A few years ago I went to the BodyWorld’s exhibition and I can remember thinking to myself that the kidneys are smaller than I expected and higher up in the torso than I had believed them to be. They’re tiny little guys halfway up your back! Although I had learned a lot about how they work in school to become a Holistic Nutritionist, I suddenly felt as though I didn’t actually know anything about them. And so, March is The Kidney Foundation of Canada’s Awareness month.
These two small organs are shaped just as you might imagine them to be, but located high enough up in the torso that the ribcage protects them. Within each kidney lie a million nephrons. While it may sound as though these are space-age escape pods, they are actually complex little cleaning machines. Each nephron contains a glomerulus which does the filtering of the water and waste products from the blood, as well as a tubule which reabsorbs needed water into the body and directs the excess and waste through to the urinary tract. There’s a necessary amount of water that the body needs to function properly. The kidneys get to decide how much we keep and how much is sent out of the body. Other wastes excreted as urine may include drugs, urea which is a result of the body breaking down meat & excess minerals as a careful balance of these is needed also.
When functioning with one kidney, the operational organ will enlarge in order to take on the workload of both. A kidney may have been donated or one simply not functional. As with most organ donation, there is a much larger demand than there is supply. A person must meet strict criteria in order to donate a kidney. The Kidney Foundation is always taking monetary donations however!
Ten percent of our population has kidney disease to some degree. When it begins one likely has no idea. Beginning at stage one, the kidneys have up to 90% functionality ranging all the way down to stage five where there is less than 15% functioning and is is no longer considered kidney disease, but kidney failure. In order to continue living at this point, either a kidney transplant or dialysis is required to take care of the accumulating waste in the body.
Blood or urine tests can catch decreasing kidney function long before you notice any symptoms. Rather than only going to the doctor when you don’t feel well, schedule regular check-ups to stay on top of things like this. Remember, one in ten Canadians have kidney disease!