grilled striploin steak
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Too Much Protein

Protein is essential to a healthy diet. But if your kidneys don’t work normally, eating too much of it can overtax them. Check with your doctor.  You may need to eat small portions of different types of protein. Eggs, fish, beans, and nuts are all good sources.

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man hand reaching for salt
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In some people, too much salt can raise blood pressure and speed up kidney damage. It also may lead to kidney stones, which can cause nausea, severe pain, and trouble peeing.

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woman smoking a cigarette
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Not only can it worsen high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes -- the two leading causes of kidney disease -- but it can interfere with medicines used to treat them. It also slows blood flow to the kidneys and can cause kidney problems in people who already have kidney disease. 

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young man drinking beer
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Heavy chronic drinkers may increase their risk of chronic kidney disease. But a single binge session (more than four or five drinks in less than 2 hours) can sometimes cause “acute kidney injury.” That can lead to severe kidney damage, and you might need dialysis -- during which a machine helps to do part of your kidneys’ work. One problem, though, is that dialysis is typically a rare option for binge drinkers..

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mature couple eating in a restaurant
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If you drink two or more diet sodas a day, you may be more likely to get kidney disease. In one study, diet soda-drinking women had kidneys that worked 30% less well after 20 years compared with other women. Sugar-sweetened drinks did not have the same effect.

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sweating young man with towel
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Your kidneys need water to work properly. Not getting enough -- especially if that happens often -- can cause kidney damage. How can you tell if you’re drinking what you need? Your pee should be light yellow.

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ibuprofen pills
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Pain Medication

Taken regularly, large amounts of over-the-counter pain medications -- acetaminophen, aspirin, naproxen and ibuprofen -- or the prescription NSAID Celebrex (celecoxib) can damage your kidneys. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to tough it out. Talk to your doctor about what you’re taking and how much to see if you might need another option.

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cocaine lines and dollar bill
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Illegal Drugs

The use of cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine (not a good idea for a host of reasons) can cause kidney damage in different ways. Some of these drugs can lead to high blood pressure, as well -- one of the leading causes of kidney disease.

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young woman strength training in gym
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Working out too hard for too long can cause rhabdomyolysis,  a condition in which damaged muscle tissue breaks down very fast. This dumps substances into your blood that can hurt your kidneys and make them fail. Don’t overdo it. Build up your workouts gradually – don’t suddenly make them more intense. If you can, avoid working out in high heat and humidity. See your doctor if you have muscle pain and dark-colored pee.

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steroids on tabletop close up
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Bodybuilding Steroids

Some people take anabolic steroids -- drugs that work like the male hormone testosterone -- to get extreme muscles. But they can cause scarring in the parts of your kidneys that filter your blood.  This can make your body parts swell, make you lose protein in your blood, and give you high cholesterol.

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man with heartburn pain close up
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Heartburn Drugs

Drugs called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), which cut down on stomach acid, can cause swelling in your kidneys if you take them for a long time.  Some studies suggest that taking a lot of PPIs can also make you more likely to get long-term kidney disease.  If you’re worried, ask your doctor if another kind of heartburn drug, an H2 blocker, might be better for you.

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doctor examining throat of senior woman
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Strep Throat

When you have this infection, your body makes proteins called antibodies to fight it. Extra ones can settle in the filtering parts of your kidneys and make them inflamed.  It usually doesn’t last long, but the kidney damage may be permanent for some people.   If you think you have strep throat, see your doctor as soon as possible.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 09/11/2020 Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on September 11, 2020


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CDC: “Smoking and Diabetes.”

Mayo Clinic: “High blood pressure (hypertension).”

National Kidney Foundation: “Alcohol and Your Kidneys,” “Say No to That Diet Soda?” ”The Right Diet May Help Prevent Kidney Disease,” “Smoking and Your Health,” “Which Drugs are Harmful to Your Kidneys?” “Acid Reflux and Proton Pump Inhibitors,” “Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis.”

National Institutes of Health: “Carbonated Beverages and Chronic Kidney Disease,” “Mechanisms by Which Dehydration May Lead to Chronic Kidney Disease.”

World Action on Salt & Health: “Salt and the kidneys.”

Journal of the American Society of Nephrology: “Development of Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis after Anabolic Steroid Abuse.”

American Gastroenterological Association: “How to Talk with Patients about PPIs and Chronic Kidney Disease.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Glomerular Diseases.”

The Kidney Fund: “How Can I Prevent Glomerulonephritis?”

The Ochsner Journal: “Rhabdomyolysis: Pathogenesis, Diagnosis, and Treatment.”

U.S. National Library of Medicine PubMed Health: “Rhabdomyolysis.”

Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on September 11, 2020

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.