Kidney Function: Keeping the Body Healthy

Each of us has two kidneys. Although they seem small and only represent less than five-tenths of one percent of a human’s body weight, they are complex, specialized organs with a great responsibility. Knowing the ins and outs of your kidneys may convince you just how important it is to keep them healthy. This page will discuss kidney function and their important role in keeping us healthy.


The Ins and Outs of Kidneys

Kidneys are shaped like small beans, which are no bigger than your fist. They are located on either side of our backbone under the ribcage. First, the blood comes into the kidney through the renal artery and leaves in the renal vein, traveling on the same flow as blood that goes in and out of the heart.

Filtering the blood is the responsibility of about one million nephrons located in each kidney. These serve as the primary tool behind your kidney function. Nephrons use a glomerulus and a tubule to conduct the filtering process. What this system determines as waste gets flushed out of the kidneys in the form of urine along with extra water that the body does not need. Waste products are produced from food and fluid intake as well as normal tissue breakdown after the body has used what it needs for nutritional balance, energy, and self-repair. This process of food and tissue breakdown is known as your metabolism.

The urine travels through tubes called ureters into the bladder. It is here in the bladder where urine is stored until it is excreted out when you go to the bathroom. Normal kidney function produces one liter of urine from approximately 1,000 liters of blood that is processed by these two tiny organs.


Life Sustainers: Kidney Function

Kidney function is vital for life. Their true value becomes obvious to a person whose kidney function is lost. If both kidneys fail and can no longer purify your blood, the result is deadly. Even survival on one kidney is difficult and requires the use of dialysis. This is because the waste products would build up in the blood, raising toxicity. This poisonous imbalance can lead to severe organ damage and even death. Kidney function can also be disrupted by the appearance of kidney stones.

As a life sustainer, kidney function involves receiving, cleaning and chemically balancing 20-25% of the blood that is pumped by the heart. That equates to 1200milliliters of blood per minute. The kidneys are able to separate the useful substances from the harmful by-products, such as urea and creatinine. It is up to kidney function to maintain the right levels of certain chemicals in the blood that are necessary for a body to operate at its optimum. These vital chemicals include potassium, sodium, phosphorus, calcium, bicarbonate, magnesium and chloride.

Working with the skin and the respiratory system, another kidney function is to balance the amount of water in the body. Excess amounts of fluid are removed as determined by the kidneys.


Additional Kidney Function: Hormone Creation

As another kidney function, hormone production is also very important to a body’s healthy balance. There are three hormones made by the kidneys. These include:

  • Renin is responsible for keeping blood pressure in check.
  • Erythropoietin controls a body’s volume of blood. When the level drops below what is considered acceptable, this hormone springs into action and sends a message to your bone marrow to make more red blood cells.
  • Calcitriol helps maintain the necessary amount of calcium by helping to absorb this element from food and fluid intake. This hormone’s primary purpose is to create a normal chemical balance as well as to keep bones strong.

You can use this resource page if you’re wondering about interpreting your kidney stone function test.

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