If you’re like most people, you probably didn’t think about your kidneys until something was wrong with them. The kidneys aren’t one of the “popular” organs that get a lot of attention like our heart and our lungs do. My guess is that most adults, if asked what their kidneys do, would only know that our kidneys do something with our blood, and that’s about it.
For anyone who has chronic kidney disease, or is experiencing any level of lowered kidney function, you know that the kidneys are actually very important and do a lot to help keep our bodies functioning properly. In this article we’ll go over the 5 main things our kidneys do for us.
Our kidneys produce a hormone called erythropoietin. Erythropoietin sends a signal to our bone marrow telling it to produce red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen to the different parts of your body which allow them to continue functioning as they should. Low counts of red blood cells (which is called anemia) leads to fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, and dizziness.
When blood enters the kidneys, it’s full of waste and fluids. The kidneys filter, on average, around 150 quarts of blood everyday. Your kidneys send all of the filtered blood back into the body and release between 1 and 2 quarts of the filtered waste and excess fluid out of the body as urine. This regular filtering of the blood helps to avoid any buildup of waste in the body.
In order for the kidneys to work, pulling blood in and sending it back out, they require pressure. Our kidneys can help adjust our blood pressure if they need it higher or lower to function at their best. To raise blood pressure, our kidneys release a hormone telling the body it’s dehydrated. This causes the body to increase our retention of sodium and water which expands the blood vessels increasing blood pressure.
To lower blood pressure, our kidneys do the opposite. They reduce our retention of water and sodium and produce a hormone that tells our blood vessels to constrict which lowers blood pressure.
Our kidneys are able to maintain our bodies pH levels by balancing the chemicals that control acid levels. The kidneys perform an intricate balancing act making sure our levels of acid and amounts of buffering agents keep our pH level where it needs to be.
Vitamin D helps our bones to absorb calcium and phosphorus, minerals that keep our bones strong. A form of vitamin D is created in and released from the kidneys.
With the large variety of duties our kidneys are responsible for, they definitely don’t get the credit they deserve for helping us maintain our health. Such a wide variety in functions also leads to a wide variety of symptoms that could indicate lowered kidney function. Knowing what the kidneys do can help you better identify a possible cause of your symptoms and help initiate a conversation with your doctor about your kidneys health.
about the author
Mary joined HealthTree as the HealthTree for MDS Commnity Manager in 2022. She is passionate about giving power to patients through knowledge and health education. In her spare time, Mary loves attending concerts, spoiling her nieces and nephews, and experimenting in the kitchen.