Kidney Function

Shaped like a kidney bean about the size of your fist, the kidneys have an impressive array of functions.

Even though you have two of them, you can live a perfectly normal life with just one. Functioning like a sieve, the kidneys filter hundreds of gallons of blood every day, cleaning and purifying it for your health. If you did not have kidneys or your kidneys were beginning to fail, the waste, which is normally filtered and excreted from your bladder would build up in your body and become toxic to your health.

Without functioning kidneys, waste must be removed by dialysis or kidney transplant. The waste build-up in the blood comes from normal metabolic functions, such as the breakdown of muscular tissue and ingested food products. Everyone knows when you drink too much water it means more trips to the bathroom. If you are not drinking enough fluids, your urinary output is
restricted. The kidneys work to keep the proper balance of fluid level in the body.

Also, kidneys play a large role in making sure your blood pressure level remains normal by the secretion of an enzyme named renin. If your blood pressure drops, then the kidneys do not receive enough blood. This triggers the release of renin, which causes the blood vessels to contract and thereby increasing the blood pressure. Another function of your kidneys is the production of erythropoietin, a hormone, which signals the bone marrow to produce more red blood cells.

Those are a few of the critical functions performed by this organ, but many other important operations take place in the kidneys. That is one of the reasons your health care provider requests a urine sample for testing. A few areas checked are the BUN (blood urea nitrogen) and creatinine levels. These levels determine how well the kidneys can filter waste from the blood.

Another area tested may be electrolytes. Electrolytes are salts found in the cells of the body. They are potassium, calcium, magnesium, chloride, bicarbonate and phosphate. When these salts are imbalanced, your kidneys work to correct it. If you ingest too much potassium, your kidneys will filter out a large amount, too little and the kidneys excrete only a small amount of potassium.

These are only a few of the jobs assigned to this organ. Help your kidneys out by drinking the proper amount of water every day. The proper amount depends on your lifestyle, where you live and even the current state of your health. However, it is imperative that you drink water every day. This is not just a saying; it is the truth.

This article is for general information only and does not constitute medical advice. Consult with your physician for questions regarding
this topic.

— Written by Betty Tryon