsible for producing hormones that regulate blood pressure and the body’s calcium metabolism, generating a form of vitamin D that’s good for bone health, and stimulating red blood cell production, among others. Needless to say, if someone wants to live a healthy life and have no trouble with day-to-day bodily functions like passing waste, it’s paramount for them to take care of their kidneys.
Adults aren’t the only people who have to watch out for their kidney health, however. It’s just as important for youngsters to learn about how their kidneys work, plus what they can do to mitigate the onset of kidney disease. The earlier it’s ingrained in them to take care of their kidneys, the better protected your children will be against kidney-related conditions and their complications.
As a parent, here are five things you can do to promote good kidney health among the youngest members of your family:
Help Them Understand What Their Kidneys Do for Their Bodies
The first thing you should do is to educate your children about how their kidneys function to keep them healthy. It’s important for them to have a good baseline understanding about how this organ works, especially if they’re at risk for chronic kidney disease or hereditary renal disease and if they might anticipate going through dialysis or a kidney transplant for child patients. If they know about what their kidneys are supposed to do when they’re in peak condition, as well as what can endanger them, kids will have an easier time upholding the value of good kidney health for themselves.
Find age-appropriate ways to teach your kids about the basics of kidney health, like through books, articles, or educational media. While older children may be able to grasp these concepts from text alone, younger children would benefit from audio and visual learning aids.
Encourage Them to Exercise
Exercise is one of the best ways to bolster kidney function because it positively affects the way the body processes nutrients and essential fluids, for example by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. Kids who exercise often will be able to do more than protect their kidneys. As a result of their healthy exercise habits, they will also end up strengthening their muscles and boosting their bone health.
Some children may not be as naturally inclined to exercise as others are, and you shouldn’t push your kids to take up a sport or other physical activity just for the sake of it. Instead, see what kinds of activities they find fun and incorporate them into your daily routine. For example, if they like dancing more than running or participating in a team sport, consider enrolling them in a dance class or following Zumba or simple dance practice videos together. As they will learn for themselves, regular exercise of any sort will do a lot to keep their kidneys healthy.
Motivate Them to Eat a Healthy Diet
Diet is another essential component of kidney health, and it can be maintained by drinking plenty of water, eating nutritious food like fruits and vegetables, and consuming enough calories to nourish and sustain a growing body. As much as possible, serve your kids fresh food instead of processed food, season dishes with spices and herbs instead of loading them with salt, and look for healthier alternatives to junk food. Fatty, sugary, and salty foods should be consumed in moderation, as too many of these may tax a child’s kidneys and prevent them from doing their rightful job of balancing salts and minerals in the body.
Take note that “healthy” doesn’t have to mean bland or boring, and there are plenty of delicious foods that you can prepare for your child to entice them to eat healthier. Try serving your kids colourful and appetising foods with varied textures, like fruit and nut mix, air-popped popcorn, and vegetable sticks with low-salt dips.
Don’t Be Remiss in Your Paediatric Appointments
When it comes to specific actions you should take for safeguarding your children’s kidney health, be sure to seek the guidance of a paediatrician. Get your child assessed for any potential risks for kidney disease, and let your paediatrician refer you to a specialist if necessary.
In addition, heed your paediatrician’s advice about matters like giving your child medication for pain relief. An excess of over-the-counter medicines like aspirin may reduce your child’s kidney function as well as compromise their liver. If you have any concerns about medications or other treatments that may affect your child’s kidneys, don’t hesitate to reach out to a paediatrician or paediatric nephrologist.
Set a Good Example for Your Children
Lastly, don’t forget to be a good role model to your kids and make your own kidney health a priority. Both younger and older children learn from the behaviour that’s modelled to them by parents and others in authority. As such, perhaps the best way to convince your children to look after their kidneys and their organs is to practise doing so yourself.
Make an effort to “walk the talk” and live a healthy, balanced lifestyle that benefits you, your partner, and your kids. You are in a great position to ensure that kidney health—as well as other matters concerning physical and mental wellness—are a family affair.
You may be the first to advocate for better kidney health for your kids, but they are in charge of seeing it through and practising it for themselves. Instil the value of good kidney health at an early age by following the suggestions listed above.