Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Organ Talk: The Kidneys

I realize that some people just know their body is working and are not at all interested in why or how, that's kinda how I feel about my car. I know my car needs gasoline, oil changes and tire rotations but to be honest as long as it gets me safely from point A to point B, the function of the fuel injector has no relevence to me. After all, we simply cannot know every detail of how everything works in this world, right? But maybe if I knew just a little bit more about the individual parts of my car, I would give it better gas or make it last a little longer. Let's table that for now, my car can wait. More importantly I feel like the more I learn about the inner workings of my body, the better I am going to treat it. After all, I have this skin and these organs for the rest of my presence here on Earth and I want my quality of life to be tip top.
Today we are learning about the kidneys. Most people have two kidneys and yes they are shaped like the little red beans, actually the little red beans are shaped like kidneys, but we obviously don't get to see the ones inside unless we are surgeons. The kidneys are about the size of a fist and are located toward our back bone on both sides, right about where our rib cage ends. The main function of the kidney is to remove waste and excess fluid from the body through our urine. Our kidneys are responsible for the delicate balance of chemicals that flow throughout our body. They regulate salt, potassium and acid. The kidney also produces hormones that regulate blood sugar, stimulate red cell production and help with calcium absorption. We are able to function with only one kidney (although not recommended) and people who have kidney disease or renal failure undergo dialysis to mimic the function of the kidney and clean the blood or they get kidney transplants. Three things that can lead to kidney disease are alcoholism, diabetes and high blood pressure. According to the National Association of Kidney Patients, over 20 million Americans have kidney disease. The scary part is that a decline in kidney function can be so gradual that most people don't even realize the damage until its too late.
Ways to keep your kidneys operating in tip-top shape and lower your chances of kidney disease:
-Regular Exercise and Activity. This controls body weight, helps with blood sugar regulation and reduces stress. By doing so, you are dramatically reduces chances of diabetes and keeping blood pressure stable. AND you get the added benefit of looking and feeling better.
-Good Nutrition. Obviously :) This means a balanced diet. People consuming really high amounts of protein can put undue stress on their kidneys. If you are going to consume meat, stick to lean meats and fish. I would prefer you get your protein from legumes, plants, eggs and dairy. Lay off the salt and salty foods, too much sodium takes a toll on kidney function. Up your intake of renal friendly veggies such as red bell peppers, leafy green veggies, garlic and onions. Aim for antioxidant rich fruits such as grapes, cherries, apples, and berries.
-Drink that water. Read my post from yesterday on the importance of drinking water. Your kidneys need it to do their job.
-Cut down on the boozin. Most people think heavy alcohol use mainly affects the liver but too much of Grandpa's cough medicine causes an increase in urinary output, throws off your electrolytes and increases blood pressure, all things that cause the kidneys to go into overtime. Take it easy on the amount and frequency and there is little affect to the kidneys as long as you are hydrating properly.

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