Located just below your rib cage, and about half way down your back, your kidneys are bean shaped, and about the size of a fist. These two organs have a primary purpose of filtering your blood, although they do many other things at the same time. Each day the average set of kidneys filters some 200 quarts of blood. The filtering of wastes inside the kidney is performed by roughly a million "nephrons" located inside. Each nephron forces needed proteins and electrolytes such as sodium and potassium to stay inside the bloodstream while sending wastes into the ureter to be passed through the bladder.
Along with filtering your blood to remove wastes and regulate electrolyte levels, your kidneys produce several hormones. One of those hormones is renin, which regulates blood pressure. Another hormone is known as EPO, or erythropoietin, which stimulates red blood cell growth. The third hormone is calcitriol, the activated form of vitamin D, which contributes to healthy bones and teeth.
Our kidneys also play a vital role in regulating the pH level of our body along with the help of the lungs. While the lungs control the amount of carbon dioxide we obtain, kidneys reabsorb bicarbonate from the urine and produce hydrogen ions into the urine.
Much more could be said about the kidneys, but I hope this gives you a healthy overview of their function. Check back next week when we look at different kidney tests as well as disorders of the kidneys.
Justin Glaze is an LPN and contributing columnist for the Walker County Messenger. He can be reached at 678-988-1011 or firstname.lastname@example.org.