Lessons in Chemistry of the Kidneys

Bonnie Garmus’s novel, Lessons in Chemistry, is an enchanting feminist story set in 1960s America. The novel centers around the remarkable chemist, Elizabeth Zott, as she navigates the male-dominated world of the time. Unexpectedly, she also becomes a cooking-show host, where she skillfully demonstrates cooking techniques using chemistry. Personally, I found this captivating and insightful tale to be enlightening. It made me realize the profound influence of chemistry in our everyday lives, from the food we eat to the products we use.

The kidneys are incredibly important organs in our bodies that play a vital role in maintaining our overall health and well-being. In chemistry, it is essential to understand their functions and their significance in maintaining proper chemical balance within the body.

One of the main functions of the kidneys is to filter and remove waste products and toxins from our blood. This process is termed as excretion and is crucial for maintaining the chemical equilibrium of our body. The kidneys eliminate excess water, salts, urea, and other waste products, keeping our blood clean and free from harmful substances.

Another crucial function of the kidneys is to regulate the concentration of electrolytes in our body fluids. Electrolytes are minerals that split into charged particles, known as ions when dissolved in fluids. The kidneys help maintain the appropriate balance of electrolytes, such as sodium, potassium, calcium, and phosphate ions in our blood. This balance is essential for proper nerve and muscle function, as well as for maintaining healthy pH levels in our body fluids.

The kidneys contribute to the regulation of blood pressure. They produce an enzyme called renin, which plays a significant role in controlling blood pressure. Renin acts on a protein called angiotensinogen, which is produced in the liver and converted to angiotensin. Angiotensin, in turn, causes blood vessels to constrict, increasing blood pressure. This mechanism is significant in maintaining proper blood flow and oxygen supply to all the organs in our body.

The kidneys also help in the production of red blood cells. They produce a hormone called erythropoietin, which stimulates the production of red blood cells in our bone marrow. Red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen to all the cells in our body, and their production is essential for maintaining healthy bodily functions. Understanding the role of kidneys in the production of erythropoietin can shed light on how our body maintains a delicate balance between oxygen demand and supply.

In conclusion, the functions of the kidneys are indeed significant, and I hope you agree they are the master chemists! The kidneys play a crucial role in maintaining the chemical balance of our body by filtering waste products, regulating electrolyte concentrations, controlling blood pressure, and aiding in red blood cell production. By understanding the chemical basis of these functions, people can gain a more comprehensive understanding of the importance of kidney health and how it relates to their overall well-being.

It is important to prioritize the well-being of your kidneys.

If your kidneys are not functioning optimally, your doctor may prescribe medication to address the chemical imbalance. In severe cases, dialysis or a kidney transplant may be necessary if your kidneys have deteriorated significantly. Ask your doctor how your kidney health is doing.  Give the two little bean sized chemists a pat on your back.

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
National Institutes of Health



Lori-Hartwell-foudner-president-kidney-talk-host-authorLori Hartwell is the Founder and President of Renal Support Network (RSN) and the host of KidneyTalk™ Podcast Radio. Lori was diagnosed with kidney disease at the age of two. She survived 50+ surgeries and 13 years of dialysis, and is now living with her fourth kidney transplant.  In 1993 she founded RSN to instill “health, happiness and hope” into the lives of those affected by chronic kidney disease. Lori is also the author of the inspirational book Chronically Happy: Joyful Living in Spite of Chronic Illness and is a four-time kidney transplant recipient.

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