We love those bean-shaped blood filters because they do so much for you!
Though they may not be the most glamorous organs in the body, there are several reasons why you should appreciate your kidneys and the difficult job they do.
Each one about the size of a fist, these bean-shaped urinary system organs sit opposite each other, just below the rib cage, against the back muscles, on the left and right sides of the body.
The kidney’s most important job is filtering blood to remove waste and extra water. Each kidney contains over a million functioning units called nephrons. Nephrons give the kidneys their filtering abilities. Healthy kidneys filter almost a half-a-cup of blood every minute. What is left over after the filtration process is urine which flows from the kidneys to the bladder where it is stored until excretion.
But the kidneys do much more than just filter–they are responsible for several other important functions that help your body maintain a stable balance of chemicals.
Here are five reasons why you should love your kidneys:
1. Fluid and electrolyte regulation
The kidneys regulate water excretion. These organs directly control the volume of fluids in the body by controlling the amount of water excreted into urine. The kidneys can conserve water in the body by producing urine that is concentrated or they can rid the body of excess water by producing urine that is diluted, depending on the need in blood plasma.
Kidneys also regulate the osmolarity, or the amount of solute per unit volume, of bodily fluids by balancing the intake and excretion of sodium with the intake and excretion of water. Without this regulation, cells shrink or swell, causing damage to or destroying cellular structure and disrupting normal cellular function.
2. Blood pressure regulation
The kidneys are involved in a somewhat complicated and difficult process which controls blood volume and pressure called the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system.
If you’re interested, you can follow the process in the diagram below:
The enzyme renin (produced in the kidneys) converts angiotensinogen into angiotensin I, which later becomes angiotensin II through an angiotensin-converting enzyme found mainly in the lungs.
Angiotensin II causes blood vessels to contract or constrict, elevating blood pressure.
Angiotensin II also stimulates the adrenal gland to secrete a hormone called aldosterone.
This hormone increases Na+ (sodium), and water reabsorption reduces urine output which increases the circulating blood volume.
The increased blood volume stretches out the heart muscle and causes it to generate more pressure per beat, in turn increases blood pressure!
3. Anemia prevention through red blood cell hormone production
Anemia is a condition in which the body has a lower than normal count of red blood cells. Fewer red blood cells means less oxygen is able to get to tissues and organs which will ultimately prevent them from functioning properly.
Healthy kidneys produce a hormone called erythropoietin. This hormone is responsible for the increased production of red blood cells in bone marrow which then carry oxygen throughout the body, helping deter the development of anemia.
4. Active vitamin D production
Along with erythropoietin, the kidneys produce Vitamin D hormones. Vitamin D is an essential hormone for many bodily functions. Vitamin D can be found in the blood, where it is inactive until it is modified by the kidneys and other tissues. Active Vitamin D absorbs Calcium and promotes healthy bone growth, but it also helps the immune system respond to infection.
5. Control of pH levels
pH is the measure of acidity or alkalinity of water-soluble substances. Your body’s pH levels can be determined by the foods you eat. For example, coffee, eggs, grains, processed foods, and milk are highly acidic foods while most fruits and vegetables, soybeans, seeds, and legumes are alkaline. The kidneys maintain a healthy balance of chemicals that control acid levels by either removing or adjusting the right amounts of acid and buffering agents.
The kidneys aren’t the only organs in our body that perform important functions and work to keep our bodies healthy. Love your body, and do whatever you can to take care of it!
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