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Keeping Kidneys In Tip Top Shape

Aug 17, 2007
Treatments for kidney stones have been around for nearly as long as kidney stones themselves. Some of the old-fashioned treatments suggested for kidney stones included a free use of alkalies to counteract the acidity of the urine, and a free use of soothing drinks of flaxseed or slippery elm with sweet spirits of nitre, or bicarbonate of soda.

Midwest pioneers occasionally resorted to a dropsy treatment that included sliced horseradish tied to the patient's feet, or an external and internal dosage of powder made of toads.

When inflammation and congestion of the kidneys was suspected, free cupping or leeching over the seat of pain was frequently recommended, along with purges and warm hip-baths. The suggested diet consisted of slippery elm mucilage, flaxseed tea or a tea made of quince seeds.

For many centuries the relationship between the kidneys and disposal of body wastes has been recognized. The kidneys were described in ancient medical writings. Basic functions were observed to the extent that urine leaves the kidneys, travels down a duct (ureter) from each of our two kidneys to the urinary bladder.

The kidneys themselves are about the size of a fist, shaped like beans. They are located on each side of the back portion of the abdomen. In recent years researchers have discovered that they are far more than part of a routine waste-disposal system.

We know today that the kidney functions are so complex, delicately balanced, unerring and important, that the kidneys may be regarded as one of the most important control centers in the body. Kidney diseases rank fourth as the cause of death in this country.

In addition to cleaning better than a ton of blood a day in the average, normal person, the kidneys control our mineral balance, maintain an exact proportion of water and minerals in the blood, and keep the acid-alkali balance just where it should be even as they do their job of disposing of urea.

These are most important functions. If the mineral balance should get out of line - too much potassium, for instance - death could result. Too much of a swing one way or the other in the acid-alkali balance could kill. If urea that they dispose of is allowed to accumulate because of kidney shutdown, death results.

Each kidney has approximately a million to a million and a, half nephrons, which are the kidneys' functioning units. A nephron is a threadlike structure barely visible to the naked eye. Through a complex process the nephrons take up glucose, proteins, amino acids and minerals that we need and they cast away waste and excess water.

If the kidneys cease functioning and stop secreting urine, the result is lethal unless the kidneys can begin to function again.

Fortunately, nature has given us extra protection. For one thing, it is estimated that normal kidneys can handle about nine times the capacity actually required of them. They usually are hardy and give little trouble in relation to the complex job they do. Most reassuring of all is the fact that we can get along very well with only one healthy kidney, so we usually have - in effect - a spare.

Even though you have a spare kidney, kidneys perform an important bodily function and you should take good care of them. If you experience persistent kidney pain, get to a doctor immediately.
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