Electrolytes float through the blood and perform various functions in people’s bodies. Calcium, Sodium, and Potassium, for example, work together to help the muscles of the body contract. And the work of some of these electrically charged substances is controlled or at least affected by the kidneys.
This means that when the kidneys are diseased, the electrolytes may also function in an unhealthy way. Serious problems can arise that might, at first, seem unrelated to the kidneys at all. But to understand how these issues develop, we first need to know how electrolytes function when everything works properly.
Let’s take a look at two electrolytes – calcium and phosphorus – which often work together, each substance relying on the kidneys to keep it in balance with the other. The first function of the two is probably obvious: to help build up bones and teeth. Almost everyone knows that calcium is good for building bones, but few are aware that phosphorus is just as important. In fact, while about ninety-nine percent of the calcium in the body is concentrated in the bones, as much as eighty-five percent of the body’s phosphorus may also be found there.
In addition, phosphorus plays a major role in transferring energy throughout in the body. Calcium and phosphorus together help keep cells in good order, and regulate nerve function. Remember calcium’s role in helping muscles to contract? This would not be possible without phosphorus working right alongside it. The two electrolytes are equal partners.
The kidney helps keep phosphorus levels balanced by inducing the production of D vitamins, which in turn help the body excrete excess phosphorus. But as kidney disease progresses, the kidney becomes unable to trigger the Vitamin D. And that’s when the happy partnership of calcium and phosphorus becomes a nightmare instead. We’ll examine what happens under these circumstances with our next look at kidneys and the electrolytes.