Gross Anatomy of the Urinary System

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  • 0:07 Detoxification by Your Body
  • 0:47 The Liver
  • 1:49 The Kidneys
  • 3:13 The Nephron
  • 3:37 Ureters, Bladder, Urethra
  • 4:36 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
Our body must detoxify and cleanse itself to thrive. That is why we depend so heavily on our liver and urinary system. In this lesson, we'll explore how toxins are filtered by our organs and how urine is formed and expelled with the nephron, bladder, ureters, and urethra.

Detoxification by Your Body

You may have heard of some of the so-called detox diets that are touted on TV and in magazines. These diets may involve eating spoonfuls of cayenne pepper, drinking large amounts of lemon juice, or ingesting some other strange mix. They are supposed to somehow help you detoxify your body or help you get rid of all sorts of nasty things. The truth is that your body already has some really important structures built in that are involved in this process - no special diet tonic is necessary.

The Liver

Location of the liver in the body
Liver Diagram

When you first take a bite out of your favorite food, it travels from the mouth through the esophagus and into the stomach. Then, the partially digested food will enter the intestines, where it will be broken down even more. Eventually, tiny particles of what was once a juicy hamburger will travel through your blood and into the most important organ involved in the detoxification of your body. This organ is called the liver.

While many other organs and tissues have the capability to break down things like toxins or drugs, it is the liver that is the biggest center of operation for such needs. If something enters your bloodstream that is not supposed to be there, liver cells have many ways by which they metabolize, or transform, the toxin or drug into a pretty harmless substance.

The Kidneys

Once a harmful substance is inactivated, it must be excreted out of your body. This excretion occurs mainly in one of two ways. The liver can secrete certain drugs, for example, into the gallbladder, where the bile produced by the liver is stored. The bile will be secreted by the gallbladder into your intestines, where it and the drugs dissolved within it will be carried out of your body during defecation.

The other way we can excrete the toxins or drugs in our body is through the urine. What happens is the liver will throw the now-inactivated toxin back into the bloodstream, where it will be carried to a pair of organs responsible for the production of urine and the maintenance of fluid and acid-base balance. These organs are known as the kidneys. Besides what I just mentioned, the kidneys have a lot of other important roles, one of which, like the liver, is the detoxification of your body.

Once the blood carrying the toxins reaches your kidneys, the blood will be filtered by the kidneys to make sure what needs to stay in your body stays there and what needs to get out is excreted by the urine.

The Nephron

Nephrons are located inside the kidney
Kidney Nephron Diagram

This filtration of blood and the formation of urine occurs thanks to a structure inside your kidneys called the nephron. There are many nephrons within each kidney, and each nephron is a structure within the kidney that filters the blood and forms and excretes urine.

Ureters, Bladder and Urethra

Once all of the nephrons have performed this role, they will collectively excrete the urine made within the kidneys into a long tube that carries urine from the kidneys and into the bladder called the ureter. You have two ureters in your body, with one end connecting to the kidney and the other to the bladder, which is the organ responsible for collecting, storing, and excreting urine formed by the kidneys.

Ureters transport urine to the bladder for excretion
Ureter Diagram

The bladder has special muscular layers that are partially responsible for your ability to urinate. These muscle layers can contract, like your hands around a water balloon, in order to propel the urine down a canal connecting to the bladder that discharges urine to a place outside of the body. We call this canal the urethra.

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