We see them frequently – health articles that offer a seemingly simple prevention or even claimed cures for serious illnesses. We may sometimes dismiss them as wishful thinking, but perhaps we shouldn’t.
The article that caught my eye recently was about how bananas can cut the risk of kidney cancer.  By now many of us know that certain herbs with very exotic names like gotu kola or ginkgo now have documented medical preventive and even in some cases curative effects, but bananas . . .! Nonetheless, the dietary study that was reported in a prestigious scientific journal was pretty impressive. It was conducted with some 61,000 Swedish people between the ages of 40 to 76 who were followed for an average of thirteen years. And what were the results? Apparently the subjects who ate bananas four to six times a week had about half the risk of contracting kidney cancer as those who did not. Eating root vegetables such as carrots and beets, white cabbage, lettuce & cucumbers also greatly helped to protect against renal cell carcinoma.
So this article was more difficult to dismiss then many undocumented natural health claims, not merely because it teamed up two such unlikely partners as kidneys and bananas, but because there are many things about this small organ that are fascinating.
In a 160 pound adult, the kidneys weigh only about three quarters of a pound, yet they do an incredible job. The kidneys filter the blood at a rate of 45 gallons a day. Since we have 7 or 8 liters or somewhat less then two gallons of blood in our bodies, this means that the entire blood volume gets filtered approximately 20 to 25 times each day.
What the kidneys are doing in this process is balancing the composition of the blood by keeping the ratio of important substances constant. They also keep the amount of water in the body stable, remove wastes and keep the acids and bases in balance. The kidney is the only organ in the body in which two capillary beds laid out in a series connect the arteries with the veins. Arteries carry oxygenated blood and nutrients to the cells while the veins transport blood containing carbon dioxide and waste products discarded from the cells.
This physiological function, as amazingly complex as it is, does not quite explain why or how David Hamelech “consulted” with his kidneys and Avraham Aveinu was taught by them and the fact that our Sages therefore learn that the kidneys are the “seat of the power of judgment and the source of advice”.
Sounds interesting! But wait it gets even more interesting because these food stuffs that protect the body against various malignancies are, according to this research study, all common place vegetables. What is the secretive power hidden within these natural foods.
According to the scientists, these vegetables work to help to protect against cancer because they contain antioxidants and antioxidant boosters. Antioxidants fight the scourge known as “free radicals.” Free radicals are chemically active atoms or molecules that have an unbalanced number of electrons, that is instead of even numbers of paired electrons they will have either too many or too few. To reach the necessary state of equilibrium, free radicals will scavenge the body either releasing or stealing electrons in an effort to rebalance themselves, and leaving, in their wake, more unstable products in a chain reaction effect. This activity causes tremendous damage to cells, proteins and DNA. Anti oxidants fight this process by stabilizing the radical before it begins to do its damage or by breaking the chain after it has been formed.
Let’s see what comes out of all of this. On the physical side the kidneys are the organs that mediate between the two major opposing components of the circulatory system: that being the arteries and the veins, as well as balancing the composition of the blood in the process, while its counterpart spiritual “kidneys” serve as the “organs of discernment”. How so? Just as the role of the kidneys are to mediate the divergent flows of the life force within us and neutralize any negative influence so as to rebalance the body, our “supernal kidneys” are given to us in order to maintain the health and balance of our souls.
May we all merit to strike the right balance and thereby speed up the final geula soon in our days.
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