By far, the most pain I have ever experienced was when I had kidney stones. They are accumulations of mineral salts varying in size from microscopic to the size of a fingertip that form in the kidney and then travel down the ureter to the bladder. As the tiny, sharp crystals rub against this tube, it causes severe pain through the region. It may take days or a week for a kidney stone to pass and throughout this period of watching and waiting it is best to rely on a strong pain killer prescribed by an urologist.

An estimated 10 percent of Americans develop kidney stones at some point in their lives. This can be one of the most excruciatingly painful health disorders; a friend of mine who suffered through six bouts with kidney stones says that they are more painful than what a woman goes through giving birth. After my nightmarish experience, I have made it a habit to drink at least 6 eight-ounce glasses of water a day. This is the single most important measure one can take to prevent kidney stones from forming again.

My experience prompted me to consider what my kidneys actually do for me. A sports doctor told me to think of my kidneys as a pasta strainer or filter. These two organs are the size of our fists and are located on either side of the spine, just below the rib cage. The kidneys are hard workers removing waste and extra fluid from the blood. In addition to getting rid of toxins, they are miracle workers who do the positive work of controlling the body's chemical balance, helping control blood pressure, helping us make red blood cells, and helping us keep our bones healthy.

My sports doctor, who has also studied Chinese medicine, points out that kidneys are the source of much of the day-by-day energy that we need to keep us going. He suggested that I think of the kidneys as a pilot light in a stove. If the flame is too low, the entire energy system will not function properly. That is why eating properly is such an important part of having our kidneys functioning well.

In light of all that my kidneys do for me, I want to express my deep gratitude to them for working so hard and sustaining me in ways I have often taken for granted.

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