What System Removes Waste from the Body and How

As you know our human body has 11 organ systems that together help in the proper functioning. Among them, the removal of waste from the body is done by different systems like

  1. Urinary system
  2. Digestive system
  3. Respiratory system
  4. Circulatory system.
  5. Integumentary system.

Of the above-mentioned four, there are few organs that are specifically meant for waste removals like the kidneys, liver, and skin.

However, unlike others, kidneys are the only vital organs that are specifically involved in the excretion process.

While other organs that remove the waste from the body are also involved in other major functions.

What System Removes Waste from the Body

Urinary system

The urinary system is the one that removes waste from the blood circulation. It cannot remove the waste material which is outside the reach of blood circulation.

system that removes waste from the body

All the waste material sorted out from the blood in the nephrons of the kidney is passed out as urine.

How does it do

The urinary system comprises of kidneys, ureters, urinary bladder, and urethra.

Inside the kidneys, there are millions of nephrons that are involved in the filtration of blood from waste matter.

Blood flows into the glomerulus of the nephron and here most matter from the blood gets filtered into the nephron. Here the waste matter is retained and the essential matter is reabsorbed into the blood. Even some of the matter that escapes filtration also gets secreted in the loop of nephrons.

Thereby most waste matter from the blood is filtered out into the nephron which is expelled out as urine.

From the nephron, the urine formed enters into ureters which pass onto the urinary bladder. Here in the urinary bladder it is stored temporarily and expelled out through the urethra.

Digestive system

This is the part of the body that starts from the mouth and ends with the anus. It is a big tube-like structure that travels all along the body.

It has many associated organs like the salivary glands, liver which expel the waste into the digestive tract. Besides the undigested and unwanted matter in the food is also expelled out.

The liver is a key excretory organ of the digestive system. It is also a major organ for metabolism. Here, the complex molecules are broken down into simpler forms for expulsion from the body.

Those water-insoluble molecules are chemically converted into water-soluble forms. These water-soluble metabolites are expelled through urine.

Whereas certain biomolecules like the globin part of hemoglobin and other drug molecules are directly expelled into the intestine. These expelled waste material are carried out of the body through feces.

So, the liver is involved in expulsion through both urine and feces.

Salivary glands are also the organs involved in the expulsion of certain waste molecules.

The metabolite of phenytoin an anticonvulsant drug is expelled through saliva. This is carried away through feces.

Respiratory system

The respiratory system is another body system that helps in the expulsion of waste in the form of gases from the body.

When alcohol is consumed, the breath is filled with its odor. This is because alcohol is expelled through the lungs.

Circulatory system.

This system comprises of blood, blood vessels, and the heart. This system’s main role is to transport substances across the body. In doing so, they carry away the waste from remote parts of the body to the respective excretory organs like the kidney, liver, skin, etc.

Integumentary system.

This system includes skin, hair, nails, and exocrine glands. Of them, the skin is the most prominent organ involved in waste removal from the body.

When the blood carries waste material towards the skin. Some of the waste like salts, urea, ammonia, and water is expelled in sweat through skin pores.

We will see them in more detail on how they work to remove the waste from the body.

The following organs constitute the excretory system as

  1. Kidneys
  2. Skin
  3. Lungs
  4. Liver
  5. Intestine

All the above organs are involved in elimination. Elimination involves the removal of waste from the body.


What system removes waste from the body
Holly Fischer / creativecommons.org

These organs are located on the dorsal side of the body. Their more physiology involves purification of the blood. All the blood flows through the nephrons in the kidneys. During this flow, most of the waste is removed from the blood into the nephron tube. This waste is expelled as urine. Most drugs, electrolytes, uric acid, urea, etc. are expelled from the body.

When blood flows into the kidneys, it reaches the nephrons. There it undergoes processes like glomerular filtration, active tubular secretion, and passive tubular reabsorption. The waster formed is expelled in urine.

Skin: Skin is one of the minor organs of excretion. It helps to remove the waste in the form of sweat. It especially helps in the excretion of sodium chloride, urea, and aromatic substances like spices, etc.

During high temperatures, the body tries to regulate the internal heat by the expulsion of sweat.

What system removes waste from the body
Skin structure with upper and lower layers, hair, and other tissues. (Courtesy NIH)

Hence, sweating is a natural physiological process to regulate body temperature. If we tried to avoid sweating by use of an air-conditioned room or other cooling methods, the burden of waste removal lies in the kidney. So, filtration and elimination increase the load on the kidneys, which leads to their damage in the long run.

Even in case of poisoning, the blood is decontaminated by the expulsion of toxin through urine. Hence the toxin elimination is hastened by either alkalinization or acidification of the urine.

Lungs: These are also the organs through which waste is removed in the form of gases. Lungs readily eliminate lipid-soluble compounds faster by breath. They help in the expulsion of carbon dioxide, ammonia, ethyl alcohol, etc. So, we can identify if a person has consumed alcohol. Since ethanol is expelled from the lungs, we can quickly determine if the person is drunk.

Liver: It is another major organ of excretion. It metabolizes an insoluble substance, biological molecules like the hormones, enzymes, etc. The water-insoluble forms are converted to water-soluble forms. These then released into the blood for expulsion through kidneys are into the intestine for expulsion through feces.

All the food and drugs we take enter the liver from the intestine. Here, they undergo first-pass metabolism, which could lead to the identification of toxins and waste. Also, the waste in blood also is metabolized in the liver for expulsion.

Intestine: As such, the intestine is not involved in the excretion mechanism. However, the intestine helps to eliminate waste by not absorbing them back into the blood.

Besides the above, saliva and tears are also involved in excretion. Hence, you might have heard that teeth are damaged in few patients due to drug treatment. These drugs are released into saliva, which degrades the teeth.

Leave a Comment