Healthy Kidneys and the Role of Water
The human body is made to be self-healing. Some say it also "ages," but to me that means we let it wear down by not giving our bodies what they need to thrive. Good health not only makes us feel stronger longer, but it also helps our pocketbooks - saving us money on doctor visits, medications, and health insurance.
Although it doesn't make sense to withhold good health from our bodies, we do it all the time. Indeed, some of us take better care of our vehicles than we do our bodies. Knowing something about how vehicle engines work helps us to pick a good mechanic and also encourages good maintenance practices. Just so, knowing something about how our bodies work can help us choose a good doctor or health practitioner and can certainly help us treat it better. Starting with the role of water in general, this hub will move to the specific way in which water helps clean the blood - our body's transportation system.
Role of Water in the Human Body
The role of water in the human body mimics its role in nature, with its primary contributions being cleaning, transportation, and conduction:
Water washing in and out of cell walls pulls out wastes and puts in nutrients, keeping cells healthy and clean.
Water moves all kinds of nutrients, carriers, warriors, and wastes throughout the body. Water plus its carriers is called blood.
Electrical messages, by which our body communicates with itself, are conducted through the medium of water, which enhances the capacity of the nerves that send them. This is why the brain contains so much water (77%).
Water also keeps our bodies plump and well lubricated. People with too much water bloat up (edema). People with too little grow thin and wrinkled (dehydration). Both conditions either affect or are caused by unhealthy kidneys.
Role of Kidneys in Human Body
The kidneys are the organs responsible for cleaning the body's blood. They have three main functions:
To clean waste products from the blood and get rid of them.
To balance the salts in the body, keeping the makeup of the blood liquid - similar to that of the ocean (from whence we originated) - and equalizing the blood pressure.
To adjust the pH of the blood, keeping the body slightly alkaline, rather than acidic. This helps its beneficial bacteria to function properly, and keeps the mucous walls of organs properly plush (rather than eaten away, like acid does). It also prevents most of the harmful microorganisms from reproducing, since most of them need an acidic environment to do so.
Healthy Kidney Team/s
The kidneys work as a team with other organs, like:
The large intestines that reabsorb water from indigestible foods, which keeps the body hydrated and helps the kidneys keep a good salt/water balance.
The pancreas that creates enzymes to break down old and malfunctioning body cells, which are washed into the bloodstream and sent to the kidneys to be eliminated.
The spleen and bone marrow, which produce lymphocytes and leukocytes (white blood cells) to attack and kill invading bacteria and viruses, and to remove dead cells and foreign bodies. The residues flow through the bloodstream to the kidneys to be eliminated.
The lungs and digestive system to keep the blood alkaline (oxygen helps alkalize too) and the bones, to which the kidneys turn for calcium when the blood is too acid.
- Renal pyramid
- Interlobar artery
- Renal artery
- Renal vein
- Renal hylum
- Renal pelvis
- Minor calyx
- Renal capsule
- Inferior extremity
- Superior extremity
- Interlobar vein
- Renal sinus
- Major calyx
- Renal papilla
- Renal column
How a Healthy Kidney Functions
There are more detailed descriptions of how the kidneys work in the links below. Here is a brief description that you can match with the diagram on the right.
Blood enters a kidney through the renal artery (3) where it spreads out into a network of capillaries (2), each network with its own medulla (1) - a collection of tubules - capped by its own "working space" called a nephron (13). The capillaries filter out the larger, healthy blood components that will go back into the blood, and they send the finer blood to the nephrons, where it is checked for stasis.
If there is not enough liquid, more is added. If there is too much, some is taken away. If there's too much acid, it's made more alkaline and vice versa (to keep the pH balanced). Then the discarded liquid and wastes are sent through the medulla tubes to a larger capsule, the renal pelvis (6), where urine (as it has become) collects to be forwarded through the ureter (7) to the bladder. The bladder collects urine from both kidneys and, when full, expels it from the body.
The newly cleaned and refreshed blood, meanwhile, flows back into the bloodstream via the renal veins (4). In this way the kidneys continually clean approximately 20% of the blood pumped through the heart.
Details about How the Kidneys Work
Why Two Kidneys?
The main reason we have two is to keep the workload balanced. Our lives switch between being extremely active, when both kidneys need to function fully, and being more relaxed, where the kidneys can relax a little too. On an average day the kidneys reclaim about 1300 grams of sodium, 400 grams of sodium bicarbonate, and 180 grams of glucose.
There is a slight benefit to the relative positions of the kidneys as well. The right one is located slightly lower than the left, near where the large intestine starts. The job of the large intestine is to reabsorb water from indigestible food we eat, so it can be eliminated as a semi-solid. This extra water mostly goes into the bloodstream, but some also migrates out into the cells around the large intestine, where it is picked up by the right kidney. Both kidneys are located in the abdominal cavity, where most of the body's digestive processes take place, where the water/salt and pH balance are most strongly affected.
Typical Kidney Problems
Too thick blood and the formation of kidney stones - Comes from not drinking enough water. In order to make the blood liquid enough again, the kidneys take out salts and minerals, which sometimes harden into "stones" prior to excreting them through the ureters to the bladder.
Blood too acidic - When we eat too many animal products or drink too much coffee and other acidic liquids, the kidney changes the pH back to its stasis point by sending a chemical message to pull balancing salts from tissues. Blood that is too acidic will eat at the lining of organs, including the kidneys.
Overabundance of toxins - Bacterial wastes flowing through the bloodstream to the kidneys for filtration often carry live bacteria and viruses with it. If the blood is slightly acidic as well, these bacteria can proliferate in the kidneys and create disease there.
Pressure by constipated colon - A colon that's constipated increases in size, pressing against neighboring organs and preventing them from functioning properly. The ureters - the tubes that transport urine from each kidney to the bladder - are located close to the colon and can be blocked by an expanded colon. Urine then backs up in that kidney, which is very painful.
Maintaining Good Kidney Health
Tuning into the needs of your body is a great way to become healthy. Hatha yoga taught me what a relaxed, tuned-in body feels like, and how to notice it the minute something was off. From there I learned to question, research, experiment to see what my body liked best in terms of food, stress levels, attitude, and exercise. Now I'm 60+ years old and nearly as healthy as I was as a young adult.
In order to trust your body, it's important to experiment and even document its functions and reactions to the things you try as you are learning. Don't try to "make it work." It already knows how to work. Because each person's body is different, the following suggestions are for you to check to see if they fit you:
- Start noticing how your body feels day to day. If it wants water, give it water. If it's restless or sluggish, give it exercise. If you're falling asleep at the computer, take a nap or go for a walk.
- Drop any old obligations you're carrying that don't feel joyful anymore. Let the past go. Clean it out. This is the attitude most commonly associated with kidney problems.
- Drink less alcohol and coffee, no soft drinks, more water - good clean, i.e. filtered water. Add a sprinkle of sea salt to your water to keep the salt/water balance and to take away some of the acidity most drinking water has these days.
- Clean out any blockage you have in your colon. If you are easily constipated, then change what you eat.
- Avoid GMO foods or meat that was fed with GMO grain mixes. More and more studies are emerging that show severe negative effects from GMO's.
Remember that your body knows how to function and take care of itself beautifully. Your job is to do what feels good to it, instead of resisting the changes that let it be healthy: Eat well, stay joyful, exercise in a fun way, drink lots of water, keep yourself clean inside, and appreciate the body you have.
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