It is important to first know what the kidneys are and what is their normal function. The kidneys are often described as fist-sized, bean-shaped organs. They are located below the ribs, behind the stomach. Their main function is to filter the blood and maintain the proper balance of necessary salt, water and various minerals in the blood. Excess salt and minerals and other wastes are removed and sent to the bladder as urine. The filtered blood is sent to the heart, where it can carry oxygen and necessary nutrition to the rest of the body. Because the kidneys essentially make sure the blood is clean and healthy, they are critical for life.
For a normal person, the kidneys will filter around 200 quarts of blood each day, and they will remove about two quarts of liquid each day in the form of urine. Since a healthy person of around 160 pounds has only five quarts of blood, that means the blood will flow through the kidneys around 40 times per day.
Of all the various ailments a person can have, kidney stones can be among the most painful. The stones are formed when the kidneys filter out an excessive amount of minerals, such as salt or calcium, and those minerals remain in the kidney long enough to start crystallization. It’s the same kind of process that can create rock candies. Over time, the crystals become larger, forming kidney stones. If they are small, they can often be flushed out (passed out) of the kidneys and the body without creating any problems. But if at any stage they get stuck in the body, they will continue to grow in that spot. The most common spot is in the kidneys, where they first start growing. As they grow, they hinder normal kidney function, reducing the flow of blood and reducing the kidney’s ability to produce and pass urine. A kidney stone can move and completely stop the flow of urine, which is really bad news.
If a person consumes too much salt, too many calcium-containing foods, takes certain medications or drinks far too little water, kidney stones can develop. There is evidence that genetics also can can cause stone-making kidney disorders. The end result can be very painful.
Drinking water every day is essential to good health. The citrate in lemon juice can be beneficial in small amounts. Artificially colored sodas and food, as well as too much coffee, can cause problems because of the types of chemicals that enter the body. The body also gets rid of excess water through perspiration, so it is important to drink enough water to urinate at least four times a day, with an average above that.
Anyone experiencing symptoms such as strong pains in the stomach area or on the side down to the groin should immediately see a doctor. There are numerous problems that can cause excessive side or abdominal pain and it is advisable to see a specialist. If you are concerned about the possibility of having kidney stones, schedule a consultation with Dr. Howard Epstein MD or one of the many highly skilled urologists at an Advanced Urology Institute location near you.