The King slid along the Malibu Canyon forest floor, under and over, composting leaves. It began winding up a vine twined around an oak tree.

“Annie, walk straight towards me, don’t stop, don’t look left or right. Just keep walking to me.”

LJ slowly backed down the path as he kept his eyes on the snake, which had paused at Annie’s shoulder. “If she brushes the vine, he might bite,” he thought.

Annie calmly moved to LJ and followed him as he continued to back down the path. They cleared the shadow of the tree and stepped into the sunlight.

He hugged her, “there was a snake on the vine you were walking past.”

“Could you tell what kind?”

“It had red, white, and black rings, probably a scarlet king snake. They are not poisonous, but their bite is painful and causes swelling.”

“The last king snake I saw was by our house not long ago. It was at least five feet long, huge! Why are they called King snakes?”

“Because they are the predators of other snakes,” said LJ as he paused to drink water. They also eat lizards, rodents, birds, and eggs.”

“Well, thanks for saving my life; how about I return the favor and feed you a delicious lunch?”

“I was hoping you’d say that. A three-mile hike up the canyon and now down has made me hungry. Let’s get to a flat area and look for a shade tree to spread our blanket. What’s for lunch?”

I brought orange juice spritzers because it is beneficial for keeping your kidneys healthy. When we’re exercising like now, it’s essential to stay hydrated, and it’s also important to keep our kidneys flushed.

“Why the focus on kidney health?”

Annie paused and handed him the water bottle filled with the orange drink. “The primary function of our kidneys is to flush out waste and toxins from our body. Kidneys help maintain body fluids, release hormones that regulate blood pressure and produce a form of vitamin D that stimulates strong and healthy bones. Approximately 10% of the population worldwide has chronic kidney disease (CKD). More than 1 in 7 adults in the US, about 37 million people, have CKD. Kidney disease is also tied to diabetes, in that 10-40% of adults with Type 2 diabetes will eventually experience kidney failure. Keeping our kidneys healthy means they can function optimally to absorb beneficial nutrients, convert food to energy, reduce the risk of bladder infections and kidney stones, and mitigate acne, eczema, and rashes. Several foods support kidney health: oranges are one due to their citric acid, which has alkalizing properties. Eat an orange or drink 100% pure orange juice to get its full nutritional benefits.

Citric acid thwarts stone formation. Grapefruit, lemons, and limes are also high in citric acid, so drinking sugar-free citrus juices helps; however, drinking plenty of water is one of the most significant ways to maintain healthy kidneys, along with dietary changes such as cutting down sodium and animal protein.

Since our kidneys process everything we ingest, it’s important not to over-use certain medications like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs) medication like ibuprofen and naproxen.

“I’m glad you mentioned that. I have a couple of friends who have been using nighttime medication meant for temporary cold and flu relief for years to help them sleep.”

“That is alarming because prolonged use of NSAIDs can damage your kidneys. Herbal supplements should also be used cautiously. The FDA does not regulate them, so even if it seems taking them is a good idea unless your doctor has signed off on their use, you should probably skip them.

LJ grabbed Annie’s hand. “Let’s pick up the pace; I’m getting hungry.”

“How perfect because exercise is another way to maintain kidney health. A blistering run isn’t necessary, but a brisk walk 30 minutes a day at least 5 days a week is good for overall health and well-being,” said Annie as she suddenly took off running.

LJ laughed and followed her to the picnic grounds. “Let’s grab this spot. I am starving!”

“Good. I made a nutrient-dense Power Bowl with Orange-Ginger Vinaigrette. The vinaigrette is made with tamari soy sauce that has much less sodium than regular soy sauce. Too much salt can harm the kidneys. Your body expels excess water by filtering your blood through your kidneys. This requires a balance of sodium and potassium to pull the water from the bloodstream into a collecting channel in the kidney. Too much salt alters this balance, stressing the kidney and reducing its function resulting in high blood pressure.”

“Good to know,” LJ said as he spread the blanket and unpacked his backpack. “Looks like I brought dessert?”

“Yes, it is a Naturally Sweetened Balsamic Berries dish. The strawberries and blueberries are a source of phytonutrients called anthocyanins, which combat inflammation and promote renal and kidney health.”

“What’s that saying, an apple a day keeps the doctor away? When it comes to kidneys, an orange a day keeps the stones away,” said LJ.


Annie and LJ are a fictional couple. Their storyline promotes healthy eating and earth-friendly practices.


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