Every organ in your body, big or small, plays a part in your health. And the choices you make can impact how well those organs work. We all know the big players. Your heart keeps your blood pumping. Your brain is the key to thoughts and movements. But what about your kidneys?  

You probably don’t think about your kidneys much. But they have more to do with your health than you may realize! From bone health to blood pressure, your kidneys are a key part of keeping you healthy.  So, make sure you repay the favor and take good care of them too! 

What Do My Kidneys Do?

To put it simply, your kidneys keep your body in balance. They remove waste and extra fluid from your body by filtering your blood. The cells in your body produce things like water, salt, calcium, and potassium. These then play a key role in how your nerves, muscles, and body tissue function.  

These minerals are all important for your body’s functions. But your kidneys make sure you only have the amount you need, not too much. The primary function of your kidneys is to filter out the excess minerals.  

In fact, your kidneys are made up of millions of little filters! These small filtering units are called nephrons. Your blood enters these filters, and the ‘good stuff’ is returned to your body. The ‘bad stuff’ is filtered out and leaves your body as urine.  

How Do My Kidneys Work?

Inside your kidneys, there are millions of nephrons, which filter your blood. There are two parts to each of these nephron filters: the glomerulus, and the tubule. Each part has a specific role it plays in the filtering process. 

How Do My Kidneys Work?

The Glomerulus

As your blood passes through your kidneys, it starts with the glomerulus. The good stuff your body needs passes through to the next part of your kidney. The bad or excess stuff your body doesn’t need does not get to move back into your blood.  

The Tubule 

Once the good minerals (salt, calcium, etc.) and water have passed through your glomerulus, they come to the tubule. Here, a blood vessel absorbs the water and nutrients your body needs.  

Then, the tubule removes any extra acid from your blood.  This waste and the other extra fluid in your blood is then sent out of your kidneys and leaves your body as urine.  

Your kidneys filter about half of a cup of blood every minute, which adds up to 200 quarts a day. That’s like filtering 50 gallons of milk! 

On top of filtering your blood, your kidneys are in charge of other important jobs too.  For one, they control the production of red blood cells. Your kidneys are also responsible for producing the active form of vitamin D that promotes strong, healthy bones, and they release hormones that regulate blood pressure!  

What If My Kidneys Don’t Work?

Kidney disease can be common, and because of all the important things your kidneys do, kidney disease can be a big deal. Thankfully, you have a big say in preventing kidney disease by making some smart life choices.  

Some factors that may put you at risk for developing kidney disease are high blood pressure, family history of kidney disease, if you are 65+, or if you are Black, Asian, or American Indian.

Learn more about Proteinuria – A Potential Sign of Kidney Damage

What Does Kidney Disease Look Like?

The symptoms of kidney disease can vary, but the most common are: 

  • Tiredness 
  • Trouble paying attention 
  • Trouble sleeping 
  • Poor appetite
  • Muscle cramps 
  • Swollen feet or ankles 
  • Puffiness around eyes (especially in the morning) 
  • Dry/scaly skin 
  • Frequent urination (especially at night) 

Because these symptoms can be easily overlooked, or confused for another illness, it’s important to see your provider regularly, especially if you are at a higher risk. Your EPIC provider can run simple tests to see if your kidneys are functioning. Some of the first tests include bloodwork, a urine test, and an ultrasound.  

Is Kidney Disease Treatable?

Kidney disease is absolutely treatable! In fact, some common treatments for kidney disease are simply to treat and manage the underlying conditions that can cause it, like high blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol.  

Diet and lifestyle changes are another way to treat and reverse kidney disease. Becoming more active, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol, and following low cholesterol or low sodium diets, are all ways to improve your kidney health.

Overall, your kidneys play a key role in keeping you healthy and keeping your body strong. So, make sure you’re working hard to keep them healthy! Schedule your appointment with your EPIC provider today to check in on your organ MVPS!