The kidneys are a pair of organs in the body that excrete urea, and other nitrogenous toxins from the blood, returning clean blood back into the body. They live below the diaphragm, either side of the spine, behind the abdomen.
Most people know that the kidneys perform the function of a filter, but what most people do not realize is that kidneys go beyond this, and are just as important as the lungs or the heart, because they carry out several crucial functions.
The kidneys are cased in fibrous protection, made up of an inner medulla and outer cortex. Nephrons are the primary blood filter agents, after expelling toxins under pressure, they draw in water for re-dispersal around the body.
The first and most important function of the kidneys is to regulate the salt and fluid content of the body.
Sodium and potassium from food must be maintained at a certain level, otherwise they cause harm to the body. Minerals like phosphate and calcium, which are important in bone formation, also need to be regulated and the kidneys maintain the levels in a healthy range.
Kidney By-Products, Vitamins and Hormones
Urea is a waste product produced by the breakdown of protein, while creatinine is by-product of creatine, used by the muscles, which if not removed by the kidneys, can become toxic. The kidneys also release a variety of hormones that carry out different functions.
One type of hormone secreted by the kidneys stimulates the production of red blood cells, while another aids the regulation of blood pressure and calcium metabolism. Kidneys also produce the functional form of vitamin D necessary for healthy bones.
As we age, a little of the kidney function is lost naturally, but if kidney function declines due to disease, it is cause for concern. Different types of kidney problems can cause a reduction in kidney function. Most of these problems affect both kidneys simultaneously.
Kidney Disease Treatment – Timing is Everything!
Nephrons are the tiny filters (about a billion of them in each kidney) which may be damaged thus reducing their ability to filter blood. While this can happen quickly such as in case of poisoning or injury, it typically gets worse, gradually over many years.
There are usually very few or no symptoms to kidney disease, until roughly three quarters of the kidney functions are lost. Early diagnosis is essential in averting the risk of kidney damage or failure.
Chronic kidney disease is when an individual has had lowered kidney function for three or more months, or when they exhibit some abnormal markers like excretion of protein in urine.
There are a number of factors that can bring this on. Some kidney disorders are inherited, while others can be brought on by ailments like diabetes and high blood pressure.
Twenty to thirty per-cent of people with diabetes usually end up developing the kidney disease called diabetic nephropathy, a hugely serious condition that can augment other diabetic problems, like nerve and eye damage while increasing the risk of heart disease.
Glomerulonephritis is the inflammation of the miniature filters known as glomeruli.
It can be brought on suddenly, like after suffering from strep throat. While the individual may get better, glomerulonephritis can develop slowly over many years, which can cause loss of kidney function.
Polycystic kidney is an inherited disease in which cysts form in the kidney and get larger over time. They can cause serious damage and may even lead to kidney failure. Some common over the counter pain killers can also cause serious kidney damage if taken excessively over long periods of time.
Ensuring that the kidneys are in tip-top working order, only involves routine laboratory tests. A urine test can detect kidney damage while a blood test can measure how well the kidneys are functioning.
In healthy kidneys, no albumin (protein) is detected in the urine while the blood test measures glomerular filtration rate (GFR, a measure of the organ’s filtering ability).
A GFR of less than 60 indicates chronic kidney disease while below 15 indicates kidney failure. While chronic kidney disease cannot be cured, if however, it is detected early, further problems can be drastically minimized in most cases.
A GFR of less than 15 will leave the patient feeling tired and weak, they may also experience nausea, vomiting and itchiness. Such patients may require a kidney transplant or have to undergo dialysis.
Why is it Important to Keep Your Kidneys Healthy?
Kidney failure can lead to death.
The only treatment for kidney failure is to have a transplant, but this is not always possible. Finding a matching donor can be a challenge, not to mention the long waiting lists, lifetime of immunosuppressant drugs, and the expense.
While dialysis can remove the harmful wastes and extra water from the body it requires for the patient to go to a hospital to be attached to a dialysis machine a number of times a week for several hours.
This can prove to be exhausting for both the patient and carers.
Keeping the kidneys healthy only requires a little effort coupled with healthy lifestyle choices. Some of these include maintaining a healthy weight, checking blood pressure regularly, limiting alcohol and salt intake, use more fish and chicken while taking red meats in moderation, and not smoking.
A healthy diet should include foods which are high in antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, and phytochemicals. Great sources of these are red peppers, cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, berries, garlic and oily fish, such as salmon.
There are also vitamins and other supplements which can help the kidneys to function normally, which include vitamin B1 (thiamine). The health benefits of benfotiamine far outway thiamine as you know it, and is the best way to get this important nutrient, because it is lipid-soluble, not water soluble.
All these steps minimize the stress on the kidneys and keep them functioning at full potential longer. We hope, by highlighting some of the diseases above, that you are able to now understand why having healthy kidneys is so important.