Kidneys: Structure & Function

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  • 0:01 Your Kidneys
  • 1:24 Cleaning Up Wastes
  • 3:03 Balancing Fluids
  • 3:55 Other Functions
  • 4:58 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Your kidneys don't get a lot of attention, but they are important to your health. Learn about your kidneys and the jobs they do, like filtering wastes out of your blood, balancing fluids, adjusting your blood pressure and helping to make blood cells.

Your Kidneys

I would like to start a petition to get some well-deserved recognition for the kidney; maybe create a day and call it the National Kidney Fairness Day. I feel this is needed because the poor lonely kidneys are the most underappreciated organs of the body. Sure, everyone loves the heart, especially on Valentine's Day, and the brain, well it's always grabbing our attention, but who really cares about the kidneys? Well, you should! Your kidneys keep your body balanced, and without the kidneys working to rid your body of wastes, you would be a human toxic garbage dump. In fact, the kidney is such an important organ that you were given two of them!

Your kidneys look like kidney beans, which are the type of beans you might find in a bowl of chili. Of course, your kidneys are quite a bit bigger. Each one is about four to five inches long and two or three inches wide, which is a little bigger than the mouse you use for your computer. You find them about midway up your back, right around the bottom of your rib cage. You have one on each side, and if you wrap your arms around your midsection like you are giving yourself a hug, then feel for the bottom rib, your hands will be over top of your kidneys.

Cleaning Up Wastes

What I like about the kidneys is that they are willing to pitch in and do the jobs that the other organs don't want to do. Specifically, I am talking about cleaning up. Your kidneys function as the janitors of your body because they filter and remove wastes from the blood. The blood in your bloodstream runs through your kidneys about 400 times a day!

The blood vessel that carries blood to the kidney is called your renal artery. 'Renal' is the scientific word used to describe things related to the kidneys. The blood in this artery is littered with wastes. Some of these wastes are normal by-products of work done by your cells that your body has no use for, kind of like the pencil shavings from a pencil sharpener. Other wastes are from the foods and drinks you take in; once your body takes out the nutrients it needs, the leftovers are looked at as trash by your body and sent off to your kidneys.

Inside your kidneys, these wastes travel through the kidneys' filters, called nephrons. Each kidney has about a million nephrons, so they are pretty good at catching all of the stuff you no longer need. These wastes get mixed with water and are then sent out of your kidney through the ureters, which are long tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder. The bladder stores this water and waste combination, which is now called urine, until you go to the bathroom. If your kidneys didn't get rid of these wastes, they would build up inside of you and cause all kinds of damage.

Balancing Fluids

Your kidneys are not just good at cleaning up wastes. They also balance fluid levels in your body. You take in fluids when you drink or eat foods that contain water, like fruits, vegetables and soups. Some of this fluid has to stay in your body in order for it to function properly, but keep too much and you would swell up like a balloon.

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