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The Plumbing And Sewering Of The Body

Categories: THE MUSCLES
Sources: A Handbook Of Health

The Wastes of the Body. Almost everything that the body does in the

process of living means the breaking down, or burning, of food; and

produces, like every other kind of burning, two kinds of waste--smoke

and ashes.

The carbon dioxid smoke, as we have already learned, is carried in the

blood to the lungs, where it passes off in the breath. The solid part of

our body waste, or the ashes, is of two kinds--
hat which can be

melted in water, or is, as we say, soluble; and that which cannot be

melted in water, or is insoluble. The insoluble part of our solid body

waste goes into the feces and is thus disposed of.

The soluble part of the body waste goes by a somewhat more roundabout

route. With the carbon dioxid it is poured by the body cells into the

veins, carried to the heart, and pumped through the lungs, where the

carbon dioxid is thrown off. Going back to the heart it is pumped all

over the body, part of it going through a very large artery to the

liver, part through two large arteries to the kidneys, part to the skin,

and the rest all over the remainder of the body.

The blood goes completely round the body-circuit from the heart to the

fingers and toes, and back again to the heart, in less than forty-five

seconds. Practically every drop of blood in the body will be pumped

through the liver, the kidneys, and the skin, about once every half

minute, so that they get plenty of chance to purify it thoroughly when

they are working properly.

This sounds rather complicated; but is interesting, because it shows

how much of a mind of their own the different organs and stuffs in our

bodies have, or what, in scientific language, we call power of

selection. The skin glands pick out of the blood those waste substances

which they are able to get rid of. The kidneys pick out another class of

waste substances, which they are best able to deal with; while the liver

which is the most important of all, attacks almost every kind of waste

brought to it by the blood, and prepares it for disposal by the

intestines, skin, and kidneys.

The Liver. The liver has a size to match its importance. It is the

largest and heaviest gland, or organ, in the body, and weighs about

three pounds, a little more than the brain. It buds off from the food

tube just below the stomach, so that its waste tube, the bile

duct--about the size of a goose quill--opens into the upper part of the


The main work of the liver is to receive the blood from all over the

body and to act upon its waste substances, burning them up so that they

can be taken up, and got rid of, by the glands of the skin and the

kidneys. In the process it very frequently changes these waste

substances from poisonous into harmless forms; and even when disease

germs get into the body and infect it, the poisons, or toxins, which

they pour into the blood are carried to the liver and there usually

burned up, or turned into harmless substances.

The liver is, therefore, to be regarded as a great poison filter for

the entire body. So long as it can deal with the poisons as fast as they

are formed, either by the body itself, or in the food, or by disease

germs, the body is safe and will remain healthy. But if the poisons come

faster than the liver can deal with them, as, for instance, when we have

eaten tainted meat or spoiled fruit, or have drunk alcohol, they begin

to poison our nerves and muscles, and we become, as we say, bilious.

Our head aches, our tongue becomes coated, we have a bad taste in the

mouth, we lose our appetite and feel stupid, dull, and feverish.

Such waste materials as the liver cannot burn down so that the kidneys

and skin can handle them, it pours out through its duct into the

intestine as the bile. The bile is a yellowish-brown fluid, which

assists the pancreatic juice in the digestion of the food, and helps to

dissolve the fats eaten, but is chiefly a waste product. It turns green

when it has been acted upon by acids, or exposed to the air. So that the

bile which you throw up when you are very sick at your stomach, is green

because it has been acted upon by your gastric juice.

As you will remember, the blood which comes from the stomach and bowels

is carried by the portal vein to the liver first and, through that, to

the heart, instead of going directly to the heart, as all the other

impure blood in the body does. This is owing, in part, to the fact that

this blood, being full of substances freshly taken or made from the

food, is very likely to contain poisons; indeed, as a matter of fact,

blood taken from these veins on its way to the liver, and injected

directly into the blood vessels of an animal, acts like a mild poison.

In part, however, this blood goes first to the liver, because the liver,

besides being a great blood purifier, is a blood-maker in the sense

that it changes raw food-stuffs in the blood from the intestines into

forms which are more suitable for use by the brain, the muscles, and the

other tissues of the body. Some of the sugars, for instance, the liver

turns into a kind of animal starch (glycogen), which it stores away in

its own cells. It also turns both sugars and proteins in the portal

blood into fat, part of which it pours into the blood, and part of which

it stores away also in its own cells. Thus the liver owes its great size

partly to the large amount of blood-purifying, filtering, and

poison-destroying work which it has to do, and partly to its acting

as a storehouse of starch and fat, which the body can readily draw upon

as it needs them.


As all poisons formed in, or entering, the body are brought to the liver

for destruction, it is in an extremely exposed position, and very liable

to break down under the attack of these poisons, whether of infectious

diseases, or chloroform, or alcohol, or those formed by putrefaction in

the stomach and intestines. This is why those who have lived long in the

tropics and suffered from malaria, dysentery, and other infectious

diseases, and those who drink too much alcohol, or have chronic

indigestion, or dyspepsia, are likely to have swollen and inflamed


The Gall Bladder. The liver has on its under side a little pear-shaped

pouch called the gall bladder, in which the bile is stored before it

is poured into the bowel. If this becomes inflamed by disease germs, or

their poisons, in the blood, little hard masses will form inside it,

usually about the size of a grain of corn, known as gall stones. So

long as they stay in the gall bladder, they give little trouble, but if

they start to pass out through the narrow bile duct into the intestine,

they cause severe attacks of pain, known as gall-stone colic, and, by

blocking up the duct, may dam up the flow of the bile, force it back

into the blood again, and stain all our tissues, including our skin and

our eyes, yellow; and then we say we are jaundiced. Jaundice may also

be caused by colds or other mild infections which attack the liver and

bile ducts and clog the proper flow of the bile.

The Kidneys. The kidneys are another form of blood-filter, which deal

chiefly with waste stuffs in the blood left from the proteins, or Meats,

of our food--meat, fish, milk, cheese, bread, peas, beans, etc. These

waste-stuffs, called urea and urates, are formed in the liver and

brought in the blood to the kidneys. These lie on either side of the

backbone, opposite the small of the back, their lower ends being level

with the highest point of the hip-bones, nearly six inches higher than

they are usually supposed to be. When you think you have a pain across

the kidneys, it is usually a pain in the muscles of the back much lower

down, and has nothing to do with the kidneys at all.

A very large artery carries the blood from the aorta to each side of the

kidney, and a large vein carries the purified blood back to the vena

cava and heart. Two smaller tubes about the size of a crow quill, the

waste pipes of the kidneys (the ureters), carry the water containing

urea and other waste substances strained out by the kidneys and called

urine, down into a large pouch, the bladder, to be stored there until

it can be got rid of.

The kidneys then are big filter-glands. They, like the lungs, are made

up of a mesh, or network, of thousands of tiny tubes of two kinds, one

set of tubes being blood vessels, and the other set the tiny branches of

the kidney tubes which finally run together to form the ureters. The

urine filters through from the spongy mesh of blood tubes (capillaries)

into the kidney tubes and is poured out through the ureters. It is very

important that the urine should be discharged as fast as it fills the

bladder, that is, about once every three hours during the day. Nothing

should be allowed to interfere with this; and whenever nature tells you

that the bladder is full, it should be emptied promptly, or the poisons

which nature is trying to get rid of in the urine may get back into the

blood and cause serious trouble.

Diseases of the Kidneys. Naturally, the kidneys, working all the time

and pouring out, as they do every day, from three to four pints of the

liquid waste called urine, are subject to numerous diseases and

disturbances. One of the common causes of these is failure to keep the

skin thoroughly clean and healthy, as perspiration is of somewhat the

same character as the urine; and if it be checked, it throws an extra

amount of work upon the kidneys.

Another most important thing to keep the kidneys working well is to

drink plenty of water, at least six or eight glasses a day, as well as

to eat plenty of fresh green vegetables and fresh fruits, which, as we

have seen, are eighty per cent water. Remember, we are a walking

aquarium, and all our cells must be kept flooded with and soaked in

water in order to be healthy. If the blood becomes overloaded with

poisons, so much work may be thrown upon the kidneys that they will

become inflamed and diseased and cannot form the urine properly; and

then poisons accumulate in the system and finally produce serious

illness and even death.

It was at one time believed that eating too much of certain kinds of

foods, particularly those that leave much nitrogenous waste in the body,

such as meat and fish, could produce a diseased condition of the

kidneys, known as Bright's Disease; but we have found that the larger

part of such cases are due to the attack of the germs of infectious

diseases, particularly scarlet and typhoid fevers, tuberculosis, and

colds. The popular impression that colds from wet feet or long drives in

winter may settle in the kidneys is wrong, except in so far as those

colds are caused by infectious germs.

Another cause of disturbance and permanent damage to the kidneys is the

habitual use of alcohol. Even though this may be taken in only moderate

amounts, the constant soaking of the tissues with even small amounts of

alcohol may be most harmful to the kidneys, as well as to the liver.