Hydrate for Healthy Kidneys: How Flying Affects Your Renal Health

Ever wondered if flying could have an impact on your kidneys? It’s a question many travelers ask, especially those with kidney-related health concerns. The truth is, flying can indeed affect your kidneys, but the extent and nature of this impact may surprise you.

At high altitudes, your body goes through various changes to adapt to the reduced oxygen levels. These changes can have a direct or indirect effect on your kidneys. Understanding these effects is crucial, especially if you’re a frequent flyer or have pre-existing kidney conditions.

So, let’s delve into the science behind it and find out how exactly flying can affect your kidneys. This knowledge could help you make informed decisions about your travel plans, ensuring that you take care of your health while still enjoying your trips.

Key Takeaways

  • Flying at high altitudes impacts how our body functions due to reduced oxygen levels, causing the body to increase heart rate and blood pressure to maintain the oxygen supply to organs, including kidneys.
  • Continuous exposure to high altitudes may lead to a condition called polycythemia – an overproduction of red blood cells, which strains kidneys due to the increased blood viscosity.
  • Dehydration, a common issue at high altitudes, may lead to a decline in kidney function, emphasizing the importance of staying well-hydrated.
  • High-altitude exposure could stimulate the production of a hormone called erythropoietin that promotes the formation of red blood cells. This hormone is produced by the kidneys and could be a positive effect of flying.
  • Preventing dehydration during flights involves adequate water intake before, during, and after the flight. Dehydration could lead to conditions like kidney stones.
  • Light in-flight exercises and opting for water-rich foods can aid in maintaining proper hydration and promoting fluid movement, benefiting kidney health. Avoid diuretic beverages like alcohol and caffeine to prevent additional water loss.

The impact of flying on renal health, particularly regarding hydration and kidney function, necessitates careful consideration for travelers. Research published on NCBI highlights the dehydration risks associated with long-haul flights and its potential effects on renal health. For chronic kidney disease patients, understanding the importance of hydration is further emphasized by Karger’s comprehensive review, which examines the effects of hydration on kidney health. Additionally, NCBI’s study on oxidative stress in kidneys during space travel extends this understanding to even more extreme conditions, underscoring the critical role of hydration in maintaining renal health in varying environments.

Understanding the Impact of Altitude on Kidneys

The altitude at which you fly significantly impacts how your body, including your kidneys, functions. High altitudes generally mean reduced oxygen levels, an aspect that presents various changes in your body as it tries to adapt to the new environment.

When you’re at high altitudes, your body responds to the low oxygen levels by increasing your heart rate and blood pressure. These adaptations assist in providing essential oxygen to various body parts including the kidneys. Nevertheless, continuous exposure to high altitude climates could lead to the overproduction of red blood cells in your body. This condition, known as polycythemia, works in favour of better oxygen transport but might present complications for your kidneys.

Polycythemia exerts pressure on your kidneys due to the increased blood viscosity – a situation that might strain your kidneys over time. This strain could lead to kidney damage or worsening of already existing kidney conditions.

In addition to the changes in your bodily functions, dehydration is an additional challenge that comes with flying at high altitudes. Airplanes are usually pressurized and often have low humidity leading to higher water loss. Significant dehydration might result in the decline of kidney function, stressing the importance of proper hydration.

However, not all high altitude impacts on the kidneys are negative. Interestingly, research has suggested that high-altitude exposure can stimulate the production of a hormone called erythropoietin, a kidney-produced hormone that aids in the formation of red blood cells.

So now that you’re armed with this information, you can take proactive steps to safeguard your renal health when flying. Remember to hydrate adequately before, during, and after your flights to mitigate the negative impacts on your kidneys. This knowledge is power – helping you maintain good kidney health while still being able to enjoy your travels.

Changes in Blood Circulation and Kidney Function

Navigating the skies isn’t all about admiring the beautiful clouds up close. Once you’re airborne, your body starts to respond to the shift in altitude, and that includes your blood circulation and kidney function.

At sea level, your body operates at peak efficiency. However, up there in the stratosphere, your body encounters significant stressors, mainly the reduced oxygen levels. Your body compensates for this depletion by increasing your heart rate and blood pressure. This reaction is a measure to ensure that your organs, including your kidneys, receive the oxygen they need.

However, bear in mind that this increased blood flow isn’t a permanent solution. While this helps deliver much-needed oxygen to your body parts, chronic exposure to high altitudes can steer your system towards polycythemia, a condition characterized by excess red blood cell production. This adaptation can strain your kidneys, as they work overtime to filtrate the surplus blood cells.

Altitude symptoms don’t end with increased heart rates and polycythemia. Dehydration is another common issue caused by the arid air at high altitudes. You’ll probably notice a parched feeling on your flights. Dehydration could lead to reduced kidney function, making it essential for you to stay properly hydrated during your trips.

Staying hydrated isn’t just about comfort – it’s about giving your kidneys the best possible environment for them to function efficiently. Drink plenty of fluids, particularly water, before and during your flights.

Yet, it isn’t all turbulence and low pressure for your kidneys due to higher altitudes. This environment can also foster positive changes. For instance, it stimulates the production of erythropoietin, a hormone which aids in the formation of red blood cells.

By understanding these varying effects on your kidneys, you’ll be better able to protect your health during your travels.

Dehydration Risks During Air Travel

Despite the often complimentary beverage service, staying adequately hydrated during flights isn’t always a walk in the park. The confined, dry cabin air, combined with the often sugary or caffeinated choices available, can push you toward dehydration without you even realizing it.

As your flight ascends, the pressure and humidity inside the plane drop dramatically. This causes your body to lose water more quickly than it would at sea level. In fact, the American Society of Travel Agents reports that passengers can lose up to 8% of body water on a 10-hour flight. This is almost as much fluid loss as you’d experience during a good bout of stomach flu.

Amount of water loss
10-hour flightUp to 8% of body water
Stomach fluComparable to flight loss

Pay attention here: Dehydration isn’t just uncomfortable. It threatens kidney function because your kidneys depend on a consistent flow of befitting fluid levels to remove waste products from your blood. If you’re not filling up on fluids, your kidneys need to work harder and longer to do their job. Over time, this strains them and can lead to conditions such as kidney stones.

Luckily, warding off dehydration on your flight isn’t complicated. Some of the steps to follow:

  • Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your flight.
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and sugary drinks, which can all lead to further dehydration.
  • Consider bringing a refillable water bottle and filling it up after you pass through security.

Note: Airlines often provide water on request, even if it’s not during a scheduled service time. Don’t hesitate to ask for it.

Remember, the goal isn’t just to quench your thirst. It’s to maintain your overall health, including your kidney function, as you navigate the clouds.

Tips to Protect Your Kidneys While Flying

One major factor in protecting your kidneys while flying is hydration. As emphasized earlier in this article, flying can cause significant fluid loss, which in turn, imposes stress on your kidneys. Therefore, hydrating is not just vital for quenching your thirst, but it also plays an indispensable role in preventing kidney-related complications.

Firstly, ensure you’re hydrated even before boarding the plane. Start drinking ample amounts of water at least a couple of hours before the flight. You’ll be entering a low-humidity environment in the cabin, and your body should be equipped to tackle that.

The role of maintaining hydration does not just end there. You need to continue drinking water throughout the flight. To promote this habit, carry a refillable water bottle with you. Some airlines offer in-flight water refilling services, or you can fill it up after passing through security checks. Remember, it’s not about guzzling gallons at once, but maintaining regular, steady intake.

While water is your best friend in this situation, alcohol and caffeine are not. These beverages are diuretics that can cause frequent urination, leading to even more water loss. So it’s better to keep your hands off these drinks as much as possible.

Inflight gentle exercises are also a lesser-known yet effective method to keep kidneys healthy. It not only aids in better blood circulation but also promotes fluid movement in your body. Try leg lifts, ankle circles, or simply walking up and down the aisle when safe. Stay active to keep fluids flowing!

Your food choices can also contribute to managing dehydration. Opt for water-rich foods like fruits, salads, or veggies while onboard. These not only keep you full but add to your hydration levels.

In essence, mindful behaviors surrounding your hydration, diet, and physical activity can aid in protecting your kidneys while flying.


So, you’ve got the power to protect your kidneys while flying. Staying hydrated is key, and it’s not just about drinking water during the flight. Start your hydration process even before you board. Skip the alcohol and caffeine, as they’re not your kidneys’ best friends. Don’t forget, exercise isn’t just for the gym. In-flight exercises like leg lifts can be a real game changer. And remember, your diet can also play a part. Opt for water-rich foods to help maintain hydration levels. With these tips in mind, you can make your next flight a healthier one for your kidneys. Safe travels!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the main focus of the article?

The article primarily focuses on promoting kidney health during flights, emphasizing the role of proper hydration in protecting the kidneys against possible stressors.

Why is hydration important during flights?

Hydration is crucial during flights to prevent dehydration, a condition that can potentially stress and harm the kidneys.

When should hydration start for a flight?

Hydration should start even before boarding. It’s important to drink plenty of water pre-flight and continue to hydrate throughout the journey.

What should be avoided during flights for proper hydration?

To maintain hydration levels during flights, it is advised to avoid drinks that dehydrate your body like alcohol and caffeine.

How can physical activity benefit during flights?

In-flight exercises, such as leg lifts, can help maintain hydration levels and promote kidney health.

What are the diet considerations while flying?

Choosing water-rich foods can help maintain hydration and support kidney health during flights.