Your kidneys are vital organs, which means you need them to stay happy, healthy and alive. You cannot survive without at least one kidney! In this article, we will go through the most important facts about your kidneys, and then discuss how you can keep them happy and healthy.
What exactly are kidneys?
Kidneys are vital organ shaped like beans, each is about the shape of your hand palm. They are located near the middle of your back (not towards the front, as many people seem to think), one on either side of your spine, just below the ribcage. Each kidney is connected to your bladder by a thin tube which we call a ureter.
And what can they Do?
Your kidneys filter waste and extra fluid (water) out of your blood to create urine, which is what ends up in the toilet. Every day, your kidneys filter about 30 gallons of blood to remove about half a gallon (two quarts) of extra water and waste products. The waste products in your blood come from the food you eat (yes, that means crappy food means more waste!) and the use of your muscles. This waste and extra water make up your urine. Your urine travels to your bladder through your ureters, the thin tubes. Your bladder stores the urine until you are ready to pee. When you urinate, your urine exits your body through your urethra. Your kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra make up what we call the urinary tract.
Your kidneys also do many other jobs that keep your body working the way it should, often without you even noticing. Some of your kidneys’ other jobs include:
- Controlling chemicals and fluid in your body, keeping everything on the same level
- Helping to control your blood pressure throughout the day
- Helping to keep your bones and bone marrow healthy
- Helping you to make red blood cells
When your kidneys don’t work the way they should, they allow waste and water to flow back into your blood stream, essentially poisoning yourself. This causes waste and water to build up in your body, which can cause problems with your heart, lungs, blood and bones. So, it’s super important to keep your kidneys happy!
When you experience kidney failure, and your kidneys stop properly cleaning your blood, your health can deteriorate rapidly. Since most people have two kidneys, both kidneys must be damaged for an actual kidney failure to occur. If only one kidney fails it can be surgically removed, and the remaining kidney may continue to have normal kidney (renal) function. If both your kidneys are injured or diseased, a donor kidney(s) may transplanted.
Kidney failure has many causes, some of the most common causes are:
- Certain medications, like lithium, Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs,
Iodine-containing medications such as those injected for radiology dye studies and Antibiotics like aminoglycosides gentamicin (Garamycin).
- Rhabdomyolysis: In rhabdomyolysis there is significant muscle breakdown in the body, and the damaged muscle fibers clog the filtering system of the kidneys, making it impossible to cleanse your blood.
- Hemolytic uremic syndrome: a condition that results from abnormal destruction of red blood cells.
- Poorly controlled diabetes
- Prostate disease
- Obstruction of the bladder or the ureters
How to keep your kidneys healthy
So, it’s clear your kidneys work hard for you – every day of your life. March is National Kidney Health Awareness Month, so it’s time to do something back for your kidneys! There are a few small habits that can help your kidneys to do their best job possible.
No smoking: Smoking is bad for the blood flow through your organs, including the kidneys. And if you take a medication for high blood pressure, smoking can have a negative effect on those medications. Of course, everyone knows that smoking is bad for you, but it’s especially bad for your kidneys.
Be aware of your water intake: It’s good for your kidneys if you stay hydrated, but don’t overdo it! One way to check is by noticing the color of your pee. If it’s pale yellow or clear, it’s fine. If it’s dark yellow, you might need to drink a bit more water.
Watch your blood pressure: If it’s too high, that can put stress on your kidneys. If you’re not sure what your blood pressure is, your doctor can check it for you when you have a regular check-up.