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 treat it better and also guide us to choosing a good doctor or health practitioner.
Starting with the role of water in general, this article will move to the specific way in which water helps our kidneys clean the blood—our body's transportation system.
Role of Water in the Human Body
The role of water in the human body is the same as its role in nature—primarily being cleaning, transportation, and conduction:
Water washing in and out of cell walls puts in nutrients and pulls out wastes, thereby keeping cells healthy and clean.
Water transports all kinds of nutrients, carriers, warriors, and wastes throughout the body. Water plus these elements is called blood.
Electrical messages, by which our body communicates with itself, are conducted through the medium of water, which (among other things) cushions and protects the nerves, so they don't short-circuit. 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 the 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 make sure the body doesn't get too salty (or too thin), keeping the makeup of the blood liquid and equalizing the blood pressure.
To adjust the pH of the blood—keeping the body slightly alkaline, rather than acidic. This helps 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.
How a Healthy Kidney Functions
This description can be technical, but it's also very interesting. Follow the diagram below, as I explain how the kidneys work.
Kidney's clean and balance the blood—approximately 20% at a time. The blood, freshly oxygenated, goes from the heart to the kidneys through the renal artery (3), which spreads out into a network of capillaries (2) in each kidney. Each capillary network has its own medulla (1)—a collection of tubules capped by its own "working space" called a nephron (13). The capillaries catch the larger, healthy blood components that will go back into the blood, and send the finer blood to the nephrons.
The nephrons check to see if there is enough liquid. If not, more is added. If there is too much, it takes some away. It also checks the pH balance. If there's too much acid, the nephrons make it more alkaline and vice versa. Whatever liquid is discarded, it sends with the wastes through the medulla tubes to a larger capsule, the renal pelvis (6), where urine (as it has become) collects and is forwarded through the ureter (7) to the bladder. The bladder collects urine from both kidneys to send out of the body when it's full.
Meanwhile, the newly cleaned and refreshed blood is sent back into the bloodstream via the renal veins (4).
- 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
- The Kidneys and How They Work
Lots of great links on this page for various kidney dysfunctions, disease statistics, risks for children, and advice for health care professionals.
Why Two Kidneys?
Our lives switch between being extremely active, when both kidneys are needed to function fully, and being more relaxed, when one will suffice. On an average day, the kidneys reclaim about 1300 grams of sodium (salt), 400 grams of sodium bicarbonate (another form of salt we call baking soda) and 180 grams of glucose (sugar). The main reason we have two is to keep the workload balanced.
There is a slight benefit to the relative positions of the kidneys as well. 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. The right one is located slightly lower than the left to give the liver room to function. And they each interact with each lung to keep the blood's water level in balance. (The kidneys send excess water out via urine. The lungs send excess water out via the breath. And yes, they "talk" to each other.)
Water Helps Prevent These 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, instead of water, the blood starts becoming too acid. 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 out the lining of organs, including the kidneys.
Overabundance of toxins: Bacterial wastes flowing through the bloodstream to the kidneys for filtration 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. Again, drinking more water and less coffee would help.
Pressure from constipated colon: A colon that's constipated increases in size, pressing against neighboring organs and preventing them from functioning properly. The ureters—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. Drinking more water can prevent the colon from becoming constipated.
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, and 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 your mouth gets dry, showing it wants water, give it water. If you're restless or sluggish, give it exercise. If you're falling asleep at the computer, take a nap or go for a walk to perk up.
- Drop any old obligations you're carrying that don't feel joyful anymore. Stop criticizing, both yourself and others. Let go of any failures or disappointments that stifle joy in your life. These are the attitudes 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—a colonic irrigation can help . 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 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 keep it 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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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.