The focus of most of our health consciousness is localized around taking care of the heart. Though the heart supplies the “vital” blood to all extremities of the body, the quality of blood, on which all life functions depend, is ministered by two, small, fist-sized biological wonders, the kidneys.
Located near the middle of your back, just below the rib cage, these sophisticated trash collectors are natural blood filters that intelligently balance out body salts and acids, snare toxins, and dispose them off via the urinary tract. The kidneys filter blood 12 times/hr, 200 quarts/day, expelling around 1-2 quarts/day of urine as waste. Most of us are only aware of the miraculous “filtering” ability of these unsung heroes, but what they contribute through secretion of critical hormones and enzymes, influences our morbidity immensely. These master chemists of the body intervene in many processes, and influence critical functions like blood pressure stabilization (via hormone Renin), internal water and mineral balance, red blood cells’ formation (via hormone Erythropoietin), bone development (via active Vitamin D), etc., which rely a lot on the optimum health and performance of the kidneys.
HOW DO THEY DO IT?
Blood enters the kidney through the renal artery, passes through a number of tubules (tiny tubes) into the medulla, a central collecting region. The glomeruli and tubules together make up nephrons, each kidney having up to 1 million of these long and extremely fine tubes. The process of waste creation and elimination can be best described as:
- the digestive system synthesizes food and drinks into nutrients,
- the colon handles the solid waste while the nutrients seep into our blood,
- the body functions, needed to nourish, repair and maintain, consume these nutrients,
- the waste nutrients or byproducts of these functions, then get filtered by the kidneys and are expelled as urine,
- the amount of chemicals like sodium, phosphorus, and potassium is maintained by measured absorption/filtering.
The “cleansed” blood is now made available to the body through the renal vein.
ARE YOUR KIDNEYS IN TROUBLE?
Sadly kidney disease doesn’t express into a lot of visible symptoms and can reveal itself fatally. A few subtle pointers do require our attention:
- Anemia: Kidneys release a hormone called erythropoietin (EPO) instructing your bone marrow to produce red blood cells (RBCs). Poorly functioning kidneys fail to trigger this mechanism leading to symptoms of anemia: muscle weakness; shortness of breath; pale skin, gums, and fingernail beds; dizziness; feeling cold more than others; disillusioned; erectile dysfunction in men; menstrual disturbances in women.
- Edema (Swelling): Failure of kidneys to remove excess water leads to swelling and water retention in ankles, face, and/or hands, lungs, etc.
- Infrequent Urination: Some of the signs of kidney problems: Too much of too less trips to the restroom; lower quantity than normal of urine; Foamy or bubbly urine; urine darkening or blood traces in urine; extra effort to start/maintain urination.
- Uremia (Toxins buildup): Lack of kidney’s waste disposal function leads to: skin rashes; itching; nausea and vomiting; loss of appetite; Metallic taste in the mouth; Bad breath; Weight loss.
- Back or Flank (Side) Pain: Polycystic kidney disease or any infection of the kidney manifests in back pain.