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!

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!

Recreating Creatinine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blood:

BUN – BUN stands for blood urea nitrogen.

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

Urine:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

How Sweet She Is

For 12 years, sweet Ms. Bella has positioned herself just inside my office door as I wrote, researched, edited, and formatted. For 12 years, sweet Ms. img_3326Bella has greeted me as effusively when I returned from a trip to the mailbox as she did when I returned from a trip to Alaska. For 12 years, sweet Ms. Bella has shared one sided conversations with me about any and everything. For 12 years, sweet Ms. Bella has adored me as no other being on earth ever has.

I’ll miss that. Sweet Ms. Bella crossed what I’m told is called The Rainbow Bridge this morning. .. and it was my decision. I’ve known for months that she had lymphedema. First we tried this. Then we tried that. And finally there was nothing else left to try. I am oh-so-sad without my boon companion, but it was time. She knew it and I knew it. May your soul come back to me, my sweet Ms. Bella.

I’ve been sad for a while knowing that I would have to make this decision and wondering how I would know when she’d had enough. I watched…and watched…and watched, yet she made it perfectly clear when her legs wouldn’t hold her up anymore and her cancerous lymph nodes started to impede her eating. She is at rest now.

What have I done to my kidneys with all this sadness, I wondered. I don’t know via my lab reports because I was just tested last Thursday and Urine_sampledidn’t know about sweet Ms. Bella’s cancer when my blood and urine were tested three months ago. So I did what I could to find out: I researched.

I found this on the National Kidney Foundation’s site at https://www.kidney.org/news/newsroom/nr/depression-kd:

New York, NY (July 1, 2012) – People with kidney disease who have symptoms of depression may be on the fast track to dialysis, hospitalization or death, according to a new study published in the July issue of the American Journal of Kidney Diseases, the official journal of the National Kidney Foundation.”

But I’m not depressed; I’m sad.  Well, what’s the difference? I turned to my old buddy WebMD for some help here:

“….Also known as clinical depression, major depressive disorder, or unipolar depression, major depression is a medical condition that goes beyond life’s ordinary ups and downs. Almost 18.8 million American adults experience depression each year, and women are nearly twice as likely as men to develop major depression. People with depression cannot simply ‘pull themselves together’ and get better. Treatment with counseling, medication, or both is key to recovery.”

Since I’m one of those people who always manage to get myself back together – and fairly quickly – I’d say I’m not depressed. I do suggest you read more about depression at http://www.webmd.com/depression/is-it-depression-or-the-blues if this strikes a chord with you.

So let’s go back to sadness and the kidneys. This is from a 5/21/14 article on a site that’s new to me: Medical Daily at http://www.medicaldaily.com/can-powerful-emotions-kill-you-negative-health-effects-anger-stress-sadness-and-shock-283682:

heart attack” ‘It’s called heartbreak for a reason. When you’re experiencing deep grief or sadness, it takes a toll on your health, too. One study from St. George’s University of London found that it is actually possible to die of a broken heart — bereavement increases your risk of a heart attack or stroke by nearly double after a partner’s death, the researchers discovered. We often use the term a ‘broken heart’ to signify the pain of losing a loved one and our study shows that bereavement can have a direct effect on the health of the heart,’ Dr. Sunil Shah, senior lecturer in public health at St. George’s, said in a press release.”

There’s a firm connection between heart health and kidney health. This is from SlowItDownCKD 2015:

“We’re used to reading about anemia and high blood pressure as the connection between CKD and Heart Disease, but here are two other causes.

DaVita at http://www.davita.com/kidney-disease/overview/symptoms-and- diagnosis/ chronic-kidney-disease-and-your-heart/e/4730 once again jumps in to educate us:

‘High homocysteine levels: Damaged kidneys cannot remove extra homocysteine, an amino acid in the blood. High levels of homocysteine can lead to coronary artery disease, stroke and heart attack.IMG_2980

Calcium-phosphate levels: Damaged kidneys cannot keep calcium and phosphorus levels in balance. Often, there’s too much phosphorus and calcium in the blood. When this happens, there’s a risk for coronary artery disease.’”

Hmmm, just by having Chronic Kidney Disease, we run the risk of heart problems.  Now sadness – maybe ‘deep grief’ is a more apt description – may add to that risk. As much as I love sweet Ms. Bella and will miss her, I can’t honestly say this is true for me. It feels like there’s a big difference between deep grief and sadness.

Just to make certain the difference between depression and sadness is clear, I’m repeating this information from The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2:

“Make The Connection, a veterans’ support site tells us

‘Not everyone with depression has the same symptoms or feels the same way. One person might have difficulty sitting still, while another may FullSizeRender (3)find it hard to get out of bed each day. Other symptoms that may be signs of depression or may go along with being depressed include:

It doesn’t look like my short term sadness is worsening my kidneys in any way, but if you’re not sure whether you need help with yours, or if it is truly depression, seek help. It can’t hurt to be careful.

FullSizeRender (2)

I’m certain sweet Ms. Bella is not suffering anymore and that is already doing wonders for my peace of mind… and my sadness.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Deep in the Heart of Texas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The CDC offers the following advice to avoid heat illness:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep living your life!

They’re Not Two Separate Things

I know someone who is mentally ill.  You do, too, although you may not be aware of it. PTSD, bipolar, personality disorder, poor impulse control, schizophrenia, braindepression, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsion, even eating disorders. I could go on and on with diagnoses we know nothing about when we meet the person. (Well, maybe we would with an eating disorder.) And why should we?

With medication, this person can function in the world… and function well. For those of you who are successfully treating your psychiatric illness holistically, whatever it is you are taking or doing that works for you will be included in the category of medication for the purposes of this blog.

But what if the person is not taking the medication necessary? What if they’re not and they have CKD? What if they are and have CKD? How does that affect their kidneys?

I came across a 2002 grant proposal on the National Institutes of Health site at http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/rfa-files/RFA-DK-02-009.html which made clear that there is a correlation.

“There is substantial evidence that severe chronic illness may be associated with and exacerbated by co-existent mental disorders such as depression, anxiety NIHdisorders, schizophrenia, and eating disorders.  Nonetheless, few studies have addressed the natural history and consequences of co-existent mental disorders on chronic diseases of interest to the NIDDK, such as diabetes mellitus, chronic renal disease and obesity and eating disorders.”

The person I know has two parents with CKD. That means he has to be extra vigilant about preventing CKD. But can he with the impulsive, irrational thinking he occasionally experiences?

One of the many complications of Chronic Kidney Disease according to The Mayo Clinic at http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/kidney-disease/basics/complications/con-20026778 is

“Damage to your central nervous system, which can cause difficulty concentrating, personality changes or seizures”

Difficulty concentrating.  Personality changes. Just as in mental illness.

Let me talk about that term a bit. By mental illness, I mean a psychiatric condition rather than a physical one, but one that requires daily treatment, just as diabetes or CKD does. You watch your diet, don’t you? And try to stay away from stress? There’s another kind of daily attention psychiatric patients need to adhere to.

And here’s where it gets muddled. Just as CKD, a physical condition, can cause mental problems, a psychiatric condition can cause physical conditions.  The two are wrapped up in each other. You can’t divorce the physical from the mental or vice-versa. You are one person with all these interrelated parts.

Mental illness is far more prevalent than you think… and that’s with its being ‘out of the closet,’ so to speak, in recent years. The Centers for Disease Control’s Fact Sheet about mental health surveillance at http://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealthsurveillance/fact_sheet.html  contains the following statement.CDC

“According to the World Health Organization, mental illness results in more disability in developed countries than any other group of illnesses, including cancer and heart disease. Other published studies report that about 25% of all U.S. adults have a mental illness and that nearly 50% of U.S. adults will develop at least one mental illness during their lifetime.”

Let me make it worse.  This was in 2002, 13 years ago.

In 2012, the CDC had this to say about mental illness and chronic disease:

“One common finding is that people who suffer from a chronic disease are more likely to also suffer from depression. Scientists have yet to determine if having a chronic disease increases the prevalence of depression or depression increases the risk of obtaining a chronic disease.”

This is from a study about chronic disease and mental health in the workplace. You can read more about that at http://www.cdc.gov/nationalhealthyworksite/docs/Issue-Brief-No-2-Mental-Health-and-Chronic-Disease.pdf

I know little about medications for mental illness except for those prescribed for my friend.  As an example of how drugs for psychiatric conditions may or may not interact with your physical ailments, let’s talk a bit about his drugs.

zyprexaWhen my bipolar friend has a manic episode, an anti-psychotic – Zyprexa (generic name Olanzapine) – is prescribed. WebMD at http://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-1699/zyprexa-oral/details# tells us

“This medication can help to decrease hallucinations and help you to think more clearly and positively about yourself, feel less agitated, and take a more active part in everyday life.”

Okay, sometimes my friend needs that, but there are also things he doesn’t need.

glucose“This drug may infrequently make your blood sugar level rise, which can cause or worsen diabetes. Tell your doctor immediately if you develop symptoms of high blood sugar, such as increased thirst and urination. If you already have diabetes, be sure to check your blood sugars regularly. Your doctor may need to adjust your diabetes medication, exercise program, or diet.

This drug may also cause significant weight gain and a rise in your blood cholesterol (or triglyceride) levels…. These effects, along with diabetes, may increase your risk for developing heart disease. “

Not so great for someone that has two parents with CKD, one with CKD caused by diabetes. As for the cholesterol or triglyceride levels,  we could be getting pretty close to heart disease here, as mentioned above. Nothing about the kidneys, yet diabetes is the leading cause of CKD.

What else was he recently prescribed? Oh, yes, lithium.  He’s been taking that off and on since he was 14 and first diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Drugs.com at http://www.drugs.com/sfx/lithium-side-effects.html made me weep – not that this was going to help anything. I keep reminding myself that this is not usual when taking the drug, but my mind keeps placing the image of his two CKD parents before me.

“Moderate reversible increases in blood urea nitrogen and serum creatinine as well as proteinuria have been observed in patients with lithium toxicity. Rarely the decreases in glomerular filtration have been persistent. A variety of renal effects have been reported and include glomerular sclerosis, interstitial fibrosis, chronic interstitial nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, renal tubular acidosis and tubular atrophy.”Glomerulus-Nephron 300 dpi jpg

Sometimes you need to take a risk to save your life. I’m sure that’s what my friend’s doctors are doing here. I’ve known him all his life. I hope they’re doing the right thing.

On a more positive note, Amazon tells me all three books are now available in the Japanese market as well as being available in Europe and other areas.  Nothing like getting the word about CKD Awareness out to the entire world.IMG_1398What is it

Today is Labor Day. Thank you to all those union organizers that were jailed repeatedly- like Benjamin Binenbaum, my maternal grandfather – for the advantages they won for us.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!labor day

It’s the Funniest Thing…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

DON’T K.E.E.P. It a Secret

National Kidney MonthHello, Week Two of National Kidney Month.  Surely, you’ve gotten yourself checked for Chronic Kidney Disease by now.  After all, more than 20% of us here in the U.S. have it. That’s 10 million people. Mind boggling, isn’t it. Here’s the kicker: that’s as of 2010 – five years ago now – according to The National Kidney and Urologic Disease and Information Clearinghouse at http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/kustats/#3

But, wait, it gets worse. If you, like me, are over 50, your risk has increased.  Over 70 {Awk!  That’s only two years away for me.}, it increases even more.  What hurts for me is that so many people don’t know they have Chronic Kidney Disease. I’ve read statistics placing this at anywhere from 20 to 90%.  Rather than go on again about if-I-had-been-diagnosed-at-stage-1-rather-than-stage-3-I-would-have-had-more-time-to-slow-down-the-progression-of-my-ckd, let’s just say it’s easy to have yourself tested.

I’ve written about just needing a simple blood test and a simple urine test.  You can even have this done via the usual blood tests you already take if you usually take blood tests.  I have my pcp’s and nephrologist’s blood draw orders combined if they fall within two weeks of each other – with my doctors’  blessings. It’s not cheating, folks; it’s one less needle in your arm as I see it.

Well, what about if you don’t have blood tests regularly?  You could ask your PCP to write you orders for this. Most won’t do so without a visit, though.  Let’s say you don’t have the money, or can’t get an appointment early enough.  What then?K.E.E.P.

That’s where K.E.E.P. comes in. The acronym stands for Kidney Early Evaluation Program and is offered by the National Kidney Fund.  According to their website, this is what is offered.

  • Risk Survey

  • Body Mass Index (BMI): Height and Weight Measurements

  • Blood pressure check

  • ACR urine test for albumin (a type of protein) – For individuals at risk only!

  • Free educational materials

  • Opportunity to speak with a health care professional

Notice, no blood test.  Think of K.E.E.P. as a place to begin your kidney education. That risk survey and the urine test for “at risk” individuals are important parts of the program.  Over 50 – go to a K.E.E.P. event. Over 70 – definitely go to one.  These are not the only “at risk” definers, though. Add in the following.

  • Anyone with high blood pressure, diabetes

  • Anyone with a family history of kidney failure

  • African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Pacific Islanders and American Indians

  • Individuals who are obese (body mass index of 30 or above)

Now you can see why your BMI is measured and your blood pressure read.   Thank you to the National Kidney Fund at https://www.kidney.org/keephealthy for the above information.  If you’re interested – and I’m sure hoping you are – you can find the locations and dates of these on the upper right hand corner of the same page.  You’ll have to enter your geographical information, but that’s it.

That’s another option, but budgets are being cut all over the place.  So let’s say there’s no K.E.E.P. event near you. What now? How about the Path to Wellness program? What’s that, you say. It’s a partnership between the renal and heart communities for the following purpose according to the website of the Cardio Renal Society of America at http://www.cardiorenalsociety.org/ {The website does seem to be aimed toward medical professionals.}

Public Health Education and Early Detection

Path to Wellness is an integrative community-based screening program addressing the interconnections between kidney disease, heart disease, and diabetes. It encourages utilization of community-based or primary care services and empowering a diverse demographic of at-risk patients to make significant, positive changes in their personal well-being and quality of life.

In Arizona, the Arizona Living Well Institute is also involved in this project.  Dr. J. Ivie, the Director of Patient Services at the National Kidney Foundation of Arizona provides a more patient oriented description of the event.

Path to Wellness has already touched close to 400 Arizonans at risk of diabetes, heart disease and kidney disease by providing education, screening, self-management skills and connection to a medical home.  We are scheduling the first screening event of 2015 on Saturday, March 28th at the Salvation Army KROC Corps Community Center near South Mountain in Phoenix.

By the way, they are calling for volunteers to help out at this program, so please contact Dr. James Ivie via any of these methods if this interests you. I was recently made aware that high school students need to perform community service as a graduation requirement and was wondering if this is applicable if the students are over a certain age.  Again, a question for Dr. Ivie.

Phone:         602.845.7905

Fax:              602.845.7955cardiovascular

Address:      360 E. Coronado Rd. #180

                      Phoenix, AZ 85004

Email:          www.azkidney.org

Digital Cover Part 1I like to perform community service, too.  In this case, that service is for my kidney community.  Hmmm,  World Kidney Day is March 12. The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2 is now available in both print and digital versions on Amazon.com.  The logical connection between the two for me is that World Kidney Book will be the day this book is free.  Remember I offered The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1 free on February 2nd because it was my birthday? {Doesn’t every author offer their books free on their birthday?} This works the same way.  You just order the book.Part 2

Here’s how my mind works: I have dissolved in laughter because I just realized I was wondering if What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease is feeling left out because there’s never been a freebie day for that book.  I get it!  It’s a book {but it’s my baby.}Book Cover

Whoa!  I’ve been getting calls that the blog address no longer works.  After a little gentle questioning, it came out that the callers were using the old address: https://gailrae.wordpress.com.  If you use that address, you’ll receive the following message:

“gailrae.wordpress.com is no longer available.  The authors have deleted this site.”  No I didn’t! I just changed the name to gailraegarwood.wordpress.com.  I’ll consider this a reminder to myself to leave well enough alone.

I followed a forum user’s advice to simply change the name, not realizing all the old blogs will be deleted.  I thought the site was being deleted and you would be redirected to the new address for all the blogs.  Silly me.  I am extremely thankful The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1 and  The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2 were published before this mini catastrophe,  but am still not happy with it.  Oh well. Might as well choose it since I have to do the work anyway.

Hang on while I recreate the blog.   Well, actually, if you’re reading this, it’s already recreated.  Yay!

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

They’re Not Twins

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

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

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

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

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

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

Milligrams per Deciliter

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

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

while deciliter means

100 cubic centimeters

We are talking small here!Book Cover

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

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

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

By the way,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Urine or You’re Out

How odd that urine is so important to us.  Make no mistake; if you have Chronic Kidney Disease, you’re always keeping an eye on it.  I’m pretty sure you all know about the color chart to see if you’re hydrating enough.  If you don’t hydrate enough, your kidneys can’t do their jobs as well… and they’re already struggling to do them. This is the least complicated urine hydration chart I’ve seen.urine hydration

Of course, I’ll go back to remind you of just what the jobs of your kidneys are.  My source?  My first book about our disease, What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, page 7.

They filter as many as 200 quarts of blood per day to rid us of roughly two quarts of waste and extra water.

These two organs, the master chemists of our bodies, have several functions: regulating the fluid balance in the body, providing vital hormones, producing erythropoietin, and producing the renin that regulates blood pressure. This is why CKD patients need to be careful about sodium, Book Coverpotassium, chloride, calcium, magnesium, and phosphates. Your nutritionist may not even mention magnesium to you since this constitutes only 1% of extra cellular fluid. Additional important jobs of the kidneys are removing liquid waste from your body and balancing the minerals in the body. The two liquid waste products are urea which has been broken down from protein by the digestive system and creatinine which is a byproduct of muscle activity.

Wait a minute; I think we need to go even further back.  A picture of the urinary tract would probably be helpful here, too.urinary

Okay, now I can start writing about your urine. I’m pretty sure I mentioned in an earlier blog how disturbed I was to be one point over the normal range for microalbumin. Here’s a definition of just what that is.

Micro, or very small amounts, of albumin in the urine. Ur stands for urine. {As in the test for proteinuria.} Albumin is a form of protein that is water soluble. Urine is a liquid, a form of water, so the albumin should have been dissolved. Protein in the urine may be an indication of kidney disease.

Read that last sentence again. There seems to be a Catch 22 here. As a Chronic Kidney Disease patient for the last seven years, this has never shown up in a urine test for me before. I am including both the 24 hour variety and the random {Dipstick} variety in that never.

So now we know about microalbumin.  What about proteinuria?  Notice the ur in the word.  We just learned that means urine.  This is another indication of kidney disease.  I have never been out of acceptable range for this.  According to WebMd at http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/proteinuria-protein-in-urine

Healthy kidneys do not allow a significant amount of protein to pass through their filters. But filters damaged by kidney disease may let proteins such as albumin leak from the blood into the urine.

Glomerulus-Nephron 300 dpi jpgFilters?  This diagram of the glomerulus may help.

If albumin is a protein, are proteinuria and microalbumin the same? Well, no.  Health Communities at http://www.healthcommunities.com/proteinuria-and-microalbuminuria/overview-of-proteinuria.shtml tells us

Albumin is particularly useful in absorbing bodily fluid into the blood. Because the albumin molecule is relatively small, it is often among the first proteins to enter the urine after glomeruli are damaged. Therefore, even minor kidney dysfunction is detectable with proper diagnosis of microalbuminuria.

All right, got it?  Albumin is a protein.  It will show up as microalbumin in your urine test.  It may also show up as proteinuria since albumin is a protein. Once upon a time, you always needed to conduct a 24 hour urine test for this information, but…

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

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

And that is where creatinine comes in and why you need to be aware of your creatinine levels in your urinalysis. By the way, blood tests will also report the amount of albumin and creatinine in your blood. This could promote another discussion, one about Blood Urea Nitrogen tests, but it would be out of place here since that’s not part of the urine.

As you can see this is a complex topic.  You need to be aware of what the color of your urine can tell you about your hydration – whether or not you have Chronic Kidney Disease – and monitor both your microalbumin and proteinuria, as well as your creatinine.

41DsvandphL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-stThe Book of BlogsAnother complex topic is editing the new print books.  The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1 and The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2 aren’t quite ready.  I’m working with a new publisher and we’re just getting to know each other’s styles.  The good part about that is you get two books for the price of one on Amazon.com digital until the print books are ready.  Look for The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease.  Once the print copies are ready, I promise a day of the digital copy for free… if that perk is still available to me at that time.

I don’t know about you, but I get just as tired from overdoing it for good things as well as bad.  This weekend was a test of how well I could adhere to my renal diet with date day, a memorial dinner, and a celebratory champagne brunch.  Being human, I blew it on ice cream.  My pounding heart and lightheadedness have convinced me: no more sugar treats!  Although, some of my non-CKD friends report the same symptoms upon a sugar overdose…

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

It’s All Connected

About those random posts you may be receiving from me… I am transforming the blog into a book as promised.  However, I don’t really know what I’m doing and am learning on the job, so to speak.  I Kidney Book Coverwouldn’t be at all surprised if you heard me yelling, “OH, NO!” (and worse) at least once a day from now until the process is complete.  I guess you’re bearing witness to my learning process. Boy, am I ever grateful you’re a patient lot!

Now, what I really wanted to write about. I got a call from my primary care physician telling me that while I had improved my BUN, Creatinine, BUN/Creatinine Ratio, LDL, and eGFR levels on my last blood test, the Microalbumin, Urine, Random value was abnormal at 17.3. I checked online to make certain I had heard her correctly.

Dr. H. Zhao practices at Deer Valley Family Medicine here in Phoenix.  The practice started using a site to report your results as soon as they’re available, sometimes the next day.  I wonder why I got that call at all when this process is in place.

When I finally finished congratulating myself for all these improvements, I started to question why the Microalbumin value was out of range.  I knew it hadn’t been out of range last year, but I did have Chronic Kidney Disease.  That in itself would have meant it would be out of whack, wouldn’t it?

Here we go again.  I pulled out my trusty copy of What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease and turned to Chapter 5, “What Flows Through You,”  The Random Urine Tests,  number 9299 on page 52 (Honestly? I used the word search function for the digital book, even though I had the print copy in front of me.  It’s just plain easier!) and found:

“tests for micro, or very small amounts, of  albumin in the urine. Ur stands for urine. Albumin is a form of protein that is water soluble. Urine is a liquid, a form of water, so theBook Cover

  albumin should have been dissolved. Protein in the urine may be an indication of kidney disease.”

Of course I wanted more.  We all know micro from micro-mini skirts (Are you old enough to remember those?) and microscope.

Wait, if protein in the urine “may be an indication of kidney disease” – which I have – why was this a problem?  Or was it a problem?

Both high blood pressure (which I do have) and diabetes (which I don’t) could be the cause since both may lead to the proteinuria (protein in the urine, albumin is a protein as mentioned above) which may indicate CKD. Microalbuminia could be the first step to proteinuria.

But, as usual with medical conditions, it’s not that black and white.  I scurried over to our old friend WebMD at http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/proteinuria-protein-in-urine to look for other risk factors and found these:

  • Obesity
  • Age over  65
  • Family history of kidney disease
  • Preeclampsia (high blood pressure and proteinuria in pregnancy)
  • Race and ethnicity: African-Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics, and Pacific Islanders are more likely than whites to have high blood pressure and develop kidney disease and proteinuria.

While I’m well past child bearing, I’m also over 65 and, ummm, (how’s this for hedging?) clinically obese.  Does that mean proteinuria is to be my new norm?

NIHMaybe there’s something more I can do about this.  According to Skip NavigationU.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES‘ 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/proteinuria/

“In addition to blood glucose and blood pressure control, the National Kidney Foundation recommends restricting dietary salt and protein. A doctor may refer a patient

to a dietitian to help develop and follow a healthy eating plan.”

 This is nuts!  I have CKD.  I already restrict myself to five ounces of protein a day. I’ve abolished table salt from the house and watch the salt content in the foods I eat. I’m handling my blood pressure with Losartan/HCTZ. (See the next paragraph.) I haven’t progressed from microalbuminuria to proteinuria, yet I’m still doing more damage to my body.

MedicineNet at http://www.medicinenet.com/losartan_and_hydrochlorothiazide/article.htm explains the Losartan/HCTZ very well:blood pressure 300dpi jpg

“Losartan (more specifically, the chemical formed when the liver converts the inactive losartan into an active chemical) blocks the angiotensin receptor. By blocking

the action of angiotensin, losartan relaxes the muscles, dilates blood vessels and thereby reduces blood pressure….Hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ) is a diuretic (water

pill) used for treating high blood pressure (hypertension) and accumulation of fluid. It works by blocking salt and fluid reabsorption in the kidneys, causing an

increased amount of urine containing salt (diuresis).”

Uh-oh, that leaves blood glucose, which has never been high for me.  However, my A1C has been high since this whole CKD ride has started.A1C

Let’s back track a little. The Mayo Clinic at http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/a1c-test/basics/definition/PRC-20012585  tells us:

“The A1C test result reflects your average blood sugar level for the past two to three months. Specifically, the A1C test measures what percentage of your hemoglobin — a protein in

red blood cells that carries oxygen — is coated with sugar (glycated). The higher your A1C level, the poorer your blood sugar control and the higher your risk of diabetes complications.”

I don’t have diabetes…yet.  It’s becoming clear that I will – in addition to worsening my CKD – if I don’t pay even more attention to my diet and become more stringent about sore kneeexercising.  It’s sooooo easy to say not today when the arthritis rears its ugly head…or knee.

It’s been said there’s no way to do it, but to do it (by me, folks.  Ask my children.) So now I need to take my own advice and get back to the stricter enforcement of the rules I know I need to live by.  After all, they let me live.

If you ever needed proof that the body is an intricate thing with all its part being integrated, you got it today.

Until next week,

keep living your life!

How I Connect Coyotes and CKD

Sunday evening is the Sustainable Blues dance lesson at the Blooze Bar.  When Abby teaches, I go and then I do some marketing on the way home.blues

When Bear was helping me unload the groceries from my car last night, he pointed out a coyote casually walking down the street.  We’re only a quarter of a mile from an arroyo and often see wild life there, but other than bunnies and Gambrel Quail, not in front of the house.

This means Bella needs to stay in the house from before dusk until after dawn since those are prime hunting times for the coyote.  Her dog door was closed last night.  While she is a medium sized dog, I wouldn’t be surprised if a pack of coyotes could devour her… and that’s why IMAG0269 (1)they’re on our block.

These creatures are hungry and they want red meat.  They’re adaptable and will eat anything when they’re hungry enough – even garbage – but 90% of their diet consists of red meat when they can find it.  Notice I’m not citing any websites here.  This is common knowledge when you live in the desert, something I’ve done for the last dozen years.

The coyote sighting got me to thinking.  They eat red meat.  Humans do, too.  Yet, as Chronic Kidney Disease patients we’re urged away from this practice.  I accept it, but I’ve forgotten why and thought you might have, too.coyote

As usual, let’s start at the beginning.  Precisely what is ‘red meat’? According to the Bing Dictionary, red meat is “meat that is red when raw: meat that is relatively dark red in color when raw, e.g. beef or lamb.”

I don’t eat lamb and never have due to some childhood questioning as to why a child should eat another child. (Okay, so I was a deep thinker even then.) Red meat was the staple of the family’s diet when I grew up and no meal was considered complete without it. That’s not the case now.

red meatWebMD has a truly illuminating three page article debating the merits and demerits of red meat at http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/the-truth-about-red-meat. Most of it deals with the protein and fat content.  That is something that should concern us as CKD patients.    (It also explains why pork is considered a red meat rather than a white meat as a former colleague at Phoenix College tried to convince me.)

Okay, so fat – and hence, cholesterol – is something that could adversely affect your heart, not great for anyone including us.  But, as CKD sufferers, it’s more the protein content of red meat that concerns us right now.

In What Is It And How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, protein is defined as “Amino acids arranged in chains joined by peptide bonds to form a compound, important because some proteins are hormones, enzymes, and antibodies.”  That’s on pages 134-5 for those of you with a print copy of the book.  Those of you with a digital copy, use the word search function.

That definition says a lot.  Let’s take it bit by bit.  Amino acids, simply put, are “any one of many acids that occur naturally in living things and that include some which form proteins.”  Thank you, Merriam Webster Dictionary.  Did you notice that they may form proteins?  Keep that in mind.Book Cover

So what are peptide bonds, then? This is a bit more complicated, so I went to Education Portal at http://education-portal.com/academy/lesson/peptide-bond-definition-formation-structure.html#lesson for the most easily understood definition: “Peptide bonds are the key linkages found in proteins. These bonds connect amino acids and provide one of the key foundations for protein structure.”  Again, proteins.  This is a bit circular, but the important point here is that both are involved in the production of protein.

The renal diet I follow restricts my daily protein intake to five ounces a day, but why? Back to What Is It And How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, page77 this time:

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.

Your kidneys have about a million nephrons, which are those tiny structures that produce urine as part of the body’s waste removal process. Each of them has a glomerulus or network of capillaries.  This is where the blood from the renal artery is filtered.  The glomerulus is connected to a

Glomerulus-Nephron 300 dpi jpgrenal tubule, something so small that it is microscopic. The renal tubule is attached to a collection area.  The blood is filtered. Then the waste goes through the tubules to have water and chemicals balanced according to the body’s present needs. Finally, the waste is voided via your urine to the tune of 50 gallons of fluid filtered by the kidneys DAILY.  The renal vein uses blood vessels to take most of the blood back into the body.

For those of you who may have forgotten, phosphorus isn’t troublesome in early or moderate stage CKD, but can be in Stages 4 and 5.  Phosphorus works in conjunction with calcium to keep our bones and teeth healthy, but it has other jobs, too.  Compromised kidneys cannot filter out enough of this, though.  That can lead to calcification in parts of the body.

Confession time: after six years of following the Northern Arizona Council of Renal Nutrition Diet, I am not attracted to red meat.  Bear’s family traditionally has standing rib roast for Christmas and ham for Easter.  I will gladly cook them for the family – or buy them already cooked – but I’m fine with the steamed vegetables and a taste, a little one at that, of each of the meats. We don’t buy red meat when we market (except when Bear has an urge) and rarely eat it in restaurants. It wasn’t that hard to get out of the habit of always having red meat.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

A Foggy Day… in Your Brain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!