Just like your favorite water bottle with the filtering cap, your kidneys separate the good substances in your body's fluids from those that might harm you. March is National Kidney Month so it's the perfect time to learn more about these often-misunderstood organs.
What are your kidneys?
Your kidneys sit on each side of the spine underneath the rib cage and look like two bean-shaped organs, each the size of a human fist. These organs are important not only as filters, but also for balancing the body's natural acid, potassium, and salt contents.
Kidneys filter waste and toxins out of the blood. They are responsible for taking waste out of other fluids in the body as well. Because they filter fluids, they also balance them. As they are filtering, kidneys release hormones into the body that are responsible for regulating blood pressure as well as controlling and stimulating the number of red blood cells that are produced. The process naturally creates Vitamin D and hormones that affect the function of other organs in the body.
Finally, the kidneys help to regulate other chemicals as they are being produced in the body. Because of this, these organs should be well-taken care of and monitored on a routine basis to ensure protection against diseases and other ailments.
How do the kidneys work?
Kidneys take between 120 to 150 quarts of blood and produce nearly 2 quarts of urine and waste daily. As natural filters, waste and urine that pass through the kidneys go into the bladder through the ureters. During this process, the muscles that surround the bladder gradually relax allowing the urine to fill the bladder. Once full, the bladder sends signals that it is time to release the urine from the body.
Your kidneys are one of the most complicated systems in your body. Millions of small filters, or units called nephrons, each filled with a small amount of blood make up your kidneys. Healthy kidneys will filter out urine, wastes, and other harmful toxins through these units while at the same time, the units will retain healthy blood cells, vitamins, minerals, and other important proteins. Without acceptable care of the kidneys by drinking enough water and a maintaining a healthy diet, the kidneys can easily cause problems for the entire body.
What is kidney disease?
Although they are responsible for and do so many things in the body, when kidneys are unhealthy, it can often go undetected. Kidney disease has been found to often have no symptoms although it is a common illness in nearly one out of every three American adults. Those who have a higher risk for kidney disease often have high blood pressure, diabetes, or have a history of the disease in their family.
Because it can go undetected for a long period of time, kidney disease can easily turn into chronic kidney disease, which is a condition in which the kidneys slowly stop functioning. As the kidneys slowly stop being able to perform their usual tasks, several things happen.
First, waste and toxins get into the blood system. Second, the body can begin to lose crucial vitamins and minerals as they kidneys stop losing the ability to separate the good from the bad. Third, the kidneys no longer regulate the red blood cells, and fourth, other organs in the body become affected by the slow decline which could lead to fatality. Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death for those who have kidney disease, but especially those with chronic kidney disease.
How can I keep my kidneys healthy?
You can accomplish keeping your kidneys healthy and preventing disease by paying attention to these six steps.
- The first step is to know and understand what your kidneys do in the normal functions of the body as well as what kind of diseases or problems can be caused by kidney disease.
- The second step is to determine if you are at risk for any type of kidney disease. Those who have cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, or a history of kidney disease are more at risk.
- The third step is to be able to recognize what symptoms might be a sign of kidney disease such as any pain, discoloration or unusual form of urine/urination, an unusual increase in the need to urinate, being overly tired and weak, and having puffy or swollen ankles, abdomen, eyes, face, or feet.
- Step four is to seek out a professional and immediately get screening for potential threats.
- Step five is to stay healthy by eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of daily exercises, and drinking enough water.
- The final step is to stay informed about your kidneys, the health of your kidneys, and any risks that you might have.