What are our kidneys responsible for?
Our kidneys are two small fist-sized organs that are shaped like beans. They are located in the middle of the back, on either side of the spine and situated just below the rib cage.
The kidneys play an important role for our body. They are so important to health that nature gave us two kidneys! They are so important that with no kidney function, death occurs within a few days.
Functions of the kidneys are:
- to remove waste products and excess fluid from the body via urine
- regulate the levels of salt, potassium and acid in the body
- produce hormones that influence the performance of other organs
Kidneys are also involved in regulating blood pressure, electrolyte balance, and red blood cell production in the body.
When we eat and drink, nutrients and minerals enter the bloodstream to be transported around the body and used for energy, growth, maintenance or repair. The blood also passes through the kidneys where it is filtered, and any waste products and excess nutrients and water are removed and sent to the bladder for removal.
Every day, our kidneys filter around 180 liters of fluid. Of these, approximately 2 liters are removed from the body in the form of urine.
If our kidneys do not function properly, waste products and excess fluid can build up inside the body. Untreated, chronic kidney disease can lead to kidney failure, whereby the organs stop working, and either dialysis or kidney transplantation is required.
Water is important for the workings of the kidneys, not only for helping to initially dissolve the nutrients, but for ensuring that waste products, bacteria and proteins do not build up in the kidneys and the bladder. These can lead to dangerous infections and painful kidney stones.
How does “not drinking enough” affect our kidneys?
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are the second most common type of infection in the body (especially in women). If infections spread to the upper urinary tract, including the kidneys, permanent damage can be caused. Sudden kidney infections can be life-threatening, particularly if septicemia (blood poisoning) occurs.
Drinking plenty of water is one of the simplest ways to reduce the risk of developing a UTI and is also advised for people that have developed an infection.
The presence of kidney stones can complicate UTIs as they can compromise how the kidneys work. Complicated UTIs tend to require longer periods of antibiotics to treat them, typically lasting between 7 and 14 days.
The leading cause of kidney stones is a lack of water, and they are commonly reported in people that have been found not drinking the recommended daily amount of water. As well as complicating UTIs, research has suggested that kidney stones also increase the risk of chronic kidney disease developing.
In November 2014, the American College of Physicians issued new guidelines for people who have previously developed kidney stones, stating that increasing fluid intake to enable 2 liters of urination a day could decrease the risk of stone recurrence by at least half with no side effects.
Dehydration – using and losing more water than the body takes in – can also lead to an imbalance in the body’s electrolytes. Electrolytes, such as potassium, phosphate and sodium, help carry electrical signals between cells. The levels of electrolytes in the body are kept stable by properly functioning kidneys.
When the kidneys are unable to maintain a balance in the levels of electrolytes, these electrical signals become mixed up, which can lead to seizures, involving involuntary muscle movements and loss of consciousness.
In severe cases, dehydration can also lead to kidney failure, a potentially life-threatening outcome. Possible complications of chronic kidney failure include anemia, damage to the central nervous system, heart failure and a compromised immune system.
There are a considerable number of health problems that can occur simply through not drinking enough water.
So let’s make “drinking plenty of water everyday” your new healthy habit!