Don’t Sell Your Kidney!

I recently read a news article that a man sold a kidney to buy an iPad. Problems can happen and that second kidney can come in handy later.

When we eat, nutrients are absorbed through the intestines. The liver processes the nutrients to make energy and parts for cells to repair themselves or grow. The parts (chemicals) left over are waste and the two places the waste goes are the kidneys and gall bladder. If the waste can be made to dissolve in water then it goes through the kidney tubes which act to filter out the waste into the urine and keep the chemicals we need inside the blood. The chemicals that can’t be dissolved are put in the gall bladder since that is where the oily chemicals go. Eventually that liquid (bile) goes into the intestine to help dissolve fats like soap would, so they can be absorbed.

Just like an automobile, the body has many parts and each is important for the entire machine to work well. The kidney parts can have several problems; the most common is infection. Usually it is from bacteria from the poop or from sex, travelling up the urine tube (urethra). In men this is in the penis so it is longer than in the female. The short urethra in the female makes it easier for the bacteria to climb into the bladder; they have more urine infections than men. The infection can be in the bladder or make its way up into the kidney and then into the blood. If the infection is just in the bladder, then having to pee small amounts frequently and some burning may be all you feel. If it goes higher then there are sometimes back pain, sweats, and chills and one could die if left untreated. Antibiotics are the best treatment. Cranberry juice has a little benefit. Perhaps drinking or eating sweets makes the bacteria grow more easily in the sweet urine. Diabetics, if sugars are high, will have sweet urine too. Drinking lots of water to flush out your bladder is a good prevention.

Taking a long trip and holding your urine too long or having a common prostate problem (in men over 40 or so) causes the bladder to not empty completely—poor flushing.

If we don’t drink enough water and drink too much milk or chew too many calcium antacids, then the calcium can build up in our kidneys causing a painful stone. Sometimes the stone can be infected and make the infection hard to treat since the antibiotics cannot reach inside the stone well (it is not connected to our circulation). Sometimes a stone can block one of the tubes and a specialist must put a tube through the skin in the back to collect the urine in a bag in order to keep that kidney from total, permanent failure. Other times they can go up the urethra (don’t think about it–you will be asleep and it is totally necessary) and thread up a thin plastic tube (stent) to help urine get past the blockage. They take out the stent and the blockage after the inflammation has calmed down; otherwise surgery might make a hole in the soft, inflamed tubes, causing even more problems.

From sex or the same mechanism as getting a urine infection, the bacteria can swim to the ovaries in females or the testicles or prostate in males. These are important infections. Usually there is pelvic pain involved. The female may lose her ability to pass the egg to the uterus in the future, causing the sperm to have to swim farther to fertilize and then the fetus grows in her tube. That can be very painful and emergency surgery is the best plan. They would wish they had used condoms more to prevent the initial infection and pregnancy.

Poorly controlled diabetes, hypertension, or frequent infections can lead to kidney failure, slowly heading for dialysis. Kidney failure is painless. The leftover toxins that should go into the urine, stay in the blood, causing accelerated aging, hardening of the arteries (think strokes and heart attacks), and fatigue (like you are little poisoned). We use dialysis machines to pull the blood out, filter it, and then put it back. Usually a vein and an artery in the arm are connected by a surgeon so that the dialysis nurse can stick the needles in there. Before that, usually we put in a thick tube (catheter) under the collar bone that has 2 tubes combined, one for the blood to come out, the other for the blood to go back. Frequently these catheters cause a blood infection (because the barrier—the skin—has a hole in it now, and a hospital stay of a week or so may be needed to clear up the infection and remove and replace the tube.

Being low on fluids or having a blocked outlet can lead to acute renal failure. We can put a catheter in the urine tube to get past the blockage usually (happens more in men from enlarged prostates) and then give medications or perform surgery to open up the outlet. People who don’t take enough water on a desert hike, or people who have severe vomiting and/or diarrhea may need a lot of fluids to help flush out the toxins and get their kidneys working correctly again. It is amazing the boost of energy a liter of fluid will give such a person. Usually when it gets hot in July, we see people fainting and having dark urine, signs of not enough water taken in to make up for the loss of increased sweating and breathing. Dark urine usually means you need more water.

Whether you have acute or chronic renal failure and your kidneys can possibly improve we avoid all metformin, aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen and other arthritis medications, since they can worsen the kidney damage.

Of course any organ can be hit by cancer and the kidneys are no exception.
Be nice to your kidneys, drink water till your urine is clear like water. Condoms are good too!

by Dr. Pearce

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