Kidney Coach

Kidneys 101: Kidney Anatomy and Interesting Facts


Before we can start healing the kidneys we need to know exactly what we are treating, it is no good throwing any old herb, nutrient, or drug at them. In comparison it is just like changing the oil in a car, it is no good pouring any old oil, or liquid for that matter, hoping to get it right. There are many things to factor in to get it right, but also to prevent doing serious damage. So by knowing the inner working of your kidneys, having a good understanding of what they do and how they interact with the rest of the body, it puts you in a good position to heal the kidneys with precision.

Here is a list of informative facts about your kidneys:

  • They are located towards the back, just below the ribcage
  • They are the size of a fist (or a computer mouse)
  • They contain 8-12 ‘pyramids’ (also known as kidney medullas)
  • They filter 190 litres (200 quarts) of blood every single day
  • Of these 190 litres, roughly 1.9 litres (2 quarts) are excreted as urine
  • They are in the shape of a kidney bean (or is it the other way around?)
  • The most basic filtering unit within a kidney is call a nephron, and you have between 1,000,000 to 1,300,000 of these.

So what exactly are kidneys and what makes them soooo special?

Well for starters, the kidneys have many biological roles that keep your body healthy and within the homeostatic* zone; we all are well aware that the body excretes urine for the purpose of removing waste products and to regulate fluid levels, but did you know the kidneys also help produce red blood cells, vitamin D, and balance pH levels?

*Homeostasis: The ability of a body to regulate its internal environment to preserve a constant equilibrium; such as the ability of the human body maintain a constant body temperature.

But how does it do all that? What is its mechanism?

Here’s A Closer Look…anatomy of a kidney, kidney anatomy, CKD anatomy

The kidney consists of three main sections:

1.      Renal cortex (outer region): containing the filtering units of the kidneys (nephrons)

2.      Renal medulla (middle region): composed mainly of tube like structures to drain the urine into the renal pelvis.

3.      Renal pelvis (inner region): the renal pelvis is like little funnels collecting all the urine from the cortex, down through the tubes contained within the medulla (pyramids). These pelvises then flow into the ureters for transport into the bladder.

Little Nephrons, Why Are You So Cool?

I don’t want to get all nerdy on you, but this is important stuff, I promise not put anything in here that you don’t need to know, so I’ll get straight to the point. Basically when something goes wrong with your kidneys we are mainly talking about your nephrons (and remember you have 1 million+ of these guys). That’s it, that’s all I wanted to say (see, I wasn’t lying :-)).

However, I will just quickly show you this diagram to help you understand what a nephron looks like.  See all the little wriggly lines and the ball to the right of the image? All of that constitutes one nephron. Each of the little sections that make up that ball and string do have their own names, but together they create the filtering units of the kidneys (nephrons). Cool hey? It never ceases to amaze me that the body can create such ‘machines’ on such a minute scale, then multiply it by one million, and then fit them all into a organ no larger than your fist.

nephron anatomy, nephron, kidney, renal nephron

…However there is one aspect of the kidneys that is often overlooked, and that I haven’t mentioned yet, and that is there is a very important gland which sits, like a little hat, on top of each kidney. These important glands are known as the adrenal glands. Many people may have heard of these in recent times, as they are gaining much press for being the main cause of fatigue. Or should I say that the under functioning of these glands is the cause of fatigue. Nonetheless, what is often not mentioned is that these glands also play a massive part in the health of your kidneys. When these glands are not functioning right, nor do your kidneys, or at the very least cause your kidneys to work harder. And it stands to reason, just look at the picture below!

adrenal glands anatomy


They are almost part of the kidneys themselves! But this fact is rarely stated. Weird I know. Anyway, that is another entirely different blog post (one which I will be commenting on soon). But I will give you a hint; the adrenal glands are your anti-stress glands and are mainly activated during stressful events. The stress increases the activity of the adrenal glands (e.g. production of adrenaline & cortisol) and the kidneys get stuck in the middle of it all…

Well there you have it folks! I hope that has helped you gain insight into your body and how it functions, plus give you a good foundation for future posts. Look forward to our next chat.

To Your Health,



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