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October 20, 2016 | Nephrology
Your kidneys are the superheroes of the human body, filtering 120 to 150 quarts of blood each day to remove toxins, but did you know that they perform other vital functions too?
Most people are born with two kidneys, but many people born with only one kidney or who lose a kidney through illness, accident or donation live long and healthy lives. Even those without functioning kidneys can lead healthy lives with the help of modern medical technology, which takes over many of the kidney’s functions.
Despite their small size – each kidney is only about the size of your fist – your kidneys perform a variety of essential functions. Most notably, kidneys remove dangerous toxins and excess water from your blood and eliminate them through your urine. Kidneys also perform other amazing physiological feats, from regulating the amount of fluid in your body to controlling the salt content of that fluid. Here are three more amazing kidney functions.
Kidneys need constant pressure to strain the blood through tiny filters, known as nephrons. If blood pressure goes too low to filter blood, the kidneys can cause changes that make blood pressure go back up.
Your kidneys influence blood pressure in two ways: by causing blood vessels to narrow and by increasing the amount of blood circulating inside those vessels. Kidneys can produce angiotensin, a protein that constricts blood vessels and signals your body to retain salt and water. Constriction and retention raise your blood pressure by increasing the relative volume of blood inside your veins.
Keeping your kidneys healthy helps you maintain a healthy blood pressure.
Red blood cells carry oxygen to the various tissues and organs of the body, including your kidneys. When your kidneys do not get enough oxygen to do their jobs, they send out a distress call by secreting erythropoietin (EPO), a hormone that tells bone marrow to produce more red blood cells.
Scientists use the term ‘potential of hydrogen,’ or pH, to describe the acidity of a solution. The pH of a solution measures how many hydrogen ions are present. A pH of 7.0 is neutral, which means the solution is neither acid nor alkaline. Healthy human blood has a pH of 7.35 to 7.45, which means it is slightly acidic.
The lower the pH, the higher the acid level. Acidosis is a serious health problem that occurs when pH levels fall and the blood becomes too acidic because it contains an excessive amount of hydrogen ions. Alkalosis occurs when pH levels rise and the blood does not contain enough hydrogen ions to make it acidic. Acidosis can cause rapid breathing, sleepiness, confusion or lethargy, and even shock or death.
Furthermore, bacteria thrive in an acidic environment. Alkalosis can cause weakness and cramps.
The kidneys help regulate pH balance. If blood is too acidic, meaning it contains too many hydrogen ions, the kidneys remove the excess ions. Your kidneys respond to alkalosis by decreasing the elimination of hydrogen ions through urine.
Healthy kidneys maintain proper pH balance, helping you avoid acidosis, alkalosis, and even infections from bacteria that love an acidic environment. These are just some of the functions your kidneys perform every day. To learn more about your kidneys or to discuss a kidney problem, make an appointment with Revere Health. Our nephrologists are trained kidney specialists who work with your primary physician to handle your treatment.
The Live Better Team
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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.