WHY KIDNEYS MATTER

The heart may Stop, The brain may sleep but the kidneys never give up. However when the kidneys give up, not even the heart can stand it.

I may have touched on the work of these two bean-shaped organs in our bodies but I will go back to them yet again. I have received diversified questions and I thought if I took you all back to some basic physiology class we may be able to answer these (un)asked questions.

The kidneys are located towards the back of your body.They are on each side on the lower aspect of your ribcage. This is as far as I can make it sound non-medical. We agreed that these articles will not be written in medical jargon,no? Wait,you did not attend that meeting? Surely you had a representative? hehe.

Kidneys contain millions of tiny sieve like cells called nephrons. These small,intricate systems are key in filtering wastes and excess water from the blood.Waste in this case includes in part Urea and Creatinine. Urea is an end product of protein metabolism. It needs to be taken out of the body because excess content interferes with the normal working of the other systems in the body. Actually we get the word ‘urine’ in part from Urea.Creatinine is as a result of muscle breakdown. So, ladies will have less Creatinine in blood than men, got it ?

In addition, the medicines we take need to be removed from the body after they have done what they were meant to do in the body. Majority of these drug metabolites are excreted through the kidneys. #TeamPhoenix, some drugs get converted into inactive forms in the liver and we need to get this ‘inactive’ metabolite out.

Sometimes it is the poisons we ingest in the name of fun. Alcohol is a good example. Alcohol exits the body largely through the kidneys and that explains (albeit vaguely) the numerous trips you take to the washroom after your second beer or so. Imbibe on alcohol and you overload not only the liver but the kidneys too. By and by a hepatorenal syndrome with subsequent kidney failure will be apropos to you.

Kidneys also regulate the amount of salts and electrolytes in the body. We need these salts and electrolytes for muscle coordination, brain cell excitation, heart contraction to highlight but a few of the functions. Kidneys keep these elements within the normal range so that the internal working system of the body stays in some equilibrium.

Potassium is a cation worth mentioning because of its high relevance to renal patients. While normally we evade any catastrophes whether the Potassium in our diet is present or not, renal patients do not afford such a luxury. Kidneys retain and remove potassium from the blood with surgical precision. Too low or too high potassium is enough to cause a cardiac arrhythmia (heart beating abnormally). That explains the stringent dietary Potassium restrictions that renal patients have.

The blood’s PH is neither acidic nor basic and must be maintained within that range of 7.35-7.45. This happens via an acid-base mechanism that primarily is the role of the kidneys. Hormones and blood cells get denatured and destroyed if the PH is altered. This will manifest in various ways.

Kidneys produce an important hormone called Erythropoietin. This hormone stimulates the production of red blood cells in the bone marrow. That is why, when kidney failure sets in, one of the manifestation is anemia which means low blood levels. This hormone is so important that we inject it to the patients on dialysis. Dialysis attempts to replace the functions of the kidneys but this is one function that it can not replace–yet; because who knows the future?

Kidneys also control blood pressure. That means very high or very low blood pressure will have detrimental effects to the kidneys. Note too that high blood pressure can also be as a result of damage to the kidneys from other factors. I hope I have not lost you there.

It automatically follows then that any elevation or decrease in blood pressure is worth looking into. The kidneys play a vital role in activation of vitamin D which we need for strong, healthy bones. Talking of bones, the kidneys maintain Calcium metabolism,a key element in maintaining healthy bones.

In a nut shell, urine is of immense value as it tells us how your kidney health is. Urine is a mixture of excess water, electrolytes, Salts and a horde other waste materials. When other substances like glucose are present in urine, It guides the physician towards a correct diagnosis and management.

I hope these functions are palatable to your non-medical taste buds.

Till next week,cheers.

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