Your Doctor

What do your kidneys and liver actually do?

Our kidneys and liver are two of our most vital organs, but most of us don’t know too much about what they do or how they work. 

Let’s talk kidneys first.

  • Kidneys are two bean-shaped, sophisticated organs located near the middle of your back.
  • Your kidneys sort, regulate and filter minerals from about 230 litres of blood a day.
  • The kidneys also determine what is waste and what is not from food, medicines, and toxic substances.
  • Our amazing kidneys also perform many other crucial functions, including maintaining overall fluid balance, creating hormones that help produce red blood cells, promoting bone health, and regulating blood pressure.
  • The waste and extra water which the kidneys sort from the blood then become part of our urine which then flows from the kidneys to the bladder.
  • The filtered and ‘fresh’ blood leaves the kidneys and flows back into the heart. 

So, our kidneys are pretty amazing but what about your liver? 

  • The liver’s main function is to filter blood from the digestive organs and pass it through to the rest of the body. It also converts the nutrients we consume and turns it into substances our body can use. 
  • The liver also neutralises toxic substances so that they are no longer harmful and makes sure they are then released by the body. 
  • The liver also produces and secretes bile and makes proteins, important for blood clotting and other functions. 
  • Our livers are truly amazing and in some cases can completely replace damaged tissue with new cells, if they are not irreparably scarred, thereby healing and regenerating itself. 
  • The liver is located close to the kidneys and is found on the right side of the belly and weighs around 1.5 kgs. It is both the heaviest internal organ and the largest gland in the human body.
  • Over 600,000 people in England and Wales are living with some form of liver disease

So how do we keep our kidneys and liver healthy? Here are our top five tips.

1. Maintain a healthy weight 

Not having a healthy weight puts you at risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. This is one of the fastest growing liver diseases in the world. By losing and then maintaining a healthy weight you are less likely to have ‘fatty liver’ which will in turn benefit your health. Keeping your weight in check is also known to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and chronic kidney disease. 

2. Eat a balanced diet

Avoid processed foods and saturated fats. Switch from refined carbs to wholegrain which regulate blood sugar levels and are also rich in fibre. Also, don’t forget your greens which are rich in nutrients, vitamins and minerals which your body needs in order to work efficiently. High blood sugar is also linked to diabetes and about half of people who have diabetes develop kidney damage, so keeping a balanced diet is imperative.

3. Exercise regularly 

Exercising regularly helps burn fat and therefore reduces liver fat. Regular exercise also helps reduce blood pressure and in turn reduces the risk of chronic kidney disease. Keep moving, try and do exercise that makes you get out of breath and do some strength training. Any exercise you can do will go some way to helping.

4. Drink alcohol responsibly 

Both the liver and kidneys act as filters so binge or constant drinking of alcohol can overload these organs. In fact, over-consumption of alcohol can damage or destroy liver cells beyond repair, scarring the liver. It is fine to have an alcoholic drink every now and then, but always drink responsibly and in moderation and don’t drink every day. 

5. Avoid Smoking

The toxins in cigarettes can be hugely damaging to your health. Toxins can injure liver cells and slows the flow of blood to the kidneys which need a constant flow of blood in order to function properly. Research has also found that smoking increases the risk of kidney cancer by around 50%. 

If you have any concerns about unusual symptoms you think could be related to you kidneys or liver, make an appointment to discuss with one of our GPs on 0330 088 2020