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Exploring the Role and Function of the Kidneys

Regulating Electrolytes

An individual requires a range of electrolytes to maintain a healthy body function. Electrolytes are small minerals found in your blood which are involved in many cellular functions. Similar to a battery powering a remote control, electrolytes are responsible for different functions such as muscle contractions, water balance, and other important actions occurring in the body. In a healthy person, the balances of these minerals are maintained through urination and sweating. Having too much or too little of these electrolytes can have negative impacts on the body. The kidneys regulate what electrolytes we need through a process called reabsorption. Reabsorption works by pulling needed electrolytes from the nephron tubules back into our blood, along with water and other small sized particles. When we have too much of a particular mineral the kidneys release the excess minerals into the tubule, to be released as waste. This process is called excretion. If an individual’s kidney function decreases, electrolytes may begin to accumulate in the blood.

   
   
   

Examples of important minerals that can be found in food are: 

  • Sodium - excessive sodium intake will retain water in your body, which causes high blood pressure.
  • Potassium - accumulation of potassium can cause the heart to beat irregularly.
  • Calcium & phosphorous - These two electrolytes are closely interlinked. When high levels of phosphorous are maintained long term, the integrity of skeletal bones become compromised and bones can become more brittle over time.