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The urinary system is one of excretion and balance and the main working unit is the kidney. The kidneys constantly regulate and filter blood. Without this ability, the body is quickly poisoned. To do this job properly large amounts of water are required in a body that is itself composed of 70 percent water. With an adequate intake of fluids a more alkaline state will prevail, which is the base of all good health.
There are two kidneys, attached to the posterior abdominal wall at each side of the vertebral column, just below the diaphragm between the 12th thoracic and the 3rd lumber vertebrae. The kidneys are bean-shaped organs about 12 cm long, 6 cm wide and 3 cm thick. They are surrounded by the renal capsule which offers protection against trauma, plus a layer of fat, which is in turn surrounded and protected by fibro-elastic tissue that anchors them into the abdomen.
The kidneys regulate the composition of blood by filtering it. Nitrogen and waste products are filtered out and excreted in the urine. Through this process, the kidneys that are largely responsible for maintaining the correct level of blood alkalinity for cells to function.
The main unit of the kidneys is the nephron, where waste products and excess water are gradually collected in a series of connecting tubes to form the urine. The urine is then passed into two long tubes called ureters which enter the bladder.
Kidneys are essential to life. Blood pressure forces water and dissolved substances through the complex cells of the kidneys at about 180 litres (48 gallons) each day! Only about 2 litres are excreted as urine, therefore the rest must be re-absorbed into the body after being filtered. This re-absorption stage maintains not just water balance but also the electrolyte balance such as sodium and potassium.
The kidneys also have other functions, that are carried out by different parts of these vital organs. These include:
- A vital role in maintaining the blood pressure. Weak kidneys can sometimes be the root cause of blood pressure imbalances.
- Contributing to metabolism during periods of fasting by synthesising glucose.
- A role in the manufacture of the active form of vitamin D.
- A role in the production of new red blood cells, through secretion of a hormone called erythropoietin.
- Produces hormones involved in many other processes such as calcium and magnesium balance (working with oestrogen).
People who suffer with high blood pressure will damage their kidney function over time. The process is silent for many years and critical stages are late to show symptoms. Kidneys are also damaged by diabetes, some poisons and drugs, and overwhelming infection. Races such as African Americans who are more at risk from diabetes and raised blood pressure need routine checks. Kidney stones can damage an affected kidney, as will trauma and severe blood loss or burns.
- Too little salt can be as harmful to the kidneys as excess. Use a small amount of high-quality salt flakes which are harvested in the "Celtic" way and contain magnesium, iodine and other minerals as well as sodium. These salts are all widely available in supermarkets and are delicious.
- Simple hydration is vital. Consume 2 to 4 litres of water daily according to your size, the season and your level of activity. Any water is important; tap water is the least advisable, but even this with all its nitrates, chlorine and so on is better than no water. Add a simple filter system to your household items or a tabletop jug filter.
- Distilled water is probably the best form of water to protect vulnerable kidneys. The beauty of distilled water is that it is devoid of oversized minerals. The kidneys filter minerals of a certain size so larger ones can accumulate in tissue. Distilled water is empty and picks up discarded and accumulated molecules. Some people get confused and think that distilled water leaches minerals from the body. It only does this to those that cannot be absorbed whilst retaining and using the colloidal-sized ones in the same way as plants utilise them. When urinalysis tests were performed on people before drinking distilled water and subsequently one month later, the mineral sediments picked up in one month were incredible. I also know what my distilled water machine residue looks like! I really wouldn't want to imbibe what is in the average 4 litres of tap water. Table top ceramic systems are now available at reasonable prices.
- Common foods and drinks such as tea, coffee and chocolate and to a lesser extent, peanuts, rhubarb, tomatoes, spinach, gooseberries and strawberries contain oxalic acid, which creates more work for the kidneys. Be modest with these products. They should be avoided by those who are prone to kidney problems as they can contribute to the formation of kidney stones.
- Drink kidney-supportive teas such as Parsley & Cornsilk Herbal Tea and Nettle Herbal Tea.
- Some foods are strongly active on the kidneys and bladder and eating them in season can help maintain, cleanse and thus balance the kidneys and bladder, preventing stagnation, stone formation and infection. Parsley is superb and nori seaweed used in salads, soups and stews provides a nice all-year-round addition. Blackberries, raspberries, cranberries, celery, watermelon and watercress are great summer choices. Whole barley and sweetcorn in soups and stews could then be used in the autumn and winter months.
- If you have inflamed, weakened kidneys make a soup of 70 percent courgettes and 30 percent potatoes. Carrots, lettuce and cabbage are also very helpful.
- Drink home-made lemon barley water, warmed in winter and cool in summer. You can find a recipe on the Pot Barley page.
- Parsley and celery seed are mildly diuretic and help to flush the kidneys. Garlic and onion are cleansing.
- Apple cider vinegar makes a good flush for the kidneys especially if mixed with a little water and apple juice (add honey if desired). Add a pinch of cayenne pepper in winter. This is the best early morning drink for your kidneys.
- All traditions of medicine acknowledge that weather and environment have an impact on the kidneys. Cold, damp, wintry weather has a particularly negative effect on some body types (long thin "ectomorph" types). The kidneys and the urinary system work hardest or stagnate in extremes of weather so in winter, wrap up well and never let your kidneys become chilled. This is the time for layers of clothes.
- Summer also places a demand on the kidneys and water hydration is essential.
- Fear can negate the effectiveness and balance of the kidneys.
- If your kidneys ever feel inflamed apply a Castor Oil pack over them to bring instant relief.
- A warm-weather or summer kidney cleanse is always advisable; try the one day kidney cleanse initially and progress on from there.
- More extensive information about kidney cleansing is available in the free online read from Dr Richard Schulze: "5-Day Kidney Detox".
- "Cranberry", another free download by Jill Davies also contains suggestions for using this plant to support overall kidney health.
- The essential oil Juniper has an affinity for kidney elimination and is a lovely addition to baths and body treatments.
Our herbal formulae are strong flavoured and effective. Our herbs enjoy a long history of use. A large proportion of them are grown in English soils, harvested using bio-chemistry analysis and many of them are processed fresh, which heightens their remedial properties. The majority are grown organically and are sustainable and wild-crafted. All manufacturing is carried out using licensed good manufacturing practice.