Ayurvedic Diet & Digestion School
Kidney Bladder & Urinary Health
IntroductionWater is one of the most essential components for human life. A person can survive several weeks with no food, but only a few days without water. The body is comprised of roughly 75% water in infancy, but this drops to about 55% by the time you reach old age.
How your body retains water is related to your constitution (prakruti). Vata is cold and dry, often lacking sufficient water. Pitta usually has balanced hydration levels, but can sweat more than others. Pitta's fluids tend to be hot and caustic. Kapha is cold, wet and sluggish, and can actually retain more water than necessary.
People retain excess water for many reasons. The symptoms of holding onto too much fluids include swelling, edema, high blood pressure and fatigue (among others). When your body is lacking water, your mouth, skin and stools will be dry (unless you have diarrhea). You may also experience headaches, dizziness and fatigue. When dehydrated, you can feel more anxious, have poor stamina and also feel fatigued.
To function properly, your body needs the right amount of water and balance of electrolytes. Your plasma (rasa) needs to be adequately thin for good circulation and adequately thick for clotting. In Ayurveda, this all takes place in your body's water management system (ambu vaha srotas).
The Role of the Kidney Bladder UrinaryThe kidneys (vrkka) are the center of the water and urinary management systems. The kidneys filter the blood through millions of nephrons, removing impurities. The kidneys clean the blood, preventing a buildup of excess wastes and fluids. They play an important role in maintaining healthy blood chemistry. The kidneys also contribute to keeping blood pressure stable. They regulate blood pressure by increasing or decreasing urine output. The kidneys also keep electrolyte levels in the blood stable, including sodium, potassium, chloride, bicarbonate, and others.
The final product after the process of filtration in the kidneys is urine (mutra), a waste product which then flows through the ureter into the bladder (basti). The bladder remains relaxed until it fills to a certain capacity. The pressure of an almost full bladder sends a nervous signal to the brain to remind you to go to the bathroom.
The Ayurvedic ApproachThe Ayurvedic approach to urinary tract disorders starts with assessment of the amount of water in the body, whether it is excess or deficient.
Next, the Ayurvedic treatment of disorders of the urinary system examines the level of digestive toxins (ama) in the body. The kidney must filter toxins. Too many toxins leads to excess urine production, causing dehydration. Toxins circulating in the bloodstream place undue stress on the kidney as well. These can irritate and damage the kidneys or lead to infection in the urinary system.
Next, the cause of water retention or dehydration is examined.
Finally, overall kidney health should be examined. Kidneys degenerate and weaken with age and exposure to irritants. If a person is exposed to poisons, this can damage the sensitive nephrons of the kidney. A person who takes too many herbs, supplements, or pharmaceuticals can damage their kidneys. Exposure to cold climates, as well as experiencing ongoing stress, tension and fear can weaken the kidneys.
Common Kidney & Urinary Tract Ailments
Water Retention, EdemaWater is retained for many reasons. Your kidneys may simply lack the umphh to extract water from the vessels. Your blood chemistry may be too rich, making it harder for your kidneys to produce urine. Or, you may have poor circulation, which causes fluids to collect in the body, never reaching the kidney.
The cause of rich blood is rich, heavy foods, too much sodium, or poor circulation. Foods with lots of carbs, sugar, fats, and proteins enrich the blood plasma, creating thicker blood. Thick blood lowers osmotic pressure, as does salt, making it harder for your kidneys to filter the blood. Thick blood is harder to circulate, making it hard for your body circulate excess fluids to the kidney for removal. Swelling, edema and water retention can be the result of this.
It's important to remove the cause first. In this case, the cause is often a rich diet of Kapha provoking foods. Introduce foods with bitter taste to clear oiliness from the blood. Light foods can help thin the blood again. Diuretics like dandelion leaves, asparagus,celery, parsley, and barley expel the retained water. Liver & Lymph cleanse tea can be used to thin the blood and promote better circulation.
DehydrationSimilarly, water deficiencies may originate from many causes, such as leaky kidneys. Leaky kidneys have trouble re-absorbing fluids after filtration, so urine output is too much. You may have heard that high sodium levels encourage water retention. Similarly, low sodium diets can cause loss of fluids.
Dehydration may be caused by sweating (sveda vaha srotas) and loose bowel movements. In Ayurveda, sweating is akin to bleeding, as the fluids you lose have vital minerals and electrolytes in them. While sweating can be healthy for cleansing, Vata individuals should be cautious of the depletion that results from sweating. Chronically soft stools also lead to electrolyte depletion and loss of vitality, immunity and strength (ojas). Diarrhea can quickly lead to severe dehydration and is the leading cause of death worldwide, especially in developing nations.
Many foods are diuretic in nature, and these may cause fluid loss. Many pharmaceuticals are diuretics. Stress, toxins in the blood (ama), or cold temperatures can have a diuretic effect. FInally, a person may be dehydrated simply because they're not drinking enough fluids. It can also be due to kidney damage that causes too much urination and is associated with age related degeneration, diabetes and exposure to toxins.
When there is dehydration, avoid all Vata provoking foods which will dry the body and thin the blood further. Instead, eat a richer diet to thicken the blood if dehydration is secondary to deficiency and low weight.
Sip hot, salty broth throughout the day, or make a homemade electrolyte balancing drink such as limeade with sugar, salt & pepper. If you urinate too much, these fluids will not only hydrate you but replace electrolytes lost through excessive urination. A soothing anti-diuretic such as licorice root or sea buckthorn can help you stay hydrated. Don't forget that parsley, asparagus, celery, alcohol, caffeinated beverages and many other foods are diuretics. These dry out the body and excessive consumption can lead to dehydration.
Keep warm, as cold temperatures makes a person pee. Stress also leads to diuresis.
Avoid foods that contain kidney irritants such as oxalic acid and potassium, found in foods such as spinach, beet greens and rhubarb. Fortunately, oxalic acid is easily destroyed by cooking.
Urinary Tract Infection UTIAyurvedically, UTIs are mainly caused by ama irritating the urinary system. It can also be aggravated by an excess of sweet tasting foods which increase Kapha. Incomplete emptying of bladder such as in pregnancy can also cause of UTI. UTI's are a serious condition and can be deadly if not treated medically, so be sure to contact a qualified medical doctor.
Ayurvedically, there are a number of approaches you can take to minimize your risk of contracting a UTI. The first step is to flush the urinary tract by drinking enough fluids. Avoid overly sugary foods which can sweeten urine and feed infections. Avoid urinary tract irritants, including all Pitta provoking foods, including anything that is hot, spicy, sour or fermented.
CCF tea can help to flush excess Pitta heat and Kapha through urinary system as it is a cooling diuretic. It also helps clear ama from the digestive and urinary systems. Manjistha, another cold diuretic, are used in certain cases to reduce inflammation in urinary tract. Antimicrobials such as uva ursi, cranberry and neem are used to clear inflammation and infection in the urinary tract. Please check with your doctor before changing your health & wellness plan.
Vidanga is a blood purifier and antimicrobial that helps fight infection and clear ama from the urinary system. It also treat the cause of ama by suppressing bacterial activity in the GI tract, reducing gas and bloating.
Kidney Bladder Urinary Tonics
VataTo tone and rejuvenate a Vata urinary system, hydration is key, as is preventing unnecessary loss of fluids from the body. Vatas can prevent diuresis (excessive urination) with a hydrating tonic likelicorice root. Licorice is also an adrenal tonic that benefits the kidneys. Sea buckthorn can help relieve pain in the urinary system and support healthy functioning of the bladder. Prevent and clear toxins (ama) accumulation in the colon with haritaki, as ama acts as a diuretic. Or, simply have a glass of warm water with a squeeze of lemon and pinch of mineral salt to pacify Vata, increase hydration and reduce bloating.
PittaPitta types are likely to experience too much heat and inflammation in the urinary tract. Aloe is a cooling tonic for Pitta. It reduces excess Pitta heat, ama and is anti-inflammatory. To ensure lasting health in a Pitta's urinary system, the blood and liver may be nourished and cleansed with guduchi which also works as a rejuvenative. Manjistha can be used to clear recurring Pitta infections in the urinary system, purify the blood and reduce the accumulation of kidney stones. Amalaki is considered to be the number one rejuvenative for Pitta and can be used as a general tonic as it benefits all tissues.
KaphaKapha types are most likely to retain water and often require diuretics to expel excess water weight through the urinary system. Punarnava is useful for balancing water levels in the body. It improves impaired urinary function and can assist the body to flush excess water and reduce swelling and edema. Kaphas may also benefit from a tonic such as bibhitaki that can reduce cloudy urine and help clear Kapha accumulations such as kidney and bladder stones. Shilajit is another urinary tonic that benefits Kapha in particular, clearing stagnation, reducing painful urination and incontinence.
ConclusionThe water system is an integral one to keep in balance. Lack of water leaves you feeling depleted and defeated. Too much water and you feel congested and stagnated. But when water is in balance, you feel stable, happy and strong.
Ayurveda offers many solutions to reduce an aggravation in the urinary system and focuses on the root cause of an imbalance. Ayurveda recognizes the importance of this system, promotes ongoing care and the option of rejuvenative tonics to ensure strength and vitality in the urinary system over time.
Find Ayurvedic health tips In these main areas:Urine
Pharmacological Actions Affecting Kidney Bladder Urinary