Black and Blue is Back

I looked in the mirror and what did I see? Black and blue under my eyes staring back at me… and then I realized I’d been seeing them for ages. Hmmm, what could be causing them?

I researched and researched and researched and didn’t really find any answers that relate to me, but did find some that do relate to Chronic Kidney Disease. The biggie was anemia. Let’s go all the way back to What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease for the definition:

“Anemia: A blood disease in which the number of healthy red blood cells decreases”

Need some basics? In SlowItDownCKD 2011, it was explained that the red blood cells are the ones that contain the hemoglobin which carries oxygen to your cells. There’s a bit more about hemoglobin in The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2. There we learned that it’s a protein and that it is responsible for the red color of your blood.

Well, what’s this got to do with CKD? This explanation from The National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse at http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/anemia/anemia_508.pdf which appeared in SlowItDownCKD 2015 will explain:

“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.”

A little more about erythropoietin from the Lung Institute at https://lunginstitute.com/blog/oxygen-kidneys/:

Red Blood Cell Regulation: When the kidneys do not receive enough oxygen, they send out a distress signal in the form of erythropoietin, a hormone that stimulates bone marrow to produce more oxygen-carrying red blood cells.”

Uh-oh, what happens if we have fewer red blood cells – or anemia? I popped over to SlowItDownCKD 2016 to find the answer.

“If you have fewer red blood cells, you are carrying less oxygen to your vital organs… which are the following according to livescience at http://www.livescience.com/37009-human-body.html

‘The human brain….The human heart…. The job of the kidneys is to remove waste and extra fluid from the blood. The kidneys take urea out of the blood and combine it with water and other substances to make urine. The liver….The lungs are responsible for removing oxygen from the air we breathe and transferring it to our blood where it can be sent to our cells. The lungs also remove carbon dioxide, which we exhale.’

Okay, so the lungs are responsible for gathering oxygen from the air (for one thing) and healthy kidneys produce red blood cells to carry oxygen to your vital organs (again, for one thing). CKD reduces the oxygen you have since it reduces your red blood cell production….”

Let’s get back to the seeming black and blue under our eyes. While Dr. Mercola is not necessarily my medical hero, I did find an interesting explanation on his website at https://articles.mercola.com/what-causes-dark-circles-under-eyes.aspx:

“Some of the causes believed to contribute to hyperpigmentation around the periorbital area are temporary and resolve after the irritant has been removed. Possible temporary and permanent triggers for periorbital hyperpigmentation include….”

Sun exposure Genetic pigmentation Dermal melanocytosis
Allergic dermatitis Contact dermatitis Edema (swelling)
Drugs Aging Hormones

According to the Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary, periorbital means “of, relating to, occurring in, or being the tissues surrounding or lining the orbit of the eye, “ and hyperpigmentation is “the production of excess melanin causing dark spots on the skin.” This is not exactly what we were looking for, but notice the last item in the third column: hormones. Erythropoietin is a hormone.

Maybe it has to do with the reduction of red blood cells which means less hemoglobin which means less red color. To my way of thinking, that means your veins would show up as blue. I’m conflicted here. I can’t decide if that’s just plain silly since I’ve never seen a red vein through my skin or if this might be the germ of a thought to be expanded upon.

EyeHealthWeb at https://www.eyehealthweb.com/dark-circles-under-eyes/  lists many possible causes of these black and blue or dark rings under our eyes.

  • Heredity. Dark circles under the eyes can appear in childhood, and are often an inherited trait. Some children will outgrow them, but others will not.
  • Allergies. Nasal congestion can dilate the blood vessels that drain from the area around your eyes, causing them to darken.
  • Sleep deprivation is the most common cause, and the easiest to prevent, but …
  • Oversleeping can also cause dark eye circles.
  • Eczema
  • Stress
  • As we get older, our skin becomes thinner.
  • Iron deficiency can prevent the blood from carrying sufficient oxygen to eye tissues.
  • Minor trauma that causes the appearance of a black eye 

Additional causes for dark circles under your eyes:

  • Crying
  • Lifestyle. Excessive smoking or drinking can contribute to under-eye circles. Also, people who drink too much coffee or who use cocaine or amphetamines may have difficulty getting enough sleep.
  • Fluid retention, as may occur with pregnancy or weight gain.
  • Skin pigmentation abnormalities. The skin around the eyes is thinner, which is why your blood vessels are more readily visible through it.
  • Excessive exposure to the sun. Sun exposure encourages your body to produce more melanin.
  • Age. As we get older, we lose some of the fat and collagen surrounding our eyes. This loss, combined with the thinning of our skin, magnifies the appearance of dark eye circles.
  • Mononucleosis can cause the eyes to appear puffy and swollen. This is due partly to the fatigue that people feel when they are suffering from it, and partly because this illness causes a yellowing of the eyes and the skin around them (this is called jaundice).
  • Periorbital cellulitis. This is a bacterial infection of the eyelid or eyelids. If it is promptly treated with antibiotics, however, it is nothing to worry about.
  • Excess salt in the diet causes fluid retention throughout your body—including underneath your eyes.

Gulp! Iron deficiency (which may be a kind of anemia), excessive smoking or drinking, certain drugs, excess salt. Sound familiar? These are some of the things we’re told to avoid as CKD patients.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

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My Vocabulary’s Expanding

I learned a new word! It’s gastroparesis. I learned it from the Facebook Chronic Kidney Disease support pages. What does it mean? According to the American Heritage Medical Dictionary, it means:

“A disorder characterized by delayed movement of food from the stomach into the small intestine because of impaired stomach motility, resulting in nausea, vomiting, and a feeling of fullness.”

Wait a minute; I forgot to tell you the winners of the Birthday Book Giveaway Contest:

Pamela Thacker’s copy of SlowItDownCKD 2016 is on the way to her. Donna Steely-Arnold, I will be only too glad to send out your copy of The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2, as soon as you email your address to me. Catherine Lombard (Forgive me for referring to you as Carole; she was a famous actress back in the ‘30s.), your prize of SlowItDownCKD 2015 is also on its way to you. Congratulations to each of you on being the first three readers to comment about last week’s blog.

Okey-dokey, back to business. Of course you’re eager to know what gastroparesis has to do with Chronic Kidney Disease. Well, I am anyway.

This is from Healthline at https://www.healthline.com/health/type-2-diabetes/gastroparesis#risk-factors:

“Women with diabetes have a high risk for developing gastroparesis. Other conditions can compound your risk of developing the disorder, including previous abdominal surgeries or a history of eating disorders.

Diseases and conditions other than diabetes can cause gastroparesis, such as:

  • viral infections
  • acid reflux disease
  • smooth muscle disorders

Other illnesses can cause gastroparesis symptoms, including:

  • Parkinson’s disease
  • chronic pancreatitis
  • cystic fibrosis
  • kidney disease
  • Turner’s syndrome”

Right off the bat we can see a connection… diabetes. Remember that diabetes is the leading cause of CKD. Now look toward the bottom of this incomplete list of risk factors…kidney disease. Uh-oh.

I jumped right over to the MayoClinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gastroparesis/symptoms-causes/syc-20355787 for an explanation:

“Certain medications, such as opioid pain relievers, some antidepressants, and high blood pressure and allergy medications, can lead to slow gastric emptying and cause similar symptoms. For people who already have gastroparesis, these medications may make their condition worse.”

You remembered! Yes, high blood pressure is the second most common cause of CKD. Usually if you have hypertension, you take medication to control it. Sometimes, you take the same medication to help control your CKD even if you don’t have hbp.

According to WebMD at https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/tc/chronic-kidney-disease-medications, the following medications which are usually prescribed if you have hbp may also be prescribed if you have CKD with or without high blood pressure:

ACE inhibitors and ARBs. These may be used if you have protein in your urine (proteinuria) or have heart failure. Regular blood tests are required to make sure that these medicines don’t raise potassium levels (hyperkalemia) or make kidney function worse.”

I still wasn’t satisfied that I understood how the CKD and gastroparesis are connected so I delved further. The Cleveland Clinic at https://health.clevelandclinic.org/2015/09/gastroparesis-know-the-risk-factors-for-this-mysterious-stomach-condition/ was a bit helpful:

“If you have diabetes, gastroparesis can cause it to be poorly controlled. Severe gastroparesis makes it difficult to manage your blood sugar.”

The American Diabetes Association at http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/gastroparesis.html further explains:

“The vagus nerve controls the movement of food through the digestive tract. If the vagus nerve is damaged or stops working, the muscles of the stomach and intestines do not work normally, and the movement of food is slowed or stopped.

Just as with other types of neuropathy, diabetes can damage the vagus nerve if blood glucose levels remain high over a long period of time. High blood glucose causes chemical changes in nerves and damages the blood vessels that carry oxygen and nutrients to the nerves.”

Maybe we need to understand why we have to manage our blood sugar in the first place.

“Blood sugar, or blood glucose, is sugar that the bloodstream carries to all the cells in the body to supply energy. Blood sugar or blood glucose measurements represent the amount of sugar being transported in the blood during one instant.

The sugar comes from the food we eat. The human body regulates blood glucose levels so that they are neither too high nor too low. The blood’s internal environment must remain stable for the body to function. This balance is known as homeostasis.”

Thank you for that information, MedicalNewsToday at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/249413.php. Diabetes is a condition in which your blood sugar is too high… and it can be one of many causes of gastroparesis.

Apparently, gastroparesis is of more concern if you are on dialysis. I know, define dialysis. Let’s take a look at the definition MedicineNet at https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=2980 offers.

“The process of removing waste products and excess fluid from the body. Dialysis is necessary when the kidneys are not able to adequately filter the blood.”

And how does gastroparesis affect dialysis patients? Dr. William F. Finn, Professor of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine; Attending Physician, University of North Carolina Hospitals, Chapel Hill explained during an interview. He used terms that we, as laypeople, can readily understand.

“It has been known for many years that as patients develop progressively severe CKD, their condition may be complicated by nutritional deficiency and even overt malnutrition due to the gradual loss of appetite and inadequate caloric and protein intake…. Indeed, there is evidence that the intake of calories, including protein, decreases as renal insufficiency advances…. As a consequence, in patients with advanced CKD and in those treated with chronic hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis, there is a high prevalence of what is referred to as “protein-energy malnutrition.” This condition may involve up to 40% or more of the patients and is an important issue because there is a strong association between malnutrition and increased risk of morbidity and mortality…. In fact, in patients undergoing dialysis, “undernutrition” is one of the most common risk factors for adverse cardiovascular events and death…. It has been demonstrated repeatedly and consistently that a low serum albumin level and decreased protein intake are strongly associated with increased mortality in patients with CKD….”

You can read the entire interview on Medscape at https://www.medscape.org/viewarticle/545157.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Smoke Gets In Your Hair

Last weekend I was in Las Vegas renewing my vows to Bear as my brother and sister-in-law renewed their vows to each other. It was their 50th year of marriage, our 5th. I listened to what they had to say to each other during the ceremony and realized that was what I would have said to Bear on our 50th, if we were young enough to be able to count on having a 50th. And then I began to wonder how many people do reach this milestone in their lives.

More than the ceremony, it was the smoke in the casinos, the restaurants, the shops, and the cabs that got me to thinking about this. Even our non-smoking rooms had the scent of cigarettes. I know how much harm smoking can do to my kidneys, but what was this second hand smoke doing to them? If it clung to our hair and clothes, what else was it doing to us?

The very minute I was told I have CKD, I stopped the social smoking I had been doing. I would be surprised if I smoked a whole pack of cigarettes each month back then. But I wasn’t taking any chances on not raising my GFR. It was 39% at diagnose, so the smoking had to stop. Yet, it wasn’t until this past weekend that I became concerned about second hand smoke.

It appears that I’m not the only one concerned about second hand smoke. The National Kidney Fund (NKD) at https://www.kidney.org/blog/staying-healthy/second-hand-smoke-may-be-harmful-kidneys offers the following:

“Secondhand smoking was defined as living with at least 1 person who smoked, or having an elevated level of cotinine (a breakdown product of nicotine) in their blood. The researchers found that active smoking was associated with slightly lower kidney function and higher amounts of protein in the urine. Interestingly, secondhand smoke exposure was also associated with slightly lower kidney function in this study even after taking [into] account differences in age, sex, weight, demographics and parental education level. Differences in kidney function observed in the study were relatively small, but these small differences could have important effects on risk of developing hypertension and chronic kidney disease.”

What makes it worse is that hypertension, or high blood pressure, is one of the two leading causes of CKD. So second hand smoke could lead to CKD itself and/or one of the leading causes of CKD. Either way, it sounds like a losing proposition to me.

Of course, I needed to know more about cotinine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at https://www.cdc.gov/biomonitoring/Cotinine_FactSheet.html was able to help me out here:

“Cotinine is a product formed after the chemical nicotine enters the body. Nicotine is a chemical found in tobacco products, including cigarettes and chewing tobacco. Measuring cotinine in people’s blood is the most reliable way to determine exposure to nicotine for both smokers and nonsmokers exposed to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS). Measuring cotinine is preferred to measuring nicotine because cotinine remains in the body longer.

How People Are Exposed to Cotinine

Nicotine enters people’s bodies when they smoke or chew tobacco. When exposed to ETS from nearby smokers, smaller amounts of nicotine enter the body of the nonsmoker. Workers who harvest tobacco and produce tobacco products can also be exposed through their skin.”

While I don’t usually write about younger people and Chronic Kidney Disease, this quote from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health at https://www.jhsph.edu/news/news-releases/2013/navas-acien-smoking-may-impact-kidney-function-among-adolescents.html caught my eye:

“’Tobacco use and exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke are major health problems for adolescents, resulting in short-term and long-term adverse health effects,’ said Ana Navas-Acien, MD, PhD, senior author of the study and an associate professor with the Bloomberg School’s Department of Environmental Health Sciences. ‘In this nationally representative sample of U.S. adolescents, exposure to tobacco, including secondhand smoke and active smoking, was associated with lower estimated glomerular filtration rates—a common measure of how well the kidneys are working. In addition, we found a modest but positive association between serum cotinine concentrations, a biomarker of tobacco exposure, among first-morning albumin to creatinine ratio. These findings further support the conclusion that tobacco smoke may damage the kidneys.’”

Lower estimated glomerular filtration rates???? No, thank you. I rarely go to casinos or any other place that allows smoking for that matter. I just don’t like the odor. Now I have a much more important reason to avoid such places.

Switching topics here. Something else I rarely mention is CKD cookbooks, probably because I don’t cook that often and firmly believe CKD patients need to eat according to their lab results. Months ago I received one such book in the mail and carefully explained to the author’s representatives that I don’t review CKD cookbooks on the blog. It’s an attractive book and always caught my eye just lying there on the kitchen counter for the last several months. During one of those in-the-house-trying-to-recoup-my-energy days after we got back from Las Vegas, I did the logical thing and picked it up to read.

Susan Zogheib, a registered dietitian with a Master’s in Health Science fulfilled my CKD cookbook dreams in her The Renal Diet Cook for the Newly Diagnosed in that she suggested repeatedly that we, as CKD patients, must work on our diets with our doctors and/or renal dietitians, especially if we have high blood pressure or diabetes. I also like that she clearly made the point that you have to take into account the stage of your CKD, your labs, your concurrent medical problems, and more. This, while including fairly easy recipes for some good looking meals. I never thought I’d like a cookbook. Well, there was the Betty Crocker one pre-CKD when I was a young bride still in college.

My 71st birthday is Friday. Naturally that means it’s time for a book giveaway. My birthday equals your gift. Three is my favorite number, so the first three book giveaway virgins (haven’t won a book before) to offer another bit of information about second hand smoke or CKD cookbooks win one of my CKD books. Sounds fair to me.

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

Banting

I can just about hear you asking, “What in heaven’s name is banting?” You know I like to read Victorian murder mysteries, right? The one I’m reading now is Murder on the Minneapolis by Anita Davison. In it, she has one character discuss a method of losing weight by strict eating limitations publicized by William Banting. I find it amusing that he was a celebrated undertaker, not that this had anything to do with the dietary restrictions.

According to Wikipedia – which is open to public editing –

“In 1863, Banting wrote a booklet called Letter on Corpulence, Addressed to the Public… which contained the particular plan for the diet he followed. It was written as an open letter in the form of a personal testimonial. Banting accounted all of his unsuccessful fasts, diets, spa and exercise regimens in his past, then described the dietary change which finally had worked for him, following the advice of a physician. His own diet was four meals per day, consisting of meat, greens, fruits, and dry wine. The emphasis was on avoiding sugar, saccharine matter, starch, beer, milk and butter. Banting’s pamphlet was popular for years to come, and would be used as a model for modern diets…. Initially, he published the booklet at his personal expense. The self-published edition was so popular that he determined to sell it to the general public. The third and later editions were published by Harrison, London. Banting’s booklet remains in print as of 2007, and is still available on-line. …He undertook his dietary changes at the suggestion of Soho Square physician Dr. William Harvey, who in turn had learnt of this type of diet, but in the context of diabetes management, from attending lectures in Paris by Claude Bernard.”

It’s starting to sound familiar, isn’t it? As Chronic Kidney Disease patients, and certainly if you’re also diabetic, we’re often told by our doctors to lose weight.

Have you heard of the Keto Diet? As a matter of fact, the app for that was included in last week’s blog. That’s one way to lose weight, but it’s too protein and fat heavy for CKD patients. Another way is to count carbohydrates or Bant.

I find it fascinating how the things I’m interested in seem to dovetail sometimes. For example, Chronic Kidney Disease, losing weight, Victorian murder mysteries, and banting.

I know. We need to back track a bit. Let’s start with carbohydrates. What are they anyway? According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/carbohydrate , they are:

“any of various neutral compounds of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen (such as sugars, starches, and celluloses) most of which are formed by green plants and which constitute a major class of animal foods”

Here’s a list of carbohydrates from The American Diabetes Association at http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/understanding-carbohydrates/carbohydrate-counting.html:

• grains like rice, oatmeal, and barley
• grain-based foods like bread, cereal, pasta, and crackers
• starchy vegetables like potatoes, peas and corn
• fruit and juice
• milk and yogurt
• dried beans like pinto beans and soy products like veggie burgers
• sweets and snack foods like sodas, juice drinks, cake, cookies, candy, and chips

Now that we have a definition and examples of carbohydrates, why limit them? The MayoClinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/low-carb-diet/art-20045831 has that one covered.

“Your body uses carbohydrates as its main fuel source. Complex carbohydrates (starches) are broken down into simple sugars during digestion. They’re then absorbed into your bloodstream, where they’re known as blood sugar (glucose). In general, natural complex carbohydrates are digested more slowly and they have less effect on blood sugar. Natural complex carbohydrates provide bulk and serve other body functions beyond fuel.

Rising levels of blood sugar trigger the body to release insulin. Insulin helps glucose enter your body’s cells. Some glucose is used by your body for energy, fueling all of your activities, whether it’s going for a jog or simply breathing. Extra glucose is usually stored in your liver, muscles and other cells for later use or is converted to fat.

The idea behind the low-carb diet is that decreasing carbs lowers insulin levels, which causes the body to burn stored fat for energy and ultimately leads to weight loss.”

Wait a minute. What are these “complex carbohydrates” they mention? This is what I found on MedlinePlus at https://medlineplus.gov/ency/imagepages/19529.htm:

“Complex carbohydrate foods provide vitamins, minerals, and fiber that are important to the health of an individual. The majority of carbohydrates should come from complex carbohydrates (starches) and naturally occurring sugars, rather than processed or refined sugars, which do not have the vitamins, minerals, and fiber found in complex and natural carbohydrates. Refined sugars are often called ‘empty calories’ because they have little to no nutritional value.”

Got it. Complex carbohydrates provide what our bodies need, but too much of them can raise our blood glucose levels or turn to fat.

If there are complex carbohydrates, does that mean there are simple ones, too? Healthline (Thank you again for including this blog among the six best kidney blogs of 2016 & 2017, Healthline.) at https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/simple-carbohydrates-complex-carbohydrates#2 was succinct in describing these:

“Carbohydrates are made up of three components: fiber, starch, and sugar. Fiber and starch are complex carbs, while sugar is a simple carb. Depending on how much of each of these is found in a food determines its nutrient quality.”

Just in case you’re not sure which foods to avoid, Everyday Health at https://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/diet/good-carbs-bad-carbs/ has a beginner’s list for us:

• Soda
• Candy
• Cookies
• Pastries and desserts
• Sweetened beverages, such as lemonade or iced tea
• Energy drinks
• Ice cream

Before you ask, fruits and low fat or nonfat milk do contain simple carbohydrates, but these are healthy for you. You still have to include the milk in your phosphorous count on the renal diet.

This is amazing! Some blogs just flow while I get to the point of just about tearing my hair out to write others (Hey, stress is not good for CKD.) This one flowed.

Congratulations to Christine Barnard from South Africa. She was the first person to let me know she’d read last week’s blog. Instead of winning just one book, she won four: SlowItDownCKD 2012; The Book of Blog: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2; SlowItDownCKD 2015; and SlowItDownCKD 2016. Why? Because she mentioned that there are few sources of Chronic Kidney Disease information in South Africa. Christine, please be sure to email me your physical address. Use SlowItDownCKD@gmail.com.

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

Apps Again

Last week I mentioned kidney diet apps and that I suspected the ones I wrote about in SlowItDownCKD 2016 may be outdated or not exist anymore. Let’s jump right in before I need to get up from the computer to walk around for a while. I’ve been working on another book and been sitting here a long time. We all know that’s not good for us.

This is from SlowItDownCKD 2016:

“According to GCFLearnFree.org – a program of Goodwill Community Foundation® and Goodwill Industries of Eastern NC Inc.® (GIENC®) – at http://www.gcflearnfree.org/computerbasics/understanding-applications/1/,

‘Simply put, an app is a type of software that allows you to perform specific tasks. Applications for desktop or laptop computers are sometimes called desktop applications, while those for mobile devices are called mobile apps.’

During an internet search, I found that NephCure which provides ‘detailed information about the diseases that cause Nephrotic Syndrome (NS) and Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS)’ (and was one of the first organizations to interview me about CKD, by the way) – at http://nephcure.org/livingwithkidneydisease/managing-your-care/kidney-health-tracking-tools/helpful-mobile-apps/ was way ahead of me in discussing apps. This is what’s on their website:

Diet and Nutrition Apps

• KidneyAPPetite – Gives daily summaries of key nutrients for kidney health, check the nutritional value of foods before you eat it, and provides printable summaries to refer to. Great for patients on a renal diet! Cost: Free, Device: iOS

• Pocket Dietitian – Created by a Nephrologist, allows you to choose your health conditions and dietary restrictions to see recommended foods as well as keep track of what you have eaten. You can even see your past nutrition in graph form. Cost: Free, Device: iOS and Android

• My Food Coach – is designed to help you understand and manage all of your nutritional requirements. This app offers personalized nutrition information, recipes and meal plans. Cost: Free, Device: iOS and Android

• HealthyOut – Enables you to search and order nearby healthy food and browse for healthy options while out to eat. You can even choose a specific diet such as gluten free! Cost: Free, Device: iOS and Android

• Restaurant Nutrition – Allows you to search restaurants and look at nutritional values, locate nearby restaurants, and keep a food journal. The Restaurant Nutrition application shows nutritional information of restaurant foods. Cost: Free, Device: iOS and Android

While I could easily go to most of the apps’ websites by clicking on the name while I held down the control button, this was not the case with Pocket Dietician. I was able to find it and lots of descriptive information about it in the Google Play store, but kept getting the message that I had no devices. The help function on the site was not helpful.

What about My Food Coach? It has an extra feature that my favorite lacked: a warning when a recipe would bring you over your renal diet limits. It’s recipe oriented, which doesn’t endear it to me since I like to experiment cooking my big five ounces of protein daily with my three different size servings of different fruits that are on my renal diet. I also avoid red meat.

HealthyOut, while not specifically for CKD, does have a function for the Mediterranean diet which is more often than not recommended for us. I thought this was a hoot since it never occurred to me that you can check restaurant foods by the restaurant name. I am adding this app to my iPhone.”

It looks like I was wrong. Most of these are still available. Unfortunately KidneyDiet, my all-time favorite, is no more. Neither is Restaurant Nutrition. But let’s see what other apps are available for us.

If sodium (salt) is a problem for you, there’s an app for that. According to For Your Kidney at http://foryourkidney.com/en/2016/01/04/5-best-apps-kidney-health/:

“Sodium One is a user friendly Sodium Counter app. Patients with High Blood Pressure or Chronic Kidney Disease can benefit from this app a lot. The App allows you to track water intake as well as exercise and weight history. The main focus of Sodium One however, is to manage your daily sodium allowance. The tracking is actually very accurate when it comes to calorie counts. A great extra is that this app does not require an internet connection.”
This is $0.99 and only available in IOS. That’s Apple.

I do want to mention there are apps specifically for those on dialysis. I have not included them in this blog, although NephCure did include KidneyAPPetite. An internet search for ‘dialysis apps,’ or something along that line, will help you find them.

I’ve tried a few other apps that were not dedicated to those with CKD and found moderate success with them. One is Keto, which bills itself as “Stupid Simple”… and it is. However, it’s limited to carbs, fat, and protein. You’re on your own for phosphorous, potassium, and sodium. Oh, KidneyDiet, come back! The nice part of Keto is that you can scan barcodes (Is that really one word these days?) and add your own foods and meals IF you upgrade from the basic free version. Their website at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.venninteractive.ssketo  tells you this is only available for Android, but I have it on my IOS device.

Under Armour’s MyFitnessPal at https://freepps.top/apps/health-fitness/calorie-counter-myfitnesspal has been around for a while. Again, while this is not perfect for those with CKD, it is a great help. I like that you can set goals and request reminders about your goal, as well as add foods. Of course, Premium offers you a lot more… and charges you accordingly. Articles about exercise and weight pop up, too. And then there are recipes. Again, it doesn’t do the whole trick, although it does count potassium, protein, sodium and calories . What’s missing is phosphorous. The bonuses are carb, fat (by type, no less) cholesterol, fiber, sugar, vitamins A & C, calcium, and iron counters. This is also a free Apple app.

Lose It! at https://www.loseit.com/ is not as comprehensive for the CKD patient. It allows you to track fat, carbs, protein, and calories. Here, again, you can set your goals. You can even take pictures of your food to track it. However, I find I want something more CKD oriented with potassium, phosphorous, and sodium counters included. This looks like it may be a good app for weight loss, but I’m wondering how much help it is for the CKD patient.. This is a free Android app.

At this point, I stopped checking out apps. There are so many more in just a little over the year I last looked at apps. But they’re not quite for the likes of us. It looks like MyFitnessPal is the closest we can come to a kidney app, unless you’re on dialysis. Then I’d go for KidneyAPPetite.

Before I go, here’s a shameless plug for my new book. It’s Sort of Dark Places, available on Amazon and is not CKD related at all. I’ve fictionalized the stories people have told me about their most difficult times. I found it cathartic to write even though these are not my stories. Advance readers have told me they did, too. Give it a try.

In honor of the great Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday, the first person who hasn’t already won a free book that lets me know they’ve read today’s blog wins a copy of SlowItDownCKD 2012.

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

The Elusive Diet Plan

I find it amazing, absolutely amazing, how limited my diet has become in the last decade. It’s not just the renal diet, or even the renal diet with the prediabetes way of eating added. I had some testing done and found ‘food sensitivities’ as well as out and out allergies that needed attention. And now? It turns out I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS, which requires I change my eating habits yet again.

When I was first diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease, I was introduced to the Northern Arizona Council on Renal Nutrition Diet. I reproduced that in SlowItDownCKD 2015 and here it is again…still crooked. (Can I blame that on macular degeneration? No? Oh well.) Unfortunately for me, I can’t just “limit,” which is what the second column on each page suggests, so I have to avoid. One exception leads to a second and then a third, so to me, “limit” means Do.not.eat.

I understood I had to limit my phosphorous, potassium, protein, and sodium to preserve my kidney function and was scared enough by my diagnosis to follow this diet religiously, recording the amounts I ate in a little notebook. Nowadays, there are apps that will help you track these electrolytes. I listed a few in SlowItDownCKD 2016, but that list surely needs updating a full year or more later. Perhaps I should write about that next week.

Back to the renal diet. This meant changes for me, lots of them. My staple – bread – would now be limited, as would potatoes. I am so the grandchild of my grandfather, a Russian miller. I am also lactose intolerant so those limitations were not a problem since I didn’t eat dairy in the first place. The measuring is what I had to get used to in all categories… and I did, to the point where I can eye measure just about all the foods.

Then came the pre-diabetes dietary changes. My A1C was continually elevated. I didn’t want to develop diabetes, so I knew this test that measures blood glucose had to start registering lower readings. Hmmm, I was able to adhere to the renal diet. I’ll just modify that with these new changes, I thought.

Writing The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2  helped me  understand how to do this:

“Ahh! So all carbohydrates, whether from starches or sugars break down into sugar glucose. This is starting to sound familiar. When I brought my pre-diabetes to the nutritionist at my nephrologist’s office, she gave me quite a bit of information and a handout from DCE, a dietetic practice group of the American Dietetic Association. Did you know that starchy vegetables, fruits, juices and milk also contain carbohydrates? It hadn’t occurred to me…. The Mayo Clinic has a good diet plan for diabetes, but it won’t work for Chronic Kidney Disease patients as it is. For example, whole wheat flour raises your blood glucose less than white flour, but has too much phosphorous for us, so we are warned to avoid it. Yoghurt, cheese, beans, and nuts are no-nos on my renal diet, but are often recommended in diabetes diets.”

My diet became noticeably more limited. But I was still willing to work on it. I remembered that CKD can cause diabetes, just as diabetes can cause CKD. I had enough trouble without diabetes, thank you very much.

Boom! Enter food allergies and sensitivities. Lettuce? I was living on salads at this point, but no more unless I could get a spinach salad. I wouldn’t necessarily miss lima beans, brazil nuts, buckwheat, celery, cherries, corn, cucumbers, lamb (ugh), oranges, red raspberries, and watermelon. Whine: some of my staples were on the list, too: rice, shellfish, vanilla, and yeast. Oh yeah, the little bit of mustard I cheatingly ate every once in a while was on the allergy list, too. *sigh*

It took quite a bit of telling myself I could do this and referring to this NEW list constantly to get my now three purpose diet under control. It was especially hard during sad times in my life.

As happens (thank goodness), the sad times with their emotional eating passed and I could get back to doing what my body needed. So why was I feeling so unwell? Was it a UTI? An ulcer? Something worse?

Welcome to eating modification number four. It’s Irritated Bowel Syndrome… and stress can be the source. The stress was caused by sadness in my case: my brother’s death, a bad outcome for testing on another family member, a third one’s hospitalization, a friend’s death, another’s illness. Now that my sad times were ended, at least temporarily, I had to deal with the aftermath.

While the disease is self-explanatory and the causes apparent, I still needed to know how to treat it. The MayoClinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/irritable-bowel-syndrome/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20360064 was helpful, but also informed me that each person with IBS may need different treatments and that there were different kinds of IBS and different tests for each kind. This is the information I found most helpful, although two more of my staples – broccoli and cauliflower – are no longer available to me.

“Your doctor might suggest that you eliminate from your diet:

• High-gas foods. If you experience bloating or gas, you might avoid items such as carbonated and alcoholic beverages, caffeine, raw fruit, and certain vegetables, such as cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower.
• Gluten. Research shows that some people with IBS report improvement in diarrhea symptoms if they stop eating gluten (wheat, barley and rye) even if they don’t have celiac disease.
• FODMAPs. Some people are sensitive to certain carbohydrates such as fructose, fructans, lactose and others, known as FODMAPs — fermentable oligo-, di-, and monosaccharides and polyols. FODMAPs are found in certain grains, vegetables, fruits and dairy products. Your IBS symptoms might ease if you follow a strict low-FODMAP diet and then reintroduce foods one at a time.”

I’m laughing right now. This could not get more complicated. Uh, maybe I shouldn’t say that. Don’t want to draw attention from the diet gods, do I? At any rate, I see this as a challenge. Until I get tired, that is. Then it’s a formidable task.

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

To Eat It Or Not To Eat It

Merry Christmas… and for tomorrow, Happy Kwaanza. Oh, all right, let’s throw in Happy Chanukah although that’s already passed this year. What all these celebrations – yes, and New Year’s Eve, too – have in common is food. And food has potassium and phosphorous in it. Those are two of the electrolytes that Chronic Kidney Disease patients have to curtail.

Let’s backtrack a little bit and find out what these are. Each was included in the glossary of What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease:

“Phosphorus: One of the electrolytes, works with calcium for bone formation, but too much can cause calcification where you don’t want it: joints, eyes, skin, and heart.

Potassium: One of the electrolytes, important because it counteracts sodium’s effect on blood pressure.”

Now, let’s see if we can get a bit more information about the ill effects of having too much of either one.

This is from SlowItDownCKD 2011:

“Be aware that kidney disease can cause excessive phosphorus. And what does that mean for Early Stage CKD patients? Not much if the phosphorous levels are kept low. Later, at Stages 4 and 5, bone problems including pain and breakage may be endured since excess phosphorous means the body tries to maintain balance by using the calcium that should be going to the bones.”

And potassium? SlowItDownCKD 2012 has the answer:

“Too much potassium can cause irregular heart beat and even heart attack. This can be the most immediate danger of not limiting your potassium.”

We all have limitations on these (as well as sodium and protein) based upon our latest blood and urine lab results. Since my lab results registered normal for both electrolytes, I have pretty generous daily limitations: potassium: 3000 mg; phosphorous: 800 mg. If you’re like me, the numbers didn’t mean much.

Let’s try this another way. My husband’s traditional family Christmas dinner consists of standing rib roast, sweet potatoes baked in orange juice with marshmallow topping, string bean casserole, dinner rolls, tea or coke, and apple pie. (I added salad so there would be something I could eat.)

We’ll need a list of high potassium and high phosphorous foods before we can to analyze the meal. Luckily, there is one for phosphorus in SlowItDownCKD 2015:

HIGH PHOSPHORUS FOOD TO LIMIT OR AVOID

Beverages:
ale                                                    beer
chocolate drinks                           cocoa
drinks made with milk                dark colas
canned iced teas

Dairy Products:
cheese                                              cottage cheese

custard                                            ice cream

milk                                                 pudding

cream soups                                  yogurt

Protein:
carp                                                crayfish
beef liver                                       chicken liver
fish roe                                          organ meats
oysters                                           sardines

Vegetables:
dried beans and peas                  baked beans
black beans                                   chick peas
garbanzo beans                            kidney beans
lentils lima                                    northern beans
pork’n beans                                 split peas
soy beans

Other foods:
bran cereals                                brewer’s yeast
caramels                                      nuts
seeds                                            wheat germ
whole grain products

Now we need a list of high potassium foods. The National Kidney Foundation at https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/potassium was helpful here. They also have a list for “Other Foods.”:

Fruits and Vegetables:
Apricot, raw (2 medium) dried (5 halves)    Acorn Squash
Avocado (¼ whole)                                           Artichoke
Banana (½ whole)                                             Bamboo Shoots
Cantaloupe                                                          Baked Beans
Dates (5 whole)                                                  Butternut Squash
Dried fruits                                                          Refried Beans
Figs, dried                                                            Beets, fresh

then boiled
Grapefruit Juice                                                  Black Beans
Honeydew                                                            Broccoli, cooked
Kiwi (1 medium)                                                 Brussels Sprouts
Mango(1 medium)                                             Chinese Cabbage
Nectarine(1 medium)                                        Carrots, raw
Orange(1 medium)                                             Dried Beans and Peas
Orange Juice                                                       Greens, except Kale
Papaya (½ whole)                                              Hubbard Squash
Pomegranate (1 whole)                                      Kohlrabi
Pomegranate Juice                                             Lentils
Prunes                                                                    Legumes
Prune Juice                                                           White Mushrooms,

cooked (½ cup)
Raisins                                                                    Okra
Parsnips

Potatoes, white and sweet
Pumpkin  

Rutabagas
Spinach, cooked
Tomatoes/Tomato products
Vegetable Juices

(Looks like my formatting is on vacation. Sorry about that, folks.)

Okay, here comes the hard part. Let’s scan the lists to see which of the foods in the dinner my husband craved are on this list. I see canned iced teas, dark colas, orange juice, and sweet potatoes. The potassium and phosphorous in one serving (?) of each is as follows:

food                                  potassium                                    phosphorous
canned iced tea                    18 mg.                                            32 mg.
dark cola                               44 mg.                                            62 mg.
orange juice                       235 mg.                                            40 mg.
sweet potatoes                   542 mg.                                            81 mg.
totals                                   839 mg.                                          215 mg.

Doesn’t look bad at all, does it? But it’s all guesswork. Is your liquid serving an ounce? Eight ounces? What about the juice in the sweet potato dish? Surely it’s not just one ounce. And maybe not eight depending upon how much of the juice is in the size portion of the sweet potato dish you had. Maybe you had seconds. Same for the sweet potatoes.

Since this is not at all a precise science, you’re better off practicing more limiting rather than less. I’m not a doctor as I keep mentioning, but I don’t see anything wrong with a just a taste or a small serving of each.

Of course, I’m not a fan of soda or any canned drink, so I get a pass on that. If you’re not sure how much of what you can eat on a daily basis, make an appointment with your renal dietician after the holidays and just enjoy today’s Christmas meal.

Hey, that doesn’t give you free reign to eat all those things expressly not on your renal diet. I know if I decide to eat some of the standing rib roast, I’m still limited to five ounces of protein a day… including the hardboiled egg I had for breakfast.

Lay.off.the.salt.shaker.too. Sodium is not your friend if you have CKD. Ask your hostess if he or she has Mrs. Dash’s seasoning or garlic powder (NOT SALT) should you be asked if you’d like the salt. Oh, was the green bean casserole made with canned, creamy soup? That’s going to up the salt content. Just another thing to be aware of when salivating at the sight of the scrumptious meal in front of you today.

I’d go really light on the hot chocolate, too, if you were planning on having some. The message here is to enjoy, but limit, those high phosphorous and potassium holiday foods you really crave.

Until next week (and next year),
Keep living your life!

Chemo and Kidneys

Cancer has become an everyday word around here. While I have no personal acquaintance with cancer, too many friends and readers do. That got me to thinking. If you had chronic kidney disease and cancer, how would your already poorly functioning kidneys react to the chemotherapy?

We do need to start with some basics here. First, what is chemotherapy? According to the American Cancer Society at https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/treatment-types/chemotherapy/how-chemotherapy-drugs-work.html:

“More than 100 chemotherapy or chemo drugs are used to treat cancer – either alone or in combination with other drugs or treatments. These drugs are very different in their chemical composition, how they are taken, their usefulness in treating specific forms of cancer, and their side effects.

Chemotherapy works with the cell cycle

Chemotherapy drugs target cells at different phases of the process of forming new cells, called the cell cycle. Understanding how these drugs work helps doctors predict which drugs are likely to work well together. Doctors can also plan how often doses of each drug should be given based on the timing of the cell phases.

Cancer cells tend to form new cells more quickly than normal cells and this makes them a better target for chemotherapy drugs. However, chemo drugs can’t tell the difference between healthy cells and cancer cells. This means normal cells are damaged along with the cancer cells, and this causes side effects. Each time chemo is given, it means trying to find a balance between killing the cancer cells (in order to cure or control the disease) and sparing the normal cells (to lessen side effects).”

Uh-oh, “normal cells are damaged along with the cancer cells.” Let’s see if we can get a bit more specific here and find out what happens to kidney cells. The Canadian Cancer Society at http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/diagnosis-and-treatment/chemotherapy-and-other-drug-therapies/chemotherapy/side-effects-of-chemotherapy/kidney-damage-and-chemotherapy/?region=on#ixzz51dnKcgtI offers the following information:

“Some chemotherapy drugs can damage the kidneys (nephrotoxicity). The kidneys break down and remove many chemotherapy drugs from the body. When chemotherapy drugs break down, they make products that can damage cells in the kidneys, ureters and bladder. The potential for kidney damage varies with the type of chemotherapy drug used.

Causes

Chemotherapy drugs that can cause kidney damage include:
• cisplatin (Platinol AQ)
• carboplatin (Paraplatin)
• nitrosureas, such as carmustine (BiCNU, BCNU)
• mitomycin (Mutamycin)
• methotrexate – especially if high doses are used

Whether or not a chemotherapy drug will cause kidney damage depends on:
• the dose of the drug used
• if other drugs, which also have the potential to damage the kidney, are used at the same time
• if the person already has kidney disease”

Look at the last item on the list. That’s us; we already have kidney disease. Cancer.Net at https://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/older-adults/when-cancer-not-your-only-health-concern gives us just a bit more information about chemotherapy when you already have CKD. They also mention diabetes which is one of the leading causes of CKD.

“Diabetes. If you have diabetes, you need to monitor your blood glucose (blood sugar) levels closely during cancer treatment. Some chemotherapy and medications used to lower side effects (such as steroids) can raise your blood sugar levels. These levels might also go up because you are less physically active or under stress. Side effects like nausea and vomiting also affect your blood sugar.

Your doctor might also recommend:
• Taking low-sugar food supplements
• Taking different anti-nausea medications
• Using fast-acting insulin at times during cancer treatment
• Keeping a record of your blood sugar levels. You and your doctor can look at them during clinic visits. Controlling your blood sugar will help make sure you can stay on your cancer treatment schedule.

Kidney disease. Your kidneys might not work as well as you get older. So adults over 65 might have more problems with some types of chemotherapy. The drugs can be difficult for your kidneys to handle. This can raise your risk of kidney problems. How well your kidneys work might determine the type of chemotherapy you can have, or how often you have it.

If you are on dialysis, talk with your oncologist. Dialysis cleans your blood when your kidneys do not work well enough to do it. But dialysis may also clean the chemotherapy drugs out of your body before they can work.”

This does address older adults which is why I believe they mention age as a CKD risk factor. We know that’s not the only risk factor.

But there is hope. Take a look at what appeared in NDT (the respected European Nephrology, Dialysis, Transplantation Journal). It’s a bit a technical, but you can read more of the study at https://academic.oup.com/ndt/article/30/12/1979/2459906:

“One of the important drug-related problems in patients with renal impairment is inappropriate medication use and dosing errors…. Along this line, many cytotoxic drugs and their active/toxic metabolites are eliminated through the kidney depending on how much of the substance undergoes renal filtration, tubular secretion and/or tubular reabsorption. Hence, patients with both acute kidney injury (AKI) and CKD receiving chemotherapeutic agents often possess alterations in their pharmacokinetic parameters such as drug absorption, distribution, protein binding, biotransformation and renal excretion, which may result in the accumulation of potentially toxic components and over-dosage …. Therefore, clinicians must be wary to appropriately adjust doses of drugs that are excreted primarily by the kidneys. This requires dosing according to the calculated or measured creatinine clearance or eGFR formulas, which will allow the safe use of chemotherapy in patients with underlying kidney disease.”

Interesting to me is readers and friends’ reactions to chemo. Some have none, other than high energy for a day or two after their treatment. Others are nauseous and depleted of energy. It depends on your unique body chemistry and the ingredients in your chemo cocktail (for lack of a better term).

You can probably add quite a bit more – and I wish you would – since I am limited by a word count. Readers with kidney cancer, will you weigh in? And those who have both CKD and chemo, would you, too?

Brag time! After being included in Healthline’s Top Six Kidney Disease Blogs two years in a row, this year SlowItDownCKD has been awarded a place on BlogFeedSpot’s Top 75 Nephrology Blogs GLOBALLY. You know that expression the British readers use – gob smacked? That’s me!

I hope your Chanukah has been a mass of sweet, fried celebrations. See you on Christmas.

Oh, there’s still time to win a copy of the newly published SlowItDownCKD 2011 in the Chanukah Book Giveaway Contest. If you haven’t won a book this year, all you have to do is be the first person to correctly answer: What percentage of people with CKD are aware they have the disease?

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

Decisions, Decisions

A reader asked me how I choose the articles or studies I include in the blogs. Now you’ve got to remember that researching and I go way back. I was fortunate in that Research Writing was my favorite course to teach before I retired as a community college instructor. I loved it.

I was going to give you my take on researching when I stumbled across Dr. Alicia White’s piece on the United Kingdom’s National Health Services site at https://www.nhs.uk/news/Pages/Howtoreadarticlesabouthealthandhealthcare.aspx. She’s already written what I would have, so I’m dedicating today’s blog to that. I have not reproduced all of it only because I don’t have the room in the blog for that. Oh, those are not typos; they’re the UK spelling. Take it away, Dr. White:

If you’ve just read a health-related headline that has caused you to spit out your morning coffee (“Coffee causes cancer” usually does the trick), it’s always best to follow the Blitz slogan: “Keep Calm and Carry On”. On reading further, you’ll often find the headline has left out something important, such as: “Injecting five rats with really highly concentrated coffee solution caused some changes in cells that might lead to tumours eventually (study funded by The Association of Tea Marketing).”

The most important rule to remember is: don’t automatically believe the headline. …, you need to analyse the article to see what it says about the research it is reporting on….

Does the article support its claims with scientific research?

Your first concern should be the research behind the news article. If an article touts a treatment or some aspect of your lifestyle that is supposed to prevent or cause a disease, but doesn’t give any information about the scientific research behind it, then treat it with a lot of caution. The same applies to research that has yet to be published.

Is the article based on a conference abstract?

Another area for caution is if the news article is based on a conference abstract. Research presented at conferences is often at a preliminary stage and usually hasn’t been scrutinised by experts in the field. Also, conference abstracts rarely provide full details about methods, making it difficult to judge how well the research was conducted. …

Was the research in humans?

Quite often, the “miracle cure” in the headline turns out to have only been tested on cells in the laboratory or on animals. … Studies in cells and animals are crucial first steps and should not be undervalued. However, many drugs that show promising results in cells in laboratories don’t work in animals, and many drugs that show promising results in animals don’t work in humans. If you read a headline about a drug or food “curing” rats, there is a chance it might cure humans in the future, but unfortunately a larger chance that it won’t…..

How many people did the research study include?

In general, the larger a study the more you can trust its results. Small studies may miss important differences because they lack statistical “power”, and are also more susceptible to finding things (including things that are wrong) purely by chance. … When it comes to sample sizes, bigger is usually better. So when you see a study conducted in a handful of people, treat it with caution.

Did the study have a control group?

…. If the question being asked is about whether a treatment or exposure has an effect or not, then the study needs to have a control group. A control group allows the researchers to compare what happens to people who have the treatment/exposure with what happens to people who don’t. …

Also, it’s important that the control group is as similar to the treated/exposed group as possible. The best way to achieve this is to randomly assign some people to be in the treated/exposed group and some people to be in the control group. This is what happens in a randomised controlled trial (RCT) and is why RCTs are considered the “gold standard” for testing the effects of treatments and exposures. … Without either, retain some healthy scepticism.

Did the study actually assess what’s in the headline?

…. For example, you might read a headline that claims: “Tomatoes reduce the risk of heart attacks.” What you need to look for is evidence that the study actually looked at heart attacks. You might instead see that the study found that tomatoes reduce blood pressure. This means that someone has extrapolated that tomatoes must also have some impact on heart attacks, as high blood pressure is a risk factor for heart attacks. Sometimes these extrapolations will prove to be true, but other times they won’t. Therefore if a news story is focusing on a health outcome that was not examined by the research, treat it with a pinch of salt.

Who paid for and conducted the study?

This is a somewhat cynical point, but one that’s worth making. The majority of trials today are funded by manufacturers of the product being tested – be it a drug, vitamin cream or foodstuff. This means they have a vested interest in the results of the trial, which can potentially affect what the researchers find and report in all sorts of conscious and unconscious ways. This is not to say that all manufacturer-sponsored trials are unreliable. Many are very good. However, it’s worth seeing who funded the study to sniff out a potential conflict of interest….

Many thanks to Dr. White for her explanations.

Here we are in the middle of madness, holiday madness that is. Of course, that means we need to remind ourselves to slow down and de-stress. Exercising is one way to de-stress. We all have different ways to do that. The important thing is to do it… and stick to your renal diet if you follow one.

To those of who you celebrate Chanukah, I wish you a happy and a healthy first night tomorrow night. We’ll be lighting the Menorah along with you. It’ll be hard not to eat the chocolate gelt (money), but you can do it.

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

Movin’ On Up

Considering my family’s history, I’m vigilant about having colonoscopies. This year, however, there was an additional test – an endoscopy. You may have heard of this as an upper endoscopy, EGD or esophagogastroduodenoscopy. The names are interchangeable. Whatever you call it, I was intrigued.

What is an endoscopy, you ask. According to the Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/endoscopy/basics/why-its-done/PRC-20020363:

An upper endoscopy is used to diagnose and, sometimes, treat conditions that affect the upper part of your digestive system, including the esophagus, stomach and beginning of the small intestine (duodenum).

Okay, but that doesn’t explain what the procedure is. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diagnostic-tests/upper-gi-endoscopy can help us out here:

Upper GI endoscopy is a procedure in which a doctor uses an endoscope—a flexible tube with a camera—to see the lining of your upper GI tract. A gastroenterologist, surgeon, or other trained health care professional performs the procedure, most often while you receive light sedation to help you relax.

Relax? I was out like a light. First I was being shown was the device that was going to hold my mouth open and hold the tube that would be going down my throat, the next second I awoke in my room… or so it seemed.

Now the biggie: why have an endoscopy in the first place? I went to Patient Platform Limited at https://patient.info/health/gastroscopy-endoscopy and found this,

A gastroscopy may be advised if you have symptoms such as:

• Repeated (recurring) indigestion.
• Recurring heartburn.
• Pains in the upper tummy (abdomen).
• Repeatedly being sick (vomiting).
• Difficulty swallowing.
• Other symptoms thought to be coming from the upper gut.

The sort of conditions which can be confirmed (or ruled out) include:

• Inflammation of the gullet (oesophagus), called oesophagitis. The operator will see areas of redness on the lining of the oesophagus.
• Stomach and duodenal ulcers. An ulcer looks like a small, red crater on the inside lining of the stomach or on the first part of the gut (small intestine) known as the duodenum.
• Inflammation of the duodenum (duodenitis) and inflammation of the stomach (gastritis).
• Stomach and oesophageal cancer.
• Various other rare conditions.

Wait a minute. I can already hear you asking what that has to do with Chronic Kidney Disease. Claire J. Grant, from the Lilibeth Caberto Kidney Clinical Research Unit in London, Canada, and her colleagues’ answer was reported in PhysciansEndoscopy at http://www.endocenters.com/chronic-kidney-disease-adversely-affects-digestive-function/#.WiLwjrpFxaQ,

“CKD adversely affects digestive function,” the authors write. “Abnormalities in digestive secretion and absorption may potentially have a broad impact in the prevention and treatment of both CKD and its complications.”

Not good. We know that CKD requires close monitoring and life style changes. This may be another facet of the disease to which we need to pay attention.

I had some biopsies while I was under sedation. Nope, didn’t feel a thing.

But I now know I have gastritis and an irregular Z-line. The silver lining here is that I don’t have Helicobacter pylori or H. pylori, a type of bacteria that infects the stomach which can be caused by chronic gastritis. Mine seems to be the food caused kind. Generally it’s alcohol or caffeine, spicy foods, chocolate, or high fat foods that can cause this problem. I don’t drink, eat spicy or high fat foods, and rarely eat chocolate, but nooooooooooooooooo, please don’t take away those two luscious cups of coffee a day.

I wasn’t sure what this Z-line thing was so started poking around on the internet, since I didn’t catch it before seeing the gastroenterologist for my after visit appointment. Dr. Sidney Vinson, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences/UAMS College of Medicine explained:

This refers to the appearance of the tissue where the esophagus and stomach meet. The z-line is a zig-zag line where these 2 different type tissues meet. Occasionally it can be irregular and protrude more into the esophagus and not have the typical appearance. This is generally a benign condition but can occasionally represent mild barrett’s esophagus, a precancerous change caused by reflux.

My source was HealthTap at https://www.healthtap.com/user_questions/198269-in-regards-to-upper-gi-endoscopy-what-is-an-irregular-z-line

Apparently my normal duodenum was biopsied to see if my doctor could find a reason for the pain I was experiencing in the upper stomach. Well, it was more discomfort than pain, but he wanted to be certain there wasn’t an ulcer… and there were no ulcers. Yay!

Hmmm, I have gastritis which is an inflammation and CKD, which is an inflammatory disease. Which came first? Did it matter? If I treat one will the other improve? I’ve been following the renal diet for all nine years since my diagnose and have made the appropriate life style changes, too.

What more could I do? There’s the ever present to struggle to lose weight. That could help. I wasn’t willing to take more medication as my gastroenterologist understood and accepted. I was already taking probiotics. I examined the little booklet produced by Patient Point that I was given more closely ignoring all the advertisements for medication.

Look at that. It seems sleeping on your left side can help. “Since your stomach curves to your left, part of it will be lower than your esophagus.” I can do that, although I wonder if it will be awkward while wearing the BiPap.

I also learned that skipping late night snacks and eating smaller meals would be helpful since there would be less acid produced by smaller meals and I wouldn’t have to deal with acid while I slept if I stopped eating at least two hours before bedtime. Acid is produced to help digest your food.

For Thanksgiving, I was part of a video produced by Antidote Me (the clinical trial matching program I wrote about several weeks ago). The topic was What I Am Thankful to Medical Research for. I think I can safely add endoscopy to that list. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Mwv-vBRgzRFe8-Mg6Rs7uUIXMOgOMJHX/view

I was also invited to participate in two separate book signings and have a video from one of them. I’ll post it as soon as I can figure out how since I don’t own the rights yet. Oh, I feel a new year’s resolution coming on – learn more about the technology I need for my writing.

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

Giving Thanks

Thursday is the American Thanksgiving. This is what we were taught in grade school when I was a child:

“In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. It wasn’t until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.”

Thank you History.com at http://www.history.com/topics/thanksgiving/history-of-thanksgiving for that information.

Thanksgiving is celebrated in one form or another all over the world since it is basically a celebration of the harvest. For example, Canadians celebrate theirs on the second Monday of October since the harvest is earlier there. Then there’s China’s Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, Korea’s Chuseok, the Liberian Thanksgiving, Ghana’s Homowo Festival, and the Jewish Sukkot.

One thing all the different forms of Thanksgiving worldwide have in common is the delicious danger of overeating… and that is not good for our kidneys (no matter how scrumptious the food is). This report – which deals with just that topic – popped up on my news feed the other day. The source is Baylor College of Medicine at https://www.bcm.edu/news/kidney/overeating-holidays-bad-for-kidneys.

“‘The body absorbs nutrients from the gut and then the liver metabolizes them. Whatever is left that can’t be used by the body is excreted by the kidneys,” said Mandayam, associate professor of medicine in the section of nephrology. “The more you eat, the more you deliver to your kidneys to excrete, so eating a lot of substances that are very high in proteins or toxins can put a strain on your kidneys because they now have to handle the excess calories, toxins or proteins you’ve eaten.

During holidays like Thanksgiving, people tend to eat very heavy meals with lots of proteins and carbohydrates, and this can impact not only kidney function, but also liver, pancreas and cardiac function,’ Mandayam said.

‘When you consume carbohydrates, the body will use what is necessary for immediate energy release but any extra carbohydrates are converted into fat and stored underneath the skin and in the muscles and the liver. Similarly, when you eat a lot of fat, if the fat can’t immediately be converted into energy-producing adenosine triphosphate, then all of the fat will be stored in various fat deposits in the body,’ Mandayam explained.

‘The building up of fat inside your liver can lead to liver failure or cirrhosis, and fat inside your blood vessels can lead to heart attacks. Additionally, eating a lot of protein that your body can’t metabolize can lead to an increase in blood urea nitrogen, which adds stress on kidneys because they have to work harder to excrete this.

It is especially important for people with chronic kidney disease and kidney stones to not overeat,’ he said.

‘For people with kidney disease, even eating normal amounts of food puts stress on their kidneys,’ he said. ‘If you consume large amounts of carbohydrates, protein or fat the stress on an overworked, half functioning kidney will get even worse and can accelerate your kidney dysfunction.’”

It always made sense to me that overeating is detrimental to your health, but I was thinking in terms of obesity which could lead to diabetes which, in turn, could lead to CKD. I’ve also noticed that since I read this report, I’ve been eating less without making an effort. For years, I’ve been struggling with my weight and all I had to do is read this report????? Life is weird.

Let’s talk about carbohydrates for a minute. I instantly think of bread, all kinds of bread which is even weirder because I’ve been on a low carb diet for a while. I know, you thought of cakes and pies, didn’t you? Did you know that fruits and vegetables contain carbohydrates, too?

Hmmm, that was a revelation to me the first time I saw those charts. Now I’m wondering about excess calories. I’m limited to 1200 a day and find that this is fine with me. Bear is larger, being both male and bigger than I am, so his calorie limitations are higher. Your renal dietician can tell you what your ideal calorie count per day is if you don’t know.

So, why limit calories? Renal Medical Associates at http://renalmed.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Nutrition-and-the-CKD-diet.pdf explain this succinctly:

  Why being overweight matters and what you can do about it.

We used to think that those “few extra pounds” were just dead weight. We now know that those extra pounds work together to disrupt your body’s normal functioning-with the goal of making you gain more weight. That’s why losing weight is such a difficult task.

I’m back. It’s important to limit your calorie limit so that you don’t add those extra pounds. The extra pounds not only make it more difficult to lose weight, but can lead to obesity… which can lead to diabetes… which can lead to CKD. This is starting to sound familiar, isn’t it?

If you already have CKD, the extra pounds you gain without calorie restrictions make it more difficult for your poor, already overworked and struggling kidneys to do their jobs.

What are those jobs you ask? Let’s take a look at Verywell.com at https://www.verywell.com/kidney-functions-514154 ‘s answer:

• Prevent the Buildup of Waste Products – The kidneys function as an intricate filter, removing normal waste products of metabolism, as well as toxins from the body. In the process of removing toxins, the kidneys may be damaged   by these substances.
• Regulate Fluid – Through holding on to fluids when a person is dehydrated, or eliminating excess fluids, the kidneys control fluid balance in the body.
• Regulate Electrolytes – The kidneys play an important function in electrolyte balance in the body, regulating the levels of sodium, potassium, and phosphate. This maintaining of optimal levels of electrolytes is referred to as homeostasis – or equilibrium.
• Regulate Blood Pressure – Through the production of a hormone called renin, the kidneys play an important role in regulating blood pressure. Learn more about the renin-angiotensin system.
• Regulate Production of Red Blood Cells – The kidneys produce a hormone called erythropoietin which controls the production of red blood cells in the bone marrow.
• Bone Health – The kidneys produce an active form of vitamin D which keeps the bones healthy.

Hey, it’s Thanksgiving. You can enjoy the holiday meal without overeating.

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

Any Veterans Here?

Veterans Day was Saturday, although many schools and businesses chose to celebrate it on Friday. That confused me since I mistakenly thought all national holidays falling on the weekend in the U.S. were celebrated on the following Monday. Once that was straightened out for me, I wondered if we were the only country to honor those who fought for us.

According to The United States Department of Veterans Affairs at https://www.va.gov/opa/vetsday/vetday_faq.asp, we’re not:

Q. Is Veterans Day celebrated in other countries?

A. Yes, a number of countries honor their veterans each year on November 11, although the name and types of commemorations differ somewhat from Veterans Day celebrations in the United States. For example, Canada and Australia observe “Remembrance Day” on November 11, and Great Britain observes “Remembrance Day” on the Sunday nearest to November 11. There are similarities and differences between these countries’ Remembrance Day and America’s Veterans Day. Canada’s observance is actually quite similar to the U.S. celebration, in that the day is intended to honor all who served in Canada’s Armed Forces. However, unlike in the U.S., many Canadians wear red poppy flowers on November 11 in honor of their war dead. In Australia, Remembrance Day is very much like America’s Memorial Day, a day to honor that nation’s war dead.

In Great Britain, the day is commemorated by church services and parades of ex-service members in Whitehall, a wide ceremonial avenue leading from London’s Parliament Square to Trafalgar Square. Wreaths of poppies are left at the Cenotaph, a war memorial in Whitehall, which was built after the First World War. At the Cenotaph and elsewhere in the country, a two-minute silence is observed at 11 a.m., to honor those who lost their lives in wars.

There are 600,000 veterans with kidney disease in the U.S. Considering that kidney disease is a medically dischargeable disease (Can you imagine soldiers in the field trying to stick to the renal diet?), I began to wonder just how our veterans were being treated once they were no longer active military.

I went to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at http://bit.ly/2ABGeli for the following information:

The prevalence of chronic kidney disease (CKD) in the Veteran population is estimated to be 34% higher than in the general population, due to demographic differences and the existence of significant co-morbidities associated with CKD in the Veteran population—diabetes mellitus and hypertension. VA currently cares for over 600,000 Veterans with kidney disease in their 153 medical treatment facilities or 800 community based outreach clinics (CBOC’s) across the United States. Those Veterans who progress to kidney failure are treated either at home or in one of the 70 VA dialysis units, or if dialysis services are not directly available, may be treated in the community under VA contracted care. Currently over 15,000 Veterans receive care directly by VA or through the community under VA contracted care. Eligible Veterans may also elect to receive dialysis care in the community using Medicare or other personal health benefits programs. Renal transplantation is also offered through the VA as a regionalized service at 5 centers.

Wait a minute. Why did “demographic differences and the existence of significant co-morbidities associated with CKD in the Veteran population—diabetes mellitus and hypertension” lead to a whopping 34% of veterans having kidney disease?

I know when Bear spoke with me about his 25 year military career, he talked of people with different ethnic backgrounds from different parts of the country… some from different parts of the world.

I remembered writing this in What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease:

“…Native American, Alaskan Native, Hispanic, Pacific Islander or Afro-American ethnic groups…have a 15 to 17% higher occurrence of CKD.”

And I was off and running. Last Veterans Day’s Huffington Post was able to help out here.

“According to the U.S. Department of Defense, as of 2012 there were over 22,000 American Indians and Alaska Natives on active duty, and the 2010 Census identified over 150,000 American Indian and Alaska Native veterans.”

You can read the entire article at https://www.huffingtonpost.com/national-museum-of-the-american-indian/american-indians-serve-in-the-us-military_b_7417854.html.

And Hispanics? Journalist Erika L. Sanchez wrote in 2013 that over 157, 000 Hispanics served in the military then. By the way, her article at http://nbclatino.com/2013/01/01/u-s-military-a-growing-latino-army/ gives the rest of us a little insight into the Latino community’s military leanings.

I hesitate to come up with the number of Pacific Islanders serving in the military since the information is even older than that for Native Americans and Alaskan Natives (Did you notice they were grouped together?) or Hispanics. It’s also included with that of Asians, so the categories are Asian-Pacific Islanders rather than Pacific Islanders.

As for Afro-Americans or Blacks – readers, which name do you prefer? – the closest I can figure out is that 370,842 Blacks or 16% of the Blacks in the United States served in the U.S. military… in 2011.

None of these statistics is current. It takes time for the military to collect and compose their data, but I had been hoping for numbers that were a little more timely.

And now the biggie: just how much is The Veterans Administration spending on veterans with kidney disease?

Finally, a fairly current article. In April of this year, MedPage Today at https://www.medpagetoday.com/meetingcoverage/nkf/64668 offered this information from Kristen Monaco’s article:

Rajiv Saran, MD, of the University of Michigan, and colleagues found the total cost of CKD care in the Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare system increased from $12 billion in 2006 to $19 billion in 2014 in current dollars. Adjusted for inflation, the increase was 26%, the researchers reported as a late-breaking abstract at the National Kidney Foundation’s 2017 Spring Clinical Meeting.

More than three-fourths of the VA’s aggregate spending each year on CKD patients was dedicated to patients with either stage 3a or 3b disease. However, the average cost per patient to treat increased with each worsening stage of CKD, with non-dialysis stage 5 CKD being the most expensive.

To all those who served, whether or not you developed kidney disease, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

 

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

Book It!

Every once in a great while, I’ll come across a Chronic Kidney Disease book that I want to share. I think there were only three or four of these in the last six years. Today, I add another one. Dr. Kang, the author, is a local doctor. That was the first thing that caught my eye.

I thought I would be reading the usual information … and I did, but it was written with verve and included some information I hadn’t known. So I did the obvious. I contacted the good doctor to see if he’d be interested in sharing his knowledge with us on the blog. I’m so very glad he agreed.

Dr. Mandip S.Kang, is not only a senior partner in Southwest Kidney Institute right here in Phoenix, but he is also a Fellow in the American Society of Nephrologists I like so much. Just last week, I gleefully accepted their invitation to join the Twitter chat (#AskASN) about staging in CKD and often refer to them in both my blogs and books. He is also the author of the IBPA Gold Award winning book: The Doctor’s Kidney Diets……A Nutritional Guide to Managing and Slowing The Progression of Chronic Kidney Disease, the book that caught my eye.

This is what he wrote for us:

Receiving a diagnosis of kidney disease is not a death sentence for patients, but is often overwhelming and a life changing event. Patients are often confused and the information they receive from different healthcare providers may not be the same. Patients often ask, “What should I do?”

Having experience as a former Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at University of Utah School of Medicine and currently as a Senior Nephrologist (kidney specialist), I have gained some insight into how to alleviate my patients’ fears and I have come up with a four point plan that I try to teach my kidney patients. I believe that the role of the physician is to be a teacher and a coach as patients navigate their way into the complexities of a Chronic Kidney Disease diagnosis. I believe that every kidney specialist should have a chalk board in the patient exam rooms and lay out the plan for his or her approach to their patients just like we were taught in schools.

Here is a four point plan that all kidney patients should remember as they visit their kidney specialists and at home. The acronym for the plan is very simple: D.A.M.E.

1. ‘D’ in the acronym stands for diet. The reason I chose diet first comes from the Chinese wisdom in treating any disease: ‘He that takes medicine and neglects diet, wastes the skills of the physician.’ Patients must be taught what the kidney diet is and why they need to follow it for the rest of their lives. Since the kidney diet is complex, they must be provided with educational materials that outline the diet and be strongly encouraged to visit a kidney dietitian who will tell them what and how much to eat.

Dietitians and kidney doctors will teach them about the benefits of eating fresh foods and avoiding processed foods. Patients should remember that the ‘p’ in ‘p’rocessed foods is akin to ‘p’acked with calories. Learning to read a Nutrition Facts label is a must if the doctor wants to do all he or she can to help the patient slow down – and sometimes halt – the progression of kidney disease. It is important to remember that in the earlier stages of kidney disease, the diet may not be as strict – but if progression of the disease is noted, then dietary modifications are more stringent and frequent laboratory tests may need to be performed to assess progress.

2. ‘A’ in the four point CKD plan stands for activity. “What is activity?” you might say. It could mean walking more, taking more steps daily, joining a gym, hiking, biking or any activity that keeps you on your feet. As most Americans already know, the obesity rates in the USA are skyrocketing leading to most chronic health conditions such as Chronic Kidney Disease, Coronary Artery Disease, Stroke, Arthritis, Lung Disease, etc. These chronic health conditions stem from lack of activity and consuming excessive calories. Many patients lead a sedentary lifestyle such as watching TV for long hours which leads to worsening of their health issues. Patients should be encouraged to do the activities they enjoy the most such as dancing, or walking in a park or on a beach. Patients should weigh themselves on a weekly basis to monitor their weight.

3. ‘M’ in the acronym stands for medications that your doctor prescribes. Your doctor may also tell you not to take certain over the counter medications that may harm your kidneys such as Advil, Motrin, Aleve, Ibuprofen, Celebrex, Prilosec, herbal remedies, etc. I encourage all patients to memorize their medications and keep a list with them at all times. Remember that all medications are prescribed because the benefit to the patient outweighs the risk and no medication is entirely safe; therefore, it should be taken as prescribed and any side effects reported to your doctor. You should not take any new medicine unless it has been cleared by your kidney specialist.

4. ‘E’ in the above acronym stands for education. This is the key element in the D.A.M.E plan to treat patients with CKD. Unless the patient has a clear understanding of their disease process, labs, treatment plan, and the role of diet, activity, and medications, they will not be successful in managing and slowing the progression of Chronic Kidney Disease. How well a patient does will depend on their knowledge of their disease and if they comply with the instructions given to them by the kidney doctors.

I hope that all kidney doctors and patients keep the D.A.M.E. acronym in mind. Patients who are active participants in their care lead healthier and productive lives. I wish all of the readers well.

I hadn’t heard of the D.A.M.E. method before but I like it, especially “the ‘p’ in ‘p’rocessed foods is akin to ‘p’acked with calories.” Many thanks, Dr. Kang, for introducing this common sense theme to us.

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

Feed Me

Over the years, I’ve seen advertisements for food preparation services. You know the ones that cook your meals and deliver them weekly. I would approach the people offering the service to see what they could do with the renal diet. That was a deal killer right there.

All right, I figured. Maybe what I should be doing is finding a chef who is willing to work with kidney patients rather than ask existing food preparation services to accommodate just me. I even had one chef who agreed that this is a valuable service and something she wanted to do. I was excited. Then she simply stopped emailing and answering calls. That was a couple of years ago.

I sort of gave up… until I ran into an advertisement for Clarence’s food service. I figured it was worth it to try again and called him. It was.

I explained to Clarence that I don’t permit advertising on my blog, but I would like other Chronic Kidney Disease patients to see how they can make use of food preparation services such as his. He was kind enough to write this guest blog for us. I’m hoping that this inspires you to approach a chef in your area to ask him/her if he/she is willing to provide such a service. Of course, not all of us want to have someone else prepare our meals or want to spend the money to do so, so this is a blog for that portion of readers who do.

Meal Planning for Those with Kidney Disease.
Clarence Ferguson, RTSM, CMTA, NT

Understanding your kidney disease, or renal disease, is the first step in taking control of your health. While I am not a doctor, I have aligned myself with those whose specialize in CKD so that I can adjust meals accordingly. When you have kidney disease, your kidneys are no longer able to remove waste effectively from your body or to balance your fluids. The buildup of wastes can change the chemistry of your body causing some symptoms that you can feel, and others that you don’t.

With kidney diseases, the first symptoms you may have are ones that you won’t feel but that will show up in tests that your doctor orders. Common problems are high blood pressure, anemia and weakening bones. It is important to find a kidney doctor (also called a nephrologist). And once you have your doctor’s recommendation that’s where we come in and prepare your meal according to his or her recommendations.

Okay Clarence, we know that but how do we navigate healthy eating?

Here are some suggestions for you and what I prepare for clients who struggle with CKD.

Make sure these snacks are readily available:
1. Fruit: apples, grapes, tangerines or strawberries; dried cranberries or blueberries; or packaged fruit cups with diced     peaches, pears, pineapple, mandarin oranges or mixed fruit. Make sure they are organic.
2. Low- or no-sodium microwave popcorn.
3. Low-sodium crackers, pita chips or unsalted pretzels.
4. Pouches of tuna or chicken and a side of Vegainse (a dairy free option for mayonnaise).
5. Kidney-friendly nutrition bars or liquid supplements, such as the ones from ID life, since they meet these guidelines.

What we do at Fit Body Foods
1. Compare brands. Sodium and potassium levels can vary significantly from one brand to another.
2. Look for low-sodium labels on packaging. Stock up on the lowest sodium broths, stocks and condiments.
3. Choose fresh vegetables, or frozen or canned veggies with no added salt or sodium.
4. Use only 1/4 as much of the tomato sauce and canned tomatoes that a recipe calls for to limit potassium and sodium.
5. Don’t use canned fish or chicken with added salt. All fish is fresh, so we can control the sodium levels by rinsing to reduce the sodium. Try to limit use of canned goods in general.
6. Avoid baking and pancake mixes that have salt and baking powder added. Instead, make a kidney-friendly recipe from scratch.
7. Use sweet pickles instead of dill pickles and check for added salt.
8. Check cold and instant hot cereals for sodium amounts. Although oatmeal contains more phosphorus than some cereals, it may be okay one to two times a week if phosphorus is well-controlled.
9. Check the ingredients in vinegar. Some vinegars, such as seasoned rice vinegar, contain added salt and sugar.
10. Avoid store-bought sauces and gravies that have mystery ingredients in them. Make our own instead from real-food ingredients.
11. Use homemade soup recipes, such as Rotisserie Chicken Noodle Soup, instead of pre-made or canned soups. Some soups contain more than 800 mg sodium per serving.
12. Low – and reduced – sodium broth is great for use in cooking. We save the homemade broth from stewed or boiled chicken or beef.
13. Don’t trade sodium for potassium. Some products replace salt with potassium chloride.
14. Limit nuts, seeds and chocolate as they are high in potassium and phosphorus.

We prepare food weekly and deliver to our clients on Sundays. We take the worry out of meal prep, our meals start at $7.99 a meal, and we can accommodate most palates. We can be reached for orders at: info@coachclarence.com.

Below is a sample recipe:
Cucumber-Carrot Salad
Diet types: CKD non-dialysis, Dialysis, Diabetes
Portions: 4
Serving size: 1/2 cup
Ingredients:
1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cucumber
1 cup carrots
2 tablespoons green onion
2 tablespoons red bell pepper
1/2 teaspoon Mrs. Dash® Italian Medley seasoning blend

Notice there is nothing new here. We all know this information. What is appealing is having someone else, someone who understands our diet limitations, buy the food and prepare it for our meals. I explained to Clarence that our food needs as far as electrolytes change with each blood test and he agreed that it’s important to eat according to your numbers. That’s something he’s very willing to pay attention to. Should this interest you, why not approach a professional in your area to see if they can also provide such a service?Big news! SlowItDownCKD 2011 is now available on Amazon.com in both print and digital (and needs reviews: hint). SlowItDownCKD 2012 will not be far behind. These are the first and second parts of the reformatted, larger print, more comprehensively indexed The Book of Blogs: Moderate Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1, (available only until SlowItDownCKD 2012 is published).

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

A Laboring Electrolyte

It’s Labor Day here in the United States. I feel a special affinity for this holiday and wanted to explain the day some more. Oh, I already did in SlowItDownCKD 2016:

“For those of you in the United States, here’s hoping you have a healthy, safe Labor Day. I come from a union family. So much so that my maternal grandfather was in and out of jail for attempting to unionize brass workers. That was quite a bit of pressure on my grandmother, who raised the four children and ran a restaurant aimed at the men who were saving up funds to bring their families here from Europe. I knew there was more than my personal history with the holiday so I poked around and found this from http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2016/09/04/labor-day-history/89826440/

‘In the late 1800s, the state of labor was grim as U.S. workers toiled under bleak conditions: 12 or more hour workdays; hazardous work environments; meager pay. Children, some as young as 5, were often fixtures at plants and factories. The dismal livelihoods fueled the formation of the country’s first labor unions, which began to organize strikes and protests and pushed employers for better hours and pay. Many of the rallies turned violent.

On Sept. 5, 1882 — a Tuesday — 10,000 workers took unpaid time off to march in a parade from City Hall to Union Square in New York City as a tribute to American workers. Organized by New York’s Central Labor Union, It was the country’s first unofficial Labor Day parade. Three years later, some city ordinances marked the first government recognition, and legislation soon followed in a number of states.’”

Now, how do I transition from Labor Day to magnesium? Hmmm, my hard working daughter brought up the subject in today’s phone conversation, but that doesn’t seem like a good transition. Aha! Magnesium is a hard working electrolyte. Okay, that works for me.

Let’s start off with the basics. This passage from What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease will give you an idea of what magnesium is and what it may have to do with you as a CKD patient:

“In order to fully understand the renal diet, you need to know a little something about electrolytes. There are the sodium, potassium, and phosphate you’ve been told about and also calcium, magnesium, chloride and bicarbonate. They maintain balance in your body. This is not the kind of balance that helps you stand upright, but the kind that keeps your body healthy. Too much or too little of a certain electrolyte presents different problems.”

Problems? With magnesium? Maybe we need to know what magnesium does for us. The medical dictionary part of The Free Dictionary by Farlex at http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/magnesium tells us:

“An alkaline earth element (atomic number 12; atomic weight 24.3) which is an essential mineral required for bone and tooth formation, nerve conduction and muscle contraction; it is required by many enzymes involved in carbohydrate, protein and nucleic acid metabolism. Magnesium is present in almonds, apples, dairy products, corn, figs, fresh leafy greens, legumes, nuts, seafood, seeds, soybeans, wheat germ and whole grains. Magnesium may be useful in treating anxiety, asthma and cardiovascular disease; it is thought to prevent blood clots, raise HDL-cholesterol, lower LDL-cholesterol, reduce arrhythmias and blood pressure, and to help with depression, fatigue, hyperactivity and migraines.”

All this by an electrolyte that constitutes only 1% of extra cellular fluid? I’m beginning to suspect that magnesium is the under explained electrolyte.

All right then, what happens if you have too much magnesium? Keep in mind that as CKD patients, electrolytes are not being as effectively eliminated by our kidneys as they could be since we have some degree of decline in our kidney function.

The U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services of the National Institutes of Health at https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/ lays it out for us:

“Early signs of magnesium deficiency include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and weakness. As magnesium deficiency worsens, numbness, tingling, muscle contractions and cramps, seizures, personality changes, abnormal heart rhythms, and coronary spasms can occur …. Severe magnesium deficiency can result in hypocalcemia or hypokalemia (low serum calcium or potassium levels, respectively) because mineral homeostasis is disrupted….”

Well, who’s at risk for magnesium deficiency? The same source tells us:

“Magnesium inadequacy can occur when intakes fall below the RDA but are above the amount required to prevent overt deficiency. The following groups are more likely than others to be at risk of magnesium inadequacy because they typically consume insufficient amounts or they have medical conditions (or take medications) that reduce magnesium absorption from the gut or increase losses from the body.

People with gastrointestinal diseases
The chronic diarrhea and fat malabsorption resulting from Crohn’s disease, gluten-sensitive enteropathy (celiac disease), and regional enteritis can lead to magnesium depletion over time …. Resection or bypass of the small intestine, especially the ileum, typically leads to malabsorption and magnesium loss ….

People with type 2 diabetes
Magnesium deficits and increased urinary magnesium excretion can occur in people with insulin resistance and/or type 2 diabetes…. The magnesium loss appears to be secondary to higher concentrations of glucose in the kidney that increase urine output ….

People with alcohol dependence
Magnesium deficiency is common in people with chronic alcoholism…. In these individuals, poor dietary intake and nutritional status; gastrointestinal problems, including vomiting, diarrhea, and steatorrhea (fatty stools) resulting from pancreatitis; renal dysfunction with excess excretion of magnesium into the urine; phosphate depletion; vitamin D deficiency; acute alcoholic ketoacidosis; and hyperaldosteronism secondary to liver disease can all contribute to decreased magnesium status ….

Older adults
Older adults have lower dietary intakes of magnesium than younger adults …. In addition, magnesium absorption from the gut decreases and renal magnesium excretion increases with age …. Older adults are also more likely to have chronic diseases or take medications that alter magnesium status, which can increase their risk of magnesium depletion ….”

Notice how many times the kidneys were mentioned. Quick, go check your lab results. You’ll notice there’s no magnesium level. If you’d like your magnesium tested, you or your doctor need to order a specific test for that. Some labs will allow you to order your own magnesium test; others will require a doctor’s orders.

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead

How many times have you said this (before your diagnose) to those who told you to slow down, take it easier, don’t rush so, take some time for yourself, etc.? As a younger person, I was a high school teacher, an actor, a writer, and – most importantly – a mother, actually a single mother once my daughters were double digit aged.

Guess what. You may sleep when you’re dead, but you need to sleep now before you hasten the time to your death. What’s that? You get enough sleep? I thought I did, too, but I wasn’t getting the kind of sleep I needed.

Why do we need sleep anyway? I turned to The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1 for some answers. The first reason I stumbled across was in an article from The Journal of The American Society of Nephrologists:

“Hermida tells WebMD that some of the body’s blood pressure control systems are most active while we sleep. So medicines designed to control those systems work better when taken close to the time when the systems are activated most fully.”

Ramon C. Hermida, PhD is the director of the bioengineering and chronobiology labs at the University of Vigo in Spain.

Hmmm, I take medication for hypertension… and I take it at night. I see that I need to sleep for it to work most effectively. I’ve known this for years and written about it. The point is you may need to know about it.

Then I started wondering if I were correct in the amount of sleep I thought I needed. The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2 was helpful here:

“How much sleep is enough sleep anyway? According to Dr. Timothy Morgenthaler of The Mayo Clinic site, seven to eight hours is what an adult needs, but then he lists mitigating circumstances under which you might need more:

• Pregnancy. Changes in a woman’s body during early pregnancy can increase the need for sleep.
• Aging. Older adults need about the same amount of sleep as younger adults. As you get older, however, your sleeping patterns might change. Older adults tend to sleep more lightly and for shorter time spans than do younger adults. This might create a need for spending more time in bed to get enough sleep, or a tendency toward daytime napping.
• Previous sleep deprivation. If you’re sleep deprived, the amount of sleep you need increases.
• Sleep quality. If your sleep is frequently interrupted or cut short, you’re not getting quality sleep. The quality of your sleep is just as important as the quantity.”

While I’m not pregnant (and will become a medical miracle if I become pregnant), all the other circumstances do apply to me. During Shiva after my brother’s death, there was very, very little sleeping going on. Hence, sleep deprivation. I’m aging and my sleep quality is not great right now. Those are my circumstances, but they could be yours. Are you getting enough sleep?

Sometimes, simply having Chronic Kidney Disease can be the source of sleep problems. This is something I’ve written about several times. Here’s an excerpt from SlowItDownCKD 2015 about just that:

“We’ve known for a long time that sleep disorders are more common in kidney disease patients than in the general population,” Charles Atwood, MD, associate director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Sleep Medicine Center in Pennsylvania, who wasn’t involved in the study, told Medscape Medical News. “A lot of studies in the past focused on the dialysis population. It seems like this group focused on people with milder degrees of kidney disease and basically found that they also have sleep disorders and I’m not surprised by that,” he added.

You can read the entire article at http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/805342, although you will have to register for a free account.

By digging deep, far and wide, I finally figured out that toxic waste buildup in our systems (from the imperfect blood filtering by our kidneys) could be the cause of my segmented sleep. I took a comment from one study, a sentence from another, and unilaterally decided this was the reason. I am not a doctor – as I keep saying – and I don’t have the facts I’d like to behind this conclusion….”

Oh, right: you need a definition of segmented sleep. Wikipedia provides one:

“Segmented sleep, also known as divided sleep, bimodal sleep pattern, bifurcated sleep, or interrupted sleep, is a polyphasic or biphasic sleep pattern where two or more periods of sleep are punctuated by periods of wakefulness.”

The National Institutes of Health at https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sdd/why sums up our need for sleep beautifully:

“Sleep plays an important role in your physical health. For example, sleep is involved in healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke.

Sleep deficiency also increases the risk of obesity. For example, one study of teenagers showed that with each hour of sleep lost, the odds of becoming obese went up. Sleep deficiency increases the risk of obesity in other age groups as well.

Sleep helps maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin). When you don’t get enough sleep, your level of ghrelin goes up and your level of leptin goes down. This makes you feel hungrier than when you’re well-rested.

Sleep also affects how your body reacts to insulin, the hormone that controls your blood glucose (sugar) level. Sleep deficiency results in a higher than normal blood sugar level, which may increase your risk for diabetes.

Sleep also supports healthy growth and development. Deep sleep triggers the body to release the hormone that promotes normal growth in children and teens. This hormone also boosts muscle mass and helps repair cells and tissues in children, teens, and adults. Sleep also plays a role in puberty and fertility.

Your immune system relies on sleep to stay healthy. This system defends your body against foreign or harmful substances. Ongoing sleep deficiency can change the way in which your immune system responds. For example, if you’re sleep deficient, you may have trouble fighting common infections.”

I think I need to go to sleep now.

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

Long Term, Short, and your Heart

I received some comments about Acute Kidney Disease (AKI) in the midst of all the support after last week’s blog. It seems this is a new topic for so many of us. By us I mean Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) patients. I know at stage 3, my nephrologist never brought this up to me.

Ah, but I remembered this from The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2:

On the very first page of What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, I wrote “…chronic is not acute. It means long term, whereas acute usually means quick onset and short duration.”

All those years of teaching English in high school and college paid off for me right there in that sentence.

I’d always thought that AKI and CKD were separate issues and I’ll bet you did, too. But Dr. L.S. Chawla and his co-writers based the following conclusion on the labor of epidemiologists and others. (Note: Dr. Chawla et al wrote a review article in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2014.)

“Chronic Kidney Disease is a risk factor for acute kidney injury, acute kidney injury is a risk factor for the development of Chronic Kidney Disease, and both acute kidney injury and Chronic Kidney Disease are risk factors for cardiovascular disease.” …

Not surprisingly, the risk factors for AKI {Once again, that’s acute kidney injury.} are the same as those for CKD… except for one peculiar circumstance. Having CKD itself can raise the risk of AKI 10 times. Whoa! If you’re Black, of an advanced age {Hey!}, or have diabetes, you already know you’re at risk for CKD, or are the one out of nine in our country that has it. Once you’ve developed CKD, you’ve just raised the risk for AKI 10 times. I’m getting a little nervous here….

It makes sense, as researchers and doctors are beginning to see, that these are all connected. I’m not a doctor or a researcher, but I can understand that if you’ve had some kind of insult to your kidney, it would be more apt to develop CKD.

And the CVD risk? Let’s think of it this way. You’ve had AKI. That period of weakness in the kidneys opens them up to CKD. We already know there’s a connection between CKD and CVD. Throw that AKI into the mix, and you have more of a chance to develop CVD whether or not you’ve had a problem in this area before. Let’s not go off the deep end here. If you’ve had AKI, you just need to be monitored to see if CKD develops and avoid nephrotoxic {Kidney poisoning} medications such as NSAIDS… contrast dyes, and radioactive substances. This is just so circular!

As with CKD, your hypertension and diabetes {If you have them.} need to be monitored, too. Then there’s the renal diet, especially low sodium foods. The kicker here is that no one knows if this is helpful in avoiding CKD after an AKI… it’s a ‘just in case’ kind of thing to help ward off any CKD and possible CVD from the CKD.

Has your primary care doctor recommended a daily low dose aspirin with your nephrologist’s approval? This is to protect your heart against CVD since you already have CKD which raises the risk of CVD. Now here’s where it gets confusing, the FDA has recently revoked its endorsement of such a regiment.

Let’s see what more we can find out about this dastardly triumvirate.

The National Kidney Foundation at https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/AcuteKidneyInjury offers this information about AKI.

Acute kidney injury (AKI) is a sudden episode of kidney failure or kidney damage that happens within a few hours or a few days. AKI causes a build-up of waste products in your blood and makes it hard for your kidneys to keep the right balance of fluid in your body. AKI can also affect other organs such as the brain, heart, and lungs. Acute kidney injury is common in patients who are in the hospital, in intensive care units, and especially in older adults.

You did catch that it can affect the heart, right?

Well, what about the heart and its diseases?

This is from the Mayo Clinic at http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/basics/definition/con-20034056.

The term “heart disease” is often used interchangeably with the term “cardiovascular disease.”

Cardiovascular disease generally refers to conditions that involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels that can lead to a heart attack, chest pain (angina) or stroke. Other heart conditions, such as those that affect your heart’s muscle, valves or rhythm, also are considered forms of heart disease.

Many forms of heart disease can be prevented or treated with healthy lifestyle choices.

Maybe a reminder of what CKD is will help, too. WebMD at http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/tc/chronic-kidney-disease-topic-overview#1 offers this simple, comprehensive explanation.

Having chronic kidney disease means that for some time your kidneys have not been working the way they should. Your kidneys have the important job of filtering your blood. They remove waste products and extra fluid and flush them from your body as urine. When your kidneys don’t work right, wastes build up in your blood and make you sick.

Chronic kidney disease may seem to have come on suddenly. But it has been happening bit by bit for many years as a result of damage to your kidneys.

Each of your kidneys has about a million tiny filters, called nephrons. If nephrons are damaged, they stop working. For a while, healthy nephrons can take on the extra work. But if the damage continues, more and more nephrons shut down. After a certain point, the nephrons that are left cannot filter your blood well enough to keep you healthy.

My head is spinning. One could – or could not – lead to another which, in turn, could – or could not – lead to the third. There’s no strict order and there’s no way of knowing until you actually have it. My layperson’s suggestion? Take good care of your kidneys.

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

And Then There Are Bhutan and India

There’s a fellow on Facebook whose name caught my eye. A little background first. My older daughter is called.Nima, That’s a Tibetan name which means ‘the sun.’ Since my children’s father was studying Tibetan psychology at the time, we were going to name our second child Tashi. That means ‘good fortune.’

After some heart searching talks, we decided this child would be not only our second, but our last. It is a tradition in my Jewish religion to name a child after honored, deceased members of the family. There were still beloved people to be honored, so Tashi was voted out. Yet, I have always liked the name.

Now that you know why I like the name, you’re probably asking yourself what this has to do with Bhutan. That’s where the follow on Facebook whose name caught my eye lives and – surprise – he is a Chronic Kidney Disease Awareness Advocate. We don’t have regular contact with each other, but I do read the posts on his Facebook Tashi Namgay Kidney page.

Now I’ll bet you want to know just where Bhutan is. As you can see from the map, it’s in Southeast Asia and is surrounded by India except for the northern border which is shared by China.
This small country has an active CKD community. The Bhutan Kidney Foundation was Tashi’s baby. He was persistent about instituting this foundation in Bhutan and finally succeeded in 2012.

This is from their website at http://www.bhutankidneyfoundation.org/

OBJECTIVES:
• To promote overall well-being of kidney patients in Bhutan.
• To raise awareness among general public on kidney related diseases in coordination with relevant agencies and stakeholders.
• To ensure all kidney patients have easy access to affordable care and services.
• To raise funds and facilitate underprivileged and needy patients to undergo transplant even though RGoB currently bears the entire medical costs besides other financial assistance.
• To support establishment of renal and other organ transplantation programmes in Bhutan in near future.
• To encourage, promote and facilitate legal organ donations.
• To provide necessary support and services to other organ-related patients as well.
• To explore international funds amongst health supporting organizations around the globe for the purposes of carrying out research on causes of rampant kidney failures in Bhutan so that in near future, the disease may be contained.

They also have a Facebook page with the same name. As a matter of fact, I mentioned that page just recently in the June 12th blog, although I didn’t realize at that time that Tashi was the prime mover behind the Bhutan Kidney Foundation.

According to World Life Expectancy at http://www.worldlifeexpectancy.com/country-health-profile/bhutan, Bhutan ranks 46th in the world for deaths due to kidney disease. That equates to a little less than 19 deaths per 100,000 people as of 2014. Bhutan’s population was only approximately 765,000 people at that time.With the rise in CKD in Bhutan, Tashi’s work to education the citizens about the disease is much needed.

What about India? Does they also promote CKD Awareness? Indeed, so much so that Subash Singh invited me to post the blog on his Mani Trust Facebook page. Mani Trust deals with all kinds of help for the people living in India, not just CKD. There are food initiatives, clean-ups, any kind of humanitarian undertaking they can think of.

I, of course, am only going to deal with CKD in India. According to MedIndia.net – one of the first health websites in India and one I’ve used before – at http://www.medindia.net/health_statistics/health_facts/kidney-facts.htm,

“There are approximately 7.85 million people suffering from chronic kidney failure in India…. In India 90% patients who suffer from kidney disease are not able to afford the cost of treatment.”

Reminder, it was an Indian doctor who was responsible for this blog’s existence. When What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney was published, he contacted me wanting the information for his patients who were so poor they could rarely afford the bus fare to the clinic. The book became the first blog posts.

Now I wish now that I had saved his email and his name. But who knew six years ago that SlowItDownCKD would be winning kidney health blog awards and be the source of six more CKD books?

Back to CKD activity in India. Oh my! India ranks a whopping 24th in the world for kidney related deaths. That was almost 22 people per 100,000 in 2014. At that time, India’s population was 1,271,702,542. For comparison, the population of the U.S. for the same year was 325,120,000.

This is from BioMedCentral at http://bmcnephrol.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2369-13-10. Due to space constraints, I have not reproduced the entire chart. By the way,  BioMedCentral is the home to BMC Nephrology, which is an open access journal.

The number of cases reported from each zone (me here: of India) in the different years

Year
2006            13,231
2007            11,196
2008            11,644
2009            10,188
2010*            6,388

*Till Sep 30, 2010

Apparently, most of the CKD in India is caused by diabetic nephropathy. I turned to my old favorite WebMD for a definition. This one is at http://www.webmd.com/diabetes/tc/diabetic-nephropathy-topic-overview#1.

Nephropathy means kidney disease or damage. Diabetic nephropathy is damage to your kidneys caused by diabetes. In severe cases it can lead to kidney failure. But not everyone with diabetes has kidney damage.

Healthline, a well-respected health information site, at http://www.healthline.com/health/type-2-diabetes/diabetic-neuropathy#types3 tells us:

Diabetic neuropathy is caused by high blood sugar levels sustained over a long period of time. Other factors can lead to nerve damage, such as:

• damage to the blood vessels, such as damage done by high cholesterol levels
• mechanical injury, such as injuries caused by carpal tunnel syndrome
• lifestyle factors, such as smoking or alcohol use

Low levels of vitamin B-12 can also lead to neuropathy. Metformin (Glucophage), a common medicine used to manage the symptoms of diabetes, can cause lower levels of vitamin B-12.

So much to digest, umm, I mean understand.

It seems to me that while CKD is burgeoning world wide (although as we see in the chart, come countries are lowering the incidence of the disease), but so is CKD awareness… and that gives me hope. I haven’t written about them here, but the European countries each have their own kidney organizations. I remember writing about some of the Caribbean and African countries. If there’s a particular country that interests you which I haven’t covered, leave me a comment.

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

Updated

 

 

 

You may have seen the pictures of the updates we’ve been making to our home on Facebook or Instagram. Now, it seemed to me that if I could update my home, I could update SlowItDownCKD’s social media. So I did. The website at www.gail-raegarwood.com is totally SlowItDownCKD now, as are the Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest accounts. Of course, the blog was next. I liked my updates, but realized some of the new organizations on the blogroll (the list to the right of the blog) may be unknown to you.

No problem. I’ll just introduce them to you. Allow me to make the introductions…

We’ll go alphabetically down the roll here. The American Association of Kidney Patients, The American Kidney Fund, and The American Society of Nephrology are not new. Just in case you need a reminder of what each is, I’ve linked their titles to the organization. Just click on one of them to go to their websites, as you usually do for any title on the blogroll.

This brings us to The International Federation of Kidney Foundations. This is directly from the young (established 1999) organization’s website:
The International Federation of Kidney Foundations leads the way in the prevention and treatment of kidney disease, through its Membership on all continents around the world. The Federation was formed to foster international collaboration and the exchange of ideas that will improve the health, well-being and quality of life of individuals with kidney disease. We hope to achieve this by advocating for improved health care delivery as well as adopting and disseminating standards of best practice of treatment and care. We facilitate education programs for member organisations, promote research, communicate with other organisations and exchange ideas, particularly those concerning fund raising….
The IFKF helps facilitate the establishment of more kidney foundations and to help existing foundations become more dynamic and effective. Worldwide, most individuals with chronic kidney disease or hypertension are not diagnosed until long after the illness has developed. Moreover, when they are diagnosed they are too often treated sub-optimally or not at all. In many parts of the world, once end stage kidney failure occurs, patients do not have access to dialysis or kidney transplantation.
IFKF members join together with ISN members and kidney patient associations, to celebrate World Kidney Day annually in March, to influence general physicians, primary healthcare providers, health officials and policymakers and to educate high risk patients and individuals.

I’ve been interested in the global effects of Chronic Kidney Disease since I started preparing for Landmark’s 2017 Conference for Global Transformation at which I presented this past May. Writing two articles for their journal opened my eyes- yet again – to the fact that this is not just a local problem, but a worldwide problem. That’s why I included Kidney Diseases Death Rate By Country, On a World Map in the blogroll. I mapped out the statistics I found here on a trifold map to exhibit at the conference. Seeing the numbers spread all over the world was startling, to say the least.

Here is their 2015 global CKD information:
In 2015, the Asian nations of India and China fared the worst when it came to the number of deaths due to this degenerative health condition per thousand people. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) data (I’m interrupting. Would you like a link to WHO on the blogroll?), India had the highest number of kidney diseases deaths. The data put the figure at an astounding 257.9 per 1,000 people. China had the second highest number of deaths due to kidney diseases. Here, the number stood at 187.4 per 1,000 people. Though not as bad as the two Asian nations, the United States was also grappling with the problem of kidney diseases deaths in 2015. The nation had 59.8 deaths (per 1,000 people) due to kidney diseases, while Indonesia, which occupied the fourth place, had an estimated 43 deaths (per 1,000 people) due to kidney diseases. Nations such as Egypt, Germany, Mexico, Philippines, Brazil, Thailand and Japan reported deaths between 20 and 40 (per 1,000 people) due to kidney-related diseases. But, on the positive side, there were many nations in the world where a negligible number of people died due to kidney diseases. It is a noteworthy fact that countries such as Maldives, Vanuatu, Iceland, Grenada, Comoros, Belize, and many others, reported a zero figure in 2015.

But then I wanted to cover more localized information about CKD, so I included The National Chronic Kidney Disease, Fact Sheet, 2017. This is basically facts with pictograms that make the information about the United States’ CKD information more visual and easier to grasp. The information is more distressing each year the site is updated.

Fast Stats

• 30 million people or 15% of US adults are estimated to have CKD.*

• 48% of those with severely reduced kidney function but not on dialysis are not aware of having CKD.

• Most (96%) people with kidney damage or mildly reduced kidney function are not aware of having CKD.

After several sites that are not new, the last new site, other than direct links to SlowItDownCKD’s kidney books, is The Kidney & Urology Foundation of America. Why did I include that? Take a look at their website. You’ll find this there:
The Kidney & Urology Foundation focuses on care and support of the patient, the concerns of those at risk, education for the community and medical professionals, methods of prevention, and improved treatment options.
What Sets Us Apart?
The Kidney & Urology Foundation of America is comprised of a dedicated Executive Board, medical advisors, educated staff and volunteers who provide individualized support to patients and their families. Adult nephrologists and transplant physicians comprise our Medical Advisory Board, Board – certified urologists serve on the Urology Board, and pediatric nephrologists and urologists represent the Council on Pediatric Nephrology and Urology.
We are a phone call or e-mail click away from getting you the help you need to cope with a new diagnosis, a resource for valuable information on kidney or urologic diseases, a window into current research treatment options or a link to a physician should you need one.

Are there any organizations I’ve left out that you feel should be included? Just add a comment and I’ll be glad to take a look at them. I am convinced that the only way we’re going to get any kind of handle on Chronic Kidney Disease as patients is by keeping each other updated.

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

Two Masters

A friend of mine, the one I mentioned when I wrote about renal sally ports, recently has had a relapse. Yep, he neglected to take his medications at the proper times. That can cause havoc for mental illness, especially bipolar disorder. It got me to thinking. What if my friend had Chronic Kidney Disease AND bipolar disease? How could he handle both diagnoses at the same time?

Let’s start at the beginning. There are certain drugs I take in the hopes of delaying dialysis as long as possible. One of those is the ACE Inhibitor I’d been taking for hypertension for about two decades before I was even diagnosed with CKD. Here’s the definition from What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease: “ACE Inhibitor: A blood pressure medication that lowers protein in the urine if you have CKD.”

It works by both relaxing the blood vessels and reducing the blood volume. This, in turn, lowers your blood pressure which, in turn, lowers your heart’s oxygen needs. And the problem for my friend would be? Well, maybe just remembering to take the medication each day.

However, according to MedicineNet.com at http://www.medicinenet.com/ace_inhibitors/page2.htm,
The most common side effects are:
• Cough
• Elevated blood potassium levels
• Low blood pressure
• Dizziness
• Headache
• Drowsiness
• Weakness
• Abnormal taste (metallic or salty taste)
• Rash
• Chest pain
• Increased uric acid levels
• Sun sensitivity
• Increased BUN and creatinine levels

Did you notice increased uric acid levels, and increased BUN and creatinine levels? This could be a dicey medication for CKD patients if they did not heed their doctor’s advice once (s)he has evaluated the patient’s labs. That’s the problem here: not having the ability to be a compliant patient during a bipolar episode.

I was also prescribed a drug for cholesterol, a statin. This drug inhibits (the word of the day) an enzyme in the liver that produces lipids. As reported in The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1:
According to Dr. Dr. Robert Provenzano, chief of nephrology at St. John Hospital and Medical Center in Detroit, “…LDL, bad cholesterol, directly impacts acceleration of Chronic Kidney Disease.” One of the possible side effects is of this drug is Type 2 Diabetes. All I can say about that is thank goodness these side effects are not the norm.

Here’s the problem: statins have to be taken at night. That’s when the body produces cholesterol. Again, can my friend be compliant during an episode? What about the drugs he already takes? Are they going to somehow interfere with these common drugs for CKD?

Lithium is the usual drug for him. This is from The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2:
“There were two Plenary Sessions I attended at the Southwest Nephrology Conference I attended last weekend. It was at the second one, ‘Psychiatric issues in kidney patients’ that I suddenly sprang to attention. What was this man saying? Something about lithium doubling the risk for Chronic Kidney Disease? And I was off… how many psychiatric patients knew that fact? How many of their caretakers knew that just in case the patient was not responsible at the time of treatment? What about children? Did their parents know? Was a screening for CKD performed BEFORE lithium was prescribed?”

Kidney.org at https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/lithium has me downright frightened for my friend:

“What is lithium?
Lithium is a common medicine used to help calm mood for treating people with mental disorders. Since such disorders need lifelong treatment, long-term use of lithium may be harmful to organs, such as the kidneys.

How does lithium cause kidney damage?
Lithium may cause problems with kidney health. Kidney damage due to lithium may include acute (sudden) or chronic (long-term) kidney disease and kidney cysts. The amount of kidney damage depends on how long you have been taking lithium. It is possible to reverse kidney damage caused by lithium early in treatment, but the damage may become permanent over time.

What is nephrogenic diabetes insipidus?
The most common problem from taking lithium is a form of diabetes due to kidney damage called nephrogenic diabetes insipidus. This type of diabetes is different than diabetes mellitus caused by high blood sugar. In nephrogenic diabetes insipidus, the kidneys cannot respond to anti-diuretic hormone (ADH), a chemical messenger that controls fluid balance. This results in greater than normal urine out-put and excessive thirst. It can be hard to treat nephrogenic diabetes insipidus.”

I keep reminding myself that the word “may” appears over and over again. Yet, since my friend either wasn’t taking his medication at all or not taking it as prescribed, it wasn’t working…and he is still at risk for CKD.

I found this tidbit on Drugs.com at https://www.drugs.com/interactions-check.php?drug_list=1477-0,1489-0, ACE Inhibitors: “…may increase the blood levels and effects of lithium. You may need a dose adjustment or more frequent monitoring by your doctor to safely use both medications.” Wait. So you need an ACE Inhibitor if you have CKD, but it can interfere with the lithium you take if you’re bi-polar. And statins? While I couldn’t find any interactions, I did find the caution that there may be some and to check with your doctor. I am aware he takes an anti-depressant, but in researching, have discovered there are many that are safe to take with CKD.

My friend usually goes to his medical appointments, but he neglects to mention certain symptoms and sometimes has trouble telling reality from non-reality. Does he know whether his doctor has warned him about the higher risk of CKD or not? Does he know that he may develop a form of diabetes from long term use of lithium? Does he know that if even one of his parents has CKD, his risk is doubled yet again?

Tomorrow is July 4th, the day the United States celebrates its independence from the tyranny of England. Where is my friend’s independence from the tyranny of his mental illness? The English and the United States have learned to peacefully share our existences (right, English readers?). Here’s hoping my friend can learn to peacefully share his existence with bipolar disorder… and CKD should he develop it. Heaven forbid.

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

Gluten Free

“…I started GF mid-April & my June lab work showed significant improvement. My next lab work is not until August, but I feel & look so much better, and because my BP dropped so much, my nephrologist took me off hydrochlorothorozide and reduced irbesartan from 300 to 75.” This is a small part of the message I received from a reader… and it intrigued me.

I take hydrochlorothiazide.  I know I looked it up at the time it was prescribed, something about fluid. Hmmm, it wouldn’t hurt to look it up again to refresh my (and your) memory. According to Medicinenet.com at http://www.medicinenet.com/hydrochlorothiazide/page2.htm, hydrochlorothiazide is prescribed for the following reasons:

“Hydrochlorothiazide is used to treat excessive fluid accumulation and swelling (edema) of the body caused by heart failure, cirrhosis, chronic kidney failure, corticosteroid medications, and nephrotic syndrome. It also is used alone or in conjunction with other blood pressure lowering medications to treat high blood pressure…. Hydrochlorothiazide can be used to treat calcium-containing kidney stones because it decreases the amount of calcium excreted by the kidneys in the urine and thus decreases the amount of calcium in urine to form stones….”

I didn’t recognize irbesartan specifically, although the sartan part was  familiar. According to the same source, but this time at http://www.medicinenet.com/irbesartan/article.htm, “Irbesartan is used to treat high blood pressure (hypertension) and to help protect the kidneys from damage due to diabetes. Lowering high blood pressure helps prevent strokes, heart attacks, and kidney problems. Irbesartan belongs to a class of drugs called angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs). It works by relaxing blood vessels so that blood can flow more easily.”

Oh, of course! I’m taking losartan for the same reason. I’d had hypertension for over 20 years before I was diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease. Even if I hadn’t, once I was diagnosed with CKD, a drug like this would have been prescribed.  As a matter of fact, when I complained to my primary care doctor that I was taking too many pills (mostly supplements), she came up with one that combined hydrochlorothiazide and losartan.

 

 

 

 

But I digress. So, it’s a good thing that this reader no longer needs her hydrochlorothiazide since she has no swelling and that her irbesartan has been reduced since her blood vessels are becoming more relaxed. Wait a minute. Why wouldn’t every CKD patient want these results? Ah, but I’ve left something out of the equation.

She’s gone GF or Gluten Free. Ready? Here is the definition of gluten from the Oxford Dictionary at https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/GLUTEN “A mixture of two proteins present in cereal grains, especially wheat, which is responsible for the elastic texture of dough.” Oh, come on. There must be more to it than that. Let’s try gluten free instead of gluten. Oh, my! NephCure at https://nephcure.org/livingwithkidneydisease/diet-and-nutrition/gluten-free-diet/

has an entire page devoted to going gluten free. But I am getting ahead of myself here.

Let’s go back to gluten, this time sources. The American Diabetes Association at http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/planning-meals/gluten-free-diets/what-foods-have-gluten.html  offers these lists:

What Foods Have Gluten?

Gluten is found in wheat, rye, barley and any foods made with these grains. Avoiding wheat can be especially hard because this means you should avoid all wheat-based flours and ingredients. These include but are not limited to:
White Flour
Whole Wheat Flour
Durum Wheat
Graham Flour
Triticale
Kamut
Semolina
Spelt
Wheat Germ
Wheat Bran

Common foods that are usually made with wheat include:
Pasta
Couscous
Bread
Flour Tortillas
Cookies
Cakes
Muffins
Pastries
Cereal
Crackers
Beer
Oats (see the section on oats below)
Gravy
Dressings
Sauces
This may seem like a long list, but there are still plenty of gluten-free foods out there! Choose from many fresh, healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, dairy, nuts and gluten-free grains like quinoa or rice. There are also gluten-free versions of many of the foods above available in most grocery stores. You just have to look for them!

Gluten Surprises
You may not expect it, but the following foods can also contain gluten:
broth in soups and bouillon cubes
breadcrumbs and croutons
some candies
fried foods
imitation fish
some lunch meats and hot dogs
malt
matzo
modified food starch
seasoned chips and other seasoned snack foods
salad dressings
self-basting turkey
soy sauce
seasoned rice and pasta mixes
There are also many additives  and ingredients in packaged foods that may contain gluten. Always check labels and ingredient lists for these. For a more comprehensive list of gluten-containing additives, contact your local celiac support group.

Other Tips to Remember
Don’t forget that ingredients in food products change frequently, so always check the label before buying packaged foods. Remember that “wheat-free” does not automatically mean “gluten-free.” While a product may not contain wheat, it can still contain rye or barley in some form. If you have any question about whether a food contains gluten, contact the manufacturer directly.

The Fuss About Oats
Pure oats are a gluten-free food, but most commercially processed oats have been contaminated during the growing, harvesting or processing stages. In the past, many experts recommended completely avoiding oats  those on a gluten-free diet in addition to wheat, barley, and rye. Now, some oats are grown and processed separately, and can be labeled “gluten-free.”

I see an awful lot of the same foods to avoid on this list as I do on the renal diet. I wonder if that would make it easier to go gluten free if you decide to?

Phosphorous! Aha. We, as CKD patients, need to limit our phosphorous intake. Have you noticed that many of these foods are high phosphorous? Is it possible that the gluten free diet will help us with our renal diets? I’m not suggesting that you go gluten free and I’m not suggesting that you don’t. I am saying the idea is, well, intriguing.

Before I forget: SlowItDownCKD has been chosen as one of Healthline’s top kidney disease blogs for 2017. Second year in a row!!!!! AND I’ve lowered the price of all five of my digital kidney books to $2.99 to spread the awareness of CKD out there more effectively. Oh, yes, you can still get them for free on Kindle Unlimited.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

 

 

The Other Side of the Coin

Here’s hoping everyone had a wonderful Father’s Day. During our relaxed celebration for Bear, I found myself ruminating about how many times we’ve celebrated this holiday for fathers no longer with us and how many more times  we would be able to celebrate it for the fathers who are. They are aging. Wait a minute, that means their kidneys are aging, too.

Yep, that meant a new blog topic. We already know that kidney function declines with age. According to the National Kidney Foundation at https://www.kidney.org/blog/ask-doctor/what-age-do-kidneys-decline-function, “The general ‘Rule of Thumb’ is that kidney function begins to decline at age 40 and declines at a rate of about 1% per year beyond age forty. Rates may differ in different individuals.” 40?

Well, what is a perfect kidney function score… if such exists? Back  to the NKF, although they call this a ‘normal’ not ‘perfect’ GFR, this time at https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/gfr:

In adults, the normal GFR number is more than 90. GFR declines with age, even in people without kidney disease.
Average estimated GFR
20–29     116
30–39     107
40–49     99
50–59     93
60–69     85
70+         75

Got it. So even for a normal 70+ person, I have CKD with my 50ish GFR.

It seems I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here. I haven’t defined GFR yet. Let’s take a gander at What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease for that definition,

“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.”

No, that won’t do. I think we need more of an explanation. This is from SlowItDownCKD 2015:

“Glomerular filtration rate (GFR) is a test used to check how well the kidneys are working. Specifically, it estimates how much blood passes through  the glomeruli each minute. Glomeruli are the tiny filters in the kidneys that filter waste from the blood.

Many thanks to MedlinePlus at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/007305.htm for the definition.”

Okay, I think that’s clear now. However, that’s not what I wanted to know. This is – if kidney function already declines with age, does having CKD age us more quickly?

Premature aging is a process associated with a progressive accumulation of deleterious changes over time, an impairment of physiologic functions, and an increase in the risk of disease and death. Regardless of genetic background, aging can be accelerated by the lifestyle choices and environmental conditions to which our genes are exposed. Chronic kidney disease is a common condition that promotes cellular senescence and premature aging through toxic alterations in the internal milieu. This occurs through several mechanisms, including DNA and mitochondria damage, increased reactive oxygen species generation, persistent inflammation, stem cell exhaustion, phosphate toxicity, decreased klotho expression, and telomere attrition….”

You can read the entire fascinating (to my way of thinking) American Journal of Kidney Disease article at http://www.natap.org/2013/HIV/PIIS0272638612015922.pdf.

Nature.com at http://www.nature.com/nrneph/journal/v10/n12/full/nrneph.2014.185.html seems to agree that CKD accelerates aging:

“Chronic kidney disease (CKD) shares many phenotypic similarities with other chronic diseases, including heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, HIV infection and rheumatoid arthritis. The most apparent similarity is premature ageing, involving accelerated vascular disease and muscle wasting. We propose that in addition to a sedentary lifestyle and psychosocial and socioeconomic determinants, four major disease-induced mechanisms underlie premature ageing in CKD: an increase in allostatic load, activation of the ‘stress resistance response’, activation of age-promoting mechanisms and impairment of anti-ageing pathways. The most effective current interventions to modulate premature ageing—treatment of the underlying disease, optimal nutrition, correction of the internal environment and exercise training—reduce systemic inflammation and oxidative stress and induce muscle anabolism. Deeper mechanistic insight into the phenomena of premature ageing as well as early diagnosis of CKD might improve the application and efficacy of these interventions and provide novel leads to combat muscle wasting and vascular impairment in chronic diseases.”

Remember the friend of my daughter’s who hadn’t seen me in five years who (thought) he whispered to her, “Your mom got so old.” Now I understand why, although I have noticed this myself. I look in the mirror and see the bags under my eyes that are not errant eye liner. I see the lines in my faces, especially around my mouth, that weren’t there just a year ago. I see the stubborn fat around my middle that frustrates me no end. I see that it takes me forever (okay, so I’m being figurative here, folks) to recover from the flu, and I see how easily I become – and stay – tired. The dancer in me screams, “No fair!” The adult patient in me says, “Deal with it,” so I do.

I’ve used quite a bit of advanced terminology today, but haven’t explained a great deal of it in the hopes that when you read these articles their meanings will become clear in context. If they don’t, please leave me a comment and I will explore each one of them in future blogs. Who knows? Maybe I’ll need to devote an entire blog to whichever term it is you’d like to know more about.

Don’t let our premature aging get you down. We can work against it and, hopefully, slow it down just as we do with the progress of the decline in our kidney function.

I have been saving this bit of news for the last item in today’s blog. The world is not going to suffer if it doesn’t know about my photography, my teaching ,writing, or acting careers. But, when it comes to CKD, my writing can add something for those 31 million people who have it…especially the 90% that haven’t been diagnosed yet. What I did was completely change my web site so that it deals only with my Chronic Kidney Disease Awareness Advocacy (It’s all caps because that’s the way I think of it.) under the umbrella of SlowItDownCKD. I have to admit, I was surprised to see how active I’ve been in the last decade. It’s different when you see your work listed all in one place. Take a look at www.gail-raegarwood.com and tell me what you think, would you?

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

 

 

CKD and the VA or It’s Not Alphabet Soup at All

Today is Memorial Day in the United States. It is not a day to say Happy Memorial Day since it is a day commemorating those who gave their lives for our freedom. Lots of us have bar-b-ques or go to the park or the beach to celebrate. No problem there as long as we remember WHO we are celebrating. I promise: no political rant here, just plain appreciation of those who serve(d) us both living and dead. Personally, I am honoring my husband, my step son-in-law, and all those cousins who just never came home again.

I explained the origins of this day in SlowItDownCKD 2015 (May 25), so won’t re-explain it here. You can go to the blog and just scroll down to that month and year in the drop down menu on the right side of the page under Archives. I was surprised to read about the origins myself.

We already know that Chronic Kidney Disease will prevent you from serving your country in the military, although there are so many other ways to serve our country. This is from The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2:

‘The Department of Defense’s Instruction for Medical Standards for Appointment, Enlistment, or Induction in the Military Services establishes medical standards, which, if not met, are grounds for rejection for military service. Other standards may be prescribed for a mobilization for a national emergency.

As of September 13, 2011, according to Change 1 of this Instruction, the following was included.

‘Current or history of acute (580) nephritis or chronic (582) Chronic Kidney Disease of any type.’

Until this date, Chronic Kidney Disease was not mentioned.”

You can read the entire list of The Department of Defense’s Instruction for Medical Standards for Appointment, Enlistment, or Induction in the Military Services at http://dtic.mil/whs/directives/corres/pdf/613003p.pdf. You’ll also find information there about metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and pre-diabetes as conditions for non-enlistment.

This got me to thinking. What if you were had already enlisted when you developed CKD. Yes, you would be discharged as medically unfit, but could you get help as a veteran?

According to the Veterans Administration at https://www.research.va.gov/topics/Kidney_disease.cfm#research4,

“In 2012, VA and the University of Michigan began the work of creating a national kidney disease registry to monitor kidney disease among Veterans. The registry will provide accurate and timely information about the burden and trends related to kidney disease among Veterans and identify Veterans at risk for kidney disease.

VA hopes the kidney disease registry will lead to improvements in access to care, such as kidney transplants. The department also expects the registry will allow VA clinicians to better monitor and prevent kidney disease, and will reduce costs related to kidney disease.”

That’s what was hoped for five years ago. Let’s see if it really came to fruition.

Oh, this is promising and taken directly from The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“VA eKidney Clinic

The VA eKidney Clinic is now available! The eKidney Clinic offers patient education through interactive virtual classrooms where Veterans can learn how to take care of their kidneys and live a good life with kidney disease. Please visit the VA eKidney Clinic website or click on the picture below. For additional information see the eKidney Clinic Patient Information Brochure.”

The Veterans Health Administration doesn’t just provide information, although I must say I was delighted to see the offer of Social Work Services. There is also treatment available. Notice dialysis mentioned in their mission statement.

Mission: The VHA Kidney Program’s mission is to improve the quality and consistency of healthcare services delivered to Veterans with kidney disease nationwide. The VHA Kidney Program provides kidney-related services to dialysis centers throughout VA’s medical centers. Professional guidance and services are available in the form of consultation and policies developed by VA kidney experts. These experts are dedicated to furthering the understanding of kidney disease, its impact on Veterans, and developing treatments to help patients manage disease symptoms. In addition, the VHA Kidney Program provides VA healthcare professionals with clinical care, education, research, and informatics resources to improve healthcare at local VA dialysis facilities.”

I did find it strange that there was a cravat on the Veterans Administration site that they do not necessarily endorse the VHA Kidney Program, especially since it is so helpful.

 

 

 

How involved is the VA with CKD patients? Take a look for yourself at this 2015 statistics by going to https://www.va.gov/HEALTH/services/renal/documents/Kidney_Disease_and_Dialysis_Services_Fact%20Sheet_April_2015.pdf

  • All Veterans enrolled in VA are eligible for services, regardless of service connection status
  • Enrolled Veterans can receive services from the VA or from community providers under the Non-VA Care Program if VA services are unavailable
  • 49 VA health care facilities offer kidney disease specialty care (nephrology services)
  • 96 VA facilities offer inpatient and/or outpatient dialysis; 25 centers are inpatient-only. Of the 71 VA outpatient dialysis centers, 64 are hospital based units, 2 are joint VA/DoD units, 4 are freestanding units, and one is within a community based outpatient clinic (CBOC)
  • VA enrollees must be offered the option of home dialysis provided either directly by the VA or through the Non-VA Care Program
  • 36 outpatient hemodialysis centers offer home dialysis care directly.
  • 5 VA medical centers host kidney transplantation programs.
  • VA Delivered Kidney Care (Calendar Year 2013) 13,794 Unique Veterans receiving dialysis paid for by VA; representing an annual increase of 13% since 2008. 794 Veterans received home dialysis; 55percent (434) by VA facilities and 45percent (360) under the Non-VA Care Program.
  • Increasing use of telehealth services to increase Veteran access to kidney specialty care Secure messaging: 7,319 messages, Clinical video telehealth: 4,977 encounters
  • VA Kidney Research (FY ’14) the research budget for the study of kidney disease has been $18.5 million per year for the past 5 years (FY ’10-FY ’14). The VA Cooperative Studies Program has supported national clinical trials addressing the best treatment of Veterans with CKD since at least 1998.

It seems to me our veterans are covered. Now if we could only make sure the rest of us stay covered no matter what bills the current administration signs into law.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

B.U.N. No, not bun. B.U.N.

Let’s consider this part 2 of last week’s blog since all these terms and tests and functions are intertwined for Chronic Kidney Disease patients. Thanks to reader Paul (not my Bear, but another Paul) for emphatically agreeing with me about this.

Bing! Bing! Bing! I know where to start. This is from The National Kidney Disease Education Program at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ information about being tested for CKD.

“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. Urea nitrogen is what forms when protein breaks down.”

If you read last week’s blog about creatinine, you know there’s more to the testing than that and that more of the information is in The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2. No sense to repeat myself so soon.

Let’s take this very slowly. I don’t think it necessary to define blood, but urea? Maybe. I found this in SlowItDownCKD 2015:

“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 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….”

You with me so far? If there’s suspicion of CKD, your nephrologist tests your serum creatinine (see last week’s blog) and your BUN.  Wait a minute; I haven’t explained nitrogen yet. Oh, I see; it has to be defined in conjunction with urea.

Thanks to The National Kidney Foundation at https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/understanding-your-lab-values for clearing this up:

“Urea nitrogen is a normal waste product in your blood that comes from the breakdown of protein from the foods you eat and from your body metabolism. It is normally removed from your blood by your kidneys, but when kidney function slows down, the BUN level rises. BUN can also rise if you eat more protein, and it can fall if you eat less protein.”

So now the reason for this protein restriction I wrote about in What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease should be clear.

“So, why is protein limited? One reason is that it is the source of a great deal of phosphorus. Another is that a number of nephrons were already destroyed before you were even diagnosed. Logically, those that remain compensate for those that are no longer viable. The remaining nephrons are doing more work than they were meant to. Just like a car that is pushed too hard, there will be constant deterioration if you don’t stop pushing. The idea is to stop pushing your remaining nephrons to work even harder in an attempt to slow down the advancement of your CKD.  Restricting protein is a way to reduce the nephrons’ work.”

This is starting to sound like a rabbit warren – one piece leads to another, which verves off to lead to another, and so forth and so on. All right, let’s keep going anyway.

Guess what. Urea is also tested via the urine. Nothing like confusing the issue, at least to those of us who are lay people like me. Let’s see if Healthline at http://www.healthline.com/health/urea-nitrogen-urine#overview1 can straighten this out for us.

“Your body creates ammonia when it breaks down protein from foods. Ammonia contains nitrogen, which mixes with other elements in your body, including carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen to form urea. Urea is a waste product that is excreted by the kidneys when you urinate.

The urine urea nitrogen test determines how much urea is in the urine to assess the amount of protein breakdown. The test can help determine how well the kidneys are functioning, and if your intake of protein is too high or low. Additionally, it can help diagnose whether you have a problem with protein digestion or absorption from the gut.”

Hmmm, these two don’t sound that different to me other than what is being analyzed for the result – blood (although blood serum is used, rather than whole blood) or urine.

What about BUN to Creatinine tests? How do they fit in here? After all, this is part 2 of last week’s blog about creatinine. Thank you to Medicine Net at http://www.medicinenet.com/creatinine_blood_test/article.htm for explaining. “The BUN-to-creatinine ratio generally provides more precise information about kidney function and its possible underlying cause compared with creatinine level alone.”

Dizzy yet? I think that’s enough for one day.

In other news, the price of all my Chronic Kidney Disease books has been reduced by 20%. I think more people will avail themselves of this information if they cost less… and that’s my aim: CKD awareness. If you belong to Kindle’s share program, you can take advantage of the fact that the price there was reduced to $1.99. You can also loan my books to a Kindle friend or borrow them from one for free for 14 days. Or you can ask your local librarian to order all five books, another way of reading them free. I almost forgot: as a member of Kindle Unlimited and the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, you also read the books for free although you do need to pay your usual monthly subscription fee.

Students: Please be aware that some unscrupulous sites have been offering to rent you my books for a term for much more than it would cost to buy them. I’ve succeeded in getting most of them to stop this practice, but more keep popping up.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Getting a Little Too High

You know those blood and urine tests you take periodically?  Have you ever looked at your uric acid levels? It might be worth the effort. This is from What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease:

“Uric Acid levels in the blood can indicate that you’re at risk for gout, kidney stones, or kidney failure.  It’s the kidney’s job to filter uric acid from the body.  A buildup means the kidneys are not doing their job well.”

For the first time ever – and I’ve had Chronic Kidney Disease for nine years – my uric acid levels were high. Why now? What could this mean? I already know I have Chronic Kidney Disease. I haven’t had a kidney stone in nine years and was unaware of having that one until my nephrologist told me I did. Is it gout?

Time to back track. What is uric acid anyway?

In The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2 (Hang on; I’m working on simplifying that title.), I used the Merriam Webster Dictionary at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/uric%20acid for this definition:

“URIC ACID: a white odorless and tasteless nearly insoluble acid C5H4N4O3 that is the chief nitrogenous waste present in the urine especially of lower vertebrates (as birds and reptiles), is present in small quantity in human urine, and occurs pathologically in renal calculi {A little help here: this means a concretion usually of mineral salts around organic material found especially in hollow organs or ducts} and the tophi of gout.”

Back to gout, in SlowItDownCKD 2016, I wrote a little bit about one of the causes of gout: purines in our diet.

“According to WebMD at http://www.webmd.com/arthritis/tc/diet-and-gout-topic-overview:

‘Purines (specific chemical compounds found in some foods) are broken down into uric acid. A diet rich in purines from certain sources can raise uric acid levels in the body, which sometimes leads to gout. Meat and seafood may increase your risk of gout. Dairy products may lower your risk.’

It seems to me a small list of high purine foods is appropriate here. Gout Education at http://gouteducation.org/patient/gout-treatment/diet/ offers just that. This also appears to be an extremely helpful site for those wanting to know more about gout.

“Because uric acid is formed from the breakdown of purines, high-purine foods can trigger attacks. It is strongly encouraged to avoid:

  • Beer and grain liquors
  • Red meat, lamb and pork
  • Organ meats, such as liver, kidneys and sweetbreads
  • Seafood, especially shellfish, like shrimp, lobster, mussels, anchovies and sardines”

This doesn’t work for me. Except for shrimp which I’ll have two or three times a year, I don’t eat or drink any of this food.

Grrrrrr. Back to the drawing board. Let me see if I can find other causes of high uric acid levels. The Mayo Clinic at http://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/high-uric-acid-level/basics/causes/sym-20050607 had some other suggestions:

“Factors that may cause a high uric acid level in your blood include:

  • Diuretic medications (water pills)
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Genetics (inherited tendencies)
  • Hypothyroidism(underactive thyroid)
  • Immune-suppressing drugs
  • Niacin, or vitamin B-3
  • Obesity
  • Psoriasis
  • Purine-rich diet — liver, game meat, anchovies, sardines, gravy, dried beans and peas, mushrooms, and other foods
  • Renal insufficiency — inability of the kidneys to filter waste
  • Tumor lysis syndrome — a rapid release of cells into the blood caused by certain cancers or by chemotherapy for those cancers

Also, you may be monitored for high uric acid levels when undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer.”

As far as I know, I don’t have an inherited tendency toward high uric acid levels. Nor do I have hypothyroidism, take immune-suppressing drugs, niacin, or vitamin B-3. We already know that I don’t drink alcohol or eat purine rich foods, and have CKD. I’ve never been treated for cancer, so what’s left?

Hmmm, I do take a diuretic, am obese, and have psoriasis. Wait a minute. I thought diuretics helped you reduce the amount of water and salt in your body. Now they may cause high uric acid? How? Drugs.com at https://www.drugs.com/health-guide/gout.html helped me out here:

“The kidneys do not excrete enough uric acid. This can be caused by kidney disease, starvation and alcohol use, especially binge drinking. This also can occur in people taking medications called diuretics (such as hydrochlorothiazide or furosemide).” Time to speak with my doctor about this prescription, I think.

My psoriasis is so latent that I often forget I have it. However, Arthritis.org at http://www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/types/psoriatic-arthritis/articles/psoriatic-arthritis-increases-gout-risk.php tells us:

“In gout, uric acid builds up in the joints and tissue around the joints – often the big toe – and forms needle-like crystals, which can cause sudden episodes of intense pain and swelling. If left untreated, gout can become chronic and lead to joint damage. In psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, uric acid is thought to be a byproduct of rapid skin cell turnover and systemic inflammation.”

That also explains what gout is, which I’d neglected to do. Something kept nagging at my memory (oh, to have a clear memory without the nagging for a change.) Got it. It was in SlowItDown 2016:

“Ah, we know Chronic Kidney Disease is an inflammatory disease. Now we know that arthritis is, too. Being a purist over here, I wanted to check on psoriasis to see if falls into this category, too. Oh my! According to a Position Statement from the American Academy of Dermatologists and AAD Association:

‘Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory, multi-system disease associated with considerable morbidity and co-morbid conditions.’

Arthritis is an inflammatory disease; psoriasis is an inflammatory disease; and Chronic Kidney Disease is an inflammatory disease. The common factor here is obvious – inflammatory disease.”

I’m beginning to see the pattern here. Well, what about the weight? I discovered this quote on The Arthritis Foundation’s Gout Blog at http://blog.arthritis.org/gout/weight-gout-risk/ :

“’Higher weight is associated with higher uric acid levels in the blood, which therefore increases gout risk,’ says Tuhina Neogi, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine.”

That strong connection between inflammation and weight leaves me speechless. It seems so transparent, yet I somehow manage to forget it repeatedly. Ugh!

Book news: In honor of my first born’s birthday, my miracle (I was considered a really old first time mother back then), my sun-up-in-the-sky (That’s the translation of her Tibetan name), all my kidney books will be reduced in price by 20%. as of May 6th. Go to Amazon.com and/or B&N.com and then thank Nima for the present.

Until next week,

Keep living your life.

Yet Another Possibility

Today we have yet another fitness plan? Weight loss plan? Health plan? Beauty plan? I don’t know what to call it since they offer so many different types of products. What’s that, you ask. It’s called Wakaya Perfection. It seems a great number of my friends and acquaintances have been involved in their health in this way recently. They, however, do not have Chronic Kidney Disease.

Let’s get this part out of the way: I want to go there. Yes, there. Wakaya is not only a company, but an island in the South Pacific and it.is.beautiful. Take a look at their website (wakayaperfection.com) so you can see for yourself… but, of course, that’s not what this blog is about.

The company has several different lines, so I decided to look at one product from each to evaluate them for CKD patients. Remember, should they not be viable options for CKD patients does not mean they’re not viable for those without CKD.

Let’s start with the weight loss products since that’s what’s on my mind lately. That would be the Bula SlimCap. This is what their website has to say about these caps:

“At Wakaya Perfection, when we say all natural, that is exactly what we mean. Our tropical flavors are:

  • Sugar Free
  • Fat Free
  • Gluten Free

And Contain:

  • NO Artificial Flavors, Ingredients or Colors
  • NO Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
  • NO Insect or Animal Matter
  • NO Growth Hormones
  • NO Antibiotics
  • NO Herbicides or Pesticide

That sounds great and appeals to me. Wait a minute, natural is good, but what is it that’s natural? I couldn’t find an ingredient list other than this:

  • All Natural Flavors
  • Active Ingredients
  • Pink Fijian Ginger
  • Stevia Reb-A 98%
  • Quick Dissolve Blend

What makes it a quick dissolve blend? What are the all natural flavors? What are the active ingredients? Ginger is permissible for CKD patients, but how much ginger is in each cap? And as for Stevia Reb-A 98%, this is a warning I found on New Health Guide at http://www.newhealthguide.org/Stevia-Side-Effects.html: “The FDA has noted that stevia may have a negative impact on the kidneys, reproductive, cardiovascular systems or blood sugar control.” Uh-oh, they mentioned our kidneys.

Oh well, that’s only one product and maybe there’s some other source of ingredients somewhere. Hmmm, I’d want to know what’s in a product and how much of each ingredient is in it before I took it, especially with CKD on my plate.

Let’s switch to a fitness product. I stayed away from the protein shake meal replacements for the reasons I explained about such products in SlowItDownCKD 2016. This is the poignant part of that blog:

“Ladies and gentlemen, our protein intake is restricted because we have CKD. Why would we take a chance on increasing the protein in our bodies? Here’s a reminder from What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease about why we need to limit our protein.

‘So, why is protein limited? One reason is that it is the source of a great deal of phosphorus. Another is that a number of nephrons were already destroyed before you were even diagnosed. Logically, those that remain compensate for those that are no longer viable. The remaining nephrons are doing more work than they were meant to. Just like a car that is pushed too hard, there will be constant deterioration if you don’t stop pushing. The idea is to stop pushing your remaining nephrons to work even harder in an attempt to slow down the advancement of your CKD.  Restricting protein is a way to reduce the nephrons’ work.’”

Why don’t we take a look at the BulaFit Burn Capsules? Wakaya Perfection describes them as,

“A potent combination of herbs and extracts that help you manage appetite/cravings while providing sustained energy and heightened focus throughout your day. BulaFIT BURN™ is designed to help boost fat burning and provide a sense of wellbeing that reduces cravings for food and snacking.

When combined with a healthy diet and exercise, BURN capsules promote a sense of well being and energy that reduces cravings for food and snacking. BURN can also play an important role in increasing the results of ketosis and even avoiding the ‘keto flu’ that some people may experience with other ketogenic programs.”

Huh? What’s keto flu? I figured a site with the name Keto Size Me (http://ketosizeme.com/keto-flu-101-everything-need-know/) could help us out here… and they did. “The ‘keto flu’ is what we commonly call carbohydrate withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms usually occur in people who start a low carb diet that alters their hormones and causes and electrolyte imbalances.”

Wait! Electrolyte imbalances? But we work so hard with the renal diet trying to keep these within the proper range for CKD. I went back to What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease for a little reminder about electrolytes.

“In order to fully understand the renal diet, you need to know a little something about electrolytes. There are the sodium, potassium, and phosphate you’ve been told about and also calcium, magnesium, chloride, and bicarbonate. They maintain balance in your body….Too much or too little of a certain electrolyte presents different problems.”

Nope, not me. I’m keeping my electrolytes right where they belong. This is not looking good for the Chronic Kidney Disease patient. I vote no; you, of course, have to make up your own mind.

News of a local opportunity: This year’s first Path of Wellness Screening will be Saturday, June 17th at the Indo American Cultural Center’s community hall, 2809 W. Maryland Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85017. The free screening events can process up to 200 people.  Their use of point-of-care testing devices provides blood and urine test results in a matter of minutes, which are reviewed onsite by volunteer physicians.  All screening participants are offered free enrollment in chronic disease self-management workshops.  Help is also given to connect participants with primary care resources.  The goals of PTW are to improve early identification of at-risk people, facilitate their connection to health care resources, and slow the progression of chronic diseases in order to reduce heart failure, kidney failure and the need for dialysis.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Just Blend In

Well, if that doesn’t beat all! Here I thought I was juicing until a reader asked me if my nephrologist knew the difference between juicing and blending. There’s something called blending? Let’s get my doctor out of the equation right away. He may or may not know the difference between the two, but I certainly didn’t.

I heard juicing and just assumed (and we all know what happens when we assume) it meant tossing 80% vegetables – since this was prescribed for fast weight loss – and 20% fruits in the blender. Hmmm, the name of the machine I used should have tipped me off that there was a difference, but it went right over my head.

Let me tell you what I learned. Juice, according to Dictionary.com at http://www.dictionary.com/browse/juicing, is: “the natural fluid, fluid content or liquid part that can be extracted from a plant or one of its parts…” while juicing is “to extract juice from.” Uh-uh, I wasn’t doing that. There was no pulp left after the vegetables and fruits were processed in the blender. It all sort of mushed – oh, all right – blended together.

The same dictionary tells me blending is: “to mix smoothly and inseparably together.” Yep, that’s what I’ve been doing. By the way, for those of you who asked to be kept posted about any weight loss, I’ve lost five pounds in ten days. To be perfectly candid, there was one day of I’m-going-to-eat-anything-I –want! mixed in there.

Another CKD Awareness Advocate wondered just what I was doing to my electrolyte limits while on this blending (I do know that’s what it is now.) diet. I arbitrarily chose a recipe from a juicing book I got online before I realized I wasn’t juicing. The recipe called for:

2 beets (what a mess to peel and chop)

2 carrots (I used the equivalent in baby ones since my hands were already starting to hurt from dealing with the beets)

8 strawberries

7 leaves of kale – which I learned is also called Tuscan cabbage

I added a cup of water since I wasn’t taking any pulp out, so the mixture was really thick.

All the ingredients were on my renal diet. So far, so good. But the question was about my daily electrolyte limits. My limits are as follows (Yours may be different since the limits usually are based upon your most current labs.):

Calories – 2100

Potassium – 3000 mg.

Phosphorous – 800 mg.

Protein – 5 ounces (141,748 mg.)

Sodium – 2000 mg.

Nutritional Data at http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2348/2 tells me I drank this much of each of those electrolytes in the total of two drinks I had of this concoction… I mean blend. The measurement is milligrams and each drink replaces a meal.

 

 

Protein Phosphorus
Beets  1300   33
Carrots  2700   42
Kale  2200   38
Strawberries  1000   37
Totals  7200 150

 

 

 

Potassium

 

 

Sodium

Beets   267  1300
Carrots   359   2700
Kale   299  2200
Strawberries   233   1000
Totals  1158  7200

 

 Calories
Beets    33
Carrots    42
Kale    38
Strawberries    37
Totals   150

I had to backtrack a little to figure out that 8 baby carrots is the equivalent to 2/3 of a cup or a little over five oz. Thanks to http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/how-much-do-i-need for the help there. They were also the source I used to verify that 8 large strawberries equal 1 cup or 8 oz.

The calculations were the hardest part of this blog for me. I rounded up whenever possible. Also, keep in mind that different sites or books may give you different approximations for the electrolytes in the different amounts of each different food you blend. I discovered that when I was researching and decided to stick with the simplest site for me to understand.

So, did I exceed my limits? I am permitted three different vegetables per day with a serving of half a cup per vegetable. There are only three vegetables in this recipe. I did go over ½ cup with the all of them, yet am under my limitations for each of the electrolytes. This is complicated. As for the fruit, I am also allowed three different ones with ½ cup limit on each. Or can I count the one cup of strawberries as two servings of today’s vegetables? Welcome to my daily conundrum.

Over all, I still have plenty of electrolytes available to me for my third meal today, which is to be a light meal of regular foods (provided they’re on my renal diet). I also have two cups of coffee a day which has its own numbers:

Protein  Phosphorus Potassium  Sodium   Calories

6000              14                232               9               4

Add those in and I still have plenty of food available to me with the electrolytes within the balance limits. The funny part is that I’m not hungry for hours after one of the blended drinks and, bam! all of a sudden I’m ravenous. I usually have the light meal mid-day so I’m not still digesting at bedtime. This is really important: on that I’m-going-to-eat-anything-I –want! day, I was hungier and hungier the more I ate and didn’t recognize when I was full.

The nice part about blending is that the fiber is still in the mixture. Fiber is necessary for a multitude of reasons when you’re a CKD patient. DaVita at https://www.davita.com/kidney-disease/diet-and-nutrition/diet-basics/fiber-in-the-kidney-diet/e/5320 lists those reasons for us:

Benefits of fiber

Adequate fiber in the kidney diet can be beneficial to people with chronic kidney disease (CKD) because it:

  • Keeps GI (gastrointestinal) function healthy
  • Adds bulk to stool to prevent constipation
  • Prevents diverticulosis (pockets inside the colon)
  • Helps increase water in stool for easier bowel movements
  • Promotes regularity
  • Prevents hemorrhoids
  • Helps control blood sugar and cholesterol

Our fourth anniversary is Thursday. We have had numerous health problems to deal with since that date, BUT we’ve also had numerous opportunities for fun…and we’ve taken each one. Did I ever tell you we had the ceremony at 4 p.m. in our backyard and the reception at 6 p.m. in order to help us remember the date? 4/6 = April 6th. Get it?

Anyway, any help offered to make the blending and a light meal work on Saturday when we’ll be celebrating by attending the Phoenix Film Festival (http://www.phoenixfilmfestival.com/) all day and night will be gratefully accepted. Bring your copy of one of my books. I’ll gladly sign it for you.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Getting Juiced

I have the gentlest nephrologist in the world! Well, I think so anyway. He has been cautioning me about my weight for years. Yes, there it is again: my weight. Here I was finally coming to terms with being a chubby since nothing I was doing seemed to work to lose the weight. That’s when he tossed out a bombshell.

We all know that increased weight can raise your blood pressure which, in turn, negatively affects your kidneys. I was so pleased with myself for having raised my GFR another three points on my last blood test that I didn’t understand how I could be leaking protein into my urine at the same time. Wasn’t protein in the urine simply an indication that you have Chronic Kidney Disease? Didn’t I already know that? So why was protein leaking into my urine to the tune of 252 mg. when the norm was between 15-220 mg?

I know, I know: back up a bit. Thanks for the reminder. GFR is defined in What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease this way:

“GFR: 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.”

Oh, and just in case you’ve forgotten, this excerpt from The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2 is a good reminder about the stages of CKD.

“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.

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 for refreshing my memory about each stage.”

Okay, back to the connection between spilling protein into your urine (called proteinuria) and CKD. This is from the recently published SlowItDownCKD 2016:

“In The Book of Blogs: Moderate Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1, The National Institutes of Health helped me explain why this combination of excess weight and pre-diabetes was a problem for CKD patients:

‘High blood glucose and high blood pressure damage the kidneys’ filters. When the kidneys are damaged, proteins leak out of the kidneys into the urine. The urinary albumin test detects this loss of protein in the urine. Damaged kidneys do not do a good job of filtering out wastes and extra fluid. Wastes and fluid build up in your blood instead of leaving the body in urine.’”

Let’s say you don’t have pre-diabetes, but do have CKD. Does proteinuria still make it worse? Damn! It does. This explanation is from SlowItDownCKD 2015:

“The problem is that antibodies are made up of protein. Antibodies is defined by Dictionary.com at http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/antibodies as

‘A protein substance produced in the blood or tissues in response to a specific antigen, such as a bacterium or a toxin, that destroys or weakens bacteria and neutralizes organic poisons, thus forming the basis of immunity.’

Lose lots of protein into your urine and you’re losing some of your immunity. In other words, you’re open to infection.”

I guess that explains why I magically developed a UTI after years of not having any.

I have gone so far afield from what I intended to write about on this last Monday of National Kidney Month. What was that, you ask? It was my nephrologist’s strong suggestions for immediate weight loss: juicing. I was so surprised.

After all that writing about eating the raw vegetables for roughage and sticking to only three specified amount servings of each daily, this expert in his field was telling me to ignore all that and throw myself into juicing for the immediate future. But you can bet I’ll try it; no way I’m throwing nine years of keeping my kidneys healthier and healthier out the window.

I can’t tell you if it works since I only started yesterday, but I can tell you it doesn’t taste bad. I’m learning how to use this fancy, dancy blender we got three years ago that had just been sitting on the shelf. Experimenting with the consistency has caused a mess here and there, but oh well.

My first juicing experience included kale, celery, lemons, cucumbers, and ginger. I definitely need to play with my combinations. I also think I made far too much. Luckily Bear was in the house and shouted out that the machine was making that noise because I didn’t add enough water. Water? You’re supposed to add water?

I’ll keep you posted on these experiments if you’ll get yourself tested for CKD. It’s just a blood and urine test. Fair deal?

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Processed Foods: Yea or Nay?

Good morning, world! It’s still March which means it’s still National Kidney Month here in the USA and Women’s History Month. I’m going to take liberties with the ‘history’ part of Women’s History Month just as I did last month with Black History Month. Today we have a guest blog from a woman – Diana Mrozek, RDN – which deals with the kidneys.

You know you’re entitled to a free nutritional appointment yearly after two the first year if you have CKD. Here’s what I wrote about that in What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease:

“Most people think of a nutritionist as a luxury even if they do have a chronic disease.  When I pulled out my checkbook to pay my renal dietitian [RD], I was told the government will pay for her services.  That made sense.  Especially in the current economic atmosphere and for older people, the government needs to help pay our medical bills.”

My nephrologist is part of a practice which rotates their nutritionists. It’s a pretty good idea since I get different points of view about my renal diet from dietitians who each have my records at hand. Your renal diet is tweaked according to your latest labs, so having your records in front of them is important to you and your nutritionist.

Notice I was writing about a RD and Diana is a RDN. The only difference between the two is that Registered Dieticians need not also be Nutritionists, but an RDN is both a Dietician and a Nutritionist.

Let’s take a look at Diana’s unique take on processed foods now.

Processed Food, Chronic Kidney Disease and Your Health

What foods come to mind when you hear the words “processed food”? Is it potato chips? Fast food? Margarine? Or maybe bread? Olive oil? Milk? Do you think artificial? Unhealthy? Safe? Convenient? Cheap?

If any of these words or foods came to mind, you are correct! Let’s clarify. Processed is a term that applies to a wide range of foods as by definition they are any food that has been altered from its natural state usually for either safety or convenience. Many foods need to be processed to make them suitable for eating, for example extracting oil from seeds and pasteurizing milk to make it safe to drink.

Processed foods can have many benefits like convenient and safe food storage as well as better retention of nutrient content. For example, flash frozen fruits and vegetables may have higher vitamin and mineral content than fresh or canned. They also provide more choice, less waste, less cost and can reduce food preparation and cooking time. Processed foods can be helpful for people who have difficulty cooking, like the elderly or disabled.

Over the past several years, many working in the nutrition industry have become very critical of processed foods, and their widespread use in our diet has been blamed for everything from obesity to cancer. However, other than fresh produce straight from the fields, you would have a hard time finding many unprocessed foods in your local grocery store. Most store-bought foods have been processed in some way including freezing, canning, baking, drying, irradiating and pasteurizing. Processed foods are here to stay, but making informed choices when grocery shopping will allow them to be part of a healthy, balanced diet.

The problem with some of today’s processed foods are the amounts of salt, sugar and fat that are often added to enhance taste, extend shelf life and retain moisture, texture, etc. Because we rely heavily on processed foods, we may be eating more salt, sugar and fat than we need. This is important for people with kidney disease who need to watch salt intake for blood pressure control. Kidney patients who also have diabetes need to limit sugar intake as well. Since both diabetes and kidney disease increase the risk of heart disease, fat intake is another concern.

So how do you select healthier processed foods?

In general, you want to choose products with less fat and sodium, more fiber and the least added sugar. The best way to do this is to read the Nutrition Facts Label and stick to eating one serving of packaged foods. Use the following guidelines when looking at different nutrients and ingredients on the nutrition labels to make better choices:

Trans Fats – Look for 0 grams. Trans fats are hidden in many fried and baked foods like biscuits, cookies, crackers as well as frozen foods. They increase levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) and decrease good cholesterol (HDL).  If you see shortening or partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredient list, it has trans fat. Remember…Trans fat? Put it back!

Saturated fat – For most people, intake of saturated fat should be around 13-18 grams per day.

Sodium – Sodium intake should be less than 2300 milligrams (mg) per day or 700-800 mg per meal. Look for “no salt added” canned items or items with preferably less than 200 mg per serving. Limit use of boxed side dishes with seasoning packets as well as high sodium condiments like soy sauce, barbeque sauce and bottled dressing and marinades.

Sugar – Sugars are a bit trickier. Instead of grams, check ingredient lists for sugars like corn sweetener and high fructose corn syrup, and words ending in -ose, like dextrose or maltose. If a sugar ingredient is one of the first three ingredients in the list or if there are more than 2-3 different types of sugars, it likely has a lot of added sugar.

Fiber – Look for at least 3 grams of fiber per serving for cereal, bread and crackers. Also, look for the word “whole” before grains, like whole wheat. If it says enriched, it’s likely had the fiber removed during processing.

By spending a few extra minutes of your shopping time taking a closer look at the groceries you are buying, you can limit less healthy additives and still enjoy all the benefits of processed foods!

While I agree with Diana now that she’s brought up processed foods, remember your labs will dictate your renal diet.

I almost forgot to tell you: in Honor of World Kidney Day. which was March 9th, SlowItDownCKD 2016 is now available in print on Amazon.com!!!!!

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!

The Three Musketeers

I was in Cuba last week with very sketchy internet, so it was not possible to post a blog. But for now, I was thinking about a friend – you know, one of those Facebook friends you pic_backbone_sidenever met but you feel an instant kinship with – who told me that her surgeon warned her that her recovery from the spinal fusion surgery she’d recently had would be slow because she has Chronic Kidney Disease.

CKD…bone healing. Let’s start slowly and work this one out.  First of all, what do the kidneys have to do with your bones?

I turned to What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease for some answers.

FullSizeRender (2)“Both vitamin D and calcium are needed for strong bones. It is yet another job of your kidneys to keep your bones strong and healthy….Vitamin D enables the calcium from the food you eat to be absorbed in the body. CKD may leech the calcium from your bones and body….Be aware that kidney disease can cause excessive phosphorus. And what does that mean for Early Stage CKD patients? Not much if the phosphorous levels are kept low. Later, at Stages 4 and 5, bone problems including pain and breakage may be endured since excess phosphorous means the body tries to maintain balance by using the calcium that should be going to the bones.”

Whoa! Each one of those thoughts needs at least a bit more explanation. Let’s start with the jobs of the kidneys. The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1 has a paragraph that mentions some of them. I turned it into a list to make it more visual.

“Our kidneys are very busy organs, indeed.  They produce urine, remove potentially harmful waste products from the blood, aid in the maintenance of the local environment around the cells of the body, kidneys5

help to stimulate the production of red blood cells, regulate blood pressure, help regulate various substances in the blood {For example, potassium, sodium, calcium and more}, help to regulate the acidity of the blood, and regulate the amount of water in the body. Mind you, these are just their main jobs.”IMG_2982

Another of those various substances in the blood they help to regulate is phosphorous. That’s where one of the connections between CKD and your bones lies. If your phosphorous is not being correctly regulated by your kidneys (since your kidneys are impaired), yes you do experience pain and broken bones, but did you notice that your body also diverts your necessary-for-bone-health calcium to regulate the other substances in your blood?

I wanted to know more about phosphorous so I turned to The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2. I got a chuckle from seeing that I’d quoted from my first book in explaining how phosphorous works. I’d forgotten about that.

sparkling teeth“This is the second most plentiful mineral in the body and works closely with the first, calcium. Together, they produce strong bones and teeth. 85% of the phosphorous and calcium in our bodies is stored in the bones and teeth.  The rest circulates in the blood except for about 5% that is in cells and tissues…. Phosphorous balances and metabolizes other vitamins and minerals including vitamin D which is so important to CKD patients. As usual, it performs other functions, such as getting oxygen to tissues and changing protein, fat and carbohydrate into energy.”

FullSizeRender (3)

Talk about multi-tasking. Let’s focus in on the calcium/phosphorous connection. Kidney Health Australia at http://kidney.org.au/cms_uploads/docs/calcium-and-phosphate-balance-fact-sheet.pdf explained this succinctly:

“When your kidney function declines, you are unable to get rid of excess phosphate. (Me here: that’s what we call phosphorous except when dealing with inorganic chemistry.)  The phosphate builds up in your body and binds to calcium, which, in turn, lowers your calcium levels. When your calcium levels get too low, glands in bloodyour neck (called the parathyroid glands) pull the extra calcium your body needs out of your bones. This can make your bones easy to break. The bound phosphate and calcium get deposited in your blood vessels. It can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. It can also cause skin ulcers and lumps in your joints.”

So where does vitamin D come in? As was mentioned in SlowItDownCKD 2015,

“’Vitamin D: Regulates calcium and phosphorous blood levels as well as promoting bone formation, among other tasks – affects the immune system.’ We know vitamin D can be a real problem for us.  How many of you are taking vitamin D supplements? Notice my hand is raised, too.  How many of you read the blogs about vitamin D?  Good!” IMG_2980

It sounds like vitamin D is in charge here. Let me get some more information about that for us. Bingo: DaVita at https://www.davita.com/kidney-disease/diet-and-nutrition/diet-basics/vitamin-d-and-chronic-kidney-disease/e/5326 was able to help us out here.

“Vitamin D is responsible for:

  • Building and maintaining strong bones
  • Keeping the right level of calcium and phosphorus in the blood
  • Preventing bones from becoming weak or malformed
  • Preventing rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults

vitamin d pillsToo much vitamin D can be toxic….”

Hmmm, the three work together with vitamin D as their captain.

I wondered what foods would be helpful for my friend in her healing process.

“Calcium

Milk, yogurt, cheese, sardines, spinach, collard greens, kale, soybeans, black-eyed peas, white beans and foods often fortified with calcium: breakfast cereals, orange juice, soy milk, rice milk

Vitamin D

Salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna, flounder, sole, cod

Phosphorusfish

Ricotta cheese, barley, soybeans, sunflower seeds, cottage cheese, lentils”

Thank you to Weill Cornell Medical College’s Women’s Health Advisor at http://www.cornellwomenshealth.com/static_local/pdf/WHA0210_BoneHealth.pdf for the above information.

But, you know, it’s never just that easy. As CKD patients, we have limits of how much protein, potassium, sodium, and – wait for it – phosphorous we can eat each day. There is no socking in all the good stuff for kidney disease patients.

I can see why my friend’s surgeon told her the recovery might be slow. Something else that keeps the bones strong is weight bearing exercise, but how can she do that right now?

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!

What Are You Doing for Others?

Today is Martin Luther King’s birthday. Today, more than ever, we need to heed his message. Whether you apply it to today’s bizarre political scene, your local community, your family, your co-workers doesn’t matter. What matters is the operant word: doing.

mlk-do-for-others

That picture and those words got me to thinking.  What AM I doing for others? And what still needs to be done?

My commitment is to spread awareness of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD). As a patient myself, I know how important this is. As you know, CKD is a costly, lethal disease if not caught early and treated… and it’s not just older folks – like me – who are at risk. One out of ten people worldwide has CKD, yet an overwhelming number of them are unaware they have it.

stages of CKDWe also know the disease can be treated, just not the way you’d usually expect a disease to be treated. A diet with restrictions on protein, potassium, phosphorous and sodium is one aspect of that treatment. Exercise, adequate sleep, and avoiding stress are some of the other aspects. Some patients – like me – may have to take medication for their high blood pressure since that also affects kidney function. Imagine preventing a death with lifestyle changes. Now image saving the lives of all those who don’t know they have CKD by making them aware this disease exists. Powerful, isn’t it?

We’re all aware by now that the basic method of diagnosing CKD is via routine blood and urine tests. Yet, many people do not undergo these tests during doctor or clinic visits, so don’t know they have Chronic Kidney Disease, much less start treating it. That’s where I come in; I tell people what can be done. I tell people how they can be diagnosed and treated, if necessary.IMG_2979

I was a private person before this CKD diagnosis so many years ago. Now, in addition to a Facebook page, LinkedIn, and twitter accounts as SlowItDownCKD, I make use of an Instagram account where I post an eye catching picture daily with the hashtag #SlowItDownCKD. This brings people to my weekly blog about CKD (the one you’re reading now) and the four books I wrote about it: What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease (which explains CKD) and the others – The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1; The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2; and SlowItDownCKD 2015 – which are the blogs in print for those who don’t have a computer or are not computer savvy.

Healthline is a well-respected, informative site for medical information. This past year this blog, SlowItDownCKD, was a winner in their list of The Six Best Kidney Disease Blogs. That brought the hits on my page up by the hundreds. That means hundreds more people are now aware of Chronic Kidney Disease, how it is diagnosed, how it is treated, and how to live with it.badge_kidney-disease-1

But not everything is working as I’d hoped it would. Unfortunately, I am still not having success in having Public Service Announcements placed on television or radio. Nor have I been able to interest most general magazines or newspapers in bringing the disease to the public’s awareness.

It hasn’t totally been a wipeout there, though. Michael Garcia did interview me on The Edge Podcast and both Nutrition Action Healthletter, Center for Science in the Public Interest (the nation’s largest-circulation nutrition newsletter) and New York State United Teachers (membership 600,000) ‘It’s What We Do’ profiled my work spreading CKD Awareness. Profiling my work, interviewing me, mentioning the blog all bring awareness of Chronic Kidney Disease to the public. Awareness leads to testing. Testing leads to diagnosing. Diagnosing leads to treatment. Treatment leads to saving lives. This is why I do what I can to spread awareness of Chronic Kidney Disease.

friendsWhat about you? Can you speak about CKD with your family? Your friends? Your co-workers? Your brothers and sisters in whichever religion you follow? What about your neighbors? I was surprised and delighted at the number of non CKD friends and neighbors who follow the blog. When I asked why they did, they responded, “I have a friend….” We may all have a friend who may have CKD, whether that friend has told us yet or not.

There are more formal methods of spreading this awareness if that interests you. The National Kidney Foundation has an Advocacy Network.

“A NKF Advocate is someone who has been affected by kidney disease, donation or transplant and who wants to empower and educate others. These include people NKF-logo_Hori_OBwith kidney disease, dialysis patients, transplant recipients, living donors, donor family members, caregivers, friends and family members.

Advocacy plays an integral role in our mission. You can make a significant difference in the lives of kidney patients by representing the National Kidney Foundation. We give you the tools you need to make your voice heard.”

You can read more about this program at https://www.kidney.org/node/17759 or you can call 1.800.622.9010 for more information.

The American Kidney Fund also has an advocacy program, but it’s a bit different.

“There is strength in numbers. More than 5,100 passionate patients, friends, loved ones and kidney care professionals in our Advocacy Network are making a huge AKF logodifference on Capitol Hill and in their own communities. Together, we are fighting for policies that improve care for patients, protect patients’ access to health insurance and increase funding for kidney research. As advocates, we play a key role in educating elected officials and our communities about the impact of kidney disease.”

You can register for this network online at http://www.kidneyfund.org/advocacy/advocate-for-kidney-patients/advocacy-network/

Obviously, I’m serious about doing that which will spread awareness of CKD. You can take a gander at my website, www.gail-raegarwood.com, to see if that sparks any ideas for you as to how you can start doing something about spreading awareness of CKD, too. I urge you to do whatever you can, wherever you can, and whenever you can.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

 

Where Does It All Come From?

KwanzaaFor the past two weeks, I’ve had the flu. I’ve missed the Chanukah Gathering at my own house, Kwanzaa, and New Year’s. I even missed my neighbor’s husband/son birthday party and a seminar I enjoy attending.

Before you ask, yes I did have a flu shot. However, Strain A seems to be somewhat resistant to that. True, I have been able to cut down on the severity of the flu by taking the shot, but it leaves me with a burning question: How can anyone produce as much mucus as I have in the last two weeks?

Mucus. Snot. Sputum. Secretion. Phlegm. Whatever you call it, what is it and how is it produced? According to The Medical Dictionary at http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/mucus, it’s “the free slime of the mucous membranes, composed of secretion of the glands, various salts, desquamated cells, and leukocytes.” By the way, spelling it mucous makes it an adjective, a word that describes a noun. Mucus is the noun, the thing itself.

Let’s go back to that definition for a minute. We know from What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease that “Leukocytes are FullSizeRender (2)one of the white blood cells that fight bacterial infection.” Interesting, the flu as bacterial infection.

Yep, I looked it up and found this on WebMd at http://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/tc/flu-signs-of-bacterial-infection-topic-overview: “A bacterial infection may develop following infection with viral influenza.” Oh, so that’s what all the mucus is about. There’s quite a bit more information on this site, but I’m having a hard enough time sticking to my topic as it is.

I still wanted to know how mucus (without the ‘o’) was produced.

Many thanks to Virtual Medical Centre at http://www.myvmc.com/medical-centres/lungs-breathing/anatomy-and-physiology-of-the-nasal-cavity-inner-nose-and-mucosa/ for their help in explaining the following:

The nasal cavity refers to the interior of the nose, or the structure which opens exteriorly at the nostrils. It is the entry point for inspired air and the first of a series of structures which form the respiratory system. The cavity is entirely lined by the nasal mucosa, one of the anatomical structures (others include skin, body anim_nasal_cavityencasements like the skull and non-nasal mucosa such as those of the vagina and bowel) which form the physical barriers of the body’s immune system. These barriers provide mechanical protection from the invasion of infectious and allergenic pathogens.

By now you’re probably questioning what this has to do with Chronic Kidney Disease. I found this on a site with the unlikely name Straightdope at http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/1246/how-does-my-nose-produce-so-much-snot-so-fast-when-i-have-a-cold :

“The reason you have a seemingly inexhaustible supply of mucus when suffering from a cold is that the mucus-producing cells lining your nasal cavity extract the stuff mostly from your blood, of which needless to say you have a vast supply. The blood transports the raw materials (largely water) from other parts of the body. Fluid from your blood diffuses through the capillary walls and into the cells and moments later winds up in your handkerchief. (This process isn’t unique to mucus; blood is the highway for most of your bodily fluids.)”

While this is not the most scholarly site I’ve quoted, it offers a simple explanation. Blood. Think about that. I turned to The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage IMG_2982Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1 for help with my explanation.

“Our kidneys are very busy organs, indeed.  They produce urine, remove potentially harmful waste products from the blood, aid in the maintenance of the local environment around the cells of the body, help to stimulate the production of red blood cells, regulate blood pressure, help regulate various substances in the blood {For example, potassium, sodium, calcium and more}, help to regulate the acidity of the blood, and regulate the amount of water in the body. Mind you, these are just their main jobs.  I haven’t even mentioned their minor ones.”

Get it? Kidneys filter the blood. Our kidneys are not doing such a great job of filtering our blood since we have CKD, which means we also have compromised immune systems. Thank you for that little gift, CKD. (She wrote sarcastically.)

Now you have the flu. Now what? Here are some hints taken from Dr. Leslie Spry’s  ‘Flu Season and Your Kidneys’  reprinted in The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2. Dr. Spry is an active member of the Public Policy Committee at the National Kidney Foundation, and, I am honored to FullSizeRender (3)say, a follower on Twitter.

You should get plenty of rest and avoid other individuals who are ill, in order to limit the spread of the disease. If you are ill, stay home and rest. You should drink plenty of fluids …to stay well hydrated. You should eat a balanced diet. If you have gastrointestinal illness including nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, you should contact your physician. Immodium® is generally safe to take to control diarrhea. If you become constipated, medications that contain polyethylene glycol, such as Miralax® and Glycolax® are safe to take. You should avoid laxatives that contain magnesium and phosphates. Gastrointestinal illness can lead to dehydration or may keep you from taking your proper medication. If you are on a diuretic, it may not be a good idea to keep taking that diuretic if you are unable to keep liquids down or if you are experiencing diarrhea. You should monitor your temperature and blood pressure carefully and report concerns to your physician. Any medication you take should be reported to your physician…

National Kidney MonthCheck the National Kidney Foundation itself for even more advice in addition to some suggestions as to how to avoid the flu in the first place.

Every year I decide not to write about the flu again. Every year I do. I think I’m oh-so-careful about my health, yet I end up with the flu every year. Sometimes I wonder if these blogs are for you…or reminders for me. Either way, I’m hoping you’re able to avoid the flu and keep yourself healthy. That would be another kind of miracle, wouldn’t it?IMG_2980

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!

Miracles Redux

Welcome to the last blog of 2016. I find it hard to believe another year has passed, although I do acknowledge that I’m a bit slower and more new-years-eve-celebrations-live-streamcontent to stay in my office to write rather than run around town. It’s a bit harder to maintain my body, although my mind is doing fine… as long as I don’t have to remember too much at once, that is. Well, my knees may have something to say, but I try to keep them happy with daily exercise and the braces.knee brace

I sincerely hope you enjoyed a joyous Christmas if you celebrate. And that you continue to enjoy Chanukah and Kwanzaa (which starts today) if you celebrate. We’ll be leaving for the Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert as soon as I finish the blog… a gift from us to us and one of the kids for Christmas. On Wednesday, we’ll have our Annual Chanukah Gathering. Our New York daughter will be with us since her Chanukah gift is a plane ticket. Being a two religion family, we celebrate both Chanukah and Christmas.

Before I get to more about creating a miracle, I am proud to announce that Healthline, a trusted health information site,  has named SlowItDownCKD one of The Best Kidney healthlineDisease Blogs of 2016. Talk about being surprised… and honored. Sort of a nice Christmas present, don’t you think? I suppose I can consider the publication of my novel, Portal in Time, my Chanukah present. I didn’t do too shabbily this year.

You know, it’s never too late to give either the novel or one of my Chronic Kidney Disease books as a present. Don’t forget you deserve presents, too.

Okay, on to more about miracles – or Part 2 – as I promised last week.

Unhealthy%20KidneyIf CKD were common knowledge, if those in high risk categories were aware of it, we might have a chance of preventing the disease in those who don’t have it yet and/or slowing down the progression of the decline in kidney function of those who have been already diagnosed.

Exactly how can we do that? On the most basic level, there’s the spoken word. It’s not just the medical community that can talk about the disease. I can as a patient. You can, too, because you know me and I’ve told you about the disease (and/or you suffer from CKD yourself).  This is most effective in areas of the world that do not have access to – or money for – doctors and treatment.  This is where we can prevent more and more of the disease by preventing more and more hypertension and diabetes.

If I tell you what I know about curtailing sodium intake in high blood pressure and you tell me what you know about smoking as it contributes to hypertension, we’ve just shared two important aspects in the prevention of high blood pressure. If I tell you what I know about sugar in diabetes Healthy%20Kidneyand you tell me what you know about carbohydrates and diabetes, we’ve just shared two important aspects in the prevention of diabetes. Then my husband starts sharing what he knows… and your third cousin once removed shares with her East Indian neighbor what her nephrologist told her… and your boss’s secretary shares what his boyfriend learned at his CKD awareness meeting, you’ve got a lot more people aware of what needs to be done about CKD. Sometimes causing a miracle is played out by sharing with people. Think of the miracle this kind of communication on a daily basis can cause.

The people you speak to will share with those they know, those they know will share with others they know until many, many hairmore people become aware of CKD – just as that long ago Clairol hair coloring ad demonstrated how telling someone who tells someone can go on ad infinitum. Simplistic? Yes, but it works…and that’s part of living the life of causing a miracle in CKD.

Then there’s the printed word. If people are aware of CKD books and newspapers, business and educational publications can alert their populations that the disease exists and is lethal, but may be prevented and/or slowed down. Most businesses have wellness components. What perfect vehicles to transform the world’s awareness of CKD.IMG_2979

For example: my four Chronic Kidney Disease books are sold in 106 countries. I have 107,000 readers. This in itself is a miracle, not just for me but for everyone who is in some way connected to the disease. It is not uncommon for one community member to buy the book, then share it with everyone else in their social circle. If there’s a library, the books can be ordered and then shared for free.

These are some of the pieces I’ve written: American Kidney Fund   “Slowing Down CKD –  It Can Be Done”  7/14/16, Dear Annie 10/14, KidneySteps  9/11/13  &  7/4/12, National Kidney Foundation 6/6/13, It Is What It Is 3/9/12, Kevinmd.com 1/1/12, Working with Chronic Illness 1/11/10, KidneyTimes 1/11/10. Bragging? No, just demonstrating it can be done… but I had to cause it to happen by knocking on doors.

I also share my information via this blog. A doctor in a remote village in India prints and translates it to share with whichever patient has the bus fare to make it to the clinic. That patient brings the translation back to his family, friends, neighbors, and whoever else he thinks may be interested. blood drawThis nephrologist’s view is the same as mine: We both need to live a life causing a miracle in Chronic Kidney Disease Awareness by sharing information. People who may not have known Chronic Kidney Disease exists now know via this sharing. Others who have undergone the simple blood and urine tests to diagnose the illness can share that the tests are not painful, other than the initial pinch of the needle for the blood draw. You would be surprised how many people, even in the high risk groups, don’t take the tests because they fear there will be pain involved. No sharing, no awareness. No awareness, no diagnose. No diagnose, no slowing down the disease.

Here are some of the blog and book mentions that have helped in my sharing of the information: Federal Register 9/25/13, The Neuropathy Doctor’s News 9/23/13, The NephCure Foundation 8/21/11, World’s Leading Expert.com 9/11/12, Glendale Community College Gaucho Gazette 8/22/11. These came about without my intervention. So what you share gets shared by others….

I’ve got some more thoughts, but we’ll have to leave them for Part 3 in the New Year. This blog is getting too long and my family is waiting for me.  Happy New Year to each and every one of you. Please be safe if you’re going out to celebrate.

Until next week and the New Year,

Keep living your life!

 

It’s a Miracle!

It’s that time of year again… the time to believe in miracles. There’s the miracle of Mary’s virgin birth at Christmas. And there’s the miracle of the Christmas TreeChanukah oil burning for eight nights instead of the one it was meant to. That got me to thinking about miracles and so, we have a different kind of several part blog beginning today. Consider it my gift to you this holiday season.

Miracles happen every day, too. We just need to take action to make them happen… and that’s what I’d like to see us do with Chronic Kidney Disease by sharing the available information.  This particular miracle is helping to alleviate the fear of needing dialysis and/or transplantation. This particular miracle is helping patients help themselves and each other. This particular miracle is helping doctors appreciate involved patients.

Yet, causing this miracle by sharing information is overlooked again and again. Chronic Kidney Disease, or CKD, is easily diagnosed by simple blood tests and urine tests (as we know), but who’s going to take them if they have no idea the disease exists, is widespread, and may be lethal? By Menorahsharing information, those at high risk will be tested. Those already in the throes of CKD can be monitored and treated when necessary. While CKD is not curable, we know it is possible to slow down the progression of the decline in your kidney function.

According to the National Institutes of Health at http://www.ncbi.nlm.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4112688,

“2014: Worldwide, an estimated 200 million people have chronic kidney disease (CKD).”

Before I was diagnosed, I had never heard of this disease… and apparently I’d had it for quite some time.  Why weren’t people sharing information about this?  Couldn’t that have prevented my developing it? At the time of my diagnose nine years ago, I meant doctors.  I don’t anymore. Nor do I leave causing a miracle by sharing to others.

This is my life. I have had Chronic Kidney Disease for nine years. As a college instructor who taught Research Writing at the time of my diagnose, I researched, researched, and researched again, but the only person I was sharing my research with was the nephrologist who treated me and FullSizeRender (2)monitored my condition. I may have expected a miracle there, but I didn’t get one. Why?

I got to thinking about that and realized he already knew what I told him. That’s when it struck me that if I expected a miracle with CKD, I would have to start sharing this information with the people who need it: the ones who didn’t know, the ones who had just been diagnosed and were terrified, and the families of those with CKD who didn’t know they also might be at risk. I went so far as to bring CKD education to the Native American Communities in Arizona since Native Americans are at high risk. I had the information and had experts willing to come to the communities to share that information.

We all know this is a costly, lethal disease if not caught early and treated… and that it’s not just the elderly who are at risk. One out of ten people worldwide has CKD, yet an overwhelming number of them are unaware they have it. We know CKD can be treated, just not the way those who don’t have it might expect. A diet with restrictions on protein, potassium, phosphorous and sodium may be one aspect of that treatment. Exercise, adequate sleep, and avoiding stress are some of the other aspects. Some patients – like me – may have to take medication for their high blood pressure since that also affects kidney function. Imagine preventing a death with lifestyle changes. Now imagine EXPECTING the miracle of preventing that death by sharing this information. Powerful, isn’t it?

We know the basic method of diagnosing CKD is via routine blood and urine tests. Yet, many people do not undergo these tests during doctor or clinic visits, so don’t know they have Chronic Kidney Disease, much less start treating it.urine container

This is where the miracle I expected in my life began for me. I started speaking with every doctor of any kind that I knew or that my doctors knew and asked them to share the information. They were already experiencing time constraints, but suggested I write a fact sheet and leave it in their waiting rooms since they agreed there’s no reason to wait until a person is in kidney failure and needs dialysis or a transplant to continue living before diagnosing and dealing with the illness.

My passion about producing this miracle multiplied threefold from that point on. So much so that I went one better and wrote a book with the facts. I was convinced we would be able to cause a miracle by sharing information about this disease. My goal was clear: have everyone routinely tested.

Dr. Robert  Provenzano, a leading nephrologist in the United States,  succinctly summed up the problem worldwide.

“Chronic Kidney Disease is an epidemic in the world…. As other countries become Westernized, we find the incidence of Chronic Kidney Disease and end-stage renal failure increases. We see this in India, and in China. We see this everywhere. …”

We repeatedly see diabetes and hypertension cited as the two major causes of CKD. Does your neighbor know this? How about the fellow at the gas bp cuffstation? Ask them what Chronic Kidney Disease is. More often than not, you’ll receive a blank look – one we can’t afford if you keep the statistic at the beginning of this paper in mind. We can cause a miracle to change this.

Sharing can be the cause of that miracle… but that’s not something we can leave to the other guy. We each ARE the other guy. More on this next week.

For now, Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanzaa (somehow implicit in this holiday is the miracle of bringing people together), and every other holiday I’ve inadvertently missed or don’t know about.

portal_in_time_cover_for_kindleI just got word that Portal in Time – my first novel – is available on Amazon.com. Consider that as a holiday gift for those friends not interested in CKD. Of course, I just happen to have four CKD books on Amazon.com for those who might be interested in CKD. Be part of a miracle.IMG_2979

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Never Too Old to Learn

CoffeeCupPopCatalinStockLast week, we were delighted to have an overnight guest we hadn’t seen for a year or two. While we were all waking ourselves up the next morning, I asked him if he’d like some coffee.  Yep, he’s my family; that look of delight on his face when he thought of coffee confirmed it. Then I asked if he took milk in his coffee. Hmmm, more confirmation: he passed on the milk claiming lactose intolerance, another family trait. But when we got to the sugar question, he startled me. His response was something like no thanks, I have high cholesterol. After a moment of stunned silence, I asked why he connected cholesterol and sugar. He said his doctor told him to cut down on sugars to lower his cholesterol. Hmmm, very interesting.

This is the definition of cholesterol from What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Early Disease:FullSizeRender (2)

While the basis for both sex hormones and bile, can cause blockages if it accumulates in the lining of a blood vessel.

If that doesn’t ring a bell, here’s the definition of dyslipidemia:

Abnormal levels of cholesterol, triglyceride or both

Now we know there’s a normal and an abnormal level of cholesterol and that can’t be good. Is that a big deal?

It is if you have Chronic Kidney Disease.  Dr. Joseph Vassalotti, one of leading nephrologists in the U.S., explained it to reporter Jane Brody in an interview which is included in The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1.

IMG_2982Good  control  of  blood  sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and body weight can delay the loss of kidney function.

I repeat, “…can delay the loss of kidney function.” That has been your ultimate goal since you were diagnosed, hasn’t it?

You may become confused by the three different kinds of cholesterol readings when you see the results of your blood tests.  I know I was, so I researched them and then wrote about them in The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2.

HDL is High Density Lipoprotein, the cholesterol that keeps your arteries clear or – as it’s commonly called – the good cholesterol. LDL is Low Density Lipoprotein or the ‘bad’ kind that can clog your arteries. VLDL is Very Low Density Lipoprotein and one of the bad guys, too. It contains more triglycerides than protein and is big on clogging those arteries.FullSizeRender (3)

Wait a minute. Where did triglycerides come into this? According to the Mayo Clinic at http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/triglycerides/ART-20048186

Triglycerides and cholesterol are separate types of lipids that circulate in your blood. Triglycerides store unused calories and provide your body with energy, and cholesterol is used to build cells and certain hormones. Because triglycerides and cholesterol can’t dissolve in blood, they circulate throughout your body with the help of proteins that transport the lipids (lipoproteins).

Still with me?  Good, because you can do something about this.

cholestero

Sometimes, it’s as simple as lifestyle changes like adjusting your diet. While I don’t agree with all of this advice, DaVita at http://www.davita.com/kidney-disease/diet-and-nutrition/diet-basics/lowering-cholesterol-with-chronic-kidney-disease/e/5304 can get you started.

  •  Avoid foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol such as whole milk, cheese and fat from meat.
  • Bake, grill, broil and roast your poultry, fish and meat. Choose lean cuts of meat and trim off any fat.
  • Eggs are an excellent source of protein, but the yolks are high in cholesterol. Try egg substitutes like Egg Beaters® or Scramblers®, or substitute two egg whites for a whole egg.
  • Eat at least two servings of fish every week. Salmon, tuna, herring and trout contain good amounts of omega-3 fatty acids that lower your risk of heart disease.
  • Try spreads like Benecol® or Take Control® in place of butter or margarine. Plant sterols and stanols in these spreads help lower cholesterol levels.
  • Choose oils that are high in mono- and polyunsaturated fats: canola, olive, peanut, corn, safflower, soybean and sunflower.
  • Read food labels and try to eliminate foods with trans-fats (found in hydrogenated oils, margarine and many commercially prepared snack foods).
  • Eat kidney-friendly fruits and vegetables.water melon

Of course, if you’re diabetic or prediabetic, you need to modify these suggestions for your diet.

As was suggested in this Everyday Health article (http://www.everydayhealth.com/high-cholesterol/fitness-and-cholesterol.aspx) included in SlowItDownCKD 2015, exercise will help.

       Try these exercise options to help shed pounds and manage high cholesterol:

  • Walking
  • Jogging or running
  • Swimming
  • Taking an aerobics class
  • Biking
  • Playing tennis, basketball, or other sports
  • Using weight machines or lifting free weights to build muscle tone

statinsIf life style changes don’t work for you, your doctor may prescribe a statin.  The Merriam-Webster Dictionary at http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/statin defines this as:

any of a group of drugs (as lovastatin and simvastatin) that inhibit the synthesis of cholesterol and promote the production of LDL-binding receptors in the liver resulting in a usually marked decrease in the level of LDL and a modest increase in the level of HDL circulating in blood plasma

There are substantial arguments against taking statins, but there are also substantial arguments for taking them.  This is something you have to discuss with your doctors since you have a unique medical condition.

Finally, sugar. What did my cousin’s doctor mean about sugar’s role in lowering his cholesterol? This was news to me, so I researched. Sure enough, my cousin’s doctor was right.  According to Progressive Health at http://www.progressivehealth.com/sugar-may-be-the-cause-of-your-elevated-cholestero.htm:

Sugar is a good example of a carbohydrate with high glycemic index. It can, therefore, increase the amount of small, dense LDL particles in the blood.

Although, health experts used to advocate that we cut the amount of sugar we consume because high blood sugar can cause insulin resistance and increase the risk of diabetes, there is now another reason to cut down on our sugar consumption.sugar

A number of studies show that sugar can affect the kind and amount of cholesterol released into the blood.

So? According to the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4297703/

That’s a pretty big ‘so.’

Until next week,

Enjoy your life!

Cleaning Out

Today I gimg_3613et to finish the final edits for my novel Portal in Time and submit it to my publisher. That means the next step is cleaning out my files and my computer. Writers accumulate an awful lot of unnecessary material when researching for a book.

That simple thought got me to thinking about another kind of cleaning out, the body kind. By the way, it seems the words cleanse and detox – short for detoxification – are being used interchangeably. Whichever term we use, are they safe for us as Chronic Kidney Disease patients?

But first – there’s always a first, isn’t there? – a warning: if you’re thinking of doing one for weight loss, don’t. According to Medicine.Net at http://www.medicinenet.com/cleansing_and_detox_diets/article.htm,

“There is no scientific evidence that “detox” (short for detoxification) or “cleanse” diets result in rapid weight loss or have any health benefits, says Heather Mangieri, RDN, LDN, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and founder of NutritionCheckUp in Pittsburgh.

Indeed, the opposite may be true: One study published in 2011 in the journal Obesity found that beginning a weight-loss diet with a fast or cleanse could be counterproductive.”IMG_2980

Now wait just a minute, if they provide no ‘rapid weight loss or have any health benefits,’ why do people go to the trouble of doing them? I wrote about this just a bit in relation to brain fog in SlowItDownCKD 2015.

“…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.”

Ah, so there MAY be some benefits in relation to brain fog. What’s brain fog again? The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2 (I have got to get around to shortening that title.) can help us out here.

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

FullSizeRender (3)‘…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.”

Well, what exactly is a detox?  The Free Dictionary’s medical dictionary at http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/detoxification offers this as one of its definitions:

“A short-term health regimen involving procedures thought to remove toxins from the body, such as drinking large amounts of liquid, eating a restricted diet or fasting, taking nutritional supplements, and undergoing enemas.”

Now we get to the meat of the matter. Why do Chronic Kidney Disease patients need to be so careful about cleanses? I looked at the ingredient list of several different cleanses on Amazon.com.  (Click on the ingredient lists to make them larger so you can read them more carefully.) The first product was Super Colon Cleanse. One of the first ingredients was Psyllium Husk Powder 1 g. Uh-oh. Not good for us. As Metamucil Advisor – the manufacturer of fiber products -at http://www.metamuciladvisor.com/avoid-psyllium-and-metamucil-in-kidney-disease/ explains,

“Psyllium husk is a natural fiber that comes from the plant called Plantago Ovata. Plantago Ovata produces thousands of seeds that are coated with cleansea gel like substance that is extracted to create psyllium husk. The psyllium husk is a natural soluble fiber laxative that can be consumed to add bulk to the feces. Consuming psyllium powder will draw water to the stool making it easier to have a bowl movement. Psyllium husk is recommended to not be taken by individuals who have kidney disease because it is high in magnesium that individuals with chronic kidney disease must avoid. It is highly recommended to consult your physician before starting any product of psyllium husk to make sure it is safe with any health conditions you might have.”

dr-tobiasWell, that’s only one cleanse.  Let’s take a look at another. Dr. Tobias Colon: 14 Day Quick Cleanse is composed of herbs, no psyllium. But there’s a problem there, too.  As Chronic Kidney Disease patients we are cautioned against taking herbs, not so much because they will cause damage, but because we don’t know how much of each is safe for our kidneys.

I thought I remembered writing about this in What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease  – another really long title – and decided to find that information. Here it is:FullSizeRender (2)

“While none of this is established, the following might be toxic to the kidneys -wormwood, periwinkle, sassafras (I remember drinking sassafras tea as a child.  Did that have any effect on my kidneys?) and horse chestnut just to name a few. Then there are the herbal supplements that might be harmful to CKD patients: alfalfa, aloe, bayberry, capsicum, dandelion, ginger, ginseng, licorice, rhubarb and senna.  There are others, but they seemed too esoteric to include….”

They say three is the magic number, so let’s take another look. This time as something label ‘detox.’  Baetea 14 Day Teatox is the one I chose. I think I liked the play on words: detox, teatox, a tea to detox. Lots of herbs, but then I looked at the last ingredient – Garcinia Cambogia. That rang a caution bell in my mind so I went right to a site about the side effects of this product at http://garciniacambogiatopic.com/side-effects-garcinia-cambogia/.

“Our kidneys and liver remove toxins, waste and other substances from our body.  They are the main organs designed to clean the body of detox-teaimpurities.   People who already have diseases of the kidneys or liver should not take Garcinia Cambogia because their bodies might not be able to utilize and remove the supplement effectively.”

*sigh* It looks like we’ll just have to detox the old fashioned way, with increased fiber, as much water as your nephrologist permits, and exercise. You might consider going meat and sugarless, too. Of course, it wouldn’t hurt to cut down on carbs, either. It looks like we, as Chronic Kidney Disease patients, are moving closer and closer to clean eating.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!IMG_2982

Clean…or Dirty?

My daughter brought a friend to a party we were both attending a few weeks ago. We all enjoyed each other so we talked about the possibility of going out to dinner together at some future date. Being well aware of my renal restrictions and how that sometimes limits our choice of restaurants, IMG_2980I asked my daughter’s friend how he likes to eat. He said, “Clean.”

I’ve heard this before, as you probably have, too. Yet, I wasn’t sure exactly what it meant. And that’s why I’m researching it today and seeing just how it does – or doesn’t – fit into our usual renal diet. Will someone get the dictionary, please?  Thanks.

According to my personal favorite, The Merriam-Webster at http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/clean, clean means

: free from dirt, marks, etc.

: not dirty

: tending to keep clean

: free from pollution or other dangerous substancesdictionary

Maybe it’s that last definition that applies to eating?  Hmmm, I need to take a closer look at this.

In her nutrition blog on another of my favorites – The MayoClinic – this past summer,  Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D., suggested these as the main tenets of clean eating:

  • Eat more real foods. Sound familiar? One of the tenets of the Mayo Clinic Diet is eating more real foods and fewer processed or refined foods. Convenience food is OK, sometimes even necessary, just make sure that what’s in that can or package is the real thing with few other ingredients.
  • Eat for nourishment. Eat regular, balanced meals and healthy snacks that are nourishing and not too rushed. Eat at home more often and prepare food in healthy ways. Pack food to eat away from home when on the road, at work or activities. When you do eat out, choose wisely.
  • Eat safe food. This is my addition to the idea of clean eating. Based on the name itself, clean food should be safe. Practice food safety by IMG_2982washing produce before consumption (you may consider buying organic as well), keeping raw meats separate from produce from the grocery store to home, cooking food to proper temperatures and chilling food quickly after service.

You can read more of her thoughts about clean eating at http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-blog/clean-eating/bgp-20200665. By the way, R.D. means Registered Dietician and L.D. is Licensed Dietitian. Most states require at least one of these in order for the person to provide nutrition or diet advice.

This sounds too simple. Let’s look a bit more. I found loads of articles on sites I didn’t recognize by people I hadn’t heard of, so I decided to take a look at a site specifically for clean eaters. This is from Clean Eating Magazine at http://www.cleaneatingmag.com/food-health/food-and-health-news/what-is-clean-eating/.

water melon“The soul of eating clean is consuming food the way nature delivered it, or as close to it as possible. It is not a diet; it’s a lifestyle approach to food and its preparation, leading to an improved life – one meal at a time.

Eat five to six times a day – Three meals and two to three small snacks. Include a lean protein, plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, and a complex carbohydrate with each meal. The steady intake of clean food keeps your body energized and burning calories efficiently all day long.

Choose organic clean foods whenever possible.

Drink at least two liters of water a day.

veggiesLimit your alcohol intake to one glass of antioxidant-rich red wine a day

Get label savvy – Clean foods contain just one or two ingredients. Any product with a long ingredient list is human-made and not considered part of a clean diet.

Avoid processed and refined foods – This includes white flour, sugar, bread and pasta. Enjoy complex carbs such as whole grains instead.

Steer clear of anything high in trans fats, anything fried or anything high in sugar. Avoid preservatives, color additives and toxic binders, stabilizers, emulsifiers and fat replacers.

Consume healthy fats.

FullSizeRender (3)Aim to have essential fatty acids, or EFAs, incorporated into your clean diet every day.

Learn about portion sizes – Work towards eating within them. When eating clean, diet is as much about quantity as it is quality.”

Wow! And there’s much more on their site.

There are just a few things that concern me here, specifically about the contents of those three meals and two to three small snacks. How can I stretch my five ounces of protein over all these meals and snacks? And my three servings each of only certain fruits and vegetables?   I suppose I could skip the protein on one of them and have only one ounce at each of the others.

Do you know what one ounce of protein looks like? One egg, ¼ tablespoon of peanut butter, or 2 bites of meat (although I don’t eat red meat), poultry or seafood. That last one is subjective; I used my food scale to test it out. I imagine it could be different if your mouth is smaller or larger than mine. I also didn’t take into account the foods not on the renal diet, such as beans and nuts.

Thanksgiving

I’m attempting to avoid carbohydrates as much as I can in order to lose some weight, but my renal diet allows for 7 or 8 choices of these a day and 3 of fruits – which I do eat in moderation.  There may be a problem with the whole grains recommended for clean eating since whole grains are high in phosphorous, something Chronic Kidney Disease patients need to watch.  Chapter 8 of What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease explains the renal diet I follow in detail.FullSizeRender (2)

Other than those objections, I like the sound of clean eating. However, I do remember going to a clean eating restaurant when they first started opening and finding I was severely limited as to what I could order. Yep, whole grains, fruits and vegetables not on my diet, and too much protein. I checked out the vegetarian dishes, but found them huge.  Funny to think of that as a negative, isn’t it?

As usual, it looks like this is something you have to decide for yourself according to your renal diet since each of us is different.  Would I try a clean eating restaurant again, sure. Would I try clean eating at home?  Maybe, although the whole grains thing bothers me.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!  

Starting My Day

Every day, I spend the morning doing ‘kidney work’ as I call it. That means looking for Chronic Kidney Disease related articles on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, and perusing the various medical newsletters to which I’ve subscribed. This takes a minimum of two hours. I also post something on most of these sites at as SlowItDownCKD.newckdfbcover

I noticed I’d been reading more and more about the plant based diet being good for CKD patients, so that’s what I posted on SlowItDownCKD’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SlowItDownCKD/on November 1. Then I started receiving emails from readers about it.

One was a very interesting, but undocumented, chart concerning how avoiding red meat lowers the risk of CKD. There was no title … and to make it worse, the reader – Cindy – couldn’t remember where she found it. She was frustrated; I was frustrated. So I did a little digging.

I started with a site that’s fast becoming one of my favorites – NephJC, a journal club. According to their website,

“It is the teaching session where trainees and teachers exchange roles. Journal Club is the area where the flipped classroom has been fully implemented in medical education. Read and study the article at home, and then use classroom time to critically debate the methods, results and interpretation of the article.”GFR

As both a former high school and college instructor, I can tell you this method of teaching seemed to have sparked some super creative thoughts in my classroom. Anyhoo, as they say, that’s where I found the chart. More specifically, it’s at http://www.nephjc.com/news/2016/8/17/red-meat-summary. Read the article. It’s got more information.

red-meat-chart

Cindy also mentioned that she lost so much weight – without being hungry – on the plant based diet that her nephrologist asked her to gain weight so that she wouldn’t “be at the bottom of BMI or below.” You know this grabbed my attention.

At the same time we were corresponding, another CKD Awareness Advocate posted in a private FB group (Hence, the reason he remains unnamed.) that in his last two nephrology labs, he raised his GFR something like eight or nine points and had nothing to attribute it to but changing to a plant based diet.FullSizeRender (2)

As a reminder, here’s the definition of GFR from What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease:

“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.”

Let’s look at this a little more closely. In The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2, I wrote a blog about the limited history of nephrology and included mention of the five stages of CKD. Basically, the higher your GFR, the better your kidneys are working. FullSizeRender (3)So this means the other advocate’s kidneys are functioning better now that he’s on a plant based diet. Why?

I turned to Dr. Greger’s NutritionFacts.org on YouTube for a better explanation than any I could offer. Dr. Greger is Michael Greger, described on NutritionFacts.org as:

“a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. A founding member and Fellow of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Dr. Greger is licensed as a general practitioner specializing in clinical nutrition. He is a graduate of the Cornell University School of Agriculture and Tufts University School of Medicine.”

NutritionFacts.org, while new to me, describes itself on its site as:

“a strictly non-commercial, science-based public service provided by Dr. Michael Greger, providing free updates on the latest in nutrition research via bite-sized videos. There are more than a thousand videos on nearly every aspect of healthy eating, with new videos and articles uploaded every day.”IMG_2982IMG_2980

I thoroughly enjoyed his analogy of overloading the kidneys with meat protein to that of constantly revving a car’s engine, especially since that’s the same analogy I used in my first CKD book.  He also mentions inflammation as a contributing cause of lower GFR. I’m glad I’ve discovered his website and intend to take a closer look at it…just not now.

Now I’m really interested in going back to Cindy’s comment about losing weight on the plant based diet. I wanted to know – what else? – why. I spent most of yesterday researching. The consensus seems to be that not having to count calories or portion control may have something to do with it.  Then again, maybe it’s the lack of cookies, cakes, and candies. The few medical studies I did find were far too complicated for me to understand, much less explain. Are there any readers out there who can help? I have one particular reader in mind and hope that she will immediately respond.

Let’s see if I can do any better with finding out why the nephrologist of the reader I’m corresponding with doesn’t want her to “be at the bottom of BMI or below.” Aha! A study by US National Library of Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26920126 suggests that “that combined effects of low BMI … and serum albumin level … are associated with CKD progression.”

NIHMaybe we should take a look at “serum albumin level.” Serum means it’s the clear part of your blood, the part without red or white blood cells. This much is fairly common knowledge. Albumin is not. Medlineplus, part of The National Institutes of Health’s U.S. National Library of Medicine at https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003480.htm tells us, “Albumin is a protein made by the liver. A serum albumin test measures the amount of this protein in the clear liquid portion of the blood.” Uh-oh, this is also not good: a high level of serum albumin indicates progression of your kidney disease. Conversely, kidney disease can cause a high level of serum albumin.

Even with yesterday’s research, this blog has taken quite a while to complete … and not just because I was doing the wash while I wrote it, or because I was enjoying having the window to my right open as I wrote. I can see this becoming several additional blogs… if there’s reader interest.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

TED Doesn’t Talk to Me; But YouTube Does

After last week’s accolades for the blog about apps for kidney disease, I thought I would keep on the electronic trail and jump right over to one of the big boys: TED Talks. I was both excited and a bit apprehensive since this is new territory for me. I have heard some of my children talk about them, but never explored these talks for myself.

downloadWhat new information could I learn here? Would it be easier or harder to understand? And just what were T.E.D. Talks anyway?  Doing what I like to do best, I jumped in for a bit of research.

This is directly from the TED website at www.ted.com:

“TED is a nonpartisan nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks. TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 110 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.”

IMG_2982Considering what’s been going on with our insane politics this election, I thought I would check the meaning of nonpartisan just to make sure it had a meaning other than the one I’d been hearing bantered around. According to the Encarta Dictionary, it means “not belonging to, supporting, or biased in favor of a political party.” I wasn’t so sure that’s what it meant for TED, so I used the synonym function in Word; that made much more sense: impartial, unaligned, unbiased, unprejudiced, neutral, and so on.

Now that we know what TED is, let’s plunge right in and do some exploring. I searched Chronic Kidney Disease and got no hits. That’s all right; a synonym is renal disease. I’ll search that. All that came up was “Timothy Ihrig: What we can do to die well.” That’s not exactly what I was looking for.

I know, I’ll type in kidney failure. Hmmm, that didn’t work very well, either. I found two interesting talks, “Siddhartha Mukherjee: Soon we’ll cure diseases with a cell, not a pill” and “Anthony Atala: Printing a human kidney,” as well as two blogs that may have peripherally included CKD. No, these were not the talks about living with CKD that I’d hoped to find.

What other term could I search? I know, how about just-plain-kidney? I got three pages of hits which weren’t really hits at all if you were looking for living with Chronic Kidney Disease. While TED Talks cover a variety of interesting topics, I don’t think they’re CKD specific right now.  Maybe in the future…

I was a little crestfallen, but then I remembered that when I first decided to FullSizeRender (2)become a CKD Awareness Advocate and wrote What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, I made a couple of YouTubes as marketing devices. They were terrible, but did include some helpful information. You can see this for yourself at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8VcVYhhrixg and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRsUNxv7ajA.

When you’ve picked yourself up from the floor after getting your belly laughs at my expense (cringe), start exploring YouTube for CKD information by looking at the side bar on each of my woebegone entries into the world of YouTube.  The list of videos continues and goes on and on. Yay!

FullSizeRender (3)

Of course, just as when you’re looking online – or choosing a book – or a blog to follow, you need to be careful to separate the wheat from the chaff. There are charlatans and scammers here, just as there are respected physicians and patients bravely sharing their stories.

But what is YouTube anyway? https://www.youtube.com/yt/about/tells us:

“Launched in May 2005, YouTube allows billions of people to discover, watch and share originally-created videos. YouTube provides a forum for people to youtubeconnect, inform, and inspire others across the globe and acts as a distribution platform for original content creators and advertisers large and small.

YouTube is a Google company.”

You’ll also find some YouTubes I posted that show friends, family, even me dancing either the Blues or East Coast Swing. My point? Anyone can post anything provided it does not include:

Nudity or sexual content

Violent or graphic content

Hateful content

Spam, misleading metadata, and scams

Harmful or dangerous content

Copyright (Me, here, this refers to copyrighted material.)

Threats

You can read more about these community guidelines at https://www.youtube.com/yt/policyandsafety/communityguidelines.html.

I chose one or two posts to see the quality we can find here. (Very funny, no, this is not a case of I- wouldn’t-want-to-be-a-member-of-any-club- that-lets-me-in.) I noticed one of the physicians I’d had contact with as an advocate, Dr. Robert Provenzano, posted about the causes of CKD on 2/3/09 at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjZCKBOoeQo which was highly informative… but getting close to seven years old.

I wanted something more recent and found it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1_srNUJkjE. This one by Danuta Trzebinska, MD, of US San Diego Health, deals with possible symptoms of CKD and was posted last year.

But then I found YouTube about a kidney cleanses which could be harmful to already damaged kidneys. Dr. Josh Axe at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3AqPE-j3Eq0 was not particularly targeting CKD patients, but as a new CKD patient, how could you know that? Some of the herbs he suggests are harmful to ALREADY COMPROMISED kidneys. You need to be careful about which videos are for those with CKD and which are for those without CKD. Of course, you’re IMG_2980checking everything you see with your nephrologist before you act on it. Right? You are, aren’t you? You’ve got to protect your kidneys, so please (Let’s make that pretty please.) do.

I’m wondering what other electronic helps I could explore. We’ve looked at apps, TED Talks, and YouTube. What other electronic aids do you know about that I don’t? I’ll be more than happy to explore them for myself which means I’ll be exploring them for you, too, since they’re going to end up being the next blog.

halloweenwitchvintageimagegraphicsfairyToday is Halloween. You know those treats? Why not treat yourself by not eating them? It’s hard, but it can be done.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Updates, Anyone?

FullSizeRender (2)Several months ago, an Arizona reader asked me to meet her for lunch to talk over her Chronic Kidney Disease journey and mine. I was open to the idea and glad to be able to share ideas with each other. Uh-oh, during the conversation, while trying to share my iPhone apps with her, I discovered that one of those I use to help me is no longer available to new installers. That got me to thinking about what else may have changed in the CKD electronic world.

Time to back track just a bit. I have an iPhone and look for apps for those. Many of the apps I looked at are also available for Androids, iPads, and iPod Touch. According to GCFLearnFree.org – a program of Goodwill Community Foundation® and Goodwill Industries of Eastern NC Inc.® (GIENC®)  – at http://www.gcflearnfree.org/computerbasics/understanding-applications/1/,

“Simply put, an app is a type of software that allows you to perform specific tasks. Applications for desktop or laptop computers are sometimes called desktop applications, while those for mobile devices are called mobile apps.”

During an internet search, I found that NephCure which provides “detailed information about the diseases that cause Nephrotic Syndrome (NS) and Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS)” (and was one of the first organizations to interview me about CKD, by the way) – at http://nephcure.org/livingwithkidneydisease/managing-your-care/kidney-health-tracking-tools/helpful-mobile-apps/ was way ahead of me in discussing apps. This is what’s on their website:

Diet and Nutrition Apps

  • 02-77-6660_ebe_myfoodcoachappKidneyAPPetite– Gives daily summaries of key nutrients for kidney health, check the nutritional value of foods before you eat it, and provides printable summaries to refer to. Great for patients on a renal diet! Cost: Free,  Device: iOS
  • Pocket Dietitian– Created by a Nephrologist, allows you to choose your health conditions and dietary restrictions to see recommended foods as well as keep track of what you have eaten. You can even see your past nutrition in graph form. Cost: Free,  Device: iOS and Android
  • My Food Coach– is designed to help you understand and manage all of your nutritional requirements. This app offers personalized nutrition information, recipes and meal plans. Cost: Free,  Device: iOS and Android
  • HealthyOut– Enables you to search and order nearby healthy food and browse for healthy options while out to eat. You can even choose a specific diet such as gluten free! Cost: Free, Device: iOS and Android

kidneyapp

  • Restaurant Nutrition– Allows you to search restaurants and look at nutritional values, locate nearby restaurants, and keep a food journal. The Restaurant Nutrition application shows nutritional information of restaurant foods. Cost: Free, Device: iOS and Android

While I could easily go to most of the apps’ websites by clicking on the name while I held down the control button, this was not the case with Pocket IMG_2982Dietician. I was able to find it and lots of descriptive information about it in the Google Play store, but kept getting the message that I had no devices. The help function on the site was not helpful.

I have KidneyAPPetite on my phone, but keep using KidneyDiet instead. It keeps track of the 3 Ps (protein, potassium, and the one missing from food labels: phosphorous), sodium, calories, carbohydrates, cholesterol, and fat, and fluid intake. The very nice part of the app? You can add the foods you eat that are not on the food list provided. Unfortunately, this is the one I mentioned in the first paragraph. This is what’s presently on their website:

The KidneyDiet® app is no longer being sold or supported. It, and all your data, will continue to reside on your device unless you delete it.

Thank you for your patronage. We hope KidneyDiet® has helped you.

Sincerely,
The KidneyDiet® Team

FullSizeRender (3)I consider this a great loss for those looking for a simple nutritional app for their CKD.

What about My Food Coach? It has an extra feature that my favorite lacked: a warning when a recipe would bring you over your renal diet limits. It’s recipe oriented, which doesn’t endear it to me since I like to experiment cooking my big five ounces of protein daily with my three different size servings of different fruits that are on my renal diet. I also avoid red meat.

HealthyOut, while not specifically for CKD, does have a function for the Mediterranean diet which is more often than not recommended for us. I thought this was a hoot since it never occurred to me that you can check restaurant foods by the restaurant name. I am adding this app to my iPhone.

Restaurant Nutrition is another app offered by Google Play, which means I can’t even get into it. I did get through to the reviews and couldn’t find any positive ones. I didn’t see the point in pursuing this any further.IMG_2980

There are even kidney disease games, such as KidneyWarrior, to teach yourself and your loved ones about your disease. This is the author’s description of the game:

“A new hero emerges to fight a dreadful illness. A quest to save his father. A brand NEW approach to mobile gaming •Play as Glo, a young hero on his exciting adventure to save his father •SHOOT, SMACK, and SPIN your way through 3 different and exciting stages, packed with hours of gaming •LEARN about what kidneys do and how kidney disease affects people worldwide Created on behalf of Project ARK, an organization focused to support research efforts on combating kidney disease. As a high school organization, Project ARK seeks to raise awareness on campus and within the community.”

To borrow a term from a now defunct cigarette brand: We’ve come a long way, baby!

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Not Your New Age Crystals

Sometimes, a reader will ask a question and I’ll research the answer for him/her, always explaining first that I’m not a doctor, don’t claim to be one, and (s)he will need to check whatever information I offer with his/her nephrologist before acting on it. There was just such a comment this week: “Just wondering if you have any advice on Gout and it’s effect on Kidney disease? Mary.” Advice? No. Research? Yes.

What is itLet’s establish just what gout is first. This is how it’s defined in What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease :

“gout: particularly painful form of inflammatory arthritis characterized by a build-up of urate crystals in the joints, causing pain and inflammation.”

Urate crystals? MedicineNet at http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=11853 defines these as: “… salt derived from uric acid. When the body cannot metabolize uric acid properly, urates can build up in body tissues or crystallize within the joints.”

Okay, what’s uric acid then? Thanks to the Merriam Webster Online Dictionary at http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/uric%20acid for the definition:

URIC ACID: a white odorless and tasteless nearly insoluble acid C5H4N4O3 that is the chief nitrogenous waste present in the urine especially of lower vertebrates (as birds and reptiles), is present in small quantity in human urine, and occurs pathologically in renal calculi {A little help here: this means a concretion usually of mineral salts around organic material found especially in hollow organs or ducts} and the tophi of gout.”

Whoops, looks like I missed a definition here: tophi simply means the deposit itself.

You may be wondering what that has to do with Chronic Kidney Disease.  This paragraph from The IMG_2982Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1 explains:

“Researching that brought me to an English article from Arthritis Research UK which cited an American study.  I’m going to reproduce only one paragraph of the article here because it brought home exactly what gout with Chronic Kidney Disease can do to your body.

‘The findings were presented at Kidney Week 2011 by researcher Dr Erdal Sarac. He concluded: ‘This study reveals a high prevalence of gout in patients with CKD. Male sex, advanced age, CAD, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia were significantly associated with gout among CKD patients.’”

You may need some more definitions to fully understand that paragraph, so I’m reproducing these from What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease:

CAD: coronary artery disease

hyperlipidemia: high cholesterol

hypertension: high blood pressure

Gout sounds bad. I’ll bet you’re wondering how you can help avoid gout… especially if you have CKD. Let’s go back to The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1 for a moment.

“One disease, CKD, can be implicated for three others if you also have gout.  … I didn’t know that gout is also somehow in the mix of being medically compromised.  I have hyperlipidemia and hypertension and CKD.  True, I’m not an older male but should I become more vigilant about any hints of gout? ….

bottled waterI would have to be careful about my food and beverage intake. Oh, wait, I’m already doing that by following the renal diet. In both, you are urged to cut back on alcohol and drink more water instead. Purines are a problem, too, but then again I am limited to five ounces of protein {A purine food source} per day. Hmmm, avoiding sugar-sweetened drinks may help. Say, with CKD, I have to watch my A1C {How the body handles glucose or sugar in a three month period} so that I don’t end up with diabetes.  That means I’m watching all my sugar intake already. I see fructose rich fruits can be a problem.  But I’m already restricted to only three servings of fruit a day!  Oh, here’s the biggie: lose weight.  Yep, been hearing that from my nephrologist for four (Me here: it’s more like nine years now.) years.  To sum up, by attending to my CKD on a daily basis, I’m also attempting to avoid or lessen the effects of gout.

This is getting very interesting.  I also take medication for both hypertension and hyperlipidemia.  Are they also helping me to avoid gout?  It seems to me that by treating one condition {Or two in my case}, I’m also treating my CKD and possibly preventing another.  It is all inter-related.”

By the way, based upon another reader’s question I mentioned cherries and gout in The Book of FullSizeRender (3)Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2:

“From my reading, I’ve also garnered the information that cherries can help with iron deficiencies, lower blood pressure, improve sleep, help with gout, and lower the risk of heart disease.

Or can they? Remember that too much potassium can actually cause an irregular heartbeat or possibly stop your heart.”

So now, we need to watch purines and potassium, too. Aha! Following the renal diet already is helping to avoid potassium. What about purines? According to WebMD at http://www.webmd.com/arthritis/tc/diet-and-gout-topic-overview:

“Purines (specific chemical compounds found in some foods) are broken down into uric acid. A diet rich in purines from certain sources can raise uric acid levels in the body, which sometimes leads to gout. Meat and seafood may increase your risk of gout. Dairy products may lower your risk.”cherries

It seems to me a small list of high purine foods is appropriate here. Gout Education at http://gouteducation.org/patient/gout-treatment/diet/ offers just that. This also appears to be an extremely helpful site for those wanting to know more about gout.

“Because uric acid is formed from the breakdown of purines, high-purine foods can trigger attacks. It is strongly encouraged to avoid:

  • Beer and grain liquors
  • Red meat, lamb and pork
  • Organ meats, such as liver, kidneys and sweetbreads
  • Seafood, especially shellfish, like shrimp, lobster, mussels, anchovies and sardines”

Does this list sound familiar? It should if you’re following the renal diet. While not exactly the same, there’s quite a bit of overlap in the two diets.

Mary… and every other reader… I hope this was enough information for you to write a list of questions about CKD and gout to bring to your next nephrology appointment.

IMG_2980Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Feeling the Pressure

labor dayFor those of you in the United States, here’s hoping you have a healthy, safe Labor Day.  I come from a Union family. So much so that my maternal grandfather was in and out of jail for attempting to unionize brass workers. That was quite a bit of pressure on my grandmother, who raised the four children and ran a restaurant.

I knew there was more than my personal history with the holiday so I poked around and found this from http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2016/09/04/labor-day-history/89826440/

“In the late 1800s, the state of labor was grim as U.S. workers toiled under bleak conditions: 12 or more hour workdays; hazardous work environments; meager pay. Children, some as young as 5, were often fixtures at plants and factories.

The dismal livelihoods fueled the formation of the country’s first labor unions, which began to organize strikes and protests and pushed employers for better hours and pay. Many of the rallies turned violent.

On Sept. 5, 1882 — a Tuesday — 10,000 workers took unpaid time off to march in a parade from City Hall to Union Square in New York City as a tribute to American workers. Organized by New York’s Central Labor Union, It was the country’s first unofficial Labor Day parade. Three years later, some city ordinances marked the first government recognition, and legislation soon followed in a number of states.”

Now that’s pressure, but I want to write about another kind of pressure today: your blood pressure.Mahomeds Sphygmograph

Being one of those people who is required to check their blood pressure at least once a day, I was surprised to learn that doctors didn’t realize the importance of maintaining moderate blood pressure until the 1950s. Yet, ancient Chinese, Greeks, and Egyptians knew about the pulse. I wonder what they thought that was.

The American Heart Association explains the difference between the blood pressure and the pulse, and offers a chart to exemplify. The column without the heading refers to ‘Heart Rate.’

Blood Pressure
What is it? The force the heart exerts against the walls of arteries as it pumps the blood out to the body The number of times your heart beats per minute
What is the unit of measurement? mm Hg (millimeters of mercury) BPMs (beats per minute)
What do the numbers represent? Includes two measurements:
Systolic pressure
(top number):
 The pressure as the heart beats and forces blood into the arteries
Diastolic pressure
(bottom number):
 The pressure as the heart relaxes between beats
Includes a single number representing the number of heart beats per minute
Sample reading 120/80 mm Hg 60 BPM

You can read more about this at http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/AboutHighBloodPressure/Blood-Pressure-vs-Heart-Rate_UCM_301804_Article.jsp.

bp cuffAccording to Withings, a French company that sells blood pressure monitoring equipment, at http://blog.withings.com/2014/05/21/the-history-of-blood-pressure/:

“The first study on blood circulation was published in 1628 by William Harvey – an English physician. He came to the conclusion that the heart acts as a pump. At that point it wasn’t clear that blood circulated, but after a little calculation he was pretty sure that blood is not ‘consumed’ by the organs. The physician then concluded that blood must be going though (sic) a cycle.”

Ah, but did his measurement include both numbers? In What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, I satisfied my own curiosity as to why our blood pressure readings always have two numbers, one atop the other:What is it

“The first number… called the systolic is the rate at which the heart contracts, while the second or diastolic … is when the heart is at rest between contractions.  These numbers measure the units of millimeters of mercury to which your heart has raised the mercy.”

Uh, raised the mercury of what? Well it’s not the sphygmomanometer as we now know it. By the way, this is the connection between blood pressure and Chronic Kidney Disease that I mentioned in SlowItDownCKD 2015:

“I wonder how frustrated Dr. Bright became when he first suspected that hypertension had a strong effect on the kidneys, but had no way to proveIMG_2980 that theory since the first practical sphygmomanometer (Me here: That’s the device that measures your blood pressure.)  wasn’t yet available.”

Well, why is hypertension – high blood pressure – important in taking care of your kidneys anyway?  It’s the second leading cause of CKD. The Mayo Clinic succinctly explains why at http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/in-depth/high-blood-pressure/art-20045868

“Your kidneys filter excess fluid and waste from your blood — a process that depends on healthy blood vessels. High blood pressure can injure both the blood vessels in and leading to your kidneys, causing several types of kidney disease (nephropathy). “

Well, how do you avoid it then? One way is to take the pressure off yourself. (As a writer, I’m thoroughly enjoying that this kind of pressure can affect the other kind – the blood pressure. As a CKD patient, I’m not.)

Pressure on yourself is usually considered stress. In The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2, there’s an explanation of what stress does to your body.

FullSizeRender (3)“…we respond the same way whether the stress is positive or negative…. First you feel the fight or flight syndrome which means you are releasing hormones.  The adrenal glands which secrete these hormones lay right on top of your kidneys. Your blood sugar raises, too, and there’s an increase in both heart rate and blood pressure.  Diabetes {High blood sugar} and hypertension {High blood pressure} both play a part in Chronic Kidney Disease. If you still haven’t resolved the stress, additional hormones are secreted for more energy.”

What else? This list from the American Kidney Fund was included in The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1:IMG_2982

  • Eat a diet low in salt and fat
  • Be physically active
  • Keep a healthy weight
  • Control your cholesterol
  • Take medicines as directed
  • Limit alcohol
  • Avoid tobacco

AKF logo Why am I not surprised at how much this looks like the list for healthy kidneys?

I was just thinking: what better day to start working on this list than Labor Day?

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

 

 

The Nutrition Action Health Letter Article

I am now officially excited.  I’d been getting some comments about this article which I thought wasn’t being published until September. I wondered why. It was my mistake. The article was to appear in the September issue, which I didn’t realize is published before the month begins.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest’s September Nutrition Action Health Letter is out… and younutrition can read it online, too. The URL is http://www.nutritionaction.com/wp-content/uploads/cover-Kidney-Check-How-to-Keep-Yours-Going-Strong.pdf. Many thanks to Bonnie Liebman for such a fine job of reporting and aiding in spreading Chronic Kidney Disease Awareness. It’s long, six pages, so what we have here are excerpts.

 

David White“I didn’t know that I had end-stage renal disease until I was admitted to the hospital in 2009,” says David White, who was then in his mid-40s. “A few days later, I stopped producing urine.”

Doctors told White that he had crashed. “It was scary,” he says. “I went from ‘Something may be wrong’ to ‘Oh my god am I going to die?’ to ‘I have to spend the rest of my life on dialysis.’”

And with four hours of dialysis three times a week, he never felt great.

“People call it the dialysis hangover,” says White, from Temple Hills, Maryland. “You’re so tired that you want to sleep all day after dialysis and most of the following day. And then you gear up for the next treatment.”

And White struggled with his one-quart-a-day limit on fluids. “When you drink too much, moving isn’t comfortable, laying down isn’t comfortable,” he says. “It’s hard to breathe.”

For Gail Rae-Garwood, the news about her kidneys came when she switched to a new doctor closer to herNutrition home in Glendale, Arizona.

“She decided that as a new patient, I should have all new tests,” says Rae-Garwood, now 69. “When the results came in, she got me an appointment with a nephrologist the next day. When you get an appointment with a specialist the next day, you know something is not right.”

Rae-Garwood had chronic kidney disease. “My GFR was down to 39, and apparently had been low for quite a while,” she says. (Your GFR, or glomerular filtration rate, is the rate at which your kidneys filter your blood.) “‘What is chronic kidney disease and how did I get it?’ I demanded,” recalls Rae-Garwood.

Every 30 minutes, your kidneys filter all the blood in your body. Without at least one, you need dialysis or a transplant. Yet most people have no idea how well their kidneys are working. “It’s very common for people to have no idea that they have early chronic kidney disease,” says Alex Chang, a nephrologist at Geisinger Health System in Danville, Pennsylvania.

A routine blood test sent to a major lab—like Quest or LabCorp—typically includes your GFR. If it doesn’t, your doctor can calculate it.

kidney function“A GFR is pretty routine for anyone who has blood work done,” says Chang. “But if you have very mild kidney disease, and especially if you’re older, a doctor might not mention it since kidney function tends to decline as you age.”

Doctors also look for kidney disease by testing your urine for a protein called albumin …. “That’s usually only done if you have high blood pressure or diabetes or some risk factor for kidney disease other than age,” says Chang.

Rae-Garwood’s previous doctor missed that memo. “I had been on medication for high blood pressure for decades,” she explains. “I wonder how much more of my kidney function I could have preserved if I’d known about it earlier.”

***

David White had kidney transplant in 2015. “It’s given me my life back,” he says. “No more dialysis.”

He takes anti-rejection drugs and steroids, and, like Rae-Garwood, he gets exercise and has to watch what he eats.

“I’ve changed my diet radically,” says Rae-Garwood. “I have to limit the three P’s—protein, potassium, What is itand phosphorus. I’m restricted to 5 ounces of protein a day. We have no red meat in the house. Any product above 7 or 8 percent of a day’s worth of sodium I don’t buy.

“And you know what? It’s fine. It’s been nine years now, and I’ve been able to keep my GFR around 50.”

Both patients are now advocates for preventing kidney disease. “I’ve written four books and almost 400 weekly blogs, and I post a daily fact about chronic kidney disease on Facebook,” says Rae-Garwood. White chairs the the MidAtlantic Renal Coalition’s patient advisory committee, among other things among other things.

“Get tested,” urges Rae-Garwood. “Millions of people have chronic kidney disease and don’t even know it. All it takes is a blood and urine test.”

My hope is that as a result of this article, more libraries, medical schools, and nephrology practices will IMG_2982order copies of What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney FullSizeRender (3)Disease, The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1, The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2, and SlowItDownCKD 2015. If you have a Kindle, Amazon has two wonderful low cost or free programs that may make it easier for you, your loved ones, and anyone you think could benefit from these books to read them.

This is how Amazon explains these programs:

“Kindle Unlimited is a subscription program for readers that allows them to read as many books as they want. The Kindle Owners’ Lending Library is a collection of books that Amazon Prime members who own a Kindle can choose one book from each month with no due dates.”

Barnes and Noble doesn’t have any such programs, but they do offer discount deals daily, which you can use to purchase any book.IMG_2980

I urge you to help spread awareness of Chronic Kidney Disease in any way you can. Here’s another quote from the article that may help you understand why:

“One out of ten adults have chronic kidney disease. Most don’t know it because early on, kidney disease has no symptoms. And because the risk rises as you age, roughly one out of two people aged 30 to 64 are likely to get the disease during their lives….”

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Teachers Teach

Many of you have asked that I post the interview by The American Federation of Teachers. I aim to please, so here it is.

 Gail Rae-Garwood

From NYC teacher to international health advocate

Posted August 9, 2016 by Liza Frenette

Gail Rae-Garwood talks and writes all the time about slowing down — but she’s not referring to her lifestyle speed. She’s talking about putting the brakes on Chronic Kidney Disease.

When this retired high school English teacher and United Federation of Teachers member was diagnosed with CKD in 2008, she was shocked. A new doctor detected unhealthy levels for kidney functioning in routine blood and urine workups. She was sent to a nephrologist. “I didn’t know what it was and what it meant,” she said. “I was terrified and thought I had nowhere to turn.”

She began researching and finding ways to manage this inflammatory disease through a specialized, calibrated diet, exercise, stress reduction and proper sleep. Then she realized she wanted to help others steer toward solutions. Rae-Garwood writes a weekly blog, a daily post and has published four books designed for people with CKD. She answers questions from around the world. She has spoken at coffee shops, Kiwanis Clubs, independent bookstores and senior citizen centers. She’s been a guest blogger for the American Kidney Fund, which promotes prevention activities AKF logoand educational resources, and provides financial assistance for clinical research and for kidney patients who need help with dialysis and transplants.

While she is careful about getting enough sleep and eating right, Rae-Garwood does not let any waking time slip by unnoticed. She has been interviewed on Online with Andrea, The Edge Podcast, Working with Chronic Illness, and Improve Your Kidney Help. She has been interviewed for the Wall Street Journal’s Health Matters and The Center for Science in The Public Interest.

Her action is not all talk. She also puts on the sneakers: In addition to her regular walks for health, she hustled up a team for the National Kidney Foundation of Arizona Kidney Walk.

By now, even her heart is probably kidney shaped.

Rae-Garwood also organized several talks at the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, not far from where she lives in Arizona.

Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and Asians are more prone to CKD, she said. “I wanted to bring awareness everywhere I could.”NKF-logo_Hori_OB

Education is vital because so many people are unaware they even have the disease. Rae-Garwood is one of many who did not have any symptoms. “Many, like me, never experienced any noticeable symptoms. Many, like me, may have had high blood pressure (hypertension) for years before (CKD) was diagnosed. Yet, high blood pressure and diabetes are the two leading causes of CKD.”

And CKD, left unchecked and untreated, can wreak havoc and death. According to the American Association of Kidney Patients, “The increase of kidney disease is now reaching epidemic proportions. The rates are even higher among racial and ethnic minorities. Chronic kidney disease can progress to end-stage renal disease and the need for dialysis or a kidney transplant.”

Rae-Garwood’s goal is to educate people and help them with their health. “You can slow down the progress of the decline of kidney function,” she said.

And she is the very living proof that people want to see.

kidneys5“I have been spending a lot of time on my health and I’m happy to say it’s been paying off. There are five stages. I’ve stayed at the middle one for nine years and even improved my health. That’s what this is about. People don’t know about CKD. They get diagnosed. They think they’re going to die. Everybody dies, but it doesn’t have to be of CKD. I am downright passionate about people knowing this,” she said.

After her first book was published, Rae-Garwood received an e-mail from a doctor in India. He said his patients were extremely poor and could not afford the book – yet the information she wrote about was so important to them.

“He asked how I could help. I thought: ‘I could write a blog!’” she said. Her efforts began by putting her book chapters on the blog, piece by piece. The doctor in India printed them and gave them to his patients. Newer blog posts have more up-to-date information, keeping patients informed.

Her informational blog has 106,000 readers from 107 different countries, she said, based on a report from WordPress. On her blog, Rae-Garwood answers questions from readers, lists books about CKD, reports on events, lists support groups, etc. She writes about things that have worked for her, such as using a stationary bike and stretching bands, and walking  — and cautions readers to seek advice from their doctor.

The year-round outdoor climate in Arizona helps Rae-Garwood stay active. While she loved living on Staten Island, she said she owned an old Victorian that she could not afford to fix up in retirement. With an arthritis condition, she also noticed that she was “becoming a bit of a shut-in in the winter.” So she moved to the southwest two months after retiring.

GFRRae-Garwood is not letting any of that sunshine go to waste. Since her 2008 diagnosis. she’s been driving on a steady road to wellness and spreading awareness like a modern day Johnny Appleseed. In her retirement from teaching, she has devoted much time to writing, speaking and teaching about how to thwart the disease. The skills she developed in 32 years as a teacher in Brooklyn, Staten Island, Queens and Manhattan have served her well in this new role as health advocate.

Her own four self-published books are “SlowItDownCKD 2015,” “The Book of Blogs, Moderate Stage Kidney Disease Part 1,” “The Book of Blogs, Moderate Stage Kidney Disease Part2” and “What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease.” The books are available online at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

For more information on the disease and this active, 69-year-old retiree, check out https://gailraegarwood.wordpress.com.

I hope that this interview has been both enjoyable and informative. It’s how I live my life…

Until next week,

Keep living YOUR life!

CKD Treatment Interruptus

Recently, someone close to me experienced a major burglary.  After calling the police, he called me. That’s what my friends do and I’m thankful they do. I kept him on the phone while I threw on some clothes and sped over to his house. This is a strong, independent man who was shocked at the intimacy of the invasion of his home. When I got there, we walked from room to room, astonished at how much had been stolen.

That night, I couldn’t leave – not even to go home for my evening medications and supplements. That night, I couldn’t sleep while my buddy was in such turmoil. So we sat up staring at the empty space where the TV had been.  He’s not on the renal diet and all he had that I could eat was some chicken, no fruit, no vegetables. And I was too busy being with him to exercise. This was my good buddy of over 30 years standing.

The next morning, another friend came over to help with security devices and spend time with our mutual friend.  I got to go home, take my morning medications, and crawl into bed for ½ an hour. But then our mutual friend had to go to work, so I went back to my buddy’s house and spent the day helping him try to list what was missing, what to do about the insurance, how to handle going to work, etc. The word spread, and, suddenly, a third friend was coming to spend the night with him and another couple joined them to make dinner.  I could go home again.    friends

But I was exhausted. I ate stupidly: Chinese restaurant food with all that sodium. I even ate rice, and here I am on a low carbohydrate diet. I sat in the living room like a zombie while Bear waited on me hand and foot.

Even with all this help, my buddy needed to see me daily. I was his strength. So we ran around rummaging up some receipts he’d need for the insurance. But I could see he was feeling better. Our mutual friends were amazing, including those who couldn’t leave work to come so kept phoning and texting instead. A different someone else stayed with him overnight again.  Then he only needed to see me for a quick hug… and yet another someone else stayed with him overnight again. He didn’t really need me anymore, which is great because I started breaking down.

sad faceI have Chronic Kidney Disease. I need to sleep adequately – and with my BiPap. I need to follow the renal diet. I need to exercise. I need to rest.  I did very little of any of this during the trauma itself, and that’s alright. This is my long term buddy – as grown up and mature as he is – and he needed me. But what did I do to myself?

You guessed it. Right away, my blood pressure shot up and that’s a bad thing. Why? Let me tell you… or you can go to What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, page 9.  FullSizeRender (2)

“Through my research, I began to understand what high blood pressure [HPB] has to do with renal disease.  HPB can damage small blood vessels in the kidneys to the point that they cannot filter the waste from the blood as effectively as they should. Nephrologists may prescribe HBP medication to prevent your CKD from getting worse since these medications reduce the amount of protein in your urine.  Not too surprisingly, most CKD related deaths are caused by cardiovascular problems.”

FullSizeRender (3)What about the stress?  What was that doing to my poor overworked kidneys?  I went to The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2 for the answer to that one:

“First you feel the fight or flight syndrome which means you are releasing hormones.  The adrenal glands which secrete these hormones lay right on top of your kidneys. Your blood sugar raises, too, and there’s an increase in both heart rate and blood pressure.  Diabetes {Blood sugar} and hypertension {Blood pressure} both play a part in Chronic Kidney Disease.”

That’s two strikes against me. I almost hesitate to think about exercise… or the lack of it for several consecutive days.  This is one of the points about treating prediabetes (which I have and so do so many of you) from the Mayo Clinic at http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/prediabetes/basics/treatment/con-20024420 which was included in SlowItDownCKD 2015:IMG_2980

“Losing excess pounds. If you’re overweight, losing just 5 to 10 percent of your body weight — only 10 to 20 pounds (4.5 to 9 kilograms) if you weigh 200 pounds (91 kilograms) — can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. To keep your weight in a healthy range, focus on permanent changes to your eating and exercise habits. Motivate yourself by remembering the benefits of losing weight, such as a healthier heart, more energy and improved self-esteem.”

And the renal diet? We mustn’t forget about the renal diet. In The Book of Blogs: Moderate Kidney Disease, Part 1 I quoted from http://www.yourkidneys.com/kidney-education/Treatments/Living-a-full-life-after-a-chronic-kidney-disease-diagnosis/3189 which is part of Yourkidneys.com from DaVita:

“Depending on what stage of Chronic Kidney Disease you’re in, your renal dietitian will adjust the amounts of protein, sodium, phosphorus and potassium in your diet. In addition, carbohydrates and fats may be controlled based on conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The IMG_2982CKD non-dialysis diet includes calculated amounts of high quality protein. Damaged kidneys have a difficult time getting rid of protein waste products, so cutting back on non-essential protein will put less stress on your kidneys.”

Have I done more permanent damage to my kidneys? I’m hoping not since it was just a few days and I made the conscious decision to be with my buddy instead of tending to myself. Let’s consider this a cautionary tale instead.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Maybe for You, But Not for Me

hairLast week, when I wrote about thinning hair, I received loads of suggestions. While I was pleased with all the interaction, it was clear to me that we had people answering from three different positions: pre-dialysis (like me at Stage 3 Chronic Kidney Disease), dialysis, and post-transplant. What also became clear is that the ‘rules’ for each position are different. That got me to wondering.

But first, I think a definition of each of these is necessary. My years teaching English ingrained in me that ‘pre’ is a prefix meaning before; so pre-dialysis means before dialysis. In other words, this is CKD stages 1-4 or 5 depending upon your nephrologist. It’s when there is a slow progression in the decline of your kidney function.

I remembered a definition of dialysis that I liked in SlowItDownCKD 2015, and so, decided to repeat it here.IMG_2980

“According to the National Kidney Foundation at https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/dialysisinfo,

‘Dialysis is a treatment that does some of the things done by healthy kidneys. It is needed when your own kidneys can no longer take care of your body’s needs. There are several different kinds of dialysis. Basically, they each eliminate the wastes and extra fluid in your blood via different methods.’”

And post -transplant?  Simply put, it means after having had an kidney (or other organ) placed in your body to replace one that doesn’t work anymore.

I know as a pre-dialysis that I have certain dietary restrictions.  Readers have told me some of theirs and they’re very different. It’s not the usual difference based on lab results that will tell you whether you need to cut back more on one of the electrolytes this quarter. It seemed like an entirely different system.

FullSizeRender (2)Let’s go back to What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease to see what my basic dietary restrictions as a pre-dialysis CKD patient are.

 “The (e.g. renal) diets seem to agree that protein, sodium, phosphorus and potassium need to be limited. … Apparently, your limits may be different from mine or any other patient’s.  In other words, it’s personalized.”

Well, what about those on dialysis? What do their dietary guidelines look like? I found this in The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2:

“Knowing End Stage Renal Disease is not my area of expertise, I took a peek at National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC), A service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)National Institutes of Health (NIH), at http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/KUDiseases/pubs/eatright/index.aspx#potassium anyway to see what dialysis patients can eat.

“Potassium is a mineral found in many foods, especially milk, fruits, and vegetables. It affects how steadily your heart beats. Healthy kidneys keep FullSizeRender (3)the right amount of potassium in the blood to keep the heart beating at a steady pace. Potassium levels can rise between dialysis sessions and affect your heartbeat. Eating too much potassium can be very dangerous to your heart. It may even cause death.”

I suspected that potassium is not the only dietary problem for dialysis and dug a bit more.  I discovered this information on MedicineNet at http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=78054, along with the caveat that these also need to be individualized as per lab results.

  1. Fluids: Allowance is based primarily on the type of dialysis and urine output. If you have any edema, are taking a diuretic, and/or have congestive heart failure, your allowance will be adjusted.
  2. Sodium: This will be modified to maintain blood pressure and fluid control and to help prevent congestive heart failureand pulmonary edema.
  3. Potassium: Your intake of this will be adjusted to prevent your blood levels from going too high or too low.
  4. bananaPhosphorus: The majority of dialysis patients require phosphate binders and dietary restrictions in order to control their blood phosphorus levels.
  5. Protein: Adequate protein is necessary to maintain and replenish your stores. You may be instructed on increasing your intake now that you are on dialysis.
  6. Fiber: There is a chance that constipation may be a problem due to fluid restrictions and phosphate binders, so it’s important to keep fiber intake up. You will need guidance on this because many foods that are high in fiber are also high in potassium.
  7. Fat: Depending on your blood cholesterol levels, you may need to decrease your intake of trans fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol.
  8. Calories: If you are over or underweight, you will be instructed on adjusting the amount of calories that you take in each day.
  9. Calcium: Most foods that contain calcium also contain phosphorus. Due to your phosphorus restrictions, you will need guidance on how to get enough calcium while limiting your intake of phosphorus.

Big difference here!  More protein, less calcium, phosphate binders, fat and calcium. No wonder the responses I got to last week’s blog were so varied.

And post-transplant? What about those dietary restrictions? The Mayo Clinic at http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/kidney-transplant/manage/diet-nutrition/nuc-20209734 has that one covered, with the same warning as the other two groups’ diets: your labs dictate your amounts.

  • Eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each dayfruits and veggies
  • Avoiding grapefruit and grapefruit juice due to its effect on a group of immunosuppression medications (calcineurin inhibitors)
  • Having enough fiber in your daily diet
  • Drinking low-fat milk or eating other low-fat dairy products, which is important to maintain optimal calcium and phosphorus levels
  • Eating lean meats, poultry and fish
  • Maintaining a low-salt and low-fat diet
  • Following food safety guidelines
  • Staying hydrated by drinking adequate water and other fluids each day

So it looks like you get to eat more servings of fruits and vegetables a day, must avoid grapefruit and its juice, and be super vigilant about calcium and phosphorus levels. Notice the same suggestion to have enough fiber in your diet as when on dialysis.

Whoa! We have three different sets of diet guidelines for three different stages of CKD, along with the strict understanding that everything depends upon your lab results. That means that the post-transplant patients were right – for them – that I needed more protein.  And the dialysis patients were right – for them – too. But for the pre-dialysis patients? Nope, got to stay below five ounces daily. IMG_2982

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow (Heaven Forbid)

I have noticed my hair coming out in alarming amounts when I wash it in the shower. At first, I thought, “I don’t brush it so this must be the way I shed dead hairs.”  Sure, Gail, keep telling yourself that. I have always had a glorious mane. No more. You can see more and more of my scalp with each shower. OMG! (Forgive the cigarettes in the modeling shot. It was a long, long time ago.)IMG_2944early shots

I’ve read pleas for help from Chronic Kidney Disease patients about just this issue…but they were dialysis patients. I’m Stage 3, more often with a GFR in the low 50s rather than the low 30s. Could it be my Chronic Kidney Disease causing the hair loss – I’ll feel better if we called it ‘hair thinning’ – or simply my almost seventy decades on Earth?

FullSizeRender (2)I can appreciate those of you asking, “Her what is in the low 50s?” Let’s take a peek at What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease for a definition of GFR.

“GFR: 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.”

Of course, now you want to know, and rightfully so, what those numbers mean. In The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2, I included a helpful chart from DaVita along with some of my own comments which explains.

“Think of the stages as a test with 100 being the highest score.  These are the stages and their treatments:FullSizeRender (3)

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.”

GFR

As for the hair itself, I wondered what it’s made of so I started googling and came up with Hilda Sustaita, Department Chair of Cosmetology at Houston Community College – Northwest’s, definition. You can read more of her insights about hair at http://www.texascollaborative.org/hildasustaita/module%20files/topic3.htm

“Hair is made of protein which originates in the hair follicle.  As the cells mature, they fill up with a fibrous protein called keratin. These cells lose their nucleus and die as they travel up the hair follicle. Approximately 91 percent of the hair is protein made up of long chains of amino acids.”

keratinUh-oh, Chronic Kidney Disease patients need to lower their protein intake. I’m constantly talking about my five ounce daily limitation. I remembered quoting something about protein limitation in The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1 and so looked for that quote. This is what I found.

“This is part of an article from one of DaVita’s sites.  You can read the entire article at http://www.yourkidneys.com/kidney-IMG_2982education/Treatments/Living-a-full-life-after-a-chronic-kidney-disease-diagnosis/3189. …

Depending on what stage of Chronic Kidney Disease you’re in, your renal dietitian will adjust the amounts of protein, sodium, phosphorus and potassium in your diet. … The CKD non-dialysis diet includes calculated amounts of high quality protein. Damaged kidneys have a difficult time getting rid of protein waste products, so cutting back on non-essential protein will put less stress on your kidneys.”

But I have friends near my age without CKD whose hair is thinning, too. They’re not on protein restricted diets, so what’s causing their hair thinning?

According to WebMD at http://www.webmd.com/beauty/aging/does-your-hair-make-you-look-old,

“’The diameter of the hair shaft diminishes as we get older,’ explains Zoe Draelos, M.D., clinical associate professor of dermatology at Wake Forest hair follicleUniversity School of Medicine. That means you may have the same number of follicles, but thinner individual strands will make it look like there’s less volume. (They’re also more prone to break, and since hair growth slows as you age, the damage becomes more obvious.)

Even if you do see extra hairs in your brush or in the shower drain, you don’t necessarily need to worry. Although 40 percent of women experience hairsome hair loss by menopause, shedding around 100 strands a day is normal, reports Paul M. Friedman, M.D., clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston.”

So it may be my CKD that’s causing the hair thinning or it may not. Either way, I wanted to know what to do about it. Dr. Doris Day (I kid you not.) has other suggestions than protein as she discusses in a New York Times article at http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/23/fashion/Hair-Aging-thinning-dry-dull.html.

Dr. Doris Day, a dermatologist in New York, agreed that the right foods are necessary for healthy hair.

‘I believe that inflammation is negative for the hair follicle, that it can accelerate stress shedding and compromise growth,’ she said. She suggests eating pomegranate, avocado, pumpkin and olive oil, and herbs like turmeric, mint and rosemary.”

You do remember that CKD is an inflammatory disease, right? Hmmm, better check with your renal nutritionist before you start eating pomegranates or pumpkin. They’re on my NO! list, but yours may be different from mine.