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September 1, 2016 • Nephrology
The web is filled with fad diets claiming quick, easy weight loss and ways (often through purchased products) to rid your body of harmful toxins. Most of these detox and weight loss solutions, however, are based on bad science and myths.
Our filtering organs, i.e. the kidneys and liver, remove toxins from our bodies daily, allowing us to safely eliminate them. Focusing on the kidneys, the way they work is simple:
Kidneys are made up of millions of small filtering units known as nephrons.
These nephrons each are made up of two parts, the glomerulus, and the tubule.
The glomerulus allows fluids and waste products (including toxins) to pass through. Blood cells and large molecules such as proteins are too large to pass through.
Filtered material passes through the tubule, where minerals are sent back to the bloodstream and waste products are removed.
The filtered blood is recirculated into the body. Waste and excess fluids travel to the bladder, where they are then expelled as urine.
When your kidneys are functioning properly, they filter 120 to 150 quarts of blood every day and produce one to two quarts of urine. They prevent waste and excess fluid from building up in cells. They also regulate your levels of electrolytes such as potassium, sodium, and phosphate, which are necessary for proper cell function. Additionally, they keep your blood pressure regulated and help bones stay strong.
High blood pressure and diabetes can cause strain on the kidneys and result in kidney disease. These are the two most common causes of kidney disease. The third most common cause of kidney problems is a condition called glomerulonephritis, in which the filtering units of the kidneys are directly damaged. The cause of glomerulonephritis is not known, but it is theorized that it may be the result of an infection or an inherited condition. Kidney disease can also be the result of damage from abuse of over-the-counter medications or illegal drugs such as opiates.
Loss of kidney function means that the body is not as capable of filtering toxins and waste out of the body. It is also unable to adequately remove excess liquids, which can upset the electrolyte balance in cells. A person who is experiencing kidney failure may have symptoms that include jaundice, weakness, shortness of breath, confusion, and lethargy. When their bodies are unable to remove excess potassium, they may experience cardiac arrhythmia. More than 661,000 Americans have kidney failure. About 468,000 of them are on dialysis.
A person is considered to have total kidney failure when they have lost 90% of kidney function. Dialysis can help remove toxins and excess liquids in people who have temporary impairment of their kidneys or degenerative kidney disease. In some cases, a kidney transplant will be recommended.
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.