Recreating Creatinine

I throw a lot of terms around as if we all understood them. Sorry for that. One reader made it clear he needed more information about creatinine. In another part of my life, I belong to a community that calls reviewing or further explanation of a certain topic recreating… and today I’m going to recreate creatinine.

Let’s start in the beginning. This is what I wrote in the beginning of my CKD awareness advocacy in What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease :

“Creatinine is a waste product of muscle activity. What actually happens is that our bodies use protein to build muscles and repair themselves. This used protein becomes an amino acid which enters the blood and ends up in the liver where it is once again changed.  This time it’s changed into urea which goes through the kidneys into the urine.

The harder the muscles work, the more creatinine that is produced and carried by the blood to the kidneys where it also enters the urine.  This in itself is not toxic, but measuring the urea and creatinine shows the level of the clearance of the harmful toxins the body does produce.  These harmful toxins do build up if not voided until a certain level is reached which can make us ill. Working kidneys filter this creatinine from your blood.  When the blood levels of creatinine rise, you know your kidneys are slowing down.  During my research, I discovered that a non-CKD patient’s blood is cleaned about 35 times a day. A CKD patient’s blood is cleaned progressively fewer times a day depending upon the stage of the patient’s disease.”

Got it. Well, I did have to read it a couple of times to get it straight in my mind. Now what? Let’s see what more information I can find about what this means to a CKD patient. The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1 contains the following explanation from DaVita,

“Because there are often no symptoms of kidney disease, laboratory tests are critical. When you get a screening, a trained technician will draw blood that will be tested for creatinine, a waste product. If kidney function is abnormal, creatinine levels will increase in the blood, due to decreased excretion of creatinine in the urine. Your glomerular filtration rate (GFR) will then be calculated, which factors in age, gender, creatinine and ethnicity. The GFR indicates the person’s stage of Chronic Kidney Disease which provides an evaluation of kidney function.”

I thought you might want to know more about this test, so I turned to The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2 since I remembered including The National Kidney Disease Education Program at The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ information (including some reminders about definitions) concerning the process of being tested for CKD.

  1. “A blood test checks your GFR, which tells how well your kidneys are filtering.…

2. A urine test checks for albumin. Albumin is a protein that can pass into the urine when the kidneys are damaged.

If necessary, meaning if your kidney function is compromised, your PCP will make certain you get to a nephrologist promptly.  This specialist will conduct more intensive tests that include:

Blood:

BUN – BUN stands for blood urea nitrogen.

Creatinine The creatinine blood test measures the level of creatinine in the blood. This test is done to see how well your kidneys work.

Urine:

Creatinine clearance – The creatinine clearance test helps provide information about how well the kidneys are working. The test compares the creatinine level in urine with the creatinine level in blood.”

Aha! So there are two different creatinine readings: blood or serum and urine. By the way, MedicineNet at http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=5470 defines serum as “The clear liquid that can be separated from clotted blood. Serum differs from plasma, the liquid portion of normal unclotted blood containing the red and white cells and platelets. It is the clot that makes the difference between serum and plasma.”

This is starting to get pretty complex. It seems that yet another test for CKD can be conducted with a urine sample. This is from SlowItDown 2015.

“In recent years, researchers have found that a single urine sample can provide the needed information. In the newer technique, the amount of albumin in the urine sample is compared with the amount of creatinine, a waste product of normal muscle breakdown. The measurement is called a urine albumin-to-creatinine ratio (UACR). A urine sample containing more than 30 milligrams of albumin for each gram of creatinine (30 mg/g) is a warning that there may be a problem. If the laboratory test exceeds 30 mg/g, another UACR test should be done 1 to 2 weeks later. If the second test also shows high levels of protein, the person has persistent proteinuria, a sign of declining kidney function, and should have additional tests to evaluate kidney function.

Thank you to the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse, A service of the NIH, at http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/proteinuria/#tests for that information.”

Is there more to know about creatinine? Uh-oh, this savory little tidbit was reprinted in SlowItDownCKD 2016 from an earlier book.

“.…Dr. HL Trivedi of the Institute of Kidney Diseases and Research Centre (IKDRC) said, ‘…. Rapid water loss causes the kidney’s functioning to slow down, resulting in temporary or permanent kidney failure.’

Extreme heat causes rapid water loss, resulting in acute electrolyte imbalance. The kidney, unable to cope with the water loss, fails to flush out the requisite amount of Creatinine and other toxins from the body. Coupled with a lack of consistent water intake, this brings about permanent or temporary kidney failure, explain experts.”

This seems to be calling for a Part 2. What do you think? There’s still BUN and albumin to deal with. Let me know what else you’d like to see included in that blog.

Have I mentioned that I’ll be presenting a display about CKD Awareness at Landmark’s Conference for Global Transformation? Or that both an article and an update about CKD Awareness will be included in their journal?

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Women and Water (Men, too)

Welcome to March: National Kidney Month and Women’s History Month. I’m going to fudge a bit on the ‘History’ part of that as I did last month with Black History Month. I don’t often have guest bloggers, but this month will feature two women as guest bloggers in honor of Women’s History Month. The first is Jessica Walter, who sent me the following email last month:

Hi There,

I am a freelance health and food writer, I have teamed up with a small senior lifestyle advice site, I worked with them to develop a complete guide on how to eat better and be healthier from a dietary point of view. This includes detailed information on why being hydrated is so important. … you can check out the article here:

https://www.senioradvisor.com/ blog/2017/02/7-tips-on- developing-better-eating- habits-in-your-senior-years/.

I liked what Jessica had to say and how easily it could be adapted not only for senior Chronic Kidney Disease patients, but all Chronic Kidney Disease patients.

In addition, she sent me this short article about hydration and CKD. It’s easy to read and has some information we constantly need to be reminded of.

Staying Hydrated When You Have Chronic Kidney Disease

We all know that drinking water is important for our health, and monitoring fluid intake is critical for those with chronic kidney disease. Too much water can be problematic, but so can too little. Dehydration can be serious for those with chronic kidney disease. If you are suffering from vomiting, diarrhea, fever, or diabetes, or if you urinate frequently, you may become dehydrated because you are losing more fluid than you are taking in. For those without chronic kidney disease, the solution is to increase the intake of water until the body is sufficiently hydrated.

Since dehydration can decrease blood flow to the kidneys, and as fluid intake must be controlled in patients with chronic kidney disease, it’s important to closely monitor their fluid intake and loss in these circumstances.

Recognizing The Signs

The first step is to recognize the physical signs of dehydration. You may have a dry mouth or dry eyes, heart palpitations, muscle cramps, lightheadedness or fainting, nausea, or vomiting. You may notice a decrease in your urine output. Weight loss of more than a  pound or two over a few days can also be an indicator of dehydration. If you are taking ACE inhibitors and ARBs, such as lisinopril, enalapril, valsartan, or losartan, or water pills or diuretics, these medications can harm your kidneys if you become dehydrated. It is doubly important to be aware of signs of dehydration if you are on any of these medications.

Steps to Take

To rehydrate your body, start by increasing your intake of water and ensure that you are eating plenty of fruits and vegetables. (Me here: remember to stay within your renal diet guidelines for fruits, vegetables, and fluids.)If you cannot keep water down, or if increased consumption doesn’t alleviate the signs of dehydration, contact your health care provider  immediately.

They may also recommend a different fluid than plain water since electrolytes and minerals can also be reduced if you are dehydrated, but you may still need to watch your intake of potassium, phosphorus, protein, and sodium. Your doctor may recommend an oral rehydration solution that will restore your body to a proper level of hydration. If you have a fluid restriction because you are on dialysis, you should consult your healthcare provider if you have issues with or questions about hydration. Taking in or retaining too much fluid when you have these restrictions can lead to serious complications, including headaches, swelling, high blood pressure and even stroke. Carefully monitoring your fluid intake and watching for signs of dehydration will help you to avoid the consequences of dehydration.

I’ve blogged many times over the last six years about hydration. I’m enjoying reading this important material from another’s point of view. I’m sorry Jessica’s grandmother had to suffer this, but I’m also glad Jessica chose to share her writing about it with us.

 

This June, 2010, article included in The Book of Blogs: Moderate Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1 furthers explains:

“.…Dr. HL Trivedi of the Institute of Kidney Diseases and Research Centre (IKDRC) said, ‘…. Rapid water loss causes the kidney’s functioning to slow down, resulting in temporary or permanent kidney failure.’

Extreme heat causes rapid water loss, resulting in acute electrolyte imbalance. The kidney, unable to cope with the water loss, fails to flush out the requisite amount of Creatinine and other toxins from the body. Coupled with a lack of consistent water intake, this brings about permanent or temporary kidney failure, explain experts.”

The article can be viewed directly at http://www.dnaindia.com/health/report_heat-induced-kidney-ailments-see-40pct-rise_1390589 and is from “Daily News & Analysis.”

The CDC also offers advice to avoid heat illness:

“People with a chronic medical condition are less likely to sense and respond to changes in temperature. Also, they may be taking medications that can worsen the impact of extreme heat. People in this category need the following information.

  • Drink more water than usual and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.
  • Check on a friend or neighbor, and have someone do the same for you.
  • Check the local news for health and safety updates regularly.
  • Don’t use the stove or oven to cook——it will make you and your house hotter.
  • Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
  • Take cool showers or baths to cool down.
  • Seek medical care immediately if you or someone you know experiences symptoms of heat-related illness(http://www.cdc.gov/extremeheat/warning

It’s clear we need to keep an eye on our hydration. While we’re doing that, keep the other eye out for SlowItDownCKD 2016 purposely available on World Kidney Day on Amazon.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

It’s Unfolding Now

Remember when I was lucky enough to catch the flu just after Christmas? (She wrote sarcastically.) When I went to the Immediate Care facility my doctor is associated with, the doctor there had my records and knew I’d had pleurisy at one time. But now, he ordered a chest x-ray to check for pneumonia. What he found instead was news to me… so, of course, I’m telling you about it.

IMG_2982To quote from the final result report of the X-ray: “There is unfolding of the thoracic aorta.” Huh? In The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1 there’s an explanation of thorax.

“What?  The what? Oh, the thorax. That’s ‘the part of the human body between the neck and the diaphragm, partially encased by the ribs and containing the heart and lungs; the chest’ according to The Free Dictionary at http://www.thefreedictionary.com/thorax.”

Thoracic is the adjective form of thorax; it describes the aorta in this case.

Do you remember what the aorta is? I sort of, kind of did, but figured I’d better make certain before I started writing about it. MedicineNet at http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=2295 was helpful here.

“The aorta gives off branches that go to the head and neck, the arms, the major organs in the chest and abdomen, and the legs. It serves to supply them all with oxygenated blood. The aorta is the central conduit from the heart to the body.”

Now I get the connection between Chronic Kidney Disease and the aorta. Did you catch “oxygenated blood” in that definition? And what organs oxygenate the blood? IMG_2980Right. Your kidneys. This excerpt from SlowItDownCKD 2015 may help.

““The National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse …explains.

‘Healthy kidneys produce a hormone called erythropoietin, or EPO, which stimulates the bone marrow to produce the proper number of red blood cells needed to carry oxygen to vital organs.  Diseased kidneys, however, often don’t make enough EPO. As a result, the bone marrow makes fewer red blood cells.’”

With me so far? Now, what the heck is an unfolded aorta? I turned to the British site for radiologists, Radiopaedia.org, at https://radiopaedia.org/articles/unfolded-aorta for the definition. “The term unfolded aorta refers to the widened and ‘opened up’ appearance of the aortic arch on a frontal chest radiograph. It is one of the more common causes for apparent mediastinal widening and is seen with increasing age.

It occurs due to the discrepancy in the growth of the ascending aorta with age, where the length of the ascending aorta increases out of proportion with diameter, causing the plane of the arch to swivel.”

thoracic-aortaI purposely left the click through definitions in so you read them for yourself. You know the drill: click on the link while holding down your control key. For those of you who are reading the print version of the blog, just add the definition of aorta to the common terms we know: arch and ascending.

Mediastinal, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mediastinum is the adjective (describing) form of mediastinum or “the space in the chest between the pleural sacs of the lungs that contains all the tissues and organs of the chest except the lungs and pleurae; also:  this space with its contents.”

Hang on there, folks, just one more definition. I searched for a new site that wouldn’t offer a terribly technical definition of pleura (or pleurae) and found verywell at https://www.verywell.com/pleura-lungs-definition-conditions-2249162.

“The pleura refers to the 2 membranes that cover the lungs and line the chest cavity. The purpose of the pleura is to cushion the lungs during respiration.

The pleural cavity is the space between these 2 membranes and contains pleural fluid.”graduation

Side note: I definitely feel like I’m back teaching a college class again.

Okay, so now we have a bunch of definitions, we’ve put them together as best we can and where does it bring us? Are you ready for this? Nowhere. An unfolding of the thoracic aorta is nothing more than a function of age.

FullSizeRender (2)However, with CKD, it’s somewhere. As was explained in What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, “Hemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.”  We’re already not getting enough oxygen due to our poor, declining in function kidneys.

Am I concerned about the unfolding thoracic aorta? No, not at all. It happens with age; I don’t think I can do anything about that. But, the CKD that also lowers our oxygen production? Oh yes, I can – do – and will do something about that by protecting my kidneys as best I can and keeping the remaining kidney function I have.

Kidneys.com, quoted in The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1, did a nice job of laying out a plan for me to do just that.

“Along with taking your prescribed blood pressure medications, lifestyle changes such as losing weight, exercising, meditating, eating less sodium,  drinking  less  IMG_2982alcohol  and  quitting  smoking  can  help  lower  blood pressure. Better blood pressure control helps preserve kidney function.”

I added using my sleep apnea machine and aiming for eight hours of sleep a night. I also stick to my renal diet – which limits protein, phosphorous, potassium, and sodium (as mentioned by kidney.com) – for the most part and keeping my kidneys hydrated by drinking at least 64 ounces of fluid a day.

Is it hard? I don’t know any more. It’s been nine years. They’re simply habits I’ve developed to live as long as I can and, sometimes, even raise the bottled waterfunction of my kidneys.

When my New York daughter was with us over the holidays, I realized how differently we eat than other people do. My husband has chosen to pretty much eat the way I do. So she actually had to go down to the market to pick up the foods that people ordinarily eat.  It would have been funny if I hadn’t been sick. I would have gone with her and laughed each time I answered, “No,” when she asked, “Do you eat this?”laughing

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Starting the New Year with a Miracle

fireworksHappy New Year and welcome to 2017.  We did our usual stay in, watch movies, and toast with non-alcoholic champagne (I know that’s contradictory.) at midnight.  With our New York daughter here, it was even more meaningful.

A new year brings to mind new beginnings… and that leads me to Part 3 of the miracle series, as promised. I am so, so serious about this and hope you decide to take on for yourself causing a miracle in CKD by sharing information.

I was thinking about social media the other day. Where are the public service announcements about Chronic Kidney Disease?  I am still – nine years after my diagnose – knocking on seemingly closed doors to encourage Public Service Announcements everywhere. While the public doesn’t seem as involved with network television or radio as they were when I was younger, we now have Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Tumblr to name just a few ways we can share.

I use a both a Facebook page and a Twitter account to post one fact about or information pertinent to those with CKD daily. Join me at newslowitdownckdfbcoverSlowItDownCKD on Facebook and @SlowItDownCKD on Twitter. I also monitored Libre’s Tweet Chat with Gail Rae 1/10/12. I knew nothing about Twitter at the time, but it was a way to share the information I had. You may not want to do this, but feel free to ‘steal’ the information posted and share it with others.

There are also Podcasts, Internet Radio Shows, YouTubes, etc. to share what the public needs to know about CKD. A YouTube can be viewed by one person who posts it on Facebook and go viral. Don’t bother looking at mine. They’re pretty painful. I’ll look into this again at a later date.

On the other hand, these are some of the social media venues that interviewed me: The Edge

Podcast 5/9/16, Online with Andrea 3/23/15 & 3/07/12, What Is It? How Did I Get It? 2/17/12, and Improve Your Kidney Health with Dr. Rich Snyder, DO 11/21/11. I never knew these venues existed before I started working towards the miracle I wanted to cause.

Lo and behold, my sharing brought others who wanted to know about CKD, so I was profiled by Nutrition Action Healthletter, Center for Science in the Public Interest 9/16, New York State United Teachers ‘It’s What We Do’  8/9/16, and Wall Street Journal ‘Health Matters’  1/13/14. Remember that Clairol commercial in last week’s blog?

Let’s say you agree that sharing can cause a miracle in Chronic Kidney Disease and want to join in living a life causing this miracle. The first thing you’d want to do is learn about CKD. The American Kidney Fund and the National Kidney Foundation both have a wealth of information written AKF logofor the lay person, not the medical community. By the way, the National Kidney Foundation also has information about NKF-logo_Hori_OBCKD globally. Maybe you’d rather join in World Kidney Day gatherings and distribute materials. Then keep an eye on World Kidney Day’s Twitter account for locations around the world.

As you can see, I’ve been creating this miracle is by writing for these organizations and more kidney specific ones, as well as guest blogging for various groups. You may not choose to do that… but you can speak at your religious group meetings, your sports league, your weekly card game, or whatever other group you’re comfortable with.

A miracle doesn’t have to be profound. You can help create this one. All you need is a little education about CKD and the willingness to introduce the subject where you haven’t before.friends

I live my life expecting miracles and I find they happen.  This miracle that I’m causing – and is happening – has been (and is) created by sharing, sharing, sharing. The more than 200 million people who have Chronic Kidney Disease need this information, to say nothing of those who have yet to be diagnosed.

kidneys5There aren’t that many organs to go around for those who didn’t know they had CKD and progressed to End Stage Renal Disease.  We know that transplantation is a treatment, not a cure, and one that doesn’t always last forever. We also know that kidneys from living donors usually last longer than those from cadaver donors. Share that, too.

We have our no cost, no pain, no tools needed miracle right on our lips… or at our fingertips. Start sharing, keep sharing, urge others to share, and help to prevent or slow down the progression in the decline of kidneys worldwide. Sharing is causing a miracle in CKD. Both deaths and hospitalizations for this disease have declined since 2008. If that isn’t a miracle, I don’t know what is. I keep saying I live my life expecting miracles; this is one of them.hearing

I was a private person before this disease. Now, in addition to the Facebook page and twitter accounts, I make use of an Instagram account (SlowItDownCKD) where I post an eye catching picture daily with the hash tag #SlowItDownCKD. This brings people to my weekly blog about CKD – as does my Instagram account as Gail Rae-Garwood – and the four books I wrote about it: one explaining it and the others the blogs in print – rather than electronic form for those who don’t have a computer or are not computer savvy. Time consuming? Oh yes, but if I expect to live a life of miracles, I need to contribute that time to share what I can about the disease and urge others to do the same.IMG_2979

I am urging you to realize you are the others I am asking to help cause a miracle in Chronic Kidney Disease. As the Rabbinic sage Hillel the Elder said, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?” Now. You. Me. Others. CKD.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Is it CKD? Or Is It Arizona?

I’ve written about my dismay at thinning hair. By the way, I’ve come to terms with that rather than trying any product other than a new shampoo. What helped me come to that decision was a date day picture. My hair looked like straw in that picture and probably had for a while, although I hairhadn’t taken note of it.

It was dry, terribly dry. Well, I do live in Arizona. Our annual relative humidity index is about 31%. Thank you to Climatemps.com at http://www.phoenix.climatemps.com/humidity.php for this information.  For those of you (like me) who never thought about it before, I found the following excellent explanation of humidity at https://www.britannica.com/science/humidity.

“Care must be taken to distinguish between the relative humidity of the air and its moisture content or density, known as absolute humidity. The air masses above the tropical deserts such as the Sahara and Mexican deserts contain vast quantities of moisture as invisible water vapour. Because of the high temperatures, however, relative humidities are very low.”

sun-graphic1Hmmm, Mexican deserts…high temperatures… yep, that’s us. Wait a minute. My youngest and my step-daughters live here, too. They have beautiful, luxurious hair.  My delightful neighbor is a little older than my daughters, but her hair is always healthy looking and attractive. Okay, I’m older but I also have Chronic Kidney Disease.

Let’s take a look at what age can do to your hair first. (Saving the best for last, of course.) The Natural Society (I do occasionally check these sites.) at http://naturalsociety.com/2-factors-causing-thinning-hair-aging-not-one/ tells us:

“Low level of thyroid hormone can cause hair loss because it slows the metabolic rate throughout the body, a reason that low thyroid and weight gain often go hand in hand. This slowing extends to scalp follicles, resulting in premature release of the hair shaft and root, and a delay in producing replacement hairs. Early graying is another indication of low thyroid, as is the loss of hairs from the temporal edges of the eyebrows.”

Interesting, but it doesn’t talk about dryness, just hair loss… and my thyroid levels have always been fine.

Let’s try again. Prevention.com at http://www.prevention.com/beauty/anti-aging-care-thinning-brittle-hair  hit the nail on the head for me:

“But after you hit 40, the damage begins to go deeper, extending to the hair’s inner cuticle, known as the endocuticle.endocuticle

This type of damage is a result of the body’s reduced ability to repair itself, says Nicole Rogers, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Tulane University. In your 20s and 30s, the body (including your hair) bounces back from outside damage fairly quickly. But as you hit middle age, hair breaks down more quickly and the outer cuticle is repaired at a slower rate, leaving the inner cuticle vulnerable to the same outside attacks it once was shielded from.”

After you hit 40? That changed my entire outlook. At almost 70, I was actually lucky that I’d had so many years without dry hair. Amazing how information like this can reverse your thinking.

But I have CKD. Was this adding to the dry hair problem? I went to my old standby DaVita at https://www.davita.com/kidney-disease/overview/symptoms-and-diagnosis/hair,-nails-and-chronic-kidney-disease/e/4733 for help:

“… hair can become visibly abnormal when you develop a disease. Some people experience hair breakage or find that their hair falls out, or sometimes both.”

That tickled my memory. Oh, I remember writing this in What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early and Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney FullSizeRender (2)Disease.

“… oddly enough, my curly hair would become temporarily straight if I were incubating some illness or other…”

All right, that helps a bit, but – as usual – I wanted to know why. Another old favorite, WebMD at http://www.webmd.com/beauty/dry-hair-causes was helpful in a general, non-CKD, way:

“Your scalp isn’t making enough moisture. Hair has no natural lubrication. It relies on oils made in the hair root to keep your hair moisturized and looking lustrous.

Sometimes, hair doesn’t make enough oil, which leads to dry hair. (Likewise, roots in overdrive lead to oily and greasy hair.) As you age, your hair naturally makes less oil.”

Well, it looks like age, humidity, and disease – including Chronic Kidney Disease – all have something to do with dry hair. I sort of, kind of, remembered hydrating my hair with some home remedy when I was younger and had caused some damage by skiing in the sun or playing in a chlorinated swimming pool too much. Something about mayonnaise.  NaturallyCurley.com (How apt!) at http://www.naturallycurly.com/curlreading/products-ingredients/mayonnaise-hair-treatment-how-to/ explains:

“Mayonnaise does contain some hair healthy ingredients like lemon juice, vinegar and soybean oil which contain fatty acids and vitamins that can boost shine and act to seal in moisture.”

My method was ridiculously simple:

  1. Work the mayonnaise into your hair (It’s fun.).
  2. Plop on a shower cap.
  3. Leave it alone for about half an hour.
  4. Rinse out the by now gooey mess.
  5. Work at washing it out of your hair with a gentle shampoo.

I tried this last night and am very happy with the results. Maybe – in this case – it is just that easy.

I want to remind you that each of the websites I mention will give you more information about the particular topic you’re interested in.

IMG_2982

IMG_2980

 

 

FullSizeRender (3)

I had a really nice surprise the other day and wanted to share it with you. A little background is necessary first. I was a high school English teacher in New York City for 34 years before I retired and moved to Arizona. As such, I joined my union – The United Federation of Teachers. Because I did, I’m also a member of the New York State United Teachers. They publish a newspaper which has a section entitled ‘Kudos,’ that applauds the accomplishments of their members. As a retired teacher, I glance through the paper each time it arrives. This is what I found in the Fall 2016 issue:

 

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Thank you, thank you, thank you. These are non-Chronic Kidney Disease people appreciating writings about Chronic Kidney Disease.

Until next time,

Keep living your life!

The American Kidney Fund Blog

AKF logoI was honored that The American Kidney Fund (www.kidneyfund.org) asked me to write a blog for them. This is that blog. Once it was published last Thursday, I started thinking. If you share the blog and ask those you shared with to share it, too, and they asked their friends to share it, too… image how many people would become aware of Chronic Kidney Disease. Will you do that?

Slowing Down CKD—It Can Be Done

When a new family doctor told me nine years ago that I had a problem with my kidneys—maybe chronic kidney disease (CKD)–my first reaction was to demand, “What is it and how did I get it?”

No doctor had ever mentioned CKD before.

I was diagnosed at stage 3; there are only 5 stages. I had to start working to slow it down immediately. I wanted to know how medication, diet,stages of CKD exercise and other lifestyle changes could help. I didn’t want to be told what to do without an explanation as to why… and when I couldn’t get an explanation that was acceptable to me, I started researching.

I read just about every book I could find concerning this problem. Surprisingly, very few books dealt with the early or moderate stages of the disease.  Yet these are the stages when we are most shocked, confused, and maybe even depressed—and the stages at which we have a workable chance of doing something to slow down the progression in the decline of our kidney function.

I’ve learned that 31 million people—14 percent of the population—have CKD, but most don’t know they have it. Many, like me, never experienced any noticeable symptoms. Many, like me, may have had high blood pressure (hypertension) for years before it was diagnosed. Yet, high blood pressure and diabetes are the two leading causes of CKD.

I saw a renal dietician who explained to me how hard protein is on the kidneys… as is phosphorous… and potassium… and, of course, sodium. Out bananawent my daily banana—too high in potassium. Out went restaurant burgers—larger than my daily allowance of protein. Chinese food? Pizza? Too high in sodium. I embraced an entirely new way of eating because it was one of the keys to keeping my kidneys functioning in stage 3.

Another critical piece of slowing down CKD is medication. I was already taking meds to lower my blood pressure when I was first diagnosed with CKD. Two more prescriptions have been added to this in the last nine years: a diuretic that lowers my body’s absorption of salt to help prevent fluid from building up in my body (edema), and a drug that widens the blood vessels by relaxing them.

For a very short time, I was also taking a drug to control my pre-diabetes, but my doctor and I achieved the same effects by changing my diet even more. (Bye-bye, sugars and most carbs.) The funny thing is now my favorite food is salad with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I never thought that would happen: I was a chocoholic!

Exercise, something I loved until my arthritis got in the way, was also important. I used to dance vigorously several nights a week; now it’s once a week with weights, walking, and a stationary bike on the other days. I think I took sleep for granted before CKD, too, and I now make it a point to blues dancersget a good night’s sleep each day. A sleep apnea device improved my sleep—and my kidney function rose another two points.

I realized I needed to rest, too. Instead of giving a lecture, running to an audition, and coming home to meet a deadline, I slowly started easing off until I didn’t feel like I was running on empty all the time. I ended up happily retiring from both acting and teaching at a local college, giving me more time to work on my CKD awareness advocacy.

I was sure others could benefit from all the research I had done and all I had learned, so I wrote my first book, What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, in 2011. I began a blog after a nephrologist in India told me he wanted his newly diagnosed patients to read my book, but most of them couldn’t afford the bus fare to the clinic, much less a book. I published each chapter as a blog post. The nephrologist translated my posts, printed them and distributed them to his patients—who took the printed copies back to their villages. I now have readers in 106 different countries who ask me questions I hadn’t even thought of. I research for them and respond with a blog post, reminding them to speak with their nephrologists and/or renal nutritionists before taking any action… and that I’m not a doctor.

What is itEach time I research, I’m newly amazed at how much there is to learn about CKD…and how many tools can help slow it down. Diet is the obvious one. But if you smoke or drink, stop, or at least cut down. If you don’t exercise, start. Adequate, good quality sleep is another tool. Don’t underestimate rest either; you’re not being lazy when you rest, you’re preserving whatever kidney function you have left. I am not particularly a pill person, but if there’s a medication prescribed that will slow down the gradual decline of my kidney function, I’m all for it.

My experience proves that you can slow down CKD. I was diagnosed at stage 3 and I am still there, nine years later. It takes knowledge, commitment and discipline—but it can be done, and it’s worth the effort. I’m sneaking up on 70 now and know this is where I want to spend my energy for the rest of my life: chronic kidney disease awareness advocacy. I think it’s just that important.

IMG_1398SlowItDownCKD 2015 Book Cover (76x113)

 

SlowItDownCKD is the umbrella under which Gail Rae-Garwood writes her CKD books and blog, offers talks, participates in book signings, is interviewed on podcasts and radio shows, and writes guest blogs. Her website is www.gail-raegarwood.com.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

It’s Not Lemonade

Why drinking water with lemon is good for you screamed The Chicago Tribune at me today. Hmmm, I’d been wondering about that. Last week, happy birthdayI’d attended the 60th birthday celebration of my friend Naomi. She is studying nutritional counseling. That’s right: studying at age 60. As you can tell, no grass grows under the feet of the people in my social circle.

The celebration was held in one of the beautiful resorts out here in Arizona, The Sanctuary, in The Jade Bar to be exact. It was an odd location since this bar was long and narrow with couches and comfortable chairs lined up, but no place to mingle or chat in small groups. We ended up climbing over each other just to get to the rest room. Yet, my friend came running up to greet us.

Why? She wanted to know if I was drinking the water with lemon first thing in the morning as she’d suggested when I was a test case for one of her classes. She explained to me how important it was to people and her friends Lily and Patty leaned over to verify with their own personal anecdotes.

That, of course, got me to thinking. What was so special about this? Sure, it would warm up the vocal chords if you drank the lemon in warm water, but what else?

According to Tribune’s article at http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/health/sc-one-simple-thing-lemon-water-0420-20160415-story.html,

“Health experts say the acidity of the lemons improves digestion. Lemons contain potent antioxidants, which can also protect against disease, says Dr. Jonny Bowden, a nutritionist and health author. ‘It’s very alkalizing for the system,’ said the Woodland Hills, Calif.-based Bowden, whose lemonsbooks include “Smart Fat” and “The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth.” Having a healthy alkaline balance helps fight germs.’”

Now this confused me. How can lemon – an acidic fruit – alkalinize your system?  Body Ecology at http://bodyecology.com/articles/acidic-foods-and-acid-forming-foods-do-you-know-the-difference had exactly what I needed:

“To clear up some of the confusion:

  • Acidic and alkaline describe the nature of food before it is eaten.
  • Acidifying foods and acid-forming foods are the same, making the body more acidic.
  • Alkalizing foods and alkaline-forming foods are the same, making the body more alkaline.”

I know, now you’re wondering what each of these terms mean. So am I…and I thought I knew. I turned to Online Biology Dictionary at http://www.macroevolution.net/biology-dictionary-aaaf.html:

“Acid – a sour-tasting compound that releases hydrogen ions to form a solution with a pH of less than 7, reacts with a base to form a salt, and turns blue litmus red…. An acid solution has a pH of less than 7.”

I used the same dictionary for the definition of alkaline, which referred me to the definition of alkali.

“Any metallic hydroxide other than ammonia that can join with an acid to form a salt (or with an oil to form soap).”

I didn’t find that very helpful so I turned to my old buddy The Merriam-Webster Dictionary at http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/alkali

“a soluble salt obtained from the ashes of plants and consisting largely of potassium or sodium carbonate; broadly:  a substance (as a hydroxide or carbonate of an alkali metal) having marked basic properties”

Okay, that’s a little better, but not much. Let’s try this another way. I perused site after site. What I gleaned from these is that lemons are, indeed, acidic before they are eaten, but the body metabolizes them into alkaline. There was plenty of specific science to explain this, but I didn’t understand half of it and prefer to keep it simple.

Of course, then I wanted to know why I was even bothering to research this at all. LifeHacks at http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/11-benefits-lemon-water-you-didnt-know-about.html, a new site for me, made it abundantly clear.

  1. Gives your immune system a boost.
  2. Excellent source of potassium.
  3. Aids digestion.
  4. Cleanses your system.CoffeeCupPopCatalinStock
  5. Freshens your breath.
  6. Keeps your skin blemish-free.
  7. Helps you lose weight.
  8. Reduces inflammation.
  9. Gives you an energy boost.
  10. Helps to cut out caffeine.
  11. Helps fight viral infections.

Now, you do have Chronic Kidney Disease, so be aware that lemons are a high potassium food. Potassium is one of the electrolytes we need to limit. Also, if you are prone to kidney stones, you’ll be very interested to know lemons are full of vitamin C, something you may need to avoid.

So far, it sounds like lemon juice in water upon waking is a good thing if you keep the two caveats above in mind but I think I’ll just check into this a bit more.

I looked in my first CKD book, What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, and discovered this succinct explanation of why you want to keep the potassium levels under guard as a CKD patient:What is it

“Potassium is something you need to limit when you have CKD despite the fact that potassium not only dumps waste from your cells but also helps the kidneys, heart and muscles to function normally. Too much potassium can cause irregular heartbeat and even heart attack. This can be the most immediate danger of not limiting your potassium….

Keep in mind that as you age (you already know I’m in my 60s), your kidneys don’t do such a great job of eliminating potassium. So, just by aging, you may have an abundance of potassium. Check your blood tests. 3.5-5 is considered a safe level of potassium. You may have a problem if your blood level of potassium is 5.1-6, and you definitely need to attend to it if it’s above 6.  Speak to your nephrologist (although he or she will probably bring it up before you do).”

If you’re in the normal potassium range on your blood tests as I am, I say go for the lemon juice in water first thing in the morning. Of course, I’m not a doctor and – even if I were – I’m not your doctor, so check with him or her first.

Oh, hopefully by next week, I’ll be able to give you the address for the Edge Podcast I was interviewed on last week. It wasn’t just about CKD, much to my surprise… and maybe that of the Mike G’s (the interviewer), too.SlowItDownCKD 2015 Book Cover (76x113)

Until next week,

Keep living your life!IMG_1398

Deep in the Heart of Texas

Last week I wrote that I’d tell you about our Texas trip this week and that’s just what I’ll do… sort of. We were in San Antonio for the Air Force Basic Training Graduation of a close family friend. I hadn’t wanted to go. The rest of the family was driving 14 hours straight. I thought they were insane.

It turned out I was right about that, but I am glad I went anyway.  The next day, our friend proposed to his girlfriend – who just happened to be our daughter – at The Riverwalk’s Secret Waterfall, Airmen escort and all. THAT was worth the ride. And we got to know his family better, understand them more, and value their company.  As they say in the ad, secret“Priceless.”

There was only one fly in the ointment. While the temperature was manageable for us since we live in Arizona, the humidity was not for the same reason. For my other than U.S. readers (and there are quite a few of them since I have 107,000 readers in 106 countries), Arizona’s usual humidity is low, very low. We do have a three minute rainy season in August (Okay, maybe it’s a teensy bit more than three minutes.) when it rises, but that’s not the norm.

Last week, the humidity in San Antonio, Texas, was between 68% and 72%. Even the air conditioning in the hotel bowed before it.  Our Airman had Air Force logoscheduled the entire weekend for us: The Airman’s run on an open field, late lunch at a restaurant with no available indoor seating, graduation on the parade field, an afternoon on The Riverwalk. There’s more, but you get the idea.  All of it outdoors, all of it in 68% to 72% humidity, all of it uncomfortable as can be.

And, it turns out, all of it not great for a Chronic Kidney Disease patient. Why? Well, that’s the topic of today’s blog. ResearchGate at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/263084331_Climate_change_and_Chronic_Kidney_Disease published a study from the Asian Journal of Pharmaceutical and Clinical Research from February of 2014 (That’s over two years ago, friends.) which included the following in the conclusion:

“Our data suggest that burden of renal diseases may increase as period of hot weather becomes more frequent. This is further aggravated if age advanced and people with chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension.”DIGITAL_BOOK_THUMBNAIL

That makes sense, but how will this happen exactly? I included this June, 2010, article in The Book of Blogs: Moderate Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1. Apparently, heat (and humidity) has been an acknowledged threat to our kidneys for longer than we’d thought.

“.…Dr. HL Trivedi of the Institute of Kidney Diseases and Research Centre (IKDRC) said, ‘…. Rapid water loss causes the kidney’s functioning to slow down, resulting in temporary or permanent kidney failure.’

Extreme heat causes rapid water loss, resulting in acute electrolyte imbalance. The kidney, unable to cope with the water loss, fails to flush out the requisite amount of Creatinine and other toxins from the body. Coupled with a lack of consistent water intake, this brings about permanent or temporary kidney failure, explain experts.”

The article can be viewed directly at http://www.dnaindia.com/health/report_heat-induced-kidney-ailments-see-40pct-rise_1390589 and is from “Daily News & Analysis.”

By the time this book’s twin, The Book of Blogs: Moderate Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2, was ready for publication, the (then) NKF-logo_Hori_OBspokesman for The National Kidney Foundation – Dr. Leslie Spry – had this to say about heat and humidity:

“Heat illness occurs when body temperature exceeds a person’s ability to dissipate that heat and is commonly diagnosed when the body temperature approaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit and when humidity is greater than 70 percent. Once the humidity is that high, sweating becomes Digital Cover Part 2 redone - Copyless effective at dispersing body heat, and the core body temperature begins to rise.”

The entire article is at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/leslie-spry-md-facp/heat-illness_b_1727995.html

Oh, so humidity affects sweating and body heat rises.  Humidity greater than 70%. That covers almost the entire time we were in Texas. Well, what’s the connection between heat illness and CKD then?

The CDC offers the following advice to avoid heat illness:

“People with a chronic medical condition are less likely to sense and respond to changes in temperature. Also, they may be taking medications that can worsen the impact of extreme heat. People in this category need the following information.

  • Drink more water than usual and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.
  • Check on a friend or neighbor, and have someone do the same for you.
  • Check the local news for health and safety updates regularly.
  • Don’t use the stove or oven to cook——it will make you and your house hotter.
  • Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
  • Take cool showers or baths to cool down.
  • Seek medical care immediately if you or someone you know experiences symptoms of heat-related illness(http://www.cdc.gov/extremeheat/warning.html).”

bottled waterUh-oh, we’re already in trouble. Look at the first suggestion: our fluid intake is restricted to 64 oz. (Mine is, check with your nephrologist for yours.) I know I carefully space out my fluids – which include anything that can melt to a liquid – to cover my entire day. I can’t drink more water than usual and, sometimes – on those rare occasions when I’ve been careless – have to wait until I’m thirsty to drink.

Diabetes is the foremost cause of CKD. I was curious how heat affected blood sugar so I popped over to Information about Diabetes at http://www.informationaboutdiabetes.com/lifestyle/lifestyle/how-heat-and-humidity-may-affect-blood-sugar and found this:

  1. If our body is low on fluids, the kidneys receive less blood flow and work less effectively. This might cause blood glucose concentrations to rise.
  2. If someone’s blood sugar is already running high in the heat, not only will they lose water through sweat but they might urinate more frequently too, depleting their body’s fluids even more.

There’s more at the website if this interests you.

So, pretty much, the way to deal with heat and humidity having an effect on your (and my) CKD is to avoid it. That doesn’t mean you have to move, you know.  Stay in air conditioning as long as you can so your body is not overheated and can better handle this kind of weather. Wearing a hat and cool clothes will also help. I certainly learned the value of wearing cotton this past week. It’s a fabric that breathes.

What is itUntil next week,SlowItDownCKD 2015 Book Cover (76x113)

Keep living your life!

It’s the Funniest Thing…

You want to know about Chronic Kidney Disease brain fog?  Let me tell you about Chronic Kidney Disease brain fog.  I wrote a book about the Book Coverexperiences of the newly diagnosed CKD patient based upon my own experience – What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease.  Nice job on that one, Gail.

Four years later, I published The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Parts 1 & 2… with neither a topic listed for each blog nor an index. Well, how the heck are you supposed to find the information you’re looking for??? And it’s taken me this long to figure that out. Take it from me, CKD brain fog exists.

So, what is this CKD brain fog of which I speak? According to integrative medicine expert Dr. Isaac Eliaz, when experiencing brain fog:

“…people feel as if there is a thick fog dampening their mind. While the medical and mental health establishments don’t generally recognize brain fog as a condition, it’s a surprisingly common affliction that affects people of all ages. Symptoms include pervasive absentmindedness, muddled thought processes, poor memory recall, difficulty processing information, disorientation, fatigue, and others.”

You can read more at http://www.rodalenews.com/brain-fog.

It was www.naturopathconnect.com (a link that sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t) that offered me my first insight into how our kidneys and brain fog are connected.

bottled water“Make sure your liver and kidneys are not overloaded or congested. When your liver and kidneys are not functioning well, they are less able to clear your system of the multitude of toxins that float around in your bloodstream. When your body is overloaded with toxins, your brain suffers as well….Dehydration may be a key factor in less-than-optimal kidney function, so water is essential to keep the kidneys in tip-top shape.”

Got it – toxins.  Uh, what toxins?  And how do they affect the brain, I wondered.  Back to researching.

Dr. Martin Morrell of healthtap.com offered an explanation. However, this is not an endorsement of him or the site.  I am not a fan of asking online doctors unfamiliar with your particular medical history for advice.

“… if your blood urea increases, which is supposed to be cleared by your kidneys, this ‘poison’ will affect the ability of the brain to work properly.”

Oh, blood urea. Well that explains it. But how can I explain blood urea?  I’ll allow the experts to do that.

http://www.patient.co.uk/health/routine-kidney-function-blood-test has the simplest explanation.

“Urea is a waste product formed from the breakdown of proteins. Urea is usually passed out in the urine. A high blood level of urea (‘uraemia’) indicates that the kidneys may not be working properly, or that you are dehydrated (have a low body water content).”

In the U.S., we call this test B.U.N. or Blood Urea Nitrogen Blood Test.  So as I understand it, if your protein intake is high, more urea is produced.  But since your kidneys are already compromised by CKD, the toxins remaining in your body are not eliminated as well and are still in the blood that flows through your brain.  Okay, that’s logical.protein

The more urea remaining in your system, the more sluggish your brain.  It does sound like a perfectly formed ‘if-then’ equation from probability theory. The only difference here is that this is not a theory, but, rather, what we may encounter as CKD patients.

What to do?  What to do?  Obviously, keeping our protein intake low will help.  My renal diet limits me to five ounces of protein a day. I rarely ingest more protein than that. Well, bully for me!

So how else can I alleviate my sometimes brain fog…especially since I’m working on three books at the same time as well as wanting to make some sort of index for the books mentioned above?

I was all over the web on this one and found that besides what I was already doing for my CKD, I could also avoid heavy metal (and I always thought that was a kind of music) exposure, use a blue light, get myself some natural sun light, check my medication side effects and lots more.

Dr. Isaac Eliaz who wrote the RodaleNews article in 2013 suggests several more natural remedies:

  1. Improve your diet and digestion.
  2. Detoxify.
  3. Support cell power.water to cells
  4. Control stress.
  5. Exercise.

I can agree with most of the items on Dr. Eliaz’s list no matter what’s causing the brain fog, but with CKD I’d talk over detoxing and/or taking supplements to support cell power with my nephrologist before actually following that advice.  Some nephrologists are dead (Yikes! Wrong word choice) set against detoxifying while others have a more eclectic approach to gentle detoxifying.

Supplements are a whole other story. There are so many different approaches here that I usually research whichever supplement I’m considering, then bring that research to my nephrologist to talk it over with him. Result: some supplements I agreed weren’t looking so good for me after our talk; others, he agreed were well worth a try.

Bahar Gholipour of Live Science at http://www.livescience.com/45502-foggy-brain-causes.html writes about other possible causes of brain fog. She includes multi-tasking, pregnancy, chemotherapy, menopause, and chronic fatigue syndrome among the causes. If any one of these causes exists in your life, maybe it’s not CKD brain fog you’re experiencing… or maybe it is… or maybe it’s a combination.  No one seems to be certain just what can cause brain fog, although I’m pretty comfortable with the explanations I’ve offered above.

It’s real.  Brain fog could be affecting you, especially if you have CKD.  And from what I’ve read, once you’ve gotten your CKD slowed down as much as possible, the other ‘fixes’ are easy.Kidney Arizona

Here’s a quick reminder about The National Kidney Fund of Arizona’s Path to Wellness screening on Saturday, September 19, 2015 at the Indo American Cultural Center. This consists of free blood and urine testing, which is evaluated onsite to assess for the risk of diabetes, heart and kidney diseases, and chronic disease management education, plus overall health assessment and one-on-one consultation with a physician for the screenees. A follow-up 6-week series of Healthy Living workshops that teach chronic disease self-management skills is then offered.

Just like last week, one last thing: P2P’s Chronic Illness Buy & Sell page is on Facebook IMG_1398at https://www.facebook.com/groups/P2PBuy.Sell/.  It will be the place to go for anything chronic illness related. My first book is advertised there and both The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease books will be soon, too.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

On the Sea, On the Sea, On the Beautiful Sea – with apologies to lyricist Harold R. Atteridge

I’ve mentioned a time or two (Oh, okay, much more than that.) we’d been to Vancouver and Alaska recently on what was supposed to have been our over two year delayed honeymoon.  It was soon downgraded to our ‘woebegone vacation.’ I never told you why. IMG_1320

It was so very unfair. Bear has always wanted to take me to see Alaska. He’d been sent there as a young soldier. Obviously, the beauty of the state impressed him. And he’s been talking to me about taking a cruise for the entire time I know him. Having lived on islands my whole life until I moved to Arizona, ferries were enough of ‘cruising’ for me, but my love wanted to go on one so badly. I was the one who wanted to see Vancouver – simply because I’d never been there – so that’s why we sailed from there.

What happened was unexpected…and scary. On our second day in Vancouver, it became clear Bear couldn’t walk and was in pain. We just figured it was some sort of inflammation where he’d had foot surgery two years ago. This had happened before. We got a knee scooter (People in Vancouver thought it was a new form of transportation.), he took pain meds, and we figured we had it covered. So we boarded our cruise ship.

That may have been a mistake. Two days into the cruise, Bear started running a high temperature and was in agony.  Off we went to sick bay as a cruisecruise ship’s infirmary is commonly called. That’s where we discovered he had a dangerous infection called cellulitis that was rapidly taking over his leg. It had already risen from his foot to above his knee.

According to WebMD at http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/tc/cellulitis-topic-overview

Cellulitis is a common skin infection that happens when bacteria spread through the skin to deeper tissues. Most cases are mild and last several days to a couple of weeks. But cellulitis can sometimes progress to a more serious infection, causing severe illness that affects the whole body (sepsis) or other dangerous problems.

It looked like he was heading toward sepsis. Bear was ordered to stay in bed except for the twice a day he returned to sick bay for IVs (That’s an intravenous drip feed: a needle is inserted into your vein via the arm and whatever is in the bag attached to that needle is dripped into your vein.) of Rocephin.

Here’s when Bear’s cellulitis treatment becomes relevant to Chronic Kidney Disease patients. The generic name for Rocephin is ceftriaxone it may be harmful to the kidneys.  It’s a powerful antibiotic used

to treat many kinds of bacterial infections, including severe or life-threatening forms such as meningitis.

You can read more about it on Drugs.com at http://www.drugs.com/mtm/ceftriaxone-injection.html

The Skeptical Scalpel, a doctor’s blog at http://skepticalscalpel.blogspot.com/2012/10/is-normal-saline-bad-for-kidneys.html, offered some insight about the saline solution Bear was given to rehydrate him. Again, I’m looking at this solely from the CKD patient’s viewpoint:

Is normal saline bad for the kidneys? Yes.Skeptical Scalpel

To be fair, in the particular blog I viewed, it was “renal failure in critically ill ICU patients” that was being referred to in connection with saline drips.

Ketorolac Tromethamine was also being administered. What’s that you ask?

Ketorolac is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) similar to ibuprofenindomethacinnaproxen, and many others. Ketorolac blocks prostaglandin synthesis. Prostaglandins have many effects in the body including their role in pain and inflammation.

It’s a NSAID, boys and girls, something we – as CKD patients – are warned off.  Thanks are in order to http://www.medicinenet.com/ketorolac_tromethamine-ophthalmic/article.htm for the definition.

All the while, his blood pressure was being monitored. Of course, an x-ray was taken to see if there were a break and two blood tests were administered two days apart.  All good medical practice.blood draw

On the second day of onboard treatment, Augmentin, another antibiotic, was added to Bear’s treatment. This is safe for CKD patients… unless your kidney function is less than 30%. Then the dosage needs to be adjusted. The manufacturers themselves offer this information.

It took four days for Bear to be well enough for the IVs to be discontinued. He was worn out. The cruise was a bust, but he was getting better.

We left the ship with a firm admonition from the doctor to see Bear’s orthopedist (who referred us to our pcp since this was not a surgical problem) as soon as we got home and enough antibiotic to last until we left Alaska. Of course, our doctor had to be on vacation herself just then, so Bear saw someone who didn’t know him except from reading his medical records.

Being one smart man and remembering that the ship’s doctor had said he was worried that the infection may have settled around the hardware that was inserted during his previous foot surgery, Bear figured foot = podiatrist.  It’s a good thing he did. She immediately sent him for an ultrasound for what she feared might be a blood clot at the site of the painful bump on his leg from one of the two times he fell. Not being able to walk can be tricky on a rolling ship.  Luckily, there wasn’t one.Bear's foot

We had to face the obvious. Bear was going to have to quit his dream part-time job in a wood workers’ store. But wait! One door closes and another opens. Now he can work full time in his shop.  He can rest whenever his foot starts to bother him and then just put his shop boots back on and go back to work. He can also not work in the shop if he so chooses… and he doesn’t have to call in sick.

The point of the blog is that while anyone can mysteriously become ill at any time, the rules are different for us as CKD patients. Pay attention to your compromised immune system and what drugs your doctors are trying to give you.  If I don’t recognize the drug, I run it by my wonderful nephrologist who never fails to respond to my texts quickly.

You know, this blog started as publicity for my books.  Now I become so involved with whatever the topic is that I often forget that. I hope you don’t. As much as I’d like to sell you some books, I also want you to know you can borrow them from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library for free. That’s at Amazon.com. You can also ask the librarian at your local brick and mortar library to order my books.

Book Cover

Until next week,

Keep living your life!IMG_1398

Water, Water Everywhere

11194487_10206480685479477_4614482644786730988_oYesterday was Mother’s Day here in the U.S.  Here’s what I posted on that day:

When I grew up, mothers were all married women. Not anymore! Happy Mother’s Day to the moms who are moms in a lesbian relationship, the dads who are moms in a gay relationship, the single dads who are both mother and father, the moms in straight relationships, the older siblings bringing up their brothers and sisters, the single moms and those who have lost their child. You’re all still mothers and I relish enjoying this day with you.

I hope yours was a very happy one, even if your children are far away like my Nima who is in New York. Nima

This mother (two biological daughters, two step-daughters, two significant others) has been writing about sea sickness remedies, both medical and natural, for the past two weeks.  That got me to thinking about another kind of water and why we need it.

I’ve mentioned that I see a nutritional counselor to help me prevent my pre-diabetes from becoming diabetes. We all know I need 64 oz. of fluid intake a day as a Chronic Kidney Disease patient, but it’s not all water.  There’s my beloved 16 ounces – or two cups – of coffee a day plus any solid that turns to a liquid when melted (think ices) and the liquid in fruits such as watermelon.  By the way, did you know that our bodies are 50-75% water depending upon our health and age?diabetes equipment

Debbie, my nutritional counselor, kept hitting the need to hydrate.  Until she realized I already take this into account daily, she asked me to keep count of the number of eight ounce glass of water I drank each day.  That’s how important she felt it was.  We know that; we’re CKD patients.

But, have you ever wondered why it’s so important that we keep hydrated?  That’s one of those questions that was answered when I was first diagnosed, but – being who I am – I don’t remember the answer.  And that got me to wondering if you did.

The most obvious answer is that we need water so that our metabolism can function at its best. This is important so we have energy and build new cell materials. Let’s explore this a bit more.

The Oxford Dictionary defines catabolism (love that name) as

the breakdown of complex molecules in living organisms to form simpler ones, together with the release of energy; destructive metabolism.

In this case, ‘destructive’ is a positive.  No destruction of complex molecules = no release of energy.  Heaven knows we already have enough problems with energy as CKDers.

I used the Medical-Dictionary at http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/anabolism for an explanation of anabolism.

The phase of metabolism in which simple substances are synthesized into the complex materials of living tissue.

So catabolism is the function of metabolism which breaks down complex molecules for energy and anabolism is the function that builds up cell material.metabolism

Oh, almost forgot – metabolism simply means change. How can I remember a college etymology lesson from fifty years ago, but not remember what my nephrologist told me seven years ago????

All right, but why the need to hydrate? While a commercial site, Nestle Waters at http://www.nestle-waters.com/healthy-hydration/water-fonctions-in-human-body (I did wonder about that ‘o’ in fonctions.) lists the five reasons we need water.  Notice number five and remember that toxins need to be eliminated, too.  That’s the job of the kidneys… and they need water to do it.water to cells

  1. Cell life
  2. Chemical and metabolic reactions
  3. Transport of nutrients
  4. Body temperature regulation
  5. Elimination of waste

As I researched, I hit medical sites, sports sites, pregnancy sites, elder care sites, and even pediatric sites.  All included hydration in their how-to-stay-healthy advice.

As CKDers, we know that an excess of sodium, phosphorous, potassium, and protein is not good for us.  Guess what flushes out the excess.  That’s right.  Your kidneys filter it from your blood, it’s converted to urine, and leaves your system.  Of course, you don’t want to overtax your already compromised nephrons by going over your daily limits of each of the above.

We’ll pause for a moment here while you go get a drink of water.

409px-Glass-of-waterRefreshed?  Okay.

Did you know there are different types of water? Many thanks to Consumer Reports for the following chart.

Artesian

Water obtained from a well that taps a confined aquifer, an underground layer of rock or sand that contains water. Example: Fiji Natural Artesian Water.

Distilled

Water that has been boiled and then recondensed from the steam that the boiling produces. Distillation kills microbes and removes minerals, giving water a flat taste. Example: Glacéau Smartwater.

Mineral

Groundwater that naturally contains at least 250 parts per million of dissolved solids. All minerals and other trace elements must be present in the water when it emerges at the source. Example: Calistoga.

P.W.S.

Public water source, also known as municipal water supply, or tap water. Fun fact: Aquafina, one of the top 10 selling domestic brands, used to say “P.W.S.” on its label—but changed that in 2007 under pressure from Corporate Accountability International to make clear that the water came from a public supply and not some pristine mountain spring called P.W.S.

Purified

Water from any source that has been treated to remove chemicals and pathogens according to standards set by the U.S. Pharmacopoeia. Must contain no more than 10 parts per million of dissolved solids. Distillation, deionization, and reverse osmosis are all purification methods. Examples: Aquafina, Dasani. (Note from me: recently, Dasani has started added minerals to their water.)

Sparklingbottled water

Water that contains carbon dioxide at an amount equal to what it contained when it emerged from its source. Carbon dioxide lost during the treatment process may be added back. (Carbonated waters such as soda water and seltzer are considered soft drinks, not bottled waters.) Example: Perrier.

Spring

Water derived from an underground formation from which water flows naturally to the Earth’s surface. Spring water must be collected at the spring or through a borehole tapping the underground formation (aquifer) feeding the spring. Examples: Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water (Nestlé), Evian. (Hmmm, Nestle also has minerals added now.)

I stick to either spring water or osmosis filtered water.  Be wary of any water with minerals added. You don’t really need more of those.

Digital Cover Part 1

 

Book Cover

It’s contest time.  Post a picture of you reading any of my three books in the most unusual place you can think of and win a copy of Part 2The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1.  You can post your pictures at https://www.facebook.com/WhatHowearlyCKD which is SlowItDownCKD’s Facebook page.  Make sure the title and your face are clearly visible. Keep it clean and keep them coming!  The contest ends on May 31.  Thank you to inspired reader, Geo De Angelo, for sparking the idea in my mind. I’m eager to see how creative you can get.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

They’re Not Twins

Kidney ArizonaMarch is National Kidney Month here in the United States.  That makes it an even better time to have yourself screened for Chronic Kidney Disease. 28 million people have it and quite a few of them don’t know it.  Don’t be one of them.  All it takes is a simple blood test and a simple urine test.

Talking about blood and urine tests, I mentioned in passing on one or two of my blogs that your values and the reference range values on your lab tests may differ according to the lab you use, and loads of physical factors such as: being adequately hydrated, having voided your bladder, having gotten enough sleep, even how the specimens were handled.

I was in the unique position of taking these two tests once and then again two weeks later. Had the due date of the tests for each doctor been closer, I might have combined them and had the results of the one set of tests sent to each doctor. But my nephrologist needed his tests two weeks before my appointment, and my primary care physician {pcp} needed hers no less and no more than every three months since she was monitoring my bmpliver for the effect of a medication.

She was checking primarily for my cholesterol levels {which are better than ever and finally all within range, thank you very much!} and included the other tests because she is one thorough doctor. He, my nephrologist, was much more concerned with my kidney function.

The reference range values from the two different labs I used were not twins. For example, Sonora Quest, the lab my nephrologist uses, has the acceptable range for creatinine as 0.60 – 1.40.  But my pcp uses LabCorp. which states that it is 0.57 – 1.00 mg/dL. If you look to the right, you’ll see an older test result using mg/dL.

I wasn’t really sure what mg/dL meant, so I looked it up. According to the Free Dictionary at http://acronyms.thefreedictionary.com/mg%2fdL, this means

Milligrams per Deciliter

That was my reaction, too, so I used the same dictionary for both words used in the definition.  Milligrams means

A unit of mass equal to one thousandth (10-3) of a gram

while deciliter means

100 cubic centimeters

We are talking small here!Book Cover

The results for this test were a little different, too.  On February 10th, it was 1.11, which was not out of range for Sonora Quest.  But two weeks later, it was 1.1 – ever so slightly lower – which was out of range for LabCorp. This is a bit confusing.

Let’s go back to What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease to see if we can shed some light on this. On page 21 {Use the word search if you’re using the digital version of the book.}, I wrote

A higher creatinine result could mean the kidneys were not adequately filtering this element from the blood.

By the way,

Creatinine is a chemical waste product that’s produced by your muscle metabolism and to a smaller extent by eating meat.

Thank you to The Mayo Clinic at http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/creatinine/basics/definition/prc-20014534 for this clarification.

All I can say is that seemed like earth shattering information when I was first diagnosed with CKD.  Now that it’s seven years late, it just means I have CKD.  It’s sort of like reiterating I have this slow decline in the deterioration of my kidney function no matter which acceptable range we use.

Another difference in value ranges was BUN.  This is your urea nitrogen. Medline Plus at blood drawhttp://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003474.htm explains

BUN stands for blood urea nitrogen. Urea nitrogen is what forms when protein breaks down.

This could be a ‘Who cares?’  statement except that the BUN is used to measure your kidney health. Sonora Quest’s acceptable range is 8-25 mg/dL, while my LabCorp’s is 8-27. At the first lab, my value was 22 and at the other, two weeks later, it was 17. Both were in range, but let’s say – just for argument’s sake – my value had been 26.  Would that mean I was out of range?  It would at one lab, but not the other.  I think I just answered my own question as to why I need to have my doctor interpret my lab results even though I can read them myself.

Well, what makes these levels go up or down? Thank you WebMD for this simple to understand answer.

If your kidneys are not able to remove urea from the blood normally, your BUN level rises. Heart failure, dehydration, or a diet high in protein can also make your BUN level higher. Liver disease or damage can lower your BUN level. A low BUN level can occur normally in the second or third trimester of pregnancy.

Aha!  We know that as CKD patients we are restricted to five ounces of protein a day. Why combine an inability to “remove urea from the blood normally” with an overabundance of protein?

Hopefully, some of the questions you didn’t even know you had were answered today.

Part 2I’m sorry if you missed out on your free copy of The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1  by being the third buyer during the last part of February. While I’ve used up my freebies for that book, I’m now working on a free day for The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2 on World Kidney Day, March 12.  Keep watching for more news about this as Amazon and I keep working on it.

Again, if you’d like to join us for the Kidney Walk on April 19 at Chase Stadium in Phoenix, why not go to the Walk’s website at http://kidneywalk.kintera.org/faf/home/default.asp?ievent=1125145 and join our team, Team SlowItDown. We’ll be looking forward to seeing you there.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Up and Down…and Up…and Down

I usually base the blog upon what’s happening in my medical life or those of my family members and friends.  I thought I wouldn’t have anything to write about today. But then I got my latest lab results.  Ugh!

eGFR MDRD Non Af Amer >59 mL/min/1.73 47

There’s been some variation in my eGFR for the last few months and it hasn’t all been good.  What’s the eGFR, you ask.  Let’s start with the GFR and use the glossary in What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease {page 132} for the definition:

Glomerulus-Nephron 300 dpi jpg“Glomerular filtration rate [if there is a lower case “e” before the term, it means estimated glomerular filtration rate] which determines both the stage of kidney disease and how well the kidneys are functioning.”

Wonderful, except we need to know what glomerulus means since the suffix ‘ar’ tells us that glomerular is an adjective or word that describes a noun – a person, place, thing, or idea.  In this case, the noun is glomerulus.   Thank you dictionary.reference.com for the following:

“Also called Malpighian tuft, a tuft of convoluted capillaries in the nephron of a kidney, functioning to remove certain substances from the blood before it flows into the convoluted tubule.”glomerulus

Yes, yes, I know more definitions are needed.  Back to the glossary in What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease {page 134 this time):

“Nephrons: The part of the kidney that actually purifies and filters the blood.”

A tubule, as you’ve probably guessed, is a very small tube.  This is when having been an English teacher for decades pays off in my kidney work!

Maybe we should define capillary too, in case you’ve forgotten what it is. This time I used Merriam-Webster.com at MedlinePlus.

“a minute thin-walled vessel of the body; especially: any of the smallest blood vessels connecting arteriole with venules and forming networks throughout the body.”

In other words, they’re the smallest blood vessels in the body.

Alright, we’ve got our vocabulary in place; now why is the eGFR so important? As stated in the definition above, it is used for staging your Chronic Kidney Disease.  Different stages require different treatment or no treatment at all.  There are five stages with the mid-level stage divided into two parts.  The higher the stage, the worse your kidney function.stages chart

Think of the stages as a test with 100 being the highest score.  These are the stages and their treatments:

STAGE 1: (normal or high) – above 90 – usually requires watching, not treatment, although many people decide to make life style changes now: following a renal diet, exercising, lowering blood pressure, ceasing to smoke, etc.

STAGE 2: (mild) – 60-89 – Same as for stage one

STAGE 3A: (moderate) – 45-59 – This is when you are usually referred to a nephrologist {kidney specialist}. You’ll need a renal {kidney} dietitian, too, since you need to be rigorous in avoiding more than certain amounts of protein, potassium, phosphorous, and sodium in your diet to slow down the deterioration of your kidneys. Each patient has different needs so there is no one diet.  The diet is based on your lab results.  Medications such as those for high blood pressure may be prescribed to help preserve your kidney function.

STAGE 3B: (moderate) – 30-44 – same as above, except the patient may experience symptoms.

STAGE 4:  (severe 15-29) – Here’s when dialysis may start. A kidney transplant may be necessary instead of dialysis {artificial cleansing of your blood}. Your nephrologist will probably want to see you every three months and request labs before each visit.

STAGE 5: (End stage) – below 15 – Dialysis or transplant is necessary to continue living.

Many thanks to DaVita.com for refreshing my memory about each stage.

Back to my original concern about the GFR results in my labs.  Why did it fluctuate from 53 in August of last year, to 47 in February of this year, to 52 in May, to 56 in August, and to 47 last week? All the values are within stage 3A and I know it’s only a total fluctuation of six points, but it’s my GFRfluctuation so I want to know.  And that’s what started this whole blog about GFR.

I discovered that different labs may use slightly different calculations to estimate your GFR, but I always go to the same lab, the one in my doctor’s office.  Nope, that’s not my answer.

According to the American Kidney Fund, “…this test may not be accurate if you are younger than 18, pregnant, very overweight or very muscular.”  No, these situations don’t apply to me either.

Maybe I’m going about this all wrong and should look at the formula for arriving at GFR. The National Kidney Disease Education program lists the formula which includes your serum creatinine.  Aha! Maybe that’s the cause of the variation.  First a reminder: creatinine is the chemical waste product of muscle use. {This is a highly simplified definition.}

You’ll find this on your Comprehensive Metabolic Panel Blood Results, should you have your results. The normal values are between 0.57 and 1.00 mg/dL.  Mine were above normal for each test, a sign that I have CKD.  As if I didn’t already know that. These results were also lower each time my GFR was higher.

iPadI researched and research.  My final understanding is that not only can CKD elevate your creatinine, but so can dehydration, diabetes or high blood pressure.  If your creatinine is elevated, the results of the GFR formula will be lowered.  That’s enough information to allow me to rest easy until I see my doctor next week.

Some of this was pretty technical and I couldn’t give you many exact web addresses since my computer is having its own issues today.  You may want to try an online GFR calculator just to see how it works.  You will need your serum creatinine value {serum means blood, so this is not to be confused with the urine creatinine test} to do so.  I like the one at DaVita.com.

Until next week,Book Cover

Keep living your life!

Baby, It’s Hot Outside

I just caught up to the fact that it’s June.  No, it wasn’t the calendar that told me, but the temperature.  We live in Arizona and its hot, dry heat or not.  That means cooling off any way you can. IMG_0584

This weekend, we finally took the three hour round trip drive to visit my friend and her family.  Her five year old daughter proudly showed off the family’s new addition since I’d been there last – a wonderful, cooling swimming pool.  I was tempted, but the 105% temperature kept me inside with the air conditioning.

That’s when I was offered some filtered water.  Did I want ice? I was asked.  I immediately shook my head.  “CKD, no ice, please.”

My friend cocked her head.  Her father had had a kidney transplant so she was well aware of the renal diet.  True, her father was treated in Korea, so there might have been some differences in treatment, but ice?

She asked me why and I immediately knew what I was going to blog about today.

For years, I’ve misunderstood something my nephrologist said.  I heard, “Don’t use ice.”  What he really said was something like, “If you use ice, you need to count the cubes in your fluid intake.”

I’ve spent time since Saturday researching the ice question and found nothing about avoiding ice.  I did find one warning about cold beverages from DaVita at http://www.davita.com/kidney-disease/overview/living-with-ckd/seven-summertime-precautions-for-people-with-kidney-disease/e/4894 : “Be careful of very cold beverages, which can cause stomach cramps.”

The lesson I learned from this misunderstanding of what I thought I heard is to recheck what you think you know every once in a while.  After all, I thought I had the diet down pat.

Hah!  I forgot that I was terrified when I was first diagnosed and thinking I was going to die imminently. I adhered strictly to what I heard and, apparently, adhered just as strictly to what I thought I’d heard.

sun-graphic1Wait a minute… maybe I need not have avoided the heat, either.  I researched that, too.  Just as with ice, I found a general warning about the elderly, but nothing specific to CKD.

““With the elderly, the heat accumulates in their bodies over hours to days. If you have a long heat spell, the elderly person accumulates heat through each of those days because they can’t really eliminate or dissipate the heat,” explains Dr. Crocker. “Sometimes it’s because of a medication, sometimes it’s a lack of mobility, or in some cases the older you get, the less active your sweat glands are, so it becomes harder and harder for you to eliminate heat.”

This is from The Austin Diagnostic Clinic at http://www.adclinic.com/2012/08/hot-summer-days-challenging-dangerous/#.U5X-ZKROUY0.

By the way, National Public Radio (NPR) has a fascinating blog about the term ‘elderly’ at http://www.npr.org/2013/03/12/174124992/an-age-old-problem-who-is-elderly.  While 65 was the accepted age for elderly here in the USA for quite some time, this is now under debate.  I, however, still envision an elderly person as frail and delicate… something I’m not.

But, again, there was nothing specific to CKDers in the quote above.  In thinking about it, I began to wonder if the risk of dehydration from the summer heat is the problem for us.

According to The National Kidney Fund at http://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/kidneysnottowork.cfm

“Kidneys can become damaged if they are not getting good blood flow. This can happen if you become dehydrated or seriously ill.”

Aha!  This was starting to make sense.  WebMD at http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/tc/dehydration-topic-overview explains this for us.

“Usually your body can reabsorb fluid from your blood and other body tissues. But by the time you become severely dehydrated, you no longer have enough fluid in your body to get blood to your organs, and you may go into shock, which is a life-threatening condition.”ice water

Okay, so we know we need to drink fluids, especially in hot water. Our kidneys are already having a hard time cleaning our blood effectively and we are reabsorbing ineffectively cleaned blood prior to this point of dehydration.

But how do we know if we’re becoming dehydrated? What are the symptoms? I turned to my standby, the Mayo Clinic at http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dehydration/basics/symptoms/CON-20030056 for the symptoms of mild dehydration:

  • Dry, sticky mouth
  • Sleepiness or tiredness — children are likely to be less active than usual
  • Thirst
  • Decreased urine output
  • No wet diapers for three hours for infants
  • Few or no tears when crying
  • Dry skin
  • Headache
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

And then I laughed.  I experience one or more of those symptoms at one time or another.  The clinic does make the extremely helpful point that the color of your urine is a good indicator of dehydration. If it’s clear or light in color, you’re fine.  If it’s dark, start drinking!  Interestingly enough, having CKD is already a risk factor for dehydration so let’s not make it worse for ourselves.

So how do we prevent dehydration?  What can we do if we can see if starting?

Obviously, drinking more fluids will help. I’m limited to 64 ounces in a day, but I get creative in summer. Sometimes, I will have that half cup of ice cream.  Watermelon magically (hah!) appears on the table.  Now that I realize I don’t have to avoid ice, they too will become part of both the anti-dehydration campaign and the anti-dehydration campaign in our house.watermelon

I’m not sure if this is common knowledge, but dehydration can also cause kidney stones.  If you don’t have the fluid in your body to prevent crystallization, crystallization is more apt to happen.  Kidney stones are,

“Stones caused in the urinary tract and kidney when crystals adhere to each other.  Most of those in the kidneys are made of calcium.”

(Love this author’s style).  That’s from What Is It And How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, p. 133.

Talking about the book, it’s clear that digital outsells print and that in foreign markets, England outsells other countries.  I wonder if it’s the languages.  I’d thought about translations, but how would I be able to edit the texts if I don’t know the languages myself?  I’ve tried online translation, but the results are never quite what I originally wrote in English.

May you stay cool and hydrated.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!Book Cover

A Foggy Day… in Your Brain

Coffee Beans_0I don’t know about you, but I thoroughly enjoy my 16 ounces of coffee a day.  I savor it and draw those two cups out as long as I can.  I relish the taste and adore the aroma.  And, I thought they would cut through what I’ve discovered is called ‘brain fog.’

To be honest, I’d never heard the term before.  Maybe I live too sheltered a life… or maybe I just didn’t realize it had anything to do with me.  After all, I don’t do drugs or drink.  I do get eight hours of sleep a night, follow the renal diet, and exercise just about every day.  So what does brain fog have to do with me or any other renal patient?

You probably know this blog is posted on as many Chronic Kidney Disease Facebook pages as I could find.  These are not for medical advice, but for sharing ideas and information – always with the warning that none of us are doctors.  That’s the same warning I mention in the blog.Book Cover

I receive daily notices of who posted what where.  I noticed a question about brain fog and was surprised at the responses.  The question asked who else suffered this cloudiness of thought and what stage they were in.

Once I understood what brain fog was, I imagined the responses would all mention end stage.  They didn’t.  I saw all stages from 2 through 5 mentioned.  I was grabbed by the fact that no one in stage 1 had responded and that’s when brain fog became the topic of today’s blog.

According to integrative medicine expert Dr. Isaac Eliaz, when experiencing brain fog:

“…people feel as if there is a thick fog dampening their mind. While the medical and mental health establishments don’t generally recognize brain fog as a condition, it’s a surprisingly common affliction that affects people of all ages. Symptoms include pervasive absentmindedness, muddled thought processes, poor memory recall, difficulty processing information, disorientation, fatigue, and others.”

You can read more at http://www.rodalenews.com/brain-fog.brain

Sound familiar?  Maybe that explains why you couldn’t find the tea bags in their usual spot even though they were there.  Or why you didn’t speak with the person you meant to about a certain subject (Yep, me and SlowItDown with a potential community), but just chatted instead.

While this is interesting, what does it have to do with renal disease?  I know there are readers who only want to read about subjects that affect us as sufferers of this disease.  I know because I get a good laugh when they ask what a particular blog has to do with renal disease.  It’s obvious they haven’t read the blog since the blog is ONLY about renal disease, but just commented instead.  But, more importantly, that’s why I write the blog.

So I did what I love to do: researched the topic. Here’s what I found:

www.naturopathconnect.com offered me my first insight into how our kidneys and brain fog are connected.

“Make sure your liver and kidneys are not overloaded or congested. When your liver and kidneys are not functioning well, they are less able to clear your system of the multitude of toxins that float around in your bloodstream. When your body is overloaded with toxins, your brain suffers as well….Dehydration may be a key factor in less-than-optimal kidney function, so water is essential to keep the kidneys in tip-top shape.”

Got it – toxins.  Uh, what toxins?  And how do they affect the brain, I wondered.  Back to researching.blood

Dr. Martin Morrell of healthtap.com offered an explanation. However, this is not an endorsement of him or the site.  I am not a fan of asking online doctors unfamiliar with your particular medical history for advice.

“… if your blood urea increases, which is supposed to be cleared by your kidneys, this ‘poison’ will affect the ability of the brain to work properly.”

Oh, blood urea. Well that explains it. But how can I explain blood urea?  I’ll allow the experts to do that.

http://www.patient.co.uk/health/routine-kidney-function-blood-test has the simplest explanation.

“Urea is a waste product formed from the breakdown of proteins. Urea is usually passed out in the urine. A high blood level of urea (‘uraemia’) indicates that the kidneys may not be working properly, or that you are dehydrated (have a low body water content).”

In the U.S., we call this test B.U.N. or Blood Urea Nitrogen Blood Test.  So as I understand it, if your protein intake is high, more urea is produced.  But since your kidneys are already compromised by CKD,  the toxins remaining in your body are not eliminated as well and are still in the blood that flows through your brain.  That’s logical.

blood_test_vials_QAThe more urea remaining in your system, the more sluggish your brain.  It does sound like a perfectly formed ‘if-then’ equation from probability theory. The only difference here is that this is not a theory, but, rather, what we may encounter as CKD patients.

What to do?  What to do?  Obviously, keeping our protein intake low will help.  My renal diet limits me to five ounces of protein a day. I rarely ingest more protein than that. Well, bully for me!  So how else can I alleviate my sometimes brain fog?

I was all over the web on this one and found that besides what I was already doing for my CKD, I could also avoid heavy metal (and I always thought that was a kind of music) exposure, use a blue light, get myself some natural sun light, check my medication side effects and lots more.  This is the stuff of several blogs.

It’s real.  Brain fog could be affecting you, especially if you have CKD.  And from what I’ve read, once you’ve gotten your CKD slowed down as much as possible, the other ‘fixes’ are easy.

Okay, so coffee’s not going to help here but I’ll drink it anyway.SlowItDown business card

I just got the report from my publishers.  Thanks to all of you who brought the book as Christmas, Chanukah, or Kwanzaa presents.  That was a good month for sales which allows me to donate even more books.

SlowItDown is slowly progressing. Interesting choice of words there. We have new educators in New York and Washington, D.C. and – frankly – need your help in finding the communities that need us.

Sweet 16Between birthday parties (Happy Sweet 16, Olivia Vlasity!) and graduations (Congratulates on that and acceptance to U. of A. College of Medicine, Jordan Mudery), and the chance to spend time doing nothing graduationwith Bear, this was almost the perfect weekend for me.  Here’s to many of those for you!

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Book It!

With the holidays over and more time to think about what I’d like to write, I decided this would be a good time to update you about whatever other books are available that also concern Chronic Kidney Disease.

You know there are many out there, too many to mention here, so I eliminated any book that couldn’t be understood by a lay person (those without specific training in a certain field – in this case, medical) and renal diet books.  You can easily find those for yourself by going to Amazon.com and B&N.com. I also excluded those I found to be dubious… the spelling errors were a dead give-away that these were not professional.

I’m not going to tell you about What Is It And How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease since you already know about it from this blog.  Let’s change that, I will tell you one or two things.  First, the books included in ‘Additional Resources’ (Chapter 13) won’t appear here, as good as they are.Book Cover

And – pay attention – students, be aware that both Campus Book Rentals and Chegg are attempting to rent the book to you for more than it costs to buy it.  The digital edition – when I was teaching college, my students always seemed to prefer the digital edition – is even less expensive.

Don’t forget about The KindleMatchBook program which allows you to buy the digital version at 70% discount if you’ve ever bought the print copy. Gather your classmates: pool your money so you can save. One of you buy the print edition, then the others can get the digital edition at deep discount (I have no idea why, but I love that phrase).

Disclaimer:  I am not a doctor, have never have claimed to be one , AND am not endorsing the following books, simply letting you know they exist. For the most part, the descriptions were written by the author. The ‘Look Inside!’ function only works if you follow the link to Amazon.com – sorry! I have been dreaming about this list, so let’s get it out of my dreams and on the blog:

510smylYevL._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA160_Ford, Mathea A., RD (Registered Dietician) Kidney Disease: Common Labs and Medical Terminology: The Patient’s Perspective (Renal Diet HQ IQ Pre-Dialysis Living) (Volume 4)

New to kidney failure? Have no idea what your physician just said about your kidneys? Kidney disease labs and terminology can quite often be a challenge to understand and digest. Did your doctor use the “stages of kidney disease”? Did you physician refer to “eGFR”? What does all this mean for your health and future with kidney disease, lifestyle and nutrition choices. This book is the basic platform for understanding all the common labs and terminology that your doctors and nurses will use. This book with give you and your caregivers the confidence to manage your condition knowing that you have an understanding of all the ins and outs of the nephrology jargon. (Mrs. Mathea seems to have an entire series of books about CKD.)

Hunt, Walter A. Kidney Disease: A Guide for Living. 

When Hunt learned he had kidney disease, he was overwhelmed by the prospect of facing kidney failure. He had so many questions: Why are my kidneys failing? Is there anything I can do to save them? How will I know when my kidneys have failed? What will it feel like? 41nNk5SdqIL._AA160_What treatments are available for me? Is there a cure for kidney failure? The good news, as Hunt found out, is that kidney failure is highly treatable. People with the disease can lead full and productive lives, and Hunt’s readable and empathetic book will help them do just that. It discusses the latest scientific and medical findings about kidney disease, including what kidneys do; the underlying diseases that cause failure; diagnosis, treatment, and prevention; dietary factors; clinical trials; and the future direction of research on kidney failure. Kidney disease is difficult, but as Hunt’s narrative reveals, people living with it can take control of their health and their future. By understanding kidney failure — what causes it, how it may affect their lives, and what treatment options they have — people with the disease can improve their quality of life and achieve the best possible outcome.

51nUIkG8kSL._AA160_Lewis, Dr. Robert. Understanding Chronic Kidney Disease: A guide for the Non-Specialist.

This is meant for primary care physicians, but can be easily understood by the layman. I looked under the covers of this one and was delighted to see that the information we, as patients with CKD, need to know is also what our primary care physicians need to know. (I wrote this description.)

National Kidney Foundation of Southern California. Living Well With Kidney Disease.

The first edition of “Living Well With Kidney Disease” was developed and published by the National Kidney Foundation of Southern California. Based on the handbook “When Your Kidneys Fail” (originally published in 1982), this new and 41jxZoYLGzL._AA160_updated edition provides detailed information specifically intended for people coping with Kidney Disease and other renal failure, as well as their friends and families. The question and answer format provides a clear and manageable guide for those seeking support and answers. Among the topics covered are the principles of kidney function, methods of treatment, transplantation, and financial resources available to patients. With all of the ramifications of kidney failure and the rise of Chronic Kidney Disease and Type 2 Diabetes, there is a growing population of people afflicted with kidney failure. Although it was written with the patient in mind, family members, friends and health care professionals will also find this handbook a valuable resource.

517GaXFXNPL._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA160_Synder, Rich DO (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) What You Must Know About Kidney Disease: A Practical Guide to Using Conventional and Complementary Treatments

The book is divided into three parts. Part One provides an overview of the kidneys’ structure and function, as well as common kidney disorders. It also guides you in asking your doctor questions that will help you better understand both status and prognosis. Part Two examines kidney problems and their conventional treatments. Part Three provides an in depth look at the most effective complementary treatments, from lifestyle changes to alternative healing methods. The diagnosis of kidney disease is the first step of an unexpected journey.

*Yes, this is the same Dr. Rich Snyder who interviewed me on his radio show twice since What Is It And How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease was published.

It’s always hard to find good books about CKD that non-medical personnel can understand.  I hope this four (and mine!) help you feel more comfortable and knowledgeable about your diagnosis.

Here’s a little hint about your own health.  I’m back to no sweets or desserts and, I hate to admit it, but I’m feeling better.  Don’t you just hate when that happens?sugar

Until next week (when I’ll in in Culver City for a weekend of Landmark),

Keep living your life!

Let The Sun Shine…

Here we are in lovely, warm, sunny Florida.  But you just left lovely, warm, sunny Arizona, you may say and you’d be right.  We’re here to see family and friends, one of whom is over 65 and has dropped over 60 pounds via exercise and diet.  Jo is my inspiration!

I’ve wanted Bear to meet my brothers for a bunch of years now. This is an opportunity for him to meet one of them, Paul Peck, and his gracious wife, Judy.  Come to think of it, I haven’t seen them since Abby’s college graduation.

Then there’s my New York cousin, Nina Peck and her partner, Sandra, who just happened (ha ha) to move five minutes away from my brother.  That’s another one I haven’t seen in a bunch of years.

Of course, I get to bring the book to Florida, too.  Some of the medical departments of the colleges there are following me on Twitter, but I don’t think any clinics or private sector doctors are.  Good, another way for me to spread the word. The Table

Oh, right, hot weather and CKD. The rules for CKD patients in potentially hot weather are the same anywhere in the world.

According to Dr. Leslie Spry, a National Kidney Foundation spokesperson, “Heat illness occurs when body temperature exceeds a person’s ability to dissipate that heat and is commonly diagnosed when the body temperature approaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit and when humidity is greater than 70 percent. Once the humidity is that high, sweating becomes less effective at dispersing body heat, and the core body temperature begins to rise.” The entire article is at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/leslie-spry-md-facp/heat-illness_b_1727995.html

We don’t worry about humidity in Arizona, but this is Florida.  No disrespect meant, but I clearly remembering telling my mother, Belle Peckolick, that Florida felt like taking a shower and not drying off.  She was living there at the time and just laughed.  She’d been a New Yorker, so the humidity was a higher dose of what she was used to.

Now’s the time to wear the hat you (meaning I) bought for just that purpose, but forgot was in the trunk of the car.  Otherwise, melanoma just might be a possible drawback of a day in the sun.  Melanoma.com tells us,

“Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. It begins in skin cells called melanocytes. Though melanoma is predominantly found on the skin, it can even occur in the eye (uveal melanoma).

Melanocytes are the cells that make melanin, which gives skin its color. Melanin also protects the deeper layers of the skin from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.

melanomaWhen people spend time in the sunlight, the melanocytes make more melanin and cause the skin to tan. This also happens when skin is exposed to other forms of ultraviolet light (such as in a tanning booth). If the skin receives too much ultraviolet light, the melanocytes may begin to grow abnormally and become cancerous.”

You are not only heating up your body by being out in hot weather, but exposing yourself to the sun’s ultraviolet light. Use that hat to shade some of your body.

DaVita reminds us to use sunscreen with at least 15 spf.  Don’t forget if you’re swimming – which this aqua-phobe won’t be although I’m looking forward to walking on the beach – you need to slather more on after each dip. You can read more of their hot weather tips, some for dialysis patients, at http://www.davita.com/kidney-disease/overview/living-with-ckd/seven-summertime-precautions-for-people-with-kidney-disease/e/4894

You know you need to drink water during hot weather, but is there a difference among waters?  Yes, there is.  As a CKD patient, your fluid intake is probably restricted (mine is 64 oz. which includes coffee, tea, juice, ice cream, sherbet, and Jell-O.  You get the picture: anything liquid or liquid in a frozen or jelled form.)

Mary Ellen Herndon, a renal nutritionist warns us, “Many drinks labeled as water are loaded with sugar and empty calories. Even though these drinks have ‘water’ in their name, drinking them regularly may cause weight gain and may increase your risk of obesity.”  For the rest of the article, go to http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2012/08/6-tips-choosing-water-drink.html?utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=twitterfeed

According to WebMD at http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/chronic-kidney-disease-home-treatment, we also need to be careful about exercising during the hot weather.  I don’t mean stop, simply make certain you are not becoming dehydrated.  Stay away from energy drinks!  As an older adult, I’ve become aware that I can dehydrate more easily when I exercise – especially since my kidneys are not working at top capacity.

Don’t be intimidated by the sun.  We can benefit from the sun if we’re cautious about it. Fifteen minutes or so a day of sunshine can elevate your vitamin D naturally.  Wearing a shirt to cover some of your body can help you protect yourself from the ultraviolet rays while you’re indulging in some free vitamin D production.

Be sure to protect your eyes, too.  This is a direct quote from the DaVita site mentioned above: “Sunglasses protect your eyes in the same way that sunscreen protects your skin from harmful sun damage. Your sunglasses should block at least 99% of UVB rays and 50% of UVA rays. Wraparound sunglasses and other styles that completely cover the eyes are best.” This information is good for anyone, chronic kidney disease sufferer or not.wraparound sunglasses

Excuse me while I see if I can interest any of my friends or family into visiting Epcot with  me.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Baby, It’s Hot Out There!

With temperatures of 110 degrees and over here this past week, I got to thinking about why – as CKD patients – we’re warned to be extra careful about this weather and, specifically, exercising in this weather.  I wanted to see how this all came together so I hit site after site with the same result: dehydration is the cuprit.  Of course, then I hit site after site to see just why that was.  I can define it and so can you, but there’s always more, isn’t there?

That’s where WebMD ( http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/tc/dehydration-topic-overview) came in.  I thought this article on their website from Healthwise, last updated February 24, 2010, did a really good job of explaining in a common language we can all understand.  It also discusses babies and older people, which are not necessarily my target groups, but can come in handy should you happen to have a baby or older person in your life.

Keep in mind that as a CKD patient, you are limited to 64 oz. of liquid ( or at least, I am)  no matter how much you sweat.  This amount also includes ice cream, milk, coffee, tea, juice, frozen fruit pops, jello – anything that is or once was a liquid.  Let’s not squander this fluid on perspiration; we need to keep it to help our bodies function.

Dehydration –   Topic Overview    

Dehydration occurs when your body loses too much fluid. This can happen when you stop drinking water or lose large amounts of fluid through diarrhea, vomiting, sweating, or exercise. Not drinking enough fluids can cause muscle cramps. You may feel faint. Usually your body can reabsorb fluid from your  blood and other body tissues. But by the time you become
severely dehydrated, you no longer have enough fluid in your body to get blood to your organs, and you may go into shock, which is a life-threatening condition.

Dehydration can occur in anyone of any age, but it is most dangerous for babies, small children, and older adults.

Dehydration in babies and small children

 

Babies and small children have an increased chance of becoming dehydrated because:

  • A greater portion of their bodies is made of  water.
  • Children have a high  metabolic rate, so their bodies use more water.
  • A child’s kidneys do not conserve water as well as an adult’s kidneys.
  • A child’s natural defense system that helps fight infection (immune system) is not fully developed, which increases
    the chance of getting an illness that causes vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Children often will not drink or eat when they are not feeling well.
  • They depend on their caregivers to provide them with food and fluids.
 

Dehydration in older adults

Older adults have an   increased chance of becoming dehydrated because they may:

  • Not drink because they do not feel as thirsty as younger people.
  • Have kidneys that do not work well. [ note from Gail: you don’t have to be older to have kidneys that do not work well.  We have CKD.  Our kidneys do not work well.]
  • Choose not to drink because of the inability to control their bladders (incontinence).
  • Have physical problems or a disease which makes it:
    • Hard to drink or hold a   glass.
    • Painful to get up from a chair.
    • Painful or exhausting to go to the bathroom.
    • Difficult to talk or communicate to someone about their symptoms.
  • Take medicines that increase urine output.
  • Not have enough money to adequately feed themselves.

Watch babies, small children, and older adults [me again: and CKD patients] closely for the early symptoms of dehydration any time they have illnesses that cause cause high fever, vomiting, or diarrhea. The early symptoms of dehydration are:

  • A dry mouth and sticky saliva.
  • Reduced urine output with dark yellow urine.
  • Acting listless or easily irritated.

This afternoon, I explained to my dear neighbor why I couldn’t go walking in the arroya for  awhile and explained to my fiance why I felt so listless and irritated.  Now that I know how dehydration can disrupt my life in ways I could do without, I’m happy to a. know why I feel this way and b. know I can do something about it  – ust like I can do something about keeping dialysis a long time down the pike by watching the changes I’ve made in my life.

So… be vigilant about the heat and dehyration but enjoy the weekend while you do that.

Keep living your life!

Published in: on June 24, 2011 at 6:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

National Kidney Month Continues

To continue the celebration of National Kidney Month, today we visit DaVita’s wonderfully informational site.  Again, I’ve tried to preserve the click throughs.  Just in case your computer didn’t receive today’s blog that way, their address is: www.DaVita.com.  Or, you can check out their discussion forum through the blogroll to the right of the blog. Notice: only the information pertinent to Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease is included in today’s blog.

March is National Kidney Month

March is National Kidney Month…. DaVita has teamed with The Kidney TRUST, an organization that aims to benefit the estimated 31 million adults living in the United States who have chronic kidney disease (CKD), as well as the 550,000 Americans with end stage renal disease (ESRD) who need dialysis or a kidney transplant, to help raise awareness about kidney disease.

Chronic kidney disease develops when kidneys lose their ability to remove waste and maintain fluid and chemical balances in the body. The severity of chronic kidney disease depends on how well the kidneys filter wastes from the blood.  It can progress quickly or take many years to develop.

More than 31 million adults in the US – one in six – have chronic kidney disease and most of them are not even aware of it. Often there are no symptoms until kidney disease reaches the later stages, including kidney failure.

Risk factors for chronic kidney disease

High-risk populations include those with diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and family history of kidney disease. Eleven percent of the U.S. population has diabetes, the number one cause of kidney disease. One out of three Americans has high blood pressure, the second leading cause of kidney disease.

More than 32 percent of kidney failure patients are African American. Other high-risk groups include HispanicsPacific Islanders, Native Americans and seniors 65 and older.

Who should be screened for chronic kidney disease?

Anyone 18 years old or older with diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease or a family history of kidney disease should be screened for kidney disease. If you live in an area that is offering a free screening, plan to attend. If not, visit your doctor and ask that you be screened for chronic kidney disease.

What is involved in a kidney screening?

Because there are often no symptoms of kidney disease, laboratory tests are critical. When you get a screening, a trained technician will draw blood that will be tested for creatinine, a waste product. If kidney function is abnormal, creatinine levels will increase in the blood, due to decreased excretion of creatinine in the urine. Your glomerular filtration rate (GFR) will then be calculated, which factors in age, gender, creatinine and ethnicity. The GFR indicates the person’s stage of chronic kidney disease which provides an evaluation of kidney function.

Treatment for chronic kidney disease

In many cases, kidney failure can be prevented or delayed through early detection and proper treatment of underlying diseases, such as diabetes and high blood pressure to slow additional damage to the kidneys. Also helpful are an eating plan with the right amounts of sodium, fluid and protein.  Additionally, one should exercise and avoiding dehydration. Treating diabetes and high blood pressure will slow additional damage to kidneys.

Related articles on DaVita.com

More features

It’s Friday.  The weather is beautiful out here and you know, if you have Chronic Kidney Disease, one way to deal with it (while complying with your nephrologist’s instructions after you’ve thoroughly questioned him or her about them) is to:

Keep living your life.