Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Respecting kidneys

By Richard P. Holm MD

Your two bean-shaped fist-sized filtering organs called the kidneys, as the comedian says, “just don’t get no respect.” We take them for granted until they stop working.

But there is more to these inglorious and obscure organs than you would think. Each day something like 200 quarts of blood are pushed through the kidneys to remove about 2 quarts of urine loaded with toxins and waste products. But these guys aren’t just filtering out waste.

Kidneys know when to remove excess water when over-loaded or to conserve water when dehydrated; they know how to and when to balance electrolytes and body chemicals; they stimulate the bone marrow to make blood when red cells are low; they stimulate bones to grow and to strengthen when needed; and along with several other body systems, they measure, manipulate, and balance the blood pressure in order to get oxygenated blood out to all the cells of the body.

So what can hurt these magnificent unappreciated organs and then what should we do to protect them?

Inherited and genetically caused problems, autoimmune illnesses, birth defects, aging blood vessels, infections, blocking kidney stones, certain medicines, and even environmental toxins all can cause kidney trouble.

Of course if blood pressures are too high then kidneys can be harmed, but the opposite is true, too. That is, sometimes sick kidneys may be the cause of high blood pressure, making it hard to know which one is the egg and which one is the chicken.

By far the most common destroyer of kidneys, however, is a prolonged exposure to high sugar levels. Indeed, diabetes mellitus is responsible for about 40% of all kidney failure, and with the epidemic of obesity and diabetes in this country, we are facing a future where there will be more people suffering with kidney failure than ever before.

The formula for each individual to best avoid such a fate has to do mostly with living a healthy life-style, that is to get regular exercise and eat a balanced smaller portioned diet.

Your kidneys deserve a little respect.

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