Stop Stressing!

sorry faceI am retired.  I get up when I want. I go to bed when I want. I stay in when I want. I go out when I want. I have no deadlines except those I impose on myself. But people I love do have stress in their lives: jobs, relationships, mental health…and I am stressed by their stress.

What, in heaven’s name, is this stress doing to my kidneys since I have Chronic Kidney Disease?  It is further reducing my already compromised immune system is what it’s doing.  Let me tell you why I don’t need that and neither do you.

Flashback to Alaska about a month ago. Bear was in the throes of cellulitis. It was about 60 degrees and raining lightly. We needed to return the knee scooter to the rental company before we left the state, which meant I stood outside in the rain for over 40 minutes waiting for them to show up.  They didn’t. I straightened that out and we ended up racing to the airport to be there two hours before our flight, as required. Then Bear felt ill, so we sat in the ice cold military waiting room for over 12 hours until our flight.  There was no sleep that night.  Are you starting to get the picture?IMG_1320

The result was a plain, old ordinary upper respiratory infection that took my already compromised immune system three weeks to heal from.

Let’s do the usual backtracking here and take a look at how Chronic Kidney Disease compromises your immune system in the first place. According to WebMD’s explanation of what stress can do to anyone, CKD or not, at http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/effects-of-stress-on-your-body,

Stress that continues without relief can lead to a condition called distress — a negative stress reaction. Distress can lead to physical symptoms including headachesupset stomach, elevated blood pressurechest pain, and problems sleeping. Research suggests that stress also can bring on or worsen certain symptoms or diseases.

Make no mistake. Stress can be a killer for those with CKD.  Did ‘elevated blood pressure’ from the explanation above jump out at you?  A large number of us were already taking blood pressure lowering medication before we developed CKD.  Another large number who were not had blood pressure lowering medication prescribed for them by their nephrologists.  Why?

blood pressure 300dpi jpgLet’s go back to basics here. In the glossary of What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, I defined hypertension (high blood pressure) as

A possible cause of CKD,… , a risk factor for heart disease and stroke, too.

Just below that definition is the one for hypertensive nephrosclerosis:

Kidney damage caused by HBP (high blood pressure).

As a reminder, nephron refers to the kidneys and sclerosis to hardening of the – in this case – organ.

Dirty words! So my already high blood pressure MAY have been part of the cause of my CKD which compromised my immune system and then stress further compromised it.  Oh my.

Wait a minute. Let me grab this thought. Got it! How does the immune system work anyway? The National Institutes of Health was helpful here.Book Cover

The immune system protects the body from possibly harmful substances by recognizing and responding to antigens. Antigens are substances (usually proteins) on the surface of cells, viruses, fungi, or bacteria. Nonliving substances such as toxins, chemicals, drugs, and foreign particles (such as a splinter) can also be antigens. The immune system recognizes and destroys substances that contain antigens (Me here: the body does already contain antigens of its own.) ….The immune system includes certain types of white blood cells. It also includes chemicals and proteins in the blood, such as antibodies, complement proteins, and interferon. Some of these directly attack foreign substances in the body, and others work together to help the immune system cells.

There’s a great deal more of such information at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000821.htm

Keep in mind that our kidneys filter our blood.  If our kidneys are damaged, our blood filtration is not at 100%, including those ever important Blood Oxygen Cycle Picture 400dpi jpgwhite blood cells. Ever notice how high your white blood count is when you have an illness?  This is why. You might also look for your leukocyte esterase level on your blood test results since those indicate the presence of white blood cells.

This is so complicated, but then, isn’t everything?  Whatever happened to black and white answers, she whined winningly.

So we have already poorly filtered blood and further reduced blood flow (That’s what hypertension is.) caused by stress. Wonderful, just wonderful. Ugh! Obviously, this is something to be avoided, if possible.  But how?

As CKD patients, we can stop stressing ourselves about the following, those things that common – but misguided – knowledge tells us is our disease worsening when they actually may be anxiety produced:

  • Extra Urination Anxiety can actually cause more frequent urination. When you experience anxiety, the part of your brain that controls the withholding urination actually slows down, because anxiety requires resources to be sent to other parts of your brain. This can lead to concerns over your renal health, although generally nothing is wrong.
  • Lower Back Pain Lower back pain is also very common with anxiety. Lower back pain comes from severe stress and tension, and yet it’s bad backassociated with some conditions that affect the kidneys as well which can have many people worried about their kidney health.
  • Life Experiences Anyone that suffers from anxiety and has had a friend or family member diagnosed with a terrible kidney condition is at risk for developing anxiety over the idea of poor kidneys. Anxiety can turn life experiences into very real concerns, and so kidney health concerns are one of the issues that can come up when you see it in others.
  • Urine Color Urine color is another issue that can cause anxiety. Many people check their urine color for diseases habitually, and every once in a while the color of a person’s urine may be very different than what they expect. This can create concerns that the urine color changes are due to kidney problems.

Many thanks to Calm Clinic at http://www.calmclinic.com/anxiety/kidney-problems for these reassuring words.

IMG_1398

Here’s hoping you can find more ways to reduce any existing stress in your life.  Look hard, we all have stress of some kind of another.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

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