Who knew? Your kidneys play a key role in your health.
Human bodies are fascinating collections of body systems and organs. Everything is related to each other, so it's no wonder certain organs affect other areas of the body.
The kidneys are major organs in the excretory system. Their main functions are to clean the blood of toxins and convert waste into urine. Normally, functioning kidneys filter about 50 gallons of fluid each day. Most people have two kidneys, though it is possible to live with only one kidney. Each kidney is around five inches long and weighs about a third of a pound.
When the kidneys aren't functioning well, the legs can be affected.
Kidneys keep electrolytes (especially sodium and potassium) and water balanced. The healthy result is a body that has enough fluid inside and outside of cells and for entire systems to function well. Sodium helps regulate the amount of fluid that is held in the body and excreted as waste.
Potassium is a mineral that is vital for body health. It keeps your heartbeat regular and helps muscles and nerves function and contract. On a cellular level, it also helps move nutrients in and waste out.
"High levels of metabolic waste products in the blood can damage nerve cells in the brain, trunk, arms, and legs. Uric acid levels may increase, sometimes causing gout." ~Merck Manual
When the kidneys aren't able to do their jobs well, a body can retain additional water. This fluid often collects in the legs and causes uncomfortable swelling.
Kidneys regulate more than electrolytes. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means your body stores it and poses a risk of toxicity. Vitamin D, activated by the kidneys, is critical for bone density health.
"Vitamin D is essential for a number of bodily functions. In the normal diet, Vitamin D is in an inactive form, and needs to be slightly altered by the kidney before it can act within the body. This ‘activated’ form of Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium by the intestine, the normal structure of bones and effective muscle function." ~NHS
With lower kidney function, Vitamin D is not activated at the level the body needs. People often have low blood calcium and Vitamin D, and suffer from weakening muscles and bones.
Leg Cramps and Pain
Electrolyte imbalance can happen when the kidneys aren't functioning well. Lower calcium, as mentioned above, combined with a poorly controlled level of phosphorus can cause muscle cramping.
Deeper than muscles, kidney function can affect the health of your leg bones. When chronic kidney disease has existed for some time, the combination of high parathyroid hormone, low calcitriol, low calcium absorption, and high phosphate, "renal osteodystrophy may lead to bone pain and an increased risk of fractures."
Always check with your medical doctor to discuss kidney health. A great rule of thumb is to drink plenty of water, eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, remain active, limit sodium, and keep your blood pressure and cholesterol in normal, healthy ranges.
Let us know in the comments how you keep healthy.