Effect of increasing sodium intake 10-fold (from 30 to 300 mEq/ day) on urinary sodium excretion and extracellular fluid volume. The shaded areas represent the net sodium retention or the net sodium loss, determined from the difference between sodium intake and sodium excretion.
sodium intake, renal excretion also increases to about 300 mEq/day, so that a balance between intake and output is re-established. However, during the 2 to 3 days of renal adaptation to the high sodium intake, there is a modest accumulation of sodium that raises extracellular fluid volume slightly and triggers hormonal changes and other compensatory responses that signal the kidneys to increase their sodium excretion.
The capacity of the kidneys to alter sodium excretion in response to changes in sodium intake is enormous. Experimental studies have shown that in many people, sodium intake can be increased to 1500 mEq/ day (more than 10 times normal) or decreased to 10 mEq/day (less than one tenth normal) with relatively small changes in extracellular fluid volume or plasma sodium concentration. This is also true for water and for most other electrolytes, such as chloride, potassium, calcium, hydrogen, magnesium, and phosphate ions. In the next few chapters, we discuss the specific mechanisms that permit the kidneys to perform these amazing feats of homeostasis.
Regulation of Arterial Pressure. As discussed in Chapter 19, the kidneys play a dominant role in long-term regulation of arterial pressure by excreting variable amounts of sodium and water. The kidneys also contribute to short-term arterial pressure regulation by secreting vasoactive factors or substances, such as renin, that lead to the formation of vasoactive products (e.g., angiotensin II).
Regulation of Acid-Base Balance. The kidneys contribute to acid-base regulation, along with the lungs and body fluid buffers, by excreting acids and by regulating the body fluid buffer stores. The kidneys are the only means of eliminating from the body certain types of acids, such as sulfuric acid and phosphoric acid, generated by the metabolism of proteins.
Regulation of Erythrocyte Production. The kidneys secrete erythropoietin, which stimulates the production of red blood cells, as discussed in Chapter 32. One important stimulus for erythropoietin secretion by the kidneys is hypoxia. The kidneys normally account for almost all the erythropoietin secreted into the circulation. In people with severe kidney disease or who have had their kidneys removed and have been placed on hemodialysis, severe anemia develops as a result of decreased erythropoietin production.
Regulation of 1,25-Dihydroxyvitamin D3 Production. The kidneys produce the active form of vitamin D, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3 (calcitriol),by hydroxylating this vitamin at the "number 1" position. Calcitriol is essential for normal calcium deposition in bone and calcium reabsorption by the gastrointestinal tract. As discussed in Chapter 79, calcitriol plays an important role in calcium and phosphate regulation.
Glucose Synthesis. The kidneys synthesize glucose from amino acids and other precursors during prolonged fasting, a process referred to as gluconeogenesis. The kidneys' capacity to add glucose to the blood during prolonged periods of fasting rivals that of the liver.
With chronic kidney disease or acute failure of the kidneys, these homeostatic functions are disrupted, and severe abnormalities of body fluid volumes and composition rapidly occur. With complete renal failure, enough potassium, acids, fluid, and other substances accumulate in the body to cause death within a few days, unless clinical interventions such as hemodialysis are initiated to restore, at least partially, the body fluid and electrolyte balances.
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This ebook provides an introductory explanation of the workings of the human body, with an effort to draw connections between the body systems and explain their interdependencies. A framework for the book is homeostasis and how the body maintains balance within each system. This is intended as a first introduction to physiology for a college-level course.