When you think about your kidneys, which, if you’re being honest, might not be all that often, you might think: How can something so small be that important? Well, as they say, big jobs come in small packages. (They say something like that anyway.)
Your kidneys are like little superheroes, fighting to remove waste and extra fluid from your body. They also help fight acid buildup that is produced by your cells. This means that your kidneys are responsible for keeping peace and balance in your world, and also the balance of salts, minerals, and water in your blood. Without this balance, the other players in the game, like the nerves, muscles, and tissues in your body, may decide to call it a day and not work properly, and your kidneys shall have none of that.
How do these little bean-shaped wonders work exactly?
Your kidneys hang out just below your rib cage on either side of your spine. They are each about the size of a fist and filter about nearly a half of cup blood every single minute. They remove extra water and waste to create urine that flows from your kidneys to your bladder, via tubes of muscle called ureters. There are two ureters, one on each side of your bladder, where urine is stored. This triple threat of kidneys, ureters, and bladder all make up your urinary tract.
Your kidneys are made up of filtering unites that are called nephrons. Every nephron has a filter, AKA the glomerulus, and a tubule. The glomerulus filters blood and the tubule sends the necessary stuff back to your blood, while it also removes waste. There is a blood vessel that runs along the side of the tubule. As the filtered fluid makes its way through the tubule, the blood vessel soaks up nearly all of the water, minerals, and nutrients your body needs. The fluid and waste that remain become urine.
The renal road map
The renal artery allows blood to flow through your kidneys. The renal artery is a large blood vessel that branches into smaller blood vessels that help blood reach the nephrons. The nephron filters your blood with tiny blood vessels, and then the renal vein flows the blood out of your kidneys.
They never sleep
Your blood is circulated through your kidneys throughout the day. Those little workhorses can filter about 150 quarts of blood in just one day. Of all of the blood filtered through your glomeruli, only about one to two quarts are made into the urine.
Your kidneys may be a highly overlooked part of a healthy functioning body, but they are not to be underestimated. From here on they are deemed your ally in fighting waste and the Ruler of the Renal System. If you have a concern that involves your kidneys, a visit to a nephrologist can be a good next-step in monitoring and protecting the health of your kidneys. Dr. Taweh Beysolow is a Key West kidney specialist. He is a certified nephrologist who specializes in all things kidneys and kidney diseases. If you ever need anything for your kidneys, Dr. Beysolow is your guy!