Before You Try a Kidney Cleanse

Kidneys aren't the most glamorous organs in the body, but don't let them fool you. These bean-shaped organs perform some powerhouse functions every day.

Located under the rib cage in your lower back, your kidneys clear waste from your body. This is no small task: Every day, your kidneys remove about 2 quarts of excess water and waste products and process about 200 quarts of blood to do it.

Kidneys also release three important hormones: erythropoietin (which stimulates the bone marrow to make red blood cells), renin (which regulates blood pressure), and calcitriol (the active form of vitamin D). Calcitriol also helps maintain calcium for bones and chemical balance in the body.

But do your kidneys need help to function at their best? That's the basic premise of a kidney cleanse.

A slice of lemon and a flower in some tea
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This article will explain what a kidney cleanse is and what it purports to do. "Purports" is the key word, because no scientific evidence exists to support the idea that eating certain foods and taking specific vitamins improves kidney health. Instead, you may wish to take other sensible steps before or even in place of a cleanse.

What Is a Kidney Cleanse?

Kidneys should function just fine if you drink enough water and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. ("Enough" water is generally defined as 13 cups a day for men and 9 cups for women. And "plenty" of servings varies by age.)

In general, kidneys don't require any special "cleaning." But a poor diet, exposure to toxins, and chronic stress can impair kidney health. In this case, a kidney cleanse may appeal to you.

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Click Play to Learn How to Do a Natural Kidney Cleanse

This video has been medically reviewed by Meredith Bull, ND.

A number of products, foods, or specialized diets claim to detoxify the kidneys. The idea is to promote healthy kidneys and prevent kidney stones.

Kidney cleanses are also touted to help keep blood pressure in check, improve how the urinary tract and bladder function, boost immunity, and clear toxins from the body.

But proceed carefully. A kidney cleanse might offer some health benefits, not necessarily related to the kidneys at all. You may even swear that you "feel better."

But there is no scientific evidence that a cleanse improves kidney health or prevents kidney stones and infection.

Proceed Carefully

Loading up on fruits, vegetables, and vitamins certainly can't hurt you. But will it improve your kidney health? The jury is still out.

Kidney cleanses vary in approach. Some of the most common types of kidney cleanses involve:

Herbs

Some ingredients that are claimed to cleanse the kidneys include:

Foods

Some kidney cleanses emphasize:

  • Beet juice
  • Watermelon
  • Lemon juice
  • Cranberry juice
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Ginger
  • Turmeric

Vitamins

Some proponents recommend incorporating the following vitamins and minerals into a kidney cleanse:

  • Vitamin B2
  • Vitamin B6
  • Magnesium

In many cases, a kidney cleanse will integrate all of these elements.

Possible Concerns

Talk with your healthcare provider if you want to take a truly natural approach to improve your kidney health. Or consider consulting a qualified integrative healthcare professional.

While kidney cleanse proponents may have good intentions, their ideas are not supported by scientific data.

And the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require manufacturers who make kidney cleansing products to prove that their methods are safe and effective.

This stance is consistent with how the FDA treats supplements; it doesn't regulate them, either.

These realities should make it obvious: Consumers must be careful about the products they consume based on the labels they read.

Pregnant or nursing women, children, and people with kidney disease should not undertake a kidney cleanse. Talk with your primary care provider before you take a kidney supplement or undergo a kidney cleanse.

Caring for Your Kidneys

Some methods to improve kidney health are supported by science. You may wish to consider them before trying a kidney cleanse:

  • Avoid smoking and excessive consumption of alcohol and caffeine.
  • Maintain normal blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
  • Keep your cholesterol under control.
  • Drink enough water and other fluids.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.

Although there is no evidence that a kidney cleanse can help prevent kidney stones, you may reduce your risk by drinking enough fluids and cutting back on sodium.

People with a history of kidney stones may want to avoid foods rich in oxalic acid, such as chocolate, okra, sweet potatoes, sesame seeds, greens, nuts, and spinach.

Avoid Rich Foods

One of the easiest steps you can take to prevent kidney stones is to avoid rich foods.

Some research shows that a high intake of calcium through foods may decrease the risk of developing kidney stones, according to the National Kidney Foundation. Ironically, taking calcium in supplement form may do just the opposite: It could increase the risk.

Summary

The goal of a kidney cleanse is to detoxify the kidneys to promote healthy kidneys and prevent kidney stones. Herbs, vitamins and healthy foods often are part of the regimen.

In the end, a kidney cleanse won't hurt you, but there's no evidence that they improve kidney health, either.

General good-for-your-health measures like drinking plenty of water, eating a healthy diet, and managing your blood pressure are the best ways to keep your kidneys functioning well.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can a kidney cleanse harm your kidneys?

    In rare instances, a cleanse that included a large amount of oxalates could cause kidney damage. Leafy greens, legumes, and other vegetables that are extremely beneficial to your health can lead to a condition known as oxalate nephropathy if you have certain underlying issues and you consume more than your body can process. Oxalate nephropathy may be treated, but in some cases, it can lead to end-stage renal disease.

  • How do I get rid of kidney stones naturally?

    If a stone is small, you may be able to pass it without needing any special treatment. Drink plenty of water and take acetaminophen to help manage the pain while your body passes the stone. Acetic acid (which is found in apple cider vinegar) and citrate (found in lemon juice concentrate) have been shown to help prevent kidney stones, but these natural remedies may not help with stones that are already formed. 

  • What is the best drink to flush your kidneys?

    Water is the best thing to drink for healthy kidneys. It’s usually recommended that adults drink eight glasses of water per day. That amount can vary, though, based on your age, health, and physical activity. Especially if you have kidney disease, talk to your healthcare provider about how much water you should take in each day.

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6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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