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Facts About the Human Kidneys

Posted by Joanna Culley on

We know we have two of them, located on the inside of our bodies. We know they have the shape of a bean and that we could probably live with just one of them. But, do you know there are many other intriguing facts about them? We will cover most of them in this article. The first thing you need to know about the kidneys is where they are, accurately, in your body. Kidneys are located below your ribs, behind your belly on both sides of your spine. In normal conditions, their size is the same as a human fist and they are mainly comprised of:

  • Nephrons: They are the most important structures inside the kidneys because they are in charge of filtering blood. They also metabolize nutrients 
  • Renal cortex: This is the outer part of the kidney, where capillaries and tubules are located. It is also surrounded by the renal capsule, which is a layer of fatty tissue that houses and protects the inner kidney. 
  • Renal medulla: It is the smooth, inner skin of the kidney.
  • Renal pelvis: It is a funnel-shaped space that works as a pathway for fluids to when they are on their way to the bladder.

Their main function is to filter the waste products, balance the level of electrolytes and control excess fluids from the body, but specifically, from the blood. Kidneys are also in charge of removing these substances through the urine, which is a highly complex process by itself. These organs are also in charge of regulating the body’s levels of salt, potassium and acid content. 

Kidney functions are so critical to the body that they even produce hormones that help other organs to properly work. For instance, they produce Vitamin D, which is key for stronger, healthier bones; and they also release hormones to control the production of red blood cells and blood pressure as well. Kidney function is also essential to remove drugs and other harmful substances from our system.

Why is it possible to live with only one kidney?

Each of our kidneys has more than 1.5 million units of blood filters known as nephrons, which takes aways the residual urea from the blood, preventing it reaches other important organs. A regular human being only needs around 300.000 nephrons to properly filter blood, which means that one single kidney is capable of handling this task.

Is too much salt harmful for your kidneys?

In fact, it can be. Adding too much salt to food or eating extremely salty ingredients or condiments, especially those inside processed foods, can alter the balance of minerals inside your body. This means that it can become harder for your kidneys to deal with the extra minerals inside you. The tip here is for you to try to choose whole foods instead of processed ones whenever is possible.

Be careful with the medication you consume

Your kidneys filter every single drug that passes through your body. Taking that fact into consideration, it is important for you to watch out for the drugs or substances you are consuming. When used every day, for very long periods of time, pill treatments like ibuprofen, aspirin, and naxopren can cause severe damage to the kidneys and cause a disease called nephritis.

Kidneys are like huge sponges

Even though the heart deals with a much larger flow, our kidneys are responsible for filtering about half a cup of blood every minute. Which means that they deal with 120 to 150 liters of blood, that turn into almost 1.8 liters of urine every single day. 

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