Oh, S**T!

Cute, huh? Especially since I’ll be writing about feces or, as it’s commonly called these days, poo. Defecation (or pooing, if you’d rather) is an important topic for those of us with Chronic Kidney Disease. Did you know CKD can lead to constipation? 

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Well, how do you know if you have constipation? The Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/constipation/symptoms-causes/syc-20354253 explains: 

  • “Passing fewer than three stools a week 
  • Having lumpy or hard stools 
  • Straining to have bowel movements 
  • Feeling as though there’s a blockage in your rectum that prevents bowel movements 
  • Feeling as though you can’t completely empty the stool from your rectum 
  • Needing help to empty your rectum, such as using your hands to press on your abdomen and using a finger to remove stool from your rectum” 

Sometimes, medication can be the cause of constipation. According to the International Foundation of Gastrointestinal Disorders at https://www.iffgd.org/diet-treatments/medications/medications-that-can-affect-colonic-function.html

“Constipation can be caused by a variety of medications. These medications affect the nerve and muscle activity in the large intestine (colon) and may also bind intestinal liquid. This may result in slowed colonic action (slow and/or difficult passing of stool).” 

Maybe we need to know what happens in your body during constipation? This is what the Cleveland Clinic at https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/4059-constipation has to say: 

“Constipation happens because your colon absorbs too much water from waste (stool/poop), which dries out the stool making it hard in consistency and difficult to push out of the body. 

To back up a bit, as food normally moves through the digestive tract, nutrients are absorbed. The partially digested food (waste) that remains moves from the small intestine to the large intestine, also called the colon. The colon absorbs water from this waste, which creates a solid matter called stool. If you have constipation, food may move too slowly through the digestive tract. This gives the colon more time – too much time – to absorb water from the waste. The stool becomes dry, hard, and difficult to push out.” 

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We’re Chronic Kidney Disease patients. That means some of the foods recommended to alleviate constipation may not be allowed on our renal diets. For instance, dried raisin, apricots, and prunes are too high in potassium for CKD patients, although they are helpful if you’re experiencing constipation. You need to speak with your renal dietitian before changing your diet. 

I turned to a new site, BMC at https://rrtjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s41100-019-0246-3 for information about constipation that is particular to CKD patients. BMC has “an evolving portfolio of some 300 peer-reviewed journals, sharing discoveries from research communities in science, technology, engineering and medicine,” as stated on their website.   

“Accumulating evidence has revealed a relationship between constipation and cardiovascular disease and CKD. The pathogenesis of constipation in CKD patients is multifactorial: decreased physical activity, comorbidities affecting bowel movement, such as diabetes mellitus, cerebrovascular disease, and hyperparathyroidism, a restricted dietary intake of plant-based fiber-rich foods, and multiple medications, including phosphate binders and potassium-binding resins, have all been implicated. CKD is associated with alterations in the composition and function of the gut microbiota, so-called gut dysbiosis.” 

Oh goody, a term I don’t know. Remember VeryWell Health? This is their definition of gut dysbiosis at https://www.verywellhealth.com/what-is-intestinal-dysbiosis-1945045#:~:text=Overview,the%20microorganisms%20within%20our%20intestines

“Gut microbiota dysbiosis, also known as intestinal or gastrointestinal dysbiosis, refers to a condition in which there is an imbalance of the microorganisms within our intestines. These microorganisms, collectively known as gut flora, consist predominantly of various strains of bacteria, and to a lesser extent include fungi and protozoa. The gut flora are essential for digestion and immune functioning….  A state of dysbiosis, therefore, will result in digestive and other systemic symptoms.” 

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Aha, so that’s why I take probiotics. I not only have CKD, but Diabetes Type 2, and have had chemotherapy which is known to cause this problem. I always wondered what the probiotics did for me. We’ll find out right now. WebMD at https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/what-are-probiotics was helpful here: 

“Researchers are trying to figure out exactly how probiotics work. Some of the ways they may keep you healthy: 

  • When you lose ‘good’ bacteria in your body, for example after you take antibiotics, probiotics can help replace them. 
  • They can help balance your ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria to keep your body working the way it should.” 

Prebiotics are also recommended. I get it that ‘pre’ is a suffix (group of letters added before a word to change its meaning) indicating ‘before,’ but still, what do they do for us?  Here’s what the Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/prebiotics-probiotics-and-your-health/art-20390058 has to say about prebiotics, 

“Prebiotics are specialized plant fibers. They act like fertilizers that stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut. 

Prebiotics are found in many fruits and vegetables, especially those that contain complex carbohydrates, such as fiber and resistant starch. These carbs aren’t digestible by your body, so they pass through the digestive system to become food for the bacteria and other microbes.” 

To sum it all up: 

“Constipation is one of the most common gastrointestinal disorders among patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) partly because of their sedentary lifestyle, low fiber and fluid intake, concomitant medications (e.g., phosphate binders), and multiple comorbidities (e.g., diabetes). Although constipation is usually perceived as a benign, often self-limited condition, recent evidence has challenged this most common perception of constipation. The chronic symptoms of constipation negatively affect patients’ quality of life and impose a considerable social and economic burden. Furthermore, recent epidemiological studies have revealed that constipation is independently associated with adverse clinical outcomes, such as end-stage renal disease (ESRD), cardiovascular (CV) disease, and mortality, potentially mediated by the alteration of gut microbiota and the increased production of fecal metabolites. Given the importance of the gut in the disposal of uremic toxins and in acid-base and mineral homeostasis with declining kidney function, the presence of constipation in CKD may limit or even preclude these ancillary gastrointestinal roles, potentially contributing to excess morbidity and mortality….” 

Thank you to the National Institutes of Health’s U.S. Library of Medicine’s National Center for Biotechnology Information at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7000799/ for their summary of the problem. Before I end this blog, I ask you to make sure you notice the mention of “the disposal of uremic toxins” above. 

Until next week, 

Keep living your life! 

Baby, It’s Hot Outside.

As a person with arthritis among other maladies, I regularly see my rheumatologist. “A rheumatologist is a board certified internist or pediatrician who is qualified by additional training and experience in the diagnosis and treatment of arthritis and other diseases of the joints, muscles, and bones,” according to HSS at https://www.hss.edu/rheumatology-rheumatologist.asp. During my appointment, she mentioned that my GFR (Glomerular Filtration Rate) was 46.

Panic! It’s almost always in the low 50s. She calmed me down by telling me that GFR is usually lower during the Arizona heat (I know, I know: but it’s a dry heat.) of the summer. I don’t know why I was surprised. It made sense.

Think about it. Let me re-enforce this with a statement taken from study on PubMed at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21617334/.

“However, the percent change in eGFR from spring to summer was greater in hypertensive patients with CKD… than in those without CKD …. “

PubMed is part of the National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine’s National Center for Biotechnology Information.

I know hypertension (high blood pressure) is included in this statement, but the fact that GFR is lowered t than it’s lowered in those without hypertension leads us to the realization that those without hypertension DO have lower GFRs during the summer heat.

Another study from EuropePMC at https://europepmc.org/article/med/28946962 tells us:

“Recurrent dehydration in people regularly exposed to high temperatures seems to be resulting in an unrecognised cause of proteinuric chronic kidney disease, the underlying pathophysiological mechanism of which is becoming better understood. However, beyond heat waves and extreme temperatures, there is a seasonal variation in glomerular filtration rate that may contribute to the onset of renal failure and electrolyte disorders during extremely hot periods.”

Here are a couple of definitions you may need to understand the above statement. The first is from The Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/protein-in-urine/basics/definition/sym-20050656.

“Protein in urine — known as proteinuria (pro-tee-NU-ree-uh) — is excess protein found in a urine sample. Protein is one of the substances identified during a test to analyze the content of your urine (urinalysis).

Low levels of protein in urine are normal. Temporarily high levels of protein in urine aren’t unusual either, particularly in younger people after exercise or during an illness.

Persistently high levels of protein in urine may be a sign of kidney disease.”

The following definition is from MedicineNet at https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=10691.

“Pathophysiology: Deranged function in an individual or an organ due to a disease.”

So, it looks like dehydration is a key factor in lowering the GFR during the summer heat. We know that dialysis patients need to limit their liquid intake, but what about those of us who are not on dialysis but do have CKD (Chronic Kidney Disease)?

I went to MedicalNewsToday at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/153363#symptoms for some facts about dehydration:

“Around three-quarters of the human body is water.

The causes of dehydration include diarrhea, vomiting, and sweating.

Individuals more at risk of dehydration include athletes, people at higher altitudes, and older adults.

Early symptoms of dehydration include dry mouth, lethargy, and dizziness.”

Did you notice “sweating” and for those of a certain age like me “older adults”?

So, I gather I’m sweating out more liquids than I’m taking in. But how does that work exactly? I thought I was drinking sufficient amounts of fluid.

Biology Online at https://www.biologyonline.com/dictionary/sweating was a bit of an eye opener.

“Sweating is a way of our body to regulate body temperature. It is commonly used as a synonym for perspiration but in stricter sense perspiration pertains to the water loss as a cooling mechanism of the body and therefore It (sic) includes both the release of watery, salty fluid through the pores of the skin from the sweat glands and the evaporation of water from the skin (trans-epithelial) and respiratory tract. Thus, there exist two forms of perspiration, the sensible and the insensible water loss. In sweating, the process always entails the loss of both water and solutes…. The salty fluid is secreted as droplets or moist on the skin and is called as sweat. Environmental cues that could stimulate the body to produce sweat are high temperature and humidity of the surroundings.”

Oh, solutes. Those include the electrolytes that are so important to us as CKD patients. Orthology at https://orthology.com/myth-debunked-need-electrolytes-work/ offers us a simple explanation:

“The warmer the weather and the more you sweat, the more likely you’ll need electrolyte replacement. Again, this is just a general guideline and will differ by individual, activity and other factors. Pay attention to signs that your electrolyte levels are too low, such as muscle cramps, fatigue, dizziness, nausea or mental confusion.”

Aha, it’s excessively hot out. We drink more, but more sweat is being produced the higher the temperature is. When we sweat or perspire (since the two words are often used interchangeably), we are also exuding electrolytes. Now it all makes sense. An imbalance of electrolytes could lower your GFR. I turned to Tampa Cardio at https://tampacardio.com/causes-electrolyte-imbalance-body/ for confirmation.

“Electrolyte imbalances can cause a wide range of symptoms, some mild and some potentially life threatening. Electrolyte imbalances are commonly caused by loss of fluids through prolonged diarrhea, vomiting, sweating or high fever.”

But we’re already having problems with our electrolytes. No wonder excessive heat affects our GFR. As the University of Michigan’s Michigan Medical at https://www.uofmhealth.org/conditions-treatments/kidney/fluid-and-electrolyte-disorders states:

“Changes in the body’s levels of minerals including potassium, magnesium, calcium and sodium—and the corresponding impact these have on the body’s function, muscle strength and heart rhythm can be associated with disorders of kidney or endocrine glands.

Got it. Let’s all just stay in the air conditioning so we don’t lower our GFRs even more than the excessive heat does. In Arizonia, that probably means until November this year. That was a joke (I hope).

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Keep It Where It Belongs 

You’ve all read about my cancer dance in one blog or another. Thank goodness, that’s over. But there are residual effects like hand and foot neuropathy, chemo brain (akin to CKD’s brain fog), and – to my great surprise – abdominal incisional hernia after surgery. How did that happen, I wondered.

Get ready for this: those with Chronic Kidney Disease have a 12.8% higher incidence of abdominal incisional hernia according to a PubMed 2013 study published on ResearchGate’s site available at https://bit.ly/3kdvxfl,

“Chronic kidney disease is associated with impaired wound healing and constitutes an independent risk factor for incisional hernia development.”

(The percentage of abdominal incisional hernia among CKD patients was taken from the cohort in this abstract.)

According to the same study:

“Elevated uremia toxins may inhibit granulation tissue formation and impair wound healing, thereby promoting incisional hernia development.”

As Chronic Kidney Disease patients, we know the accumulation of uremia toxins as uremia. On to my favorite dictionary, the Merriam-Webster at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/uremia for a definition of uremia:

“1: accumulation in the blood of constituents normally eliminated in the urine that produces a severe toxic condition and usually occurs in severe kidney disease

2: the toxic bodily condition associated with uremia”

It gets worse. First, you have to know that I am considered ‘elderly,’ another surprise.  According to The World Health Organization at https://bit.ly/32sQq05:

“Most developed world countries have accepted the chronological age of 65 years as a definition of ‘elderly’ or older person….”

I’m 73 and here’s why you needed this information that I am of advancing age.

“The risk factors for incisional hernia following abdominal surgery include (ranked by relative risk):

Emergency surgery

Emergency surgery carries double the risk of elective surgery.

Wound type

BMI >25

Obese patients are more likely to develop an incisional hernia

Midline incision

There is a 74% risk increase compared to non-midline

Wound infection

This increases incisional hernia risk by 68%.

Pre-operative chemotherapy

Intra-operative blood transfusion

Advancing age

Pregnancy

Other less common risk factors include chronic cough, diabetes mellitus, steroid therapy, smoking, and connective tissue disease.”

Thank you TeachMeSurgery at https://bit.ly/2GYrOUH for this risk factor information.

I have so many risks factors. Foremost for me, of course, is Chronic Kidney Disease as demonstrated earlier in this blog, but also advancing age. Oh no, we’ll have to add obesity since my oncologist just told me my BMI is higher than 25 and must be lowered in order to keep the possibility of cancer reoccurrence to a minimum.  Then there’s midline incision. My scar runs down the middle of my front from the breasts to below the belly button. Oh, and let’s not forget pre-operative chemotherapy. I had plenty of that. Then there’s intra-operative blood transfusion… to the tune of six for me. I almost forgot to include diabetes mellitus. Hmm, I do believe I had steroid therapy during my chemotherapy treatments, too.

Now what? The hernia is right there, visibly noticeable along the scar line and I understand all the possible reasons it’s there. We all know I have to do something about it, but why? Healthline at https://www.healthline.com/health/hernia#complications answers that question for us.

“Sometimes an untreated hernia can lead to potentially serious complications. Your hernia may grow and cause more symptoms. It may also put too much pressure on nearby tissues, which can cause swelling and pain in the surrounding area.

A portion of your intestine could also become trapped in the abdominal wall. This is called incarceration. Incarceration can obstruct your bowel and cause severe pain, nausea, or constipation.

If the trapped section of your intestines doesn’t get enough blood flow, strangulation occurs. This can cause the intestinal tissue to become infected or die. A strangulated hernia is life-threatening and requires immediate medical care.”

Uh-oh. What can I do? My oncologist suggested a wait and see approach with a twist. I’m now wearing something similar to the belly band that pregnant women wear. The differences are that this is worn around my body to cover the hernia and is very tight in an attempt to have the hernia heal itself. Will this work? That remains to be seen.

What if it doesn’t? Well, there’s always surgery. The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) at https://bit.ly/3hsFHae tells us,

“The treatment options for incisional hernias are open surgery or minimally invasive surgery. Minimally invasive surgery is also called ‘keyhole surgery,’ or ‘laparoscopic’ surgery if it is performed on the abdomen.”

Wait a minute, laparoscopic surgery. What’s that? Let’s go to MedlinePlus to see what we can find out. This explanation was at https://bit.ly/2RmkS5R.

“Laparoscopic surgery is a surgical technique in which short, narrow tubes (trochars) are inserted into the abdomen through small (less than one centimeter) incisions. Through these trochars, long, narrow instruments are inserted. The surgeon uses these instruments to manipulate, cut, and sew tissue.”

That does seem less invasive, but it’s still surgery. Let’s take a look at recovery time for laparoscopic surgery vs. open surgery. Open surgery is just what it sounds like: you’re cut open.

“When the surgeons are equally skilled and a procedure is available as both an open procedure and a minimally invasive one, the minimally invasive technique almost always offers a lower risk of infection, shorter recovery times and equally successful outcomes.”

Mind you, sometimes keyhole or laparoscopic surgery is not a choice since the surgeon needs to work on a larger area. For example, I had open cancer surgery since not only the tumor, but also my gall bladder and spleen, needed to be removed. Sometimes, what starts out as minimally invasive surgery becomes open surgery when the surgeons run into a problem or realize they need to work on a larger internal area than they’d originally thought.

I still find it amazing how connected all parts of our body are… like Chronic Kidney Disease adding to affecting a scar to the point that a hernia develops.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!