The Dye is Cast

Bet you think I made a spelling error in the title. If you’re thinking of the original phrase, you’re right. In that one, it’s spelled ‘die’. Here’s where it came from according to Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alea_iacta_est:

Alea iacta est (‘The die has been cast’) is a variation of a Latin phrase (iacta alea est [ˈjakta ˈaːlɛ.a ˈɛst]) attributed by Suetonius to Julius Caesar on January 10, 49 BCE, as he led his army across the Rubicon river in Northern Italy…. The phrase, either in the original Latin or in translation, is used in many languages to indicate that events have passed a point of no return. It is now most commonly cited with the word order changed (‘Alea iacta est’) rather than in the original phrasing….”

Uh-oh, there is in existence a phrase just like the title of today’s blog. It means the tint has been applied and can’t be changed or something like that.That this phrase with this spelling exists was a bit surprising. What I meant in the title is the dye used in contrast CTs.

Let’s back up just a bit so we can explain what a CT is. The Mayo Clinic at https://mayocl.in/3jujqdk tells us:

A computerized tomography (CT) scan combines a series of X-ray images taken from different angles around your body and uses computer processing to create cross-sectional images (slices) of the bones, blood vessels and soft tissues inside your body. CT scan images provide more-detailed information than plain X-rays do.”

I’ll be having one with contrast this afternoon. You know we, as CKD patients, have been warned not to allow that contrast into our bodies. Let’s find out why and then I’ll tell you why I am allowing it. The contrast is the dye in the title of today’s blog.

“In a CT scan, dense substances like bones are easy to see. But soft tissues don’t show up as well. They may look faint in the image. To help them appear clearly, you may need a special dye called a contrast material. They block the X-rays and appear white on the scan, highlighting blood vessels, organs, or other structures.Contrast materials are usually made of iodine or barium sulfate. You might receive these drugs in one or more of three ways:

  • Injection: The drugs are injected directly into a vein. This is done to help your blood vessels, urinary tract, liver, or gallbladder stand out in the image.
  • Orally: Drinking a liquid with the contrast material can enhance scans of your digestive tract, the pathway of food through your body.
  • Enema: If your intestines are being scanned, the contrast material can be inserted in your rectum.

After the CT scan, you’ll need to drink plenty of fluids to help your kidneys remove the contrast material from your body.”Thank you, WebMD at https://www.webmd.com/cancer/what-is-a-ct-scan#2 for the above information.

Of course, now we need to know why we shouldn’t be having this contrast material. Radiology Affiliates Imagining at https://4rai.com/blog/can-contrast-hurt-my-kidneys, a new site for me but one that seems very thorough, explains that we just don’t know for sure:

“…. Unhealthy kidneys, though, may be slower and less efficient when it comes to clearing the contrast from the blood. While the medical community has not yet determined exactly how contrast dye causes kidney problems, they think it has to do with this slow clearance of the dyes from the body.”

Well, what problems can contrast dye cause for our kidneys? I went right to the National Kidney Foundation at https://bit.ly/2YL7RXv  for an answer to this question

“What is Contrast Induced Nephropathy (CIN)?

CIN is a rare disorder and occurs when kidney problems are caused by the use of certain contrast dyes. In most cases contrast dyes used in tests, such as CT (computerized tomography) and angiograms, have no reported problems. About 2 percent of people receiving dyes can develop CIN. However, the risk for CIN can increase for people with diabetes, a history of heart and blood diseases, and chronic kidney disease (CKD)….The risk of CIN in people with both CKD and diabetes is 20 to 50 percent.

CIN is associated with a sharp decrease in kidney function over a period of 48-72 hours. The symptoms can be similar to those of kidney disease, which include feeling more tired, poor appetite, swelling in the feet and ankles, puffiness around the eyes, or dry and itchy skin. In many cases, CIN is reversible and people can recover. However, in some cases, CIN can lead to more serious kidney problems and possible heart and blood vessel problems

What is Nephrogenic Systemic Fibrosis (NSF)?

NSF is a rare but serious disease affecting skin and other organs that has been found in some patients with advanced CKD after exposure to gadolinium-containing contrast dyes that are used in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). NSF appears to affect about 4 percent of patients with advanced CKD. People with acute kidney injury (AKI) are also at higher risk. NSF has not been reported in people with mild kidney damage or normal kidney function.

NSF can be painful, debilitating, or even fatal. Symptoms and signs of NSF can include burning and itching of the skin, red or dark patches on the skin, joint stiffness, or muscle weakness. The disease can develop within 24 hours up to around 3 months….  delay in excretion [of this drug] is thought to be one the main reasons why NSF may happen.”

Notice that both possible effects of using contrast dye with kidney disease are rare.

So why am I having the contrast dye when I’ve been advised not to? My oncology team needs to see if the cancer has returned and, if it has, how badly. I told them at the beginning of my treatment to spare my kidneys as much as possible. But, in this case, I don’t want them to spare my kidneys so much that I end up dead of cancer.

There are two kinds of dye used, one less harmful to the kidneys than the other. I believe that’s the one that is used on me. It is also reduced in order to save me from any possible further kidney damage. Most importantly, my creatinine level is measured before administering the contrast dye. After a year and a half of this, my kidneys are doing just as well as they were doing before I started allowing contrast dye.

This is my story; remember, everyone is different and talk this over with your nephrologist before you agree to contrast dye. My nephrologist and I agreed that I needed to be alive more than I needed to save my kidneys.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Getting Ready  

As I mentioned last week, I am lucky enough to be cancer free now and have returned to my other specialists. But we are experiencing the Covid-19 pandemic which means most of my doctors are conducting telemedicine appointments.

What are those? Let’s go to my favorite dictionary, The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, and see what we can see. I found this at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/telemedicine:

“the practice of medicine when the doctor and patient are widely separated using two-way voice and visual communication (as by satellite or computer)”

Surprisingly, I also discovered this has been in use since 1968. Maybe that’s why the phone and/or iPad type devices weren’t mentioned in the definition.

Of course, if you need to be examined physically, you’ll have to go to the doctor’s office. For example, poor Bear needed several mole biopsies last week. Obviously, he had to present himself at his dermatologist’s office to have these procedures carried out.

But I’ve been fortunate to be able to stick with telemedicine. Yet, you’ve got to be prepared for such doctor appointments. Do you have a thermometer? You’ll be asked for your temperature. We use both the DTT (digital temple thermometer) and Target’s talking thermometer (for those days when neither of us can find our glasses… really.) It seems the DTT we use is no longer manufactured, but the updated one is only about $15.00. The talking ear digital thermometer is more expensive. That one runs about double the price of the DTT. I did discover that digital mouth thermometers can be as low as $8.00. Non-digital oral thermometers start at about $6.00 You can compare prices online for the best deal. However, we are apparently old fashioned. The newest form of temperature assessment is the no contact digital scan thermometer. This one starts at about $50.

So, you have your temperature reading ready. What else will you need? I’ve always been asked for my blood pressure and pulse. I use an arm, rather than a wrist, device since my family doctor explained to me that the wrist device takes a reading through two bones. Those are the radius and ulna. The arm device takes your reading through only one bone, the humerus. She feels a reading through only one bone is more accurate. What device do I use? No matter which ones I’ve experimented with, I always return to Omron. It’s easy to use and accurate. These run from about $33 to over $100, depending upon how fancy you want to go. This description is from Amazon’s mid-price Omron:

Platinum (new version)

  • Trusted brand – Omron is the #1 recommended home blood pressure monitor brand by doctors and pharmacists for clinically-accurate home monitoring, and the #1 selling manufacturer of home blood pressure monitors for over 40 years.
  • Unlimited memory and users with the free app – The Omron gold wrist monitor stores 200 total blood pressure readings for 2 users (100 per user, most of any Omron wrist blood pressure monitor). Memory and users are unlimited with the Omron connect free app which works with amazon alexa-enabled devices (on select IOS & android devices).
  • High morning average indicator – Among Omron Amazon-exclusive blood pressure monitors, this feature is unique to the Gold and Platinum monitors. The indicator alerts the user if systolic or diastolic measurements are out of normal range in the morning, when there is a higher risk for heart attack or stroke.
  • Dual display with backlight – The Omron Platinum monitor features a backlit dual-display LCD monitor with easy navigation that allows the user to immediately compare the current reading to the previous reading. The backlight feature is only available with the Platinum Monitor.
  • AC adapter included – The Omron Ac Adapter eliminates the worry of changing batteries in your Omron Blood Pressure Monitor. The convenient AC adapter helps make sure your monitor is ready whenever you are.”

What else now? Let me think for a minute. Of course, if you are prediabetic or diabetic, you’ll be asked for your latest blood sugar readings. Believe it or not, I prefer WalMart’s no nonsense, no frills ReliOn Prime blood glucose monitor. In case you didn’t know, WalMart also operates as Sam’s Club. For my non-U.S.A. readers, according to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walmart, Walmart International operates in these countries:

Let’s keep in mind that anyone can edit in Wikipedia, so be certain to check before you bank upon going.

My family doctor did prescribe another brand which is a bit fancier in that it has a nicer looking case, lancet ejector, and meter. It was also more expensive and a prescription was needed.

If this is all new to you, you need to know you not only need this kit (which contains the monitor, a lancing device for your lancets, and spaces to store both your test strips and needles), but also the afore mentioned test strips and lancing device. You can buy 100 ultra-thin lancets for under $3.00. I suggest ultra-thin because I’ve found the thinner the lancet, the less the poke to get that one drop of blood needed for testing hurts.

The test strips are another story. These are expensive. They usually cost a little less than $18.00 for 100. And the lancing device? That’s about $6.00. The monitor itself is $9.00. The case comes with your starter kit. I haven’t found one sold separately by Walmart, although Amazon has a few for other brands. The number of times you need to test your blood glucose daily determines the weekly cost of your supplies.

You’ll also be asked for your height and weight. I have to admit I’m partial to digital devices and so have a digital scale from Amazon. Their scales run from $18.00 to $35.00. Of course, non-digital will be less expensive.

As for the height, I guess I cheated. I looked up the most recent height recorded on my last doctor’s appointment and used that.

Conclusion: You’ll need your temperature, blood pressure, height, weight, – if you’re prediabetic or diabetic – your blood glucose, and a phone, iPad sort of device, or computer for your telemedicine appointment.  Now you’re ready.

May you only have good results.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

I Can’t Eat That 

Now that I’m cancer free, I’ve resumed visits to all the other specialists (Isn’t growing older wonderful?) I had been seeing before the cancer diagnosis. One of these specialists was my immunologist, who had suggested I stop taking my allergy injections while I was doing chemotherapy since the chemo would change many of the conditions in my body. She was right. I no longer need the monthly injections for seasonal allergies, but there are certain foods I can no longer eat.

Why not, you may be asking yourself. Easy answer? I’m allergic to them. Wait just a minute here. What exactly does allergic mean and how will this affect your Chronic Kidney Disease?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/allergy tells us that allergy means,

“1altered bodily reactivity (such as hypersensitivity) to an antigen in response to a first exposure….

2exaggerated or pathological immunological reaction (as by sneezing, difficult breathing, itching, or skin rashes) to substances, situations, or physical states that are without comparable effect on the average individual

3medical practice concerned with allergies

4a feeling of antipathy or aversion”

It’s definition number two for us. Maybe an explanation of those monthly allergy injections would be helpful here, too. The Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/allergy-shots/about/pac-20392876#:~:text=If%20you%20get%20weekly%20or,reaction%2C%20particularly%20a%20local%20reaction had the explanation we needed:

“Allergy shots are regular injections over a period of time — generally around three to five years — to stop or reduce allergy attacks. Allergy shots are a form of treatment called immunotherapy. [Gail here: Hence, the specialist who treats allergies is called an immunologist.] Each allergy shot contains a tiny amount of the specific substance or substances that trigger your allergic reactions. These are called allergens. Allergy shots contain just enough allergens to stimulate your immune system — but not enough to cause a full-blown allergic reaction.

Over time, your doctor increases the dose of allergens in each of your allergy shots. This helps get your body used to the allergens (desensitization). Your immune system builds up a tolerance to the allergens, causing your allergy symptoms to diminish over time.”

Lucky me: no more seasonal allergies. Let’s get back to those food allergies and CKD now… or not. While I found quite a bit of information about drug allergies, I found very little about food allergies. It’s nice to know my allergies to shellfish and vanilla will not harm my kidneys. Come to think of it, I don’t eat these foods because I’m allergic to them, so they’re not in my system anyway.

Hmmm, is it any different with food sensitivities? How’s about a definition first. It’s so nice to have a favorite dictionary. This is what The Merriam-Webster Dictionary at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sensitivity?utm_campaign=sd&utm_medium=serp&utm_source=jsonld has to say:

“the quality or state of being sensitive: such as

athe capacity of an organism or sense organ to respond to stimulation: IRRITABILITY

bthe quality or state of being hypersensitive

cthe degree to which a radio receiving set responds to incoming waves

dthe capacity of being easily hurt

eawareness of the needs and emotions of others”

Definition a is the one we need.

Again, I did not find enough validation that food sensitivities could damage our kidneys to write about it.

Maybe I’m looking at this backwards. Maybe it’s not do food sensitivities and allergies damage our kidneys that I should be dealing with, but rather can they cause kidney damage. Back to the internet. Will you look at that? Again, there was much more information about drug allergies damaging your kidneys and very little about food allergies or sensitivities.

I’ve satisfied myself that, just as with my food allergies, my sensitivity to lactose, wheat, fructose syrup, and acidic foods will not harm my kidneys. Although, they may cause me to read more food labels than I usually do. Hopefully, you’re satisfied that your food allergies and sensitivities will not harm your kidneys. If you’re still concerned, speak with your nephrologist or renal dietitian.

Of course, none of this means we can ignore the kidney diet. That is, not if you want to slow down the progression of the decline of your kidney function. Eat according to your labs. Keep watching your potassium, phosphorous, protein, and sodium restrictions. This is highly individualized, so again: speak with your nephrologist or renal dietitian should you have questions.

While we’re on the subject of food, do you remember when I wrote about Flavis? That’s the low sodium, low phosphorus, low potassium food company. Bear made a beef stew which we decided to eat upon a layer of pasta. We chose Flavis’s fusilli. That’s a kind of short, spiral pasta. I have got to say it was delicious. I like that it tastes so light, especially since I usually find pasta so heavy.   

News! I’ve gotten so many emails asking where readers can buy my books that I’ve made each title clickable. Click on the title and you go directly to the book’s page on Amazon.com. The titles are to the right of the blog itself on the blog roll.

I know, especially now in the time of Covid-19, that money can be an issue and even the $2.99 for the digital version of each of the books can be $2.99 too much. In that case, I suggest you request your library order the book and then you can borrow it for free. Even libraries that have shut down have virtual sites now. I do humbly request reviews from those of you who read the books. You can leave them on the Amazon.com page for each book. Thank you in advance.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

We Know They Do, But How?

  • “aluminum- and calcium-containing antacids
  • anticonvulsants
  • calcium channel blockers
  • diuretics
  • iron supplements
  • narcotic pain medications
  • medicines used to treat Parkinson’s disease”

I ask you what do these drugs have in common. Healthline at https://www.healthline.com/health/what-does-constipation-feel-like#takeaway tells us they all may cause constipation.

This is one of those topics we don’t like to talk about, but have probably each experienced at one time or another. There are other causes of constipation, but today, we’ll stick with that caused by drugs. Mind you, we’re not talking about party drugs. Rather, it’s the drugs that are prescribed for you that may cause constipation which I’m writing about.

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”

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).”

Let’s see if we can get more specific information on how constipation works. I went to Medscape at https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/184704-overview#a4 and discovered there are quite a few different kinds of constipation:

“The etiology [Gail here. That means the cause of the disease.] of constipation is usually multifactorial, but it can be broadly divided into two main groups …: primary constipation and secondary constipation.

Primary constipation

Primary (idiopathic, functional) constipation can generally be subdivided into the following three types:

Normal-transit constipation (NTC)

Slow-transit constipation (STC)

Pelvic floor dysfunction (ie, pelvic floor dyssynergia)

NTC is the most common subtype of primary constipation. Although the stool passes through the colon at a normal rate, patients find it difficult to evacuate their bowels. Patients in this category sometimes meet the criteria for IBS with constipation (IBS-C). The primary difference between chronic constipation and IBS-C is the prominence of abdominal pain or discomfort in IBS. Patients with NTC usually have a normal physical examination.

STC is characterized by infrequent bowel movements, decreased urgency, or straining to defecate. It occurs more commonly in female patients. Patients with STC have impaired phasic colonic motor activity. They may demonstrate mild abdominal distention or palpable stool in the sigmoid colon.

Pelvic floor dysfunction is characterized by dysfunction of the pelvic floor or anal sphincter. Patients often report prolonged or excessive straining, a feeling of incomplete evacuation, or the use of perineal or vaginal pressure during defecation to allow the passage of stool, or they may report digital evacuation of stool.”

We won’t be dealing with secondary constipation today since that doesn’t include drugs in its etiology.

What does happen 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.”

Imagine, drugs to improve your health taxing your health. Luckily, since you need to take the prescribed drugs to alleviate whatever your medical diagnosis is, there are methods to relieve your constipation. Here’s WebMD’s (https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/constipation-relief-tips) advice:

“One way to keep things moving is by getting enough fiber in your diet, which makes stool bulkier and softer so it’s easier to pass. Gradually increase the amount of fiber in your diet until you’re getting at least 20 to 35 grams of fiber daily.

Good fiber sources include:

  • Bran and other whole grains found in cereals, breads, and brown rice
  • Vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, carrots, and asparagus
  • Fresh fruits, or dried fruits such as raisins, apricots, and prunes”
  • Beans

While you’re having an issue with constipation, limit foods that are high in fat and low in fiber, like cheese and other dairy products, processed foods, and meat. They can make constipation worse.

And on the subject of diet, water is important for preventing constipation, too. Try to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day.

Also, exercise regularly. Moving your body will keep your bowels moving, too.”

Wait a minute. We’re Chronic Kidney Disease patients. That’s means some of the foods listed above may not be allowed on our renal diets. For instance, dried raisin, apricots, and prunes are too high in potassium for CKD patients. You need to speak with your renal dietitian before changing your diet.

As Benjamin Franklin stated, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Let’s see what we can find on prevention.

  • Increasing your fiber intake: Fiber-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, all help improve gut function. If you have bowel sensitivity, you’ll want to avoid high-fructose fruits, such as apples, pears and watermelon, which can cause gas.
  • Getting more exercise: Regular exercise can help keep stool moving through the colon.
  • Drinking more water: Aim for eight glasses daily, and avoid caffeine, as it can be dehydrating.
  • Go when you feel like it: When you feel the urge to go, don’t wait.”

Thank you to Johns Hopkins Medicine at https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/constipation-causes-and-prevention-tips for this information. Will you look at that? Prevention methods for constipation are almost the same as how to treat constipation. Better get started, folks.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Good Oils or Bad Oils?     

 Here’s hoping those of you in the U.S.A. had a safe and thoughtful July 4th. This is a peculiar year with different kinds of celebration or none at all.

I’m going to jump right in to a reader’s question since it is the source of today’s blog. Melita wanted to know if it was a good idea for Chronic Kidney Disease patients to take fish oil, flaxseed oil, or virgin coconut oil. As my children used to say when they were little and we were doing a home experiment to find out if something was true or not, “Let’s find out.”

Before we start, I want to make it clear to Melita and everyone else that it is important you ask your nephrologist the questions you have. I am not a doctor, have never claimed to be one, and can only do some superficial researching for you while you wait to speak with your nephrologist. Another thought to keep in mind is that every patient is different. Usually, you eat according to your labs… unless your nephrologist has something else to say.

Let’s start with fish oil. Back at the end of 2016, the National Center for Biotechnology Information, which is part of the National library of Medicine, which is itself part of the National Institutes of Health, conducted a literature review concerning Omega 3 (part of fish oil). I found it at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5241408/.

“At least until more clear recommendations are available, the omega-3 PUFA intake guidelines released by American Heart Association (AHA) suggest rational intake goals (approximately 1g EPA + DHA per day) in advanced CKD. Fortunately, safety profile of omega-3 doses recommended by AHA is excellent. Aside from minimal gastrointestinal side effects (e.g., nausea, stomach upset, eructation, fishy aftertaste), omega-3 consumption at these doses do not cause other serious adverse effects and thus can be considered safe in advanced CKD patients.”

I needed some help with the initials. Maybe you do, too.

PUFA means polyunsaturated fatty acid.

EPA means eicosapentaenoic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid.

DHA means docosahexaenoic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid.

The definitions above were hobbled together from numerous sources.

One thing to keep in mind is that the above literature review was from the point of using omega-3 for the pruritus (itching) that may accompany more advanced CKD. However, it does show us that omega-3 is safe for CKD patients.

On to flaxseed oil. The Mayo Clinic at https://advancingthescience.mayo.edu/2019/09/30/people-with-kidney-disease-should-be-cautious-with-supplementspeople-with-kidney-disease-should-be-cautious-with-supplements/#:~:text=Flaxseed%20oil%2C%20the%20most%20commonly,which%20translates%20to%20167%2C500%20Americans says no to flaxseed oil. According to a recent study published in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases that they cited:

“Flaxseed oil, the most commonly used high risk supplement that contains phosphorus, was taken by 16 percent of patients with normal or mildly reduced kidney function. In addition, 1.3 percent of patients who were unaware they had moderate kidney impairment took flaxseed oil, which translates to 167,500 Americans. And while phosphorus is not listed on the flaxseed oil nutrition information label, a tablespoon (about 10 grams) of whole flaxseeds has about 62 milligrams of phosphorus, or about 7% of the daily value for a person without chronic kidney disease. In addition, flaxseed and flaxseed oil may interact with blood-thinning and blood pressure drugs, and may decrease absorption for any oral drug, according to Mayo Clinic.”

Now, if you remember, we as CKD patients need to limit phosphorous, as well as potassium, protein, and sodium. As the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Medicine and Public Health at https://www.uwhealth.org/healthfacts/nutrition/320.pdf tells us,

“You may also need to control your phosphorus intake through diet and medicines. If phosphorus builds up in the blood it can cause weak and brittle bones and skin itching. Over time, your heart and blood vessels can become damaged. To control phosphorus levels, phosphorus binding medicines must be taken at the proper time.… “

Years ago, I wrote a blog about why flaxseed and products containing flaxseed are not good choices for us as CKD patients. It seems the same is true of flaxseed oil.

Well, what about virgin coconut oil? I have a vague memory of coconut being a no-no, but I think we need more than that. I’d often wondered about the use of the term ‘virgin,’ so I tackled that first. Medical News Today at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/282857#types defined the term for us:

“Extra virgin coconut oil comes from the fruit of fresh, mature coconuts. Processing does not involve high temperatures or added chemicals.”

Got it. While I could not find anything specifically related to the use of virgin coconut oil by CKD patients, I did find many articles mentioning that the oil could be related to cardiovascular detriment. We know that the kidneys and the heart interact closely with each other and that by protecting your heart, you are also protecting your kidneys. WebMD at https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/coconut-oil-and-health#1 simplifies this issue a bit:

“The American Heart Association says to limit saturated fat to no more than 13 grams a day. That’s the amount found in about one tablespoon of coconut oil.

Fans of coconut oil point to studies that suggest the MCT-saturated fat in coconut could boost your HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol. This, they claim, makes it less bad for your heart health than the saturated fat in animal-based foods like cheese and steak or products containing trans fats.

But it also raises your LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol.

A quick cholesterol lesson:

  • LDL — helps form plaque that blocks your arteries
  • HDL — helps remove LDL

‘But just because coconut oil can raise HDL cholesterol doesn’t mean that it’s great for your heart,’ Young says. ‘It’s not known if the rise in beneficial cholesterol outweighs any rise in harmful cholesterol.’

At best, she says, coconut oil could have a neutral impact on heart health, but she doesn’t consider it ‘heart-healthy.’ ”

Anyone of these three oils could be a separate blog by itself. If you’d like to see a blog about one of them, just let me know.

Before I forget, remember Flavis the low protein medical food products? We tried their Fette Tostate, a cracker toast and found it very pleasing. When I was having stomach issues associated with chemotherapy, I tossed a few of them into chicken noodle soup – the only food I could tolerate at the time. They absorbed the broth and were just plain delicious.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

 

Echo… Echo… Echo…

Remember that golden time I’ve mentioned before? The time when I problem solve and write in my head just as I’m waking up? Well, today the word was echo at that time. Echo? As in echo chamber? Echo Canyon? No, doesn’t feel right. Got it! Echocardiogram.

The English teacher in me is already delighted. Why? I know what most of the word means through my college study of Greek and Latin roots. Card means heart, io is simply a connective, and gram means write. What about echo you ask? I think we all know what that means in common usage, but in conjunction with cardiogram? Yep, time for some help.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, still my favorite, at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ echocardiography tells us an echocardiogram is,

“the use of ultrasound to examine the structure and functioning of the heart for abnormalities and disease”

Let’s put in a little reminder of what an ultrasound is here. This is from MedicineNet at https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=5897:

“A test in which high-frequency sound waves (ultrasound) are bounced off tissues and the echoes are converted into a picture (sonogram).”

Oh, like the picture of my grandson growing in his mom’s womb. Great, now what does this have to do with Chronic Kidney Disease? I just had an echocardiogram because my oncologist was concerned about the great distance between my diastolic (lower) and systolic (upper) numbers on my blood pressure readings. It was fine, but it did get me to thinking about what CKD and the heart have in common.

Here’s a reminder from Healthline at https://www.healthline.com/health/diastole-vs-systole#:~:text=Your%20systolic%20blood%20pressure%20is,bottom%20number%20on%20your%20reading of what the two numbers mean:

“Your systolic blood pressure is the top number on your reading. It measures the force of blood against your artery walls while your ventricles — the lower two chambers of your heart — squeeze, pushing blood out to the rest of your body.

Your diastolic blood pressure is the bottom number on your reading. It measures the force of blood against your artery walls as your heart relaxes and the ventricles are allowed to refill with blood. Diastole — this period of time when your heart relaxes between beats — is also the time that your coronary artery is able to supply blood to your heart.”

Got it. This next quote is a little medicalese, but basically it’s saying there are specific difficulties if you have both CKD and high blood pressure. It’s from Kidney International at https://www.kidney-international.org/article/S0085-2538(19)30276-5/fulltext :

“In CKD and ESKD, risk factors for HF include long-standing hypertension with often worsened blood pressure (BP) control as CKD worsens, salt and water retention causing excessive preload, and cardiomyopathic factors including left ventricular (LV) hypertrophy and fibrosis. In addition, there are CKD- and ESKD-specific factors that affect afterload (increased arterial stiffness and high output shunting through arteriovenous fistulae or grafts) as well as load-independent factors (neurohormonal activation, impaired iron utilization, anemia, demand ischemia, profibrotic factors [e.g., fibroblast growth factor 23 {FGF-23}], inflammation, etc.)…. Arteriovenous fistulae or grafts have been reported to worsen right ventricular hypertrophy, increase pulmonary pressures, associate with significant right ventricular dilatation, and reduce right ventricular function, which are closely linked to survival….”

An echocardiogram can show in real time if all the ventricles of your heart are working correctly as far as pumping blood and and/or leaking when your heart should be at rest.

Well, why get an echocardiogram if you already know you have CKD and high blood pressure? Here’s WebMD at https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/guide/diagnosing-echocardiogram#4’s response.  You can find much more information there, too, as is true of all the sites mentioned.

“An echocardiogram can help your doctor diagnose several kinds of heart problems, including:

  • An enlarged heart or thick ventricles (the lower chambers)
  • Weakened heart muscles
  • Problems with your heart valves
  • Heart defects that you’ve had since birth
  • Blood clots or tumors”

Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/echocardiogram/about/pac-20393856 offers an easily understandable explanation of the actual process. There are many types of echocardiograms, but this is the most usual.

Transthoracic echocardiogram

In this standard type of echocardiogram:

  • A technician (sonographer) spreads gel on a device (transducer).
  • The sonographer presses the transducer firmly against your skin, aiming an ultrasound beam through your chest to your heart.
  • The transducer records the sound wave echoes from your heart.
  • A computer converts the echoes into moving images on a monitor.”

This is yet another reminder of why we need to have both the heart and kidneys functioning well. This one is from Heart.org at https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/health-threats-from-high-blood-pressure/how-high-blood-pressure-can-lead-to-kidney-damage-or-failure#:~:text=The%20:

  • Damaged kidney arteries do not filter blood well. Kidneys have small, finger-like nephrons that filter your blood. Each nephron receives its blood supply through tiny hair-like capillaries, the smallest of all blood vessels. When the arteries become damaged, the nephrons do not receive the essential oxygen and nutrients — and the kidneys lose their ability to filter blood and regulate the fluid, hormones, acids and salts in the body.
  • Damaged kidneys fail to regulate blood pressure. Healthy kidneys produce a hormone called aldosterone to help the body regulate blood pressure. Kidney damage and uncontrolled high blood pressure each contribute to a negative spiral. As more arteries become blocked and stop functioning, the kidneys eventually fail.”

The American Journal of Kidney Disease at https://www.ajkd.org/article/S0272-6386(18)30598-5/fulltext gives us these final words on why an echocardiogram could be necessary for certain CKD patients:

“Abnormal cardiac structure and function are common in chronic kidney disease (CKD) and end-stage renal disease (ESRD) and linked with mortality and heart failure.”

Topic change: We tried Flavis’s high protein spaghetti and found it just as light and delightful as their penne. This, I can endorse.

Oh, before I forget. I like to read… a lot. One of the books I read recently was Ray Flynt’s Transplanted Death. I don’t want to tell you too much about it, except that it is a well-written murder mystery with a good story that revolves around transplant recipients, two of them kidney recipients. I am recommending this book.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Missing the Connection

During this second week of National Kidney Month, we have another reader directed blog. She had stumbled across The Long Awaited Sulfa Blog and had some questions about it and NAC. Hold on, I’ll get to NAC in a moment. Let’s start with sulfite, which I had always thought was not the same as sulfa. Did our reader mistype? Her verbatim question was, “Have you heard anything about NAC and CKD with sulfite sensitivity?”

According to MedicineNet at https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=27721:

“Sulfite sensitivity: Adverse reactions of an allergic nature to sulfites. Sulfites occur in fermentation and also occur naturally in a number of foods and beverages including wine. Sulfites are used for their preservative properties. Sulfite sensitivity occurs most often in asthmatic adults — predominantly women. It is uncommon in preschool children. Adverse reactions to sulfites in nonasthmatics are rare. Sulfite sensitivity reactions range from mild to severe and may include skin, respiratory, or gastrointestinal signs and symptoms. Bronchoconstriction with wheezing is the most common sensitivity response in asthmatics.”

While I do know this reader is a woman, I do not know if she is asthmatic or a wine drinker.

Let’s move along to NAC. Healthline at https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/nac-benefits#section12 (Yes, that is the same Healthline that chose SlowItDownCKD as best kidney blog two years in a row.) tells us, it is N-Acetyl Cysteine and explains what this supplement is and what it can do for you. I added asterisks next to definitions you may need.

“Cysteine is a semi-essential amino acid.

It’s considered semi-essential because your body can produce it from other amino acids, namely methionine and serine. It becomes essential only when the dietary intake of methionine and serine is low.

Cysteine is found in most high-protein foods, such as chicken, turkey, yogurt, cheese, eggs, sunflower seeds and legumes.

N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is a supplement form of cysteine.

Consuming adequate cysteine and NAC is important for a variety of health reasons — including replenishing the most powerful antioxidant in your body, glutathione. These amino acids also help with chronic respiratory conditions, fertility and brain health.

Here are the top 9 health benefits of NAC.

  1. Essential for Making the Powerful Antioxidant Glutathione

NAC is valued primarily for its role in antioxidant production.

Along with two other amino acids — glutamine and glycine — NAC is needed to make and replenish glutathione.

*Glutathione is one of the body’s most important antioxidants, which helps neutralize free radicals that can damage cells and tissues in your body.

It’s essential for immune health and fighting cellular damage. Some researchers believe it may even contribute to longevity ….

Its antioxidant properties are also important for combatting numerous other ailments caused by oxidative stress, such as heart disease, infertility and some psychiatric conditions….

  1. Helps With Detoxification to Prevent or Diminish Kidney and Liver Damage

NAC plays an important role in your body’s detoxification process.

It can help prevent side effects of drugs and environmental toxins….

In fact, doctors regularly give intravenous (IV) NAC to people with an acetaminophen overdose to prevent or reduce kidney and liver damage ….

NAC also has applications for other liver diseases due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits ….

  1. May Improve Psychiatric Disorders and Addictive Behavior

*NAC helps regulate levels of glutamate — the most important neurotransmitter in your brain….

While glutamate is required for normal brain action, excess glutamate paired with glutathione depletion can cause brain damage.

This may contribute to mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and addictive behavior….

For people with bipolar disease and depression, NAC may help decrease symptoms and improve your overall ability to function. What’s more, research suggests that it may play a role in treating moderate to severe OCD ….

NAC supplements can also help decrease withdrawal symptoms and prevent relapse in cocaine addicts ….

  1. Helps Relieve Symptoms of Respiratory Conditions

NAC can relieve symptoms of respiratory conditions by acting as an antioxidant and expectorant, loosening mucus in your air passageways.

As an antioxidant, NAC helps replenish glutathione levels in your lungs and reduces inflammation in your bronchial tubes and lung tissue.

People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) experience long-term oxidative damage and inflammation of lung tissue, which causes airways to constrict — leading to shortness of breath and coughing.

NAC supplements have been used to improve COPD symptoms, exacerbations and lung decline ….

Those with chronic bronchitis can also benefit from NAC.

Bronchitis occurs when the mucous membranes in your lungs’ bronchial passageways become inflamed, swell and shut off airways to your lungs….

By thinning mucus in your bronchial tubes and boosting glutathione levels, NAC may help decrease the severity and frequency of wheezing, coughing and respiratory attacks ….

In addition to relieving COPD and bronchitis, NAC may improve other lung and respiratory tract conditions like cystic fibrosis, asthma and pulmonary fibrosis, as well as symptoms of nasal and sinus congestion due to allergies or infections ….

  1. Boosts Brain Health by Regulating Glutamate and Replenishing Glutathione

NAC’s ability to replenish glutathione and regulate brain glutamate levels can boost brain health.

*The brain neurotransmitter glutamate is involved in a broad range of learning, behavior and memory actions, while the antioxidant glutathione helps reduce oxidative damage to brain cells associated with aging….

Because NAC helps regulate glutamate levels and replenish glutathione, it may benefit those with brain and memory ailments ….

NAC supplements appear to improve both dopamine function and disease symptoms such as tremors ….

  1. May Improve Fertility in Both Men and Women

Approximately 15% of all couples trying to conceive are affected by infertility. In almost half of these cases, male infertility is the main contributing factor ….

Many male infertility issues increase when antioxidant levels are insufficient to combat free radical formation in your reproductive system. The oxidative stress can cause cell death and reduced fertility ….

In some cases, NAC has been shown to improve male fertility….

In addition, NAC may improve fertility in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) by inducing or augmenting the ovulation cycle ….

  1. May Stabilize Blood Sugar By Decreasing Inflammation in Fat Cells

High blood sugar and obesity contribute to inflammation in fat tissue.

This can lead to damage or destruction of insulin receptors and put you at a higher risk of type 2 diabetes ….

  1. May Reduce Heart Disease Risk by Preventing Oxidative Damage

Oxidative damage to heart tissue often leads to heart disease, causing strokes, heart attacks and other serious conditions.

NAC may reduce heart disease risk by reducing oxidative damage to tissues in your heart ….

It has also been shown to increase nitric oxide production, which helps veins dilate and improves blood flow. This expedites blood transit back to your heart and can lower your risk of heart attacks ….

  1. Ability to Boost Glutathione Levels May Improve Immune Function

NAC and glutathione also boost immune health.

Research on certain diseases associated with NAC and glutathione deficiency suggests that immune function might be improved — and potentially restored — by supplementing with NAC….

High levels of NAC in your body may also suppress HIV-1 reproduction.

For your body to make the amino acid cysteine, you need adequate amounts of folate, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12. These nutrients can be found in beans, lentils, spinach, bananas, salmon and tuna.

While most protein-rich foods, such as chicken, turkey, yogurt, cheese, eggs, sunflower seeds and legumes, contain cysteine, some people choose to supplement with NAC to increase their cysteine intake.

NAC has low bioavailability as an oral supplement, meaning that it’s not well absorbed. The accepted daily supplement recommendation is 600–1,800 mg of NAC ….”

Okay, I don’t get it. Have I missed something about the connection between sulfite sensitivity and NAC? If you can find what I missed, please let us know.

Ah, if only I could have been more helpful.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Meatless Monday and the Rest of the Week, Too

Whoa, baby! Lots and lots of reader interaction lately. One reader even wrote me to thank me for a blog I wrote years ago about sulfa… and here I was wondering if my blogs were being helpful. Thank you all for letting me know they are.

Talking about my blogs being helpful, another reader needs help with her non-animal protein diet. As a child, my brothers and I were cooked meat meals whenever my dad could afford it. I remember Mom cooking lots of hamburgers. That was the first food I learned to cook. As I got older, I realized I didn’t like the fatty taste of meat nor how much it needed to be chewed, so I ate it less and less. Now, since my husband is a meat eater, we have it once a week. He knows I don’t like it, but he does. I eat as much of it as I can before giving the rest to him. It isn’t very much. I think I’m going to learn quite a bit for myself, as well as my reader, in writing today’s blog.

Oster, the makers of the blender I use, at https://www.oster.com/blog/archive/2014/october/5-fruits-and-veggies-that-pack-the-protein.html#?sortby=newest offers us this information:

“1. Avocado 
Like tomatoes, avocados are fruits that are commonly thought of as vegetables. But regardless of how you categorize it, an avocado carries more protein than a glass of milk, about 4 grams according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Although some avoid this fruit because it has a relatively high fat and calorie content, it’s full of a variety of nutrients such as zinc, folic acid, potassium, fiber and healthy fats….

  1. Lentils 
    Legumes are the most protein-rich group of vegetables available. On average, legumes can offer closer to animal products than many other vegetables in how much protein they offer. Among legumes, lentils are one of the highest in protein with about 47 grams of protein per cup, the USDA noted.
  2. Apricots 
    Either raw or dried apricots can add protein to your meals as well as sweetness, though there’s debate over whether fresh or dehydrated is better. Although a raw apricot has more protein, dried apricots have more protein per bite because they’re more compact. Either way, you can’t go wrong. It’s a tasty, sweet way to add protein to your yogurt, oatmeal or other dishes. The USDA explained that 1 cup of sliced apricots has more than 2 grams of protein.
  3. Spinach 
    This tasty leafy green is well known for being nutritious, but did you know it has nearly 3 grams of protein per every 100 grams of spinach, according to the USDA? But eating 100 grams of raw spinach can be hard…. Spinach is also rich in vitamin B6, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin C, a variety of minerals, and has minimal calories and fat.
  4. Soybeans 
    Soybeans pack a walloping 68 grams of protein per cup, according to the USDA. Eat them raw, steam them or roast them for a tasty, protein-filled meal that has more of the nutrient some types of meat [have]. Soybeans are legumes, and also have significant daily amounts of iron, fiber and vitamin K.”

Notice the sentence about potassium in 1. Avocado. Hmmm, do we need to limit or cut out any of these other foods according to the renal diet? I went to SFGATE at https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/lentils-harmful-kidneys-12272.html for some answers.

Are Lentils Harmful to the Kidneys?

Written by Meg Campbell; Updated November 28, 2018

Lentils are nothing but good news for the average person. The small, disc-shaped legumes are a low-fat, cholesterol-free source of high-quality protein, complex carbohydrates and several vitamins and minerals. Lentils are considered a diabetic-friendly, heart-healthy food because their high fiber content promotes normal blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Because they’re also rich in potassium, phosphorus, purines and oxalate, however, lentils aren’t an ideal choice for people affected by chronic kidney problems….

Lentils don’t harm healthy kidneys, just as they don’t damage unhealthy kidneys. Rather, people with chronic kidney problems may need to watch their intake of lentils because their kidneys are less able to adequately process certain nutrients. If you have chronic kidney disease, ask your physician for a detailed diet plan. Eating the right foods can help slow the disease’s progression, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Likewise, if you’re prone to kidney stones, talk to your doctor about your diet. Some physicians only recommend limiting purines from animal sources. You also may be able to limit the amount of oxalate you absorb from lentils by consuming them with high-calcium foods.”

So it seems that protein heavy foods can be bothersome for their potassium and phosphorous content. But wait. We are Chronic Kidney Disease patients. We eat according to our labs. If your potassium/phosphorous blood content is in the normal range, you can eat foods containing these electrolytes, but in specified amounts. Ask your renal nutritionist which you can eat and how much of each of these permissible foods you can eat.

 This time I went to NDVTFoods at https://food.ndtv.com/food-drinks/healthy-diet-4-fruits-that-are-relatively-rich-in-protein-2071683. (So many new websites for me today.)

1. Raisins: This humble dried fruit is a fixture in all the festive offerings and is also added to a whole range of desserts. The golden raisins are nothing but de-hydrated or dried grapes.  A 100 gram portion of raisins contains 3 grams of proteins, as per the data by United States Department of Agriculture.

Guava:This Vitamin C-rich fruit is savoured raw or in salads, and is even added to juices and drinks for a flavourful punch. Guava is rich in fibre as a 100 gram portion of the fruit contains 5 grams of it, according to USDA, and the same portion contains 2.6 grams of proteins.

  1. Dates:This sugary sweet fruit has been consumed in Middle-eastern countries as a staple for centuries now. Pitted dates are stuffed with a variety of ingredients and are even consumed in the form of a sweetening paste for milkshakes and baked goods as well. A 100 gram portion of dates contains 2.45 grams of protein, along with 8 grams of fibre, as per data by the United States Department of Agriculture.
  2. Prunes:Another dried fruit that is relatively rich in protein is the prune. These are made by de-hydrating ripened plums and it contains a wide-range of essential minerals and vitamins, along with some important macro-nutrients. This includes 2.18 grams of protein per 100 grams, along with 7 grams of dietary fibre.”

Don’t forget legumes and grains in your non-animal fat protein diet. The same caution about eating according to your labs applies to every category of food you eat. This is not a complete guide to non-animal protein foods and is getting to be a very long blog already. Let me know if you want more information about this topic.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

But I Wasn’t Done

Talk about chemo brain. The reader who asked the questions addressed in last week’s blog also wanted to know if Chronic Kidney Disease had any impact on the menstrual cycle… and I passed right over those questions as if she’d never asked. Whoa. This is a new way of being for me, so apologies dear reader for that pretty important oversight. Today, we correct the oversight. Tomorrow we banish chemo brain – or brain fog as CKD patients experience it. (Sigh. If only it took just one day.)

On October 1st, 2018, I explored the menstrual cycle’s effect on CKD and vice-versa issue:

“Back to the beginning for those who have just plain forgotten what the menses is and why women experience it. Thank you to the Medical Dictionary at https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/menses for starting us off today. Menses is:

‘the periodic discharge from the vagina of blood and tissues from a non-pregnant uterus; the culmination of the menstrual cycle. Menstruation occurs every 28 days or so between puberty and menopause, except during pregnancy, and the flow lasts about 5 days, the times varying from woman to woman.’

I clearly remember the days of anxiously awaiting my period only to find I had miscalculated its start. Commence the washing-out-the-underwear-nightly-during-my-period era which lasted decades. It was messy, but apparently menstruation was necessary. Why, you ask.

Back to Wikipedia. By the way, when I was teaching research writing in college, I always found this a good source to start researching despite the fact that anyone can edit it. This is the explanation I was looking for. I found it at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menstrual_cycle.

‘The menstrual cycle is the regular natural change that occurs in the female reproductive system (specifically the uterus and ovaries) that makes pregnancy possible. The cycle is required for the production of oocytes [Me here: this means an immature egg] and for the preparation of the uterus for pregnancy….’

As someone who had always planned to be a mother, you can see why I felt this was a necessary – albeit messy – function of my body. I have a biological grandchild and another being planned (As of October 31, 2019, I have TWO terrific grandsons.). Thank you, menstruation.

But what if I had developed CKD when I was premenopausal? Would things have been different for me? DaVita at https://www.davita.com/education/kidney-disease/risk-factors/womens-health-risks-and-chronic-kidney-disease-ckd explains some of what I might have had to deal with.

‘When a woman has chronic kidney disease her periods tend to be irregular. Once she begins dialysis her periods may even stop altogether. As kidney function drops below 20 percent of normal, a woman is less likely to conceive because dialysis doesn’t perform all of the tasks of the kidneys. The body retains a higher level of waste products than it would with a normal kidney, which can prevent egg production and affect menstruation.

Erythropoietin treatments will cause about 50 percent of woman on dialysis to get their periods again. This is attributed to the improved hormone levels and the treatment of anemia. Therefore, erythropoietin treatments can increase a woman’s fertility, so birth control should be used if a woman is sexually active and does not want to become pregnant.’

Okay, but I’m not on dialysis and my GFR hovers in the 50-55% range. I see from the quote above that my periods might have become irregular. I also noted that a ‘higher level of waste products is being retained.’ (Why does that give me the creeps?)

Let’s go back to those waste products. Remember what they are? Shodor, a site for undergraduate students, at https://www.shodor.org/master/biomed/physio/dialysis/kidney.htm was helpful here:

‘The kidneys are the filtering devices of blood. The kidneys remove waste products from metabolism such as urea, uric acid, and creatinine by producing and secreting urine. Urine may also contain sulfate and phenol waste and excess sodium, potassium, and chloride ions. The kidneys help maintain homeostasis by regulating the concentration and volume of body fluids. For example, the amount of H+ and HCO3  secreted by the kidneys controls the body’s pH.’

Whoa! I wouldn’t want even more of these substances in my body. Not only would they make the CKD worse, but also its effects on my body. According to Medical News Today at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/172179.php, these effects include:

  • anemia
  • blood in urine
  • dark urine
  • decreased mental alertness (Gail here: as in brain fog.)
  • decreased urine output
  • edema – swollen feet, hands, and ankles (face if edema is severe)
  • fatigue (tiredness)
  • hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • insomnia
  • itchy skin, can become persistent
  • loss of appetite
  • male inability to get or maintain an erection (erectile dysfunction)
  • more frequent urination, especially at night
  • muscle cramps
  • muscle twitches
  • nausea
  • pain on the side or mid to lower back
  • panting (shortness of breath)
  • protein in urine
  • sudden change in bodyweight
  • unexplained headaches

Is there anything else I should know?

The Huffington Post at https://www.huffingtonpost.com/leslie-spry-md-facp/women-with-chronic-kidney_b_10163148.html let Dr. Leslie Spry, Spokesman for the National Kidney Foundation, answer this one and I will, too.

‘Women with CKD have been shown to commonly experience menstrual irregularities. This can include excessive bleeding, missed periods, and early onset of menopause. In studies of patients with CKD, women enter menopause from 3 to 5 years earlier than patients without CKD. Treatment can be very challenging. Studies of estrogen replacement therapy have shown an increased risk of heart disease and blood clotting disorders. Kidney transplantation will usually correct these abnormalities.’

Now I wonder if I’d had CKD even earlier than when I’d caught it on a lab report a decade ago. Excessive bleeding? Check. Early menopause? Check. Hmmm.

But wait. There’s some good news in here, too.

‘Thus, recurring changes of sex hormone levels, as brought about by the natural menstrual cycle, might be involved in periodic tissue remodeling not only in reproductive organs, but to a certain extent in the kidneys as well,’ she added.

Lechner [Me here: She’s the study author – Dr. Judith Lechner, of the Medical University of Innsbruck in Austria] hypothesizes that estrogen might help to replace damaged cells. During cycle phases of high estrogen exposure, kidney cells might be induced to grow, she explained, “while at time points of decreasing estrogen levels damaged or simply older cells might be discarded into the urine.’”

You can read more about this small study published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology in Medical Daily at https://www.medicaldaily.com/sex-differences-menstrual-cycle-kidney-failure-384251.

This blog is becoming a book by itself. All questions answered, dear reader?

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Auld Lang Syne Already?

It’s the last few days of 2019 and this year has whizzed by. My dance with pancreatic cancer has been a trip I could have done without, but the birth of my grandson more than made up for it. Now I get to see him all the time and I only have one more regiment of chemotherapy to go.

Oh, there I go again assuming everyone knows what Auld Lange Syne is. According to Classic FM at https://www.classicfm.com/discover-music/auld-lang-syne-lyrics-and-origins/:

What does ‘Auld Lang Syne’ mean?

The most accurate plain English interpretation of the Auld Lang Syne’s famous title is ‘Old long since’, or ‘For the sake of old times’.

The song itself is reflective in nature, and is basically about two friends catching up over a drink or two, their friendship having been long and occasionally distant.

The words were written by Scottish poet Robert Burns in 1788, but Burns himself revealed at the time of composing it that he had collected the words after listening to the verse of an old man on his travels, claiming that his version of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ marked the first time it had been formally written down.

However, an earlier ballad by James Watson, named ‘Old Long Syne’, dates as far back as 1711, and use of the title phrase can be found in poems from as early as the 17th century, specifically works by Robert Ayton and Allan Ramsay.”

The song is usually sung at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve and is closely associated with the ending of one year and the beginning of the next. That’s tomorrow night.

Before we leave 2019, let’s take a look at what’s been happening in the kidney world this year.

The ball got rolling, so to speak, with this announcement:

“The Advancing American Kidney Health initiative, announced on July 10, 2019 by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), places the kidney community in the national spotlight for the first time in decades and outlines a national strategy for kidney diseases for the first time …. In order to achieve the Advancing American Kidney Health initiative’s lofty goals and make good on the KHI’s commitment to people with kidney diseases, drug and device innovation needs to accelerate.”

You can read the entire announcement from the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology at https://cjasn.asnjournals.org/content/early/2019/12/05/CJN.11060919.

The American Kidney Fund at https://www.kidneyfund.org/advocacy-blog/future-of-dialysis-innovation.html announced prizes for innovations in dialysis. We are now in phase two.

“HHS and ASN collaborated with patients, nephrologists, researchers and others in planning the competition. Several agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, are involved in this effort. AKF has provided comments to the KidneyX project, urging a focus on unmet needs and improving patient quality of life.

The KidneyX: Redesign Dialysis competition will have two phases. During phase one (late-October 2018-February 2019), innovators will be asked to come up with ideas to ‘replicate normal kidney functions and improve patient quality of life.’ During phase two (April 2019-January 2020), innovators will be asked to develop prototypes to test their ideas.

The HHS press release detailing the competition can be found here.

You can also read my blog about KidneyX by using the topic dropdown on the right side of the blog.

S.1676/H.R 3912 was passed this year, too. According to Renal Support Network at https://www.rsnhope.org/kidney-disease-advocacy/the-chronic-kidney-disease-improvement-in-research-and-treatment-act-of-2019-s-1676/, this is what the act provides:

“Specifically, the legislation does the following:

  • Medigap available to all ESRD Medicare beneficiaries, regardless of age.
  • Improve care coordination for people on dialysis by requiring hospitals to provide an individual’s health and treatment information to their renal dialysis facility upon their discharge. The individual or dialysis facility may initiate the request.
  • Increase awareness, expand preventative services, and improve coordination of the Medicare Kidney Disease Education program by allowing dialysis facilities to provide kidney disease education service. And it will allow physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and clinical nurse specialists, in addition to physicians, to refer patients to the program. And additionally, provide access to these services to Medicare beneficiaries with Stage 5 (CKD) not yet on dialysis.
  • Incentivize innovation for cutting-edge new drugs, biologicals, devices, and other technologies by maintaining an economically stable dialysis infrastructure. The Secretary would be required to establish a process for identifying and determining appropriate payment amounts for incorporating new devices and technologies into the bundle.
  • Improve the accuracy and transparency of ESRD Quality Programs so patients can make better decisions about their care providers.
  • Improve patient understanding of palliative care usage as well as access to palliative care services in underserved areas.
  • Allow individuals with kidney failure to retain access to private insurance plans as their primary payor for 42 months, allowing people to keep their private plans longer.”

I scooted over to EurekAlert! at https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-04/uoo-bkd041219.php when I realized they were announcing a drug I’d blogged about:

“’A drug like canagliflozin that improves both cardiovascular and renal outcomes has been eagerly sought by both patients with Type 2 diabetes and clinicians caring for them,’ added Kenneth Mahaffey, MD, professor of medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine and co-principal investigator of the trial. ‘Now, patients with diabetes have a promising option to guard against one of the most severe risks of their condition.’

The researchers found the drug canagliflozin, a sodium glucose transporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitor, was less effective at lowering blood sugar in people with reduced kidney function but still led to less kidney failure, heart failure and cardiovascular events such as heart attacks, strokes and death from cardiovascular disease.

Professor Perkovic said the results were impressive. ‘The substantial benefit on kidney failure despite limited effects on blood glucose suggest that these drugs work in a number of different ways beyond their effects on blood sugar. This is an area of intense ongoing research.’”

These are just a few of the innovations in kidney disease in 2019. I hope to see many more for us – like the FDA approval of the artificial kidney – in 2020.

Until next year,

Keep living your life!

AKI & CKD

Aha! Dana contacted me and here’s the blog I promised him. (Still looking for the request from the woman who waited so patiently for me to recover from my surgery. Please contact me again.) Dana asked about AKI, Acute Kidney Injury, and how aggressively his nephrologist should be pursuing treatment of this. He and his nephrologist feel that his AKI may have been caused by strep.

I know I write about CKD, Chronic Kidney Disease, so what is AKI? The glossary in my very first CKD book, What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, tells us ‘acute’ means:

“Extremely painful, severe or serious, quick onset, of short duration; the opposite of chronic.” This is what I wrote about AKI and CKD in SlowItDownCKD 2017,

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

‘Chronic Kidney Disease is a risk factor for acute kidney injury, acute kidney injury is a risk factor for the development of Chronic Kidney Disease, and both acute kidney injury and Chronic Kidney Disease are risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Not surprisingly, the risk factors for AKI {Once again, that’s acute kidney injury.} are the same as those for CKD… except for one peculiar circumstance. Having CKD itself can raise the risk of AKI 10 times.’

Whoa! If you’re Black, of an advanced age {Hey!}, or have diabetes, you already know you’re at risk for CKD, or are the one out of nine (Update: Now one out of seven.) in our country that has it. Once you’ve developed CKD, you’ve just raised the risk for AKI 10 times. I’m getting a little nervous here….

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

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

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

Dana’s nephrologist put him on a regiment of prednisone for two months. Why? Well, prednisone is an anti-inflammatory drug. WebMD at https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-is-acute-kidney-failure#1 offers the following as possible causes of AKI. Notice the very last one and you’ll see how prednisone may be helpful.

  1. Something is stopping blood flow to your kidneys. It could be because of:
  1. You have a condition that’s blocking urine from leaving your kidneys. This could mean:
  1. Something has directly damaged your kidneys, like:

Now we know AKI and Acute Kidney Failure are not the same thing, but it is possible that this nephrologist is using prednisone in an attempt to avoid Acute Kidney Failure.

One thing Dana asked that made me stop cold is “How do you cope with the inevitable aspects?” They are not inevitable, Dana. I am a lay person who has managed to keep my CKD at stage 3 for 11 years. I am also not a magician. What I am is someone who follows the guidelines for keeping my kidneys as healthy as possible.

You’ve already seen a nutritionist – hopefully a renal nutritionist, since a healthy diet is not necessarily a renal healthy diet – so you’re aware of the nutrition aspect of protecting your kidneys. But there’s more. Do you smoke or drink? If so, stop. Do you exercise? If not, start… but with your nephrologist’s supervision. Are you getting adequate sleep and rest? Here’s the hardest guideline: try to avoid stress. Of course, if you have a stressful life, avoiding stress can just be another stress.

As to how aggressively you should expect your nephrologist to treat your AKI (or the CKD resulting from it) really depends upon you and your nephrologist. For example, some think stage 3 is barely CKD and urge you to just keep watch. Others, like my nephrologist, take CKD seriously and have their nutritionists train you re the renal diet and speak with you themselves about the guidelines. As for AKI, again it depends on you, your nephrologist, and the severity of the AKI. Since you have waste product buildup and inflammation, you may need dialysis or a hospital stay… or watchful waiting while taking a medication such as prednisone.’

There seems to be quite a lot of leeway as to the treatment you and your nephrologist decide upon.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

What’s That Got to Do with My Occupation?

I’ve written about neuropathy, but what is this occupational therapy that may treat it? I know about physical therapy and have made use of it when necessary. Remember a few years ago when knee surgery was indicated? Physical therapy helped me avoid the surgery.

This time I was offered gabapentin for the neuropathy. That’s a drug usually used for epilepsy which can also help with neuropathy. I would explain how it works, but no one seems to know. I had two problems with this drug:

  1. Gabapentin became a controlled substance in England as of April of this year. England always seem to be one step ahead of the U.S. re medications.
  2. It is not suggested if you have kidney disease.

My other option was occupational therapy. That’s the one I chose. Let’s backtrack a bit for a definition of occupational therapy. Thank you to my old buddy (since college over 50 years ago) the Merriam-Webster Dictionary at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/occupational%20therapy for the following definition.

“therapy based on engagement in meaningful activities of daily life (such as self-care skills, education, work, or social interaction) especially to enable or encourage participation in such activities despite impairments or limitations in physical or mental functioning”

That got me to wondering just how occupational therapy differed from physical therapy, the kind of therapy with which I was already familiar. I went to my old buddy again, but this time at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/physical%20therapy for any hints I could pick up from the definition for physical therapy.

“therapy for the preservation, enhancement, or restoration of movement and physical function impaired or threatened by disease, injury, or disability that utilizes therapeutic exercise, physical modalities (such as massage and electrotherapy), assistive devices, and patient education and training”

Made sense to me. Physical therapy was for the movement of the body, while occupational therapy was to help you carry out the tasks of your daily life. For example, it takes me longer to write a blog because my tingling, yet numb, fingers often slip into the spaces between the keys on the keyboard. Another example is that I now use a cane since I can’t tell if my tingling, yet numb, feet are flat on the floor as I walk.

Something I found interesting about occupational therapy is that it uses many forms of therapy that were once considered alternative medicine… like electrical energy. What’s that you say? You’d like an example?

Well, here you go. My therapist uses a machine called a Havimat. The following is from the National Stem Cell Institute at https://nsistemcell.com/hivamat-how-it-relieves-edema/  and explains what the Havimat can do and how.

“….The therapist connects an electronic lead to his/her wrist while the patient grasps a small cylinder grip. The vinyl gloves that the therapist wears prevents the circuit of electric current from closing, thus creating the ‘push-pull’ effect that penetrates deeply into tissues. Meanwhile, the patient’s experience is one of a pleasant, deep massage maintained by the therapist’s gentle pressure as he/she directs the deep oscillation.

…. The therapy “un-dams” trapped fluid. Tissues are decongested and edema is significantly reduced. This shrinks swelling in the area being treated. Hivamat has been shown to be exceptionally effective in relieving lymphedema when used by therapists to enhance manual lymphatic drainage.

…. Besides the reduction of edema, therapists use Hivamat for ridding tissues of toxins [Gail here: like chemotherapy.]  When used by a certified therapist during a manipulation technique known as manual lymphatic drainage, the therapy improves lymph fluid movement. This encourages better flow through the lymphatic system, which then carries away metabolic waste and toxins more quickly. Hivamat also promotes the production of lymphocytes, which improve the function of the immune system. [Gail here again: as CKD patients, our immune systems are compromised.]”

There is one thing, though. Apparently, the Havimat is NOT suggested if there is an active tumor. Uh-oh, I had three treatments with the Havimat before I uncovered that fact. I’ll have to speak with my therapist today and find out why she didn’t know that. But it is clear that using electrical energy as treatment is another case of what was formerly considered alternative medicine becoming mainstream medicine.

Topic switch. I’ve written about the American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP), precision care, and clinical trials many times before. You’re probably already aware of the new initiative for patient care. AAKP wants your help in doing their part as far as patient experience with this survey.

“As part of AAKP’s National Strategy, we have expanded our

capacities to involve a far larger, and more representative, number

of patients in research opportunities and clinical trials. The

results of these research opportunities and clinical trials will help

create a clearer understanding of the patient experience and help

shape the future of kidney disease treatment and care. AAKP is

fully committed to changing the status quo of kidney care

and to better aligning treatment to personal aspirations.

To achieve this goal, the AAKP Center for Patient Research &

Education is working with top researchers to ensure that the

patient voice, patient preferences and patient perceptions are

heard.

AAKP is very pleased to partner with Northwestern University

and University of Pennsylvania on an important research

project organ donation.

Please consider taking part in this online survey and help

shape the future of kidney care for you and those yet to

be diagnosed.

Volunteers Needed for Research Study!

Researchers at Northwestern University and University of Penn-

sylvania invite kidney transplant candidates to participate

in a survey about your opinions of research done on donor

organs. Such research aims to help organs work better and

make more organs available for transplantation.

Your responses will help to improve the informed consent

process for transplant candidates.

You are eligible to participate if you:

•  Are 18+ years old

•  Speak English

•  Are currently a transplant candidate on the waitlist for only

    one organ

This anonymous survey is voluntary, and will take about 45

minutes of your time.

Your decision about participating will not affect your place on

the waiting list. Your participation may help improve the informed

consent process for transplant candidates.

Find out more information and take the survey by clicking

the link below [Gail here yet again: Don’t forget to click

control at the same time.]:

https://redcap.nubic.northwestern.edu/redcap/surveys/index.php?s=TEMXLDLF8A

Thank you to those taking part in the survey for helping

AAKP help those awaiting a transplant.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

CKD and Me

Okay, so I was finally ready to give up World Kidney Day and National Kidney Month. Maybe it’s time to give up the 1in9 chapter contribution, too. Since each contributing author also had their biography accompanying their chapter, I think the best way to do that is to print the biography… although it’s all me, me, me. Indulge me, please.

*****

Ms. Rae-Garwood’s writing started out as a means to an end for a single parent with two children and a need for more income than her career as a NYC teacher afforded. Gail retired from both college teaching and acting – after a bit of soul searching about where her CKD limited energy would be best spent – early in 2013. Since her diagnose, Ms. Rae-Garwood writes most often about Chronic Kidney Disease, although she does write fiction. She has a three time award winning weekly blog (Surprise!) about this topic at https://gailraegarwood.wordpress.com and social media accounts as @SlowItDownCKD.

*****

Hmmm, it seems to me I’ve done a lot more with Chronic Kidney Disease awareness advocacy since I started with this in 2010. Let’s see what else there is. Aha! These are on my website at www.gail-raegarwood.com.

 

Arizona Health & Living  (West Valley)  6/2018

 

MyTherapy Guest Blog    3/8/18

eCareDiary: Coping with Chronic Kidney  Disease  3/06/18

NephJC: One More Patient Voice on CKD Staging and Precision Medicine  12/08/16

 

Center for Science in the Public Interest: Nutrition Action Healthletter   9/16

New York State United Teachers: It’s What We Do   8/9/16

American Kidney Fund: Slowing DownCKD – It Can Be Done   7/14/16

The Edge Podcast  5/19/16

Dear Annie   3/10/14

Renal Diet Headquarters Podcast   2/12/14

 

Accountable Kidney Care Collaborative: Bob’s Blog   1/23/14

Wall Street Journal: Patients Can Do More to Control Chronic Conditions  1/13/14

The Neuropathy Doctor’s News   9/23/13

Series of five Monthly CKD education classes in The Salt River Pima-Maricopa

Indian Community   9/12/13

 

KidneySteps: Gail Rae and SlowItDown  9/11/13

Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community: 4th Annual Men and Women’s Gathering  8/29/13

National Kidney Foundation: Staying Healthy  6/6/13

KidneySteps: Learning Helps with CKD    7/04/12

Life Options Links for Patients and Professionals   5/30/12

It Is Just What It Is    3/9/12

Online with Andrea    03/07/12

 

Working with Chronic Illness  2/17/12

 

Libre Tweet Chat with Gail Rae   1/10/12

Kevinmd.com   1/1/12

Improve Your Kidney Health with Dr. Rich Snyder, DO   11/21/11

Glendale Community College Gaucho Gazette   8/22/11

 

The NephCure Foundation   8/21/11

Authors Show Radio    8/8/11

Renal Support Network: Another 30 Years  1/11/10

Working with Chronic Illness: Are You Aching to Write    1/11/10

I’m going to keep today’s blog very short so you have the time to click though on the hyperlinked podcasts and articles. When I was teaching college, my students thoroughly enjoyed the time to choose what they’d like to hear or read from a prescribed list. I hope it’s the same for you.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Pancreas + Kidneys = ?

31 years ago, my father died of pancreatic cancer. For some reason, I remember him asking me what electrolytes were as soon as he was diagnosed. I didn’t know. I do now, but I don’t know if there’s a connection between the pancreas and the kidneys. Of course, I mean other than the fact that they are all organs in your body.

Oh, sorry, I didn’t give you the definition. This is from Healthline at https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/electrolytes  :

“’Electrolyte’ is the umbrella term for particles that carry a positive or negative electric charge ….

In nutrition, the term refers to essential minerals found in your blood, sweat and urine.

When these minerals dissolve in a fluid, they form electrolytes — positive or negative ions used in metabolic processes.

Electrolytes found in your body include:

  • Sodium
  • Potassium
  • Chloride
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphate
  • Bicarbonate

These electrolytes are required for various bodily processes, including proper nerve and muscle function, maintaining acid-base balance and keeping you hydrated.”

Ummm, you have Chronic Kidney Disease. These are the electrolytes you need to keep an eye on, especially sodium, potassium, and phosphate. But why did Dad ask me about them?

I plunged right in to find the answer and immediately found a journal article… on a pay site. Not being one to pay for what can be found for free (and is 30 years old, by the way), I decided to look for as much information on the pancreas as I could find and see what we could figure out together.

Let’s start at the beginning. According to the Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center of Johns Hopkins Medicine – Pathology at http://pathology.jhu.edu/pc/basicoverview1.php?area=ba:

“What is the pancreas?

The pancreas is a long flattened gland located deep in the belly (abdomen). Because the pancreas isn’t seen or felt in our day to day lives, most people don’t know as much about the pancreas as they do about other parts of their bodies. The pancreas is, however, a vital part of the digestive system and a critical controller of blood sugar levels.

Where is the pancreas?

The pancreas is located deep in the abdomen. Part of the pancreas is sandwiched between the stomach and the spine. The other part is nestled in the curve of the duodenum (first part of the small intestine). To visualize the position of the pancreas, try this: touch your right thumb and right ‘pinkie’ fingers together, keeping the other three fingers together and straight. Then, place your hand in the center of your belly just below your lower ribs with your fingers pointing to your left. Your hand will be the approximate shape and at the approximate level of your pancreas.”

I tried that. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

So now we sort of know what and where it is, but what does it do? No problem, Columbia University Irving Medical Center has just the info we need at http://columbiasurgery.org/pancreas/pancreas-and-its-functions:

“Exocrine Function:

The pancreas contains exocrine glands that produce enzymes important to digestion. These enzymes include trypsin and chymotrypsin to digest proteins; amylase for the digestion of carbohydrates; and lipase to break down fats. When food enters the stomach, these pancreatic juices are released into a system of ducts that culminate in the main pancreatic duct. The pancreatic duct joins the common bile duct to form the ampulla of Vater which is located at the first portion of the small intestine, called the duodenum. The common bile duct originates in the liver and the gallbladder and produces another important digestive juice called bile. The pancreatic juices and bile that are released into the duodenum, help the body to digest fats, carbohydrates, and proteins.

Endocrine Function:

The endocrine component of the pancreas consists of islet cells (islets of Langerhans) that create and release important hormones directly into the bloodstream. Two of the main pancreatic hormones are insulin, which acts to lower blood sugar, and glucagon, which acts to raise blood sugar. Maintaining proper blood sugar levels is crucial to the functioning of key organs including the brain, liver, and kidneys.”

The kidneys? Now it’s starting to make sense. We need whatever specific electrolyte balance our lab work tells us we need to keep our kidneys working in good stead and we need a well-functioning pancreas to regulate our blood sugars. Hmmm, diabetes is one of the two leading causes of CKD. It seems the pancreas controls diabetes since it creates insulin.

What could happen if the pancreas wasn’t doing its job, I wondered.  This is from the Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pancreatitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20360227,

“Pancreatitis [Me here: that’s an inflammation of the pancreas] can cause serious complications, including:

  • Pseudocyst. Acute pancreatitis can cause fluid and debris to collect in cystlike pockets in your pancreas. A large pseudocyst that ruptures can cause complications such as internal bleeding and infection.
  • Infection. Acute pancreatitis can make your pancreas vulnerable to bacteria and infection. Pancreatic infections are serious and require intensive treatment, such as surgery to remove the infected tissue.
  • Kidney failure. Acute pancreatitis may cause kidney failure, which can be treated with dialysis if the kidney failure is severe and persistent.
  • Breathing problems. Acute pancreatitis can cause chemical changes in your body that affect your lung function, causing the level of oxygen in your blood to fall to dangerously low levels.
  • Diabetes. Damage to insulin-producing cells in your pancreas from chronic pancreatitis can lead to diabetes, a disease that affects the way your body uses blood sugar.
  • Malnutrition. Both acute and chronic pancreatitis can cause your pancreas to produce fewer of the enzymes that are needed to break down and process nutrients from the food you eat. This can lead to malnutrition, diarrhea and weight loss, even though you may be eating the same foods or the same amount of food.
  • Pancreatic cancer. Long-standing inflammation in your pancreas caused by chronic pancreatitis is a risk factor for developing pancreatic cancer.

Did you catch kidney failure and diabetes? I believe we now know how the kidneys and pancreas are related to each other. Ah, if only I’d known how to research 31 years ago….

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That

A long time reader mentioned she had a kind of kidney disease I wasn’t familiar with, so I decided to find out what I could about it. Are you aware of Uromodulin Kidney Disease?

This is what the U.S. National Library of Medicine at https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/uromodulin-associated-kidney-disease had to say:

“Uromodulin-associated kidney disease is an inherited condition that affects the kidneys. The signs and symptoms of this condition vary, even among members of the same family.

Many individuals with uromodulin-associated kidney disease develop high blood levels of a waste product called uric acid. Normally, the kidneys remove uric acid from the blood and transfer it to urine. In this condition, the kidneys are unable to remove uric acid from the blood effectively. A buildup of uric acid can cause gout, which is a form of arthritis resulting from uric acid crystals in the joints. The signs and symptoms of gout may appear as early as a person’s teens in uromodulin-associated kidney disease.

Uromodulin-associated kidney disease causes slowly progressive kidney disease, with the signs and symptoms usually beginning during the teenage years. The kidneys become less able to filter fluids and waste products from the body as this condition progresses, resulting in kidney failure. Individuals with uromodulin-associated kidney disease typically require either dialysis to remove wastes from the blood or a kidney transplant between the ages of 30 and 70. Occasionally, affected individuals are found to have small kidneys or kidney cysts (medullary cysts).”

Since this is inherited, I suspect the only way to prevent it is gene editing. I researched gene editing a bit but discovered there is quite a bit of controversy as to the legal and ethical aspects of this procedure right now. However, this doesn’t mean it isn’t possible.

The only other information I could find was far too technical for this lay person to understand, much less explain. Readers, do you have more information?

Something else that was new to me this week: pitaya or dragon fruit. I always buy myself a birthday present and this was mine for this year. By the way, thank you to all the readers who took the time to wish me well on my 72nd yesterday. Back to pitaya.

According to Healthline (Thank you again for the two awards.) at https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/dragon-fruit#what-it-is, pitaya is:

“Dragon fruit is a tropical fruit native to Mexico and Central America. Its taste is like a combination of a kiwi and a pear…. Dragon fruit is a low-calorie fruit that is high in fiber and provides a good amount of several vitamins and minerals…. Dragon fruit contains several antioxidants that protect your cells from damage. These include betalains, hydroxycinnamates, and flavonoids…. Animal studies suggest that dragon fruit may improve insulin resistance, liver fat, and heart health. However, the results of human studies are inconsistent…. To date, there have been two reported cases of a severe allergic reaction to dragon fruit.”

I like that it contains less sugar and calories than other tropical fruits, but I didn’t find the taste appealing. It was bland with just a hint of a woody aftertaste. Was it too ripe? Not ripe enough? Surprisingly, my Utah raised son-in-law loves it and jumped at the chance to finish mine.

I ran into what might have been more new information this past week when the P.A. taking my husband’s blood pressure used a wrist monitor on his right wrist. I was always told an arm cuff monitor was better because the pressure was only taken through one bone, whereas there are two in the wrist. I was also told that the left arm was best because it was closer to the heart. This advice was from my PCP’s nurse and that of my nephrologist. However, this P.A. insisted the wrist monitor measures atomic movement of the blood so it didn’t matter whether a wrist or arm cuff were used, nor which arm was used. It didn’t sound right to me.

This is from SlowItDownCKD 2014 and may be helpful here:

“Well, what about the different kinds of blood pressure monitors? I use a wrist monitor which my PCP is simply not thrilled with.  Her feeling is that I’m taking my pressure through two bones, the radius and the ulna, as opposed to only one bone, the humerus, with an arm device. There’s also the finger monitor, but that could be a problem if you have thin or cold fingers.

There are manual and battery operated versions of these monitors.  If you use an arm monitor, be aware that larger cuffs are available if needed. The one thing most blood pressure sites agree upon is that it’s not a good idea to rely on drugstore monitors for your readings.”

I have been researching for over two hours. I cannot find anything about atomic movement within the blood being measured by a blood pressure monitor of any kind. I’ve been to professional pages, checked studies, and even looked at advertisements. So, unless you have other information, I do believe I’ve been had. I just can’t wait to meet this young man at the follow up appointment in two weeks when I’ll ask him for resources and the monitor manufacturers’ information.

On another note, I’ve written about KDIGO during the last two years. This is from SlowItDownCKD 2017 and was repeated in the Sept. 17th blog in 2018.

“This stands for KIDNEY DISEASE | IMPROVING GLOBAL OUTCOMES. Their homepage at KDIGO.org states:

KDIGO MISSION – Improving the care and outcomes of kidney disease patients worldwide through the development and implementation of global clinical practice guidelines.’”

So why mention it again, you ask? Well, you know how I’m always saying I’m not a doctor and neither are you, but doctors need to know what we, as kidney patients, need to say? KDIGO is now inviting patients – including those with CKD – to join their patient network. What better way to be heard as a kidney patient? I joined and I hope you will, too. The link to join is:

https://sydneypublichealth.au1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_72LdurS2QicQFKd.

This is the announcement the Dr. Joel Topf (on Twitter as @kidney_boy) brought to my attention:

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

I’ll be Glowing!

Not really, but that was my first thought when a nuclear medicine (NM) test was ordered for me. It required radioactive material to be injected into my veins. The test is called NM Hepatobiliary Scan with Pharmacologic Intervention.

Let’s get a definition of hepatobiliary before we do anything else. Thank you MedicineNet at https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=19515 for this one:

“Hepatobiliary: Having to do with the liver plus the gallbladder, bile ducts, or bile. For example, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) can be applied to the hepatobiliary system. Hepatobiliary makes sense since “hepato-” refers to the liver and “-biliary” refers to the gallbladder, bile ducts, or bile.”

That’s my kind of definition. Clear and easy for those of us who are not doctors to understand. It makes sense, too, since we were exploring what I called discomfort and my PCP called pain just under the lowest rib on my right side… very close to the gall bladder. The more than occasional nausea helped her to decide this test was necessary.

According to the test report, this is how it works:

“TECHNIQUE:

Frontal standing images of the abdomen and pelvis were obtained immediately and 30 minutes following the intravenous administration of Tc99m IDA. Pharmacologic intervention with CCK (or equivalent) and/or morphine with additional dynamic imaging was also performed.”

I didn’t know what Tc99mIDA or CCK was, so I’m guessing you don’t either.  Wikipedia at

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technetium_(99mTc)_mebrofenin  tells us,

“Technetium (99mTc) mebrofenin is a diagnostic radiopharmaceutical used for imaging of the liver and the gallbladder.”

Hmmm, we could have figured that out from the way the term is used in the context of the technique.

Let’s try CCK. This is also from Wikipedia but this time at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cholecystokinin.

“Cholecystokinin (CCK or CCK-PZ; from Greek chole, “bile”; cysto, “sac”; kinin, “move”; hence, move the bile-sac (gallbladder)) is a peptide hormone of the gastrointestinal system responsible for stimulating the digestion of fat and protein. Cholecystokinin, officially called pancreozymin, is synthesized and secreted by enteroendocrine cells in the duodenum, the first segment of the small intestine.” 

Well, that’s fairly explanatory, but keep in mind that Wikipedia entries can be edited by anyone.

I know, now you want to know the results. Back to the test report:

“HIDA scan:

Gallbladder clearly visualized. Gallbladder ejection fraction calculated at 37% at 30 minutes. Greater than 35% is normal.

Study Result Impression:

Gallbladder clearly visualized. Borderline abnormal gallbladder response to cholecystokinin challenge.”

Here’s where I got lost. If my gall bladder ejection fraction is normal, how can I have a borderline abnormal gall bladder response to cholecystokinin challenge? Yep, it’s time to make an appointment with my family doctor since she ordered these tests and, being who she is, can probably explain that in terms I can understand.  More on that after next week’s liver MRI and an appointment with her to discuss the findings of both tests.

While this is all interesting, what does it have to do with the kidneys? I went back to SlowItDownCKD 2013 to find out what I’d written about that after my New York daughter’s gall bladder was removed.

“After speaking with my daughter, I still wondered what gallstones have to do with Chronic Kidney Disease.  Searching the web only garnered this one article from January, 2009 … and the study only covered Taiwan. Of course, I found it at the National Institutes of Health at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19352299.

‘The prevalence of gallbladder stones in patients with Chronic Kidney Disease is significantly higher than in those without Chronic Kidney Disease. Our findings suggest that increasing age, Chronic Kidney Disease, body mass index > or =27 kg/m {greater than 59 pounds}, metabolic syndrome, and cirrhosis are the related factors for gallbladder stone formation.’

Now think about it another way: you already have a compromised immune system because you have CKD.  Gallstones can cause infection of the gallbladder. As in Nima’s experience, infection causes white blood cell elevation. So you know you have an infection, you might even realize it could be in the bile ducts, too.  But did you check to see if there’s infection in other areas of your body? That would mean you can read your own test results or have the kind of relationship with your doctors – especially your nephrologist – to freely ask questions.

As for what this organ does, this is what MedlinePlus at https://vsearch.nlm.nih.gov/vivisimo/cgi-bin/query-meta?v%3Aproject=medlineplus&v%3Asources=medlineplus-bundle&query=gall+bladder&_ga=2.56082859.126205281.1548540376-1108406265.1544652518 had to say.

‘Your gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ under your liver. It stores bile, a fluid made by your liver to digest fat. As your stomach and intestines digest food, your gallbladder releases bile through a tube called the common bile duct. The duct connects your gallbladder and liver to your small intestine.’

Keep in mind that your liver, the largest organ in your body {The skin is actually the largest organ, but it’s external.} is the other organ that filters your blood.  Since your CKD has been diagnosed, your liver is already working harder. Add losing your gallbladder and you’ve got one very hard working – possibly overworked – liver.”

Needless to say, while I was taking this in stride, especially since my kidney function is the best it’s been in the over a decade since I’ve been diagnosed with CKD, I am now eager to have the liver MRI and get back to my primary care doctor (PCP) so she can explain what a lay person can’t understand from reading the results-  even with further researching.

A few announcements, if you please:

Our friends at @antidote_me are hosting the first of their new free monthly patient focused webinars. This one is about how medical research really works and is this Wednesday, January 30th. It’s a 15 minute webinar.  Register now: https://hubs.ly/H0gc_KV0.

Also, I write the blogs from a U.S. angle since that’s where I live. There is a new Facebook CKD support group which is from the British angle. It’s Chronic Kidney Disease Support Group for UK! Another is CKD Support UK. These are only two of several from across the sea. If you’d like to find the others, go to Facebook and in the search bar on top, enter CKD Support in UK. That little word “in” is what makes it searchable.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Double Whammy

Just as the flu was walking out the door, sinusitis walked in. No fair! Although, I must be feeling better because I’m starting to open all the doors and windows again.

I live in Arizona. We don’t have an actual winter, but we do have a flu season with all its accompanying ailments. Having a compromised immune system is not exactly a first choice, but I have Chronic Kidney Disease.

I know I need to slow down with this explanation. Good thinking. First off, what is the immune system? I went to NCBI, The National Center for Biotechnology Information at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279364/ for an answer.

“The immune system (from the Latin word immunis, meaning: “free” or “untouched”) protects the body like a guardian from harmful influences from the environment and is essential for survival. It is made up of different organs, cells and proteins and aside from the nervous system, it is the most complex system that the human body has.

As long as our body’s system of defense is running smoothly, we do not notice the immune system. And yet, different groups of cells work together and form alliances against just about any pathogen (germ). But illness can occur if the performance of the immune system is compromised, if the pathogen is especially aggressive, or sometimes also if the body is confronted with a pathogen it has not come into contact before.”

Notice the word “compromised” in the last sentence. According to Dictionary.com at https://www.dictionary.com/browse/compromised, that means

“unable to function optimally, especially with regard to immune response, owing to underlying disease, harmful environmental exposure, or the side effects of a course of treatment.”

So when you have a compromised immune system, you are not receiving the full protection against germs that you could be receiving. Well, how does CKD affect the immune system?

My GFR (the numbers above the arc in the photo to the left and defined later in this blog) is usually between 49% and 59%. That means at any given time I’m missing quite a bit of the function normal kidneys would have. In other words, my kidneys are working more than twice as hard as those of someone without kidney disease. This is a fact that’s easy to forget now that I have the renal diet down pat … until I get sick… and it takes me longer to recuperate… or I slide right into another illness.

Let’s take a look at the jobs performed by the kidneys to see exactly why. This is what I wrote in SlowItDownCKD 2014:

“Your kidneys filter toxins and waste products from your blood.  They also regulate electrolyte levels and blood pressure and produce hormones, among their many jobs.”

Let’s say I eat some bad food. It would take me more than twice as long to recover and I could be more than twice as sick since my kidneys are compromised. Or maybe I actually took one of Bear’s medications instead of my own (which will never happen since they’re kept far, far from mine. This is just an example.) Same thing. I only have less than half the ability to remove a toxin from my body as someone with normal kidney function does. As for germs? You guessed it. My compromised immune system leaves me open to far more than I would be if I didn’t have CKD.

Now for sinusitius. I had that one covered in SlowItDownCKD 2013:

“The Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/acute-sinusitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20351671 has this to say about acute sinusitis:

‘Acute sinusitis (acute rhinosinusitis) causes the cavities around your nasal passages (sinuses) to become inflamed and swollen. This interferes with drainage and causes mucus to build up.

With acute sinusitis, it may be difficult to breathe through your nose. The area around your eyes and face may feel swollen, and you may have throbbing facial pain or a headache.’

Before we get any more detailed here, a few reminders are in order {taken from What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease’s Glossary}.

Acute – Extremely painful, severe or serious, quick onset, of short duration; the opposite of chronic.

Antibiotic – Medication used to treat infection.

Chronic – Long term, the opposite of acute.

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

Keeping it plain and simple, that just about covers my double whammy of sliding from the flu into sinusitis.

For those interested in KidneyX, this may be for you:

KidneyX: #RedesignDialysis Twitter Chat
The KidneyX: Redesign Dialysis prize challenge has a total prize purse of $2,625,000 and aims to accelerate the development and commercialization of next-generation dialysis products. Now through February 28, 2019, the KidneyX Redesign Dialysis competition will be accepting proposals for solutions or components of solutions that offer patients significant alternatives to dialysis as it is generally practiced today.
Innovators that are interested in applying for KidneyX: Redesign Dialysis are encouraged to participate in Twitter chat on January 24, 2019 from 1:00pm – 2:00pm EST.
Representatives from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and American Society of Nephrology will be available during the chat to answer your questions and provide more information about KidneyX, the Redesign Dialysis competition, and innovation in kidney care.. To participate and follow the chat, use the #RedesignDialysis hashtag.

For those of you who are caretakers for people with CKD, this may interest you:

Please join us on Wednesday, January 23 at 1 p.m. ET for an educational webinar titled: Taking Care of Yourself While Taking Care of Your Loved Ones – Coping Strategies for Kidney Patient Caregivers!
As a caregiver for a loved one with kidney disease, it is important to remember to take time for yourself. Hear from social worker Renee Bova-Collis, MSW, LCSW, and caregivers Brenda Vasser-Taylor and Ashley Martin … as they share coping strategies to help you take care of yourself so that you can support your loved ones.

 

Click here to Register!

 

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email with information on how to join the webinar. To call-in without connecting to a computer, use this #:

United States: +1 (562) 247-8422

You will be asked to enter the following Access Code: 399-056-972#

Audio PIN: Shown after joining the webinar

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

A Creatinine Christmas Present

Tomorrow is Christmas and a Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate. The day after Christmas Kwanzaa begins, so a Happy Kwanzaa to those of you who celebrate. But back to Christmas right now: today’s blog is a present to a reader who joined me way back when I first started blogging and has since become a close online friend.

You see, her creatinine is rising but she’s barely eating and – since she has multiple physical conditions – can’t exercise. She’s flummoxed and so was I because food and muscle waste are the two usual causes of rising creatinine levels in the blood. I decided to try to help her sort this out now even though she’ll be seeing her nephrologist right after the New Year.

A good place to start is always at the beginning. By this, I wonder if I mean the beginning of my Chronic Kidney Disease awareness advocacy as the author of What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease and the blog or if I mean the basics about creatinine. Let’s combine them all. The following definition is from the book which became the earliest blogs:

Creatinine clearance: Compares the creatinine level in your urine with that in your blood to provide information about your kidney function”

Hmmm, that didn’t exactly work. Let’s try again. Bingo! It was in SlowItDownCKD 2014,

“Creatinine: chemical waste product that’s produced by our muscle metabolism and to a smaller extent by eating meat. {MayoClinic.org}”

Red meat? No, that’s not it. My friend doesn’t eat meat at all, as far as I know. Beaumont Hospital Kidney Centre at http://www.beaumont.ie/kidneycentre-forpatients-aguidetokidneydisease-die offers the following information concerning food and creatinine:

“Protein intake from the diet is important during the progression of chronic kidney disease and also when you commence dialysis. The protein we eat is used for tissue repair and growth. Any unused protein is broken down into waste products, including urea and creatinine. As your kidneys are unable to excrete urea and creatinine properly, they build up in your blood and cause symptoms such as nausea and loss of appetite.

By eating large amounts of protein foods e.g. meat, fish, chicken, eggs, cheese, milk and yoghurt before commencing dialysis [Me here, that means those of us who are pre-dialysis like me], you will affect the buildup of urea and creatinine in your blood. An appropriate daily intake of protein should be advised by your dietician.

However, once dialysis treatment has commenced it is important to make sure that your body is getting enough protein to prevent malnutrition. Some of your stores of protein are lost during the haemodialysis and CAPD sessions. How much protein you need depends on your body size and is specific to each individual.”

And the ‘muscle metabolism’ in our definition? This deals with the way muscles use energy. The waste product of this process is creatinine.

Medical News Today at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320113.php had something to say about exercise and creatinine:

“Strenuous exercise, such as weight training or resistance exercise, may cause high creatinine levels.

Muscle activity produces creatinine; the more the muscles work, the more creatinine is in the blood. While regular exercise is essential for good health, overexertion can cause the creatinine levels in the blood to spike.

A 2012 study noted that intense exercise increased creatinine levels in the bloodstream temporarily. It may be best for people to avoid strenuous activity until they have completed any treatment for the cause of the high creatinine levels.

However, people should not avoid exercise altogether, except in some extreme circumstances.

To maintain their exercise regimen, people who like weight training or resistance exercises could switch to yoga and body weight exercises during treatment. People who prefer cardio exercises, such as running or cycling, could consider changing to walking or swimming.”

My friend does not exercise. So what else could it be that is raising her creatinine? I went to New Health Advisor at https://www.newhealthadvisor.com/causes-of-elevated-creatinine.html which was quite comprehensive in answering the question.

“Kidney diseases or disorders can lead to high creatinine levels. Since the kidneys are the filters of wastes from the bloodstream, kidney damage means that there will be a buildup of creatinine beside other waste products in the body. Kidney conditions such as glomerulonephritis, acute tubular necrosis, kidney infection (pyelonephritis) and kidney failure can cause high creatinine levels. Reduced blood flow to the kidneys can also have a similar effect.

Other causes of elevated creatinine levels in blood include shock, dehydration, and congestive heart failure. These conditions lead to a reduction in blood flow to the kidneys, which interferes with their normal functions. High blood pressure, diabetic neuropathy, muscular dystrophy, rhabdomyolysis, eclampsia, and preeclampsia can also cause elevated serum creatinine.

In case a patient with renal dysfunction gets an infection like pneumonia, urinary tract infection, intestinal infection, or a cold, the creatinine level may rise within a short time.

Urine abnormalities such as long-term hematuria and proteinuria can also lead to high creatinine levels.

Taking drugs that have renal toxicity properties can also raise the levels of creatinine in the bloodstream. Such medications include chemotherapy drugs, ACE inhibitors, and NSAIDs like aspirin and ibuprofen among others.”

They also included excessive exercise, too much protein in the diet, fatigue, and inadequate rest.

I noticed each site I looked at mentioned that creatinine increase could be temporary. Perhaps a re-test is in order for my friend.

I know you’re already asking why she was surprised to find this on her lab report. She already has CKD which could be a cause of high creatinine levels. What worried her is that they are rising. Is her CKD getting worse? Or did she neglect to get adequate rest (as one possibility) before this particular blood test?

I can’t answer that since I’m not a doctor, although I hope I’ve been able to alleviate her worry until she gets to go to her nephrologist next week. Here’s hoping this was a welcome Christmas present, my friend.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Kidney Transplant: Cure or Treatment? 

I’ve already mentioned that there’s an active network of kidney disease awareness advocates… and that we find each other. I met Steve at a think tank last spring. I wasn’t really sure why I’d been invited, but as soon as he and his wife started talking, I knew why they were.

I hesitated to ask Steve to guest blog since, at the time, I was only writing about Chronic Kidney Disease. Since then, readers have asked me to write about all sorts of topics dealing with the kidneys, not just CKD. So I did. Steve and his thoughts on being a transplant fit right in to this new agenda. When I did ask him to guest blog, I received a return response that was one of the most gracious acceptances… and they’ve all been gracious. I’ll turn the blog over to Steve Winfree now.

The other day I was speaking with some friends and one made mention to me how incredibly lucky I was. I received a new kidney from my wife, Heather, just last year and I was feeling as if I were on top of the world. Given that fact, I had to agree with him, but I inquired further to find out what he meant. He responded that it must be such a relief to be cured and to no longer have to worry about kidney issues, dialysis, and the mess that comes with it.

That really got me thinking about what a kidney transplant actually means outside of the wonderful opportunity for a second chance at a more normal life. It also reminded me that there is a knowledge gap between those close to kidney failure and those who are not.

It is essential that, as a kidney transplant recipient, I clarify the difference between a cure and a treatment. Chronic Kidney Disease is a disease that progresses over time. This is due to the fact that CKD is a disease in which your body attacks your kidneys, or is a genetic disorder (PKD), or is a result of a primary disease such as diabetes and/or high blood pressure. The common factor among the types of kidney disease is that an outside source, not the kidney itself, is the reason for the issues.

This is why receiving a new kidney is a treatment and not a cure. A genetic disorder is still active in your body even when the new kidney is placed. Diabetes and high blood pressure can still be prevalent even with a new kidney, thus causing the implanted kidney to be affected in the same way as the old one. It is due to these reasons that a transplant is a treatment and not a cure. My new kidney has allowed my body to filter out the toxins much more easily, freed me from dialysis, and granted me the ability to get around easier since my arthritis was derived from my kidney disease.

The truth is that while this second opportunity at a much better life is an enormous blessing, the reality is that there is a good chance I will need another transplant one day. The reason is that the cause of my initial kidney failure is still within my body and attacking the new kidney. That is in addition to another main reason that a new kidney is not a final cure: organ rejection.

A new kidney is looked at as a foreign object by your body. Our bodies are designed to keep the body in balance and when something out of the ordinary, such as a virus invading, it attacks to bring balance back. The same is applied to a kidney that is transplanted from another source. Your body sees it as a foreign object and attacks it. That is why we must take immunosuppressant drugs to trick our bodies into not realizing there is a foreign organ inside.

With all of this being said about my new transplant being a treatment and not a cure, I want to mention how my life has changed forever. At the age of 33, I feel better right now than I have since I was a young teenager. My entire adult life has been spent in hospitals and doctors’ offices. I am now free to use my time to travel, enjoy life, and be the foster parent that I have always wanted to be.

A big part of receiving a kidney transplant is the medicine that is involved. The medicine you have to take every day is known as an immunosuppressant, or anti-rejection. While this is a medicine that you must take for the rest of your life, there are steps you can take to ensure that you are able to receive the medicine in an affordable manner. Kidney transplant patients qualify for Medicare. Medicare helps take care of a lot of the costs associated with taking these medications, but not all of it. The best advice I can give you in regards to your medications is to educate yourself on Medicare, MediGap, manufacturer coupons, and be in a close relationship with your transplant team’s social worker. It can be overwhelming at times, but I promise you that there are resources out there to help you!

I am extremely lucky in the fact that my wife, Heather, donated her kidney to me. While this is a treatment, it is the most remarkable and life changing treatment I have ever been blessed to receive! While all kidney disease patients would love to be cured, we understand that will never be the case, but that does not mean our lives cannot be just as remarkable and enjoyable with our treatments.

While we all watched our different renal diets during the weekend we were together, I never once saw Steve or Heather bemoan their new regiment with the transplanted kidney. While they talked about the exorbitant cost of the medications, they were accepting. One other thing I noticed about this delightful couple is that they were grateful every minutes of the time we spent together. I’m hoping Steve’s transplant lasts him as long as is medically feasible.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

How Does That Work Again?

I’ve had so many questions lately about how clinical trials work that when Antidote asked me if I’d consider including their infograph in a blog, I jumped at the chance. There’s even more information about clinical trials at https://www.antidote.me/what-are-clinical-trial-phases.

I’ve written about Antidote before… and I’ve written about clinical trials before. It seems more and more people are becoming interested in the process for a multitude of diseases, not only Chronic Kidney Disease.

As a newly diagnosed diabetes patient, I’ve noticed clinical trials for diabetes. A family member has Alzheimer’s; his neurologist keeps an eye out for clinical trials for him. Whatever your disease is, you can search for clinical trials.

While this is not everyone’s cup of tea, it is a chance to help others who may develop the same diseases in the future. Who knows, maybe the new treatment will be FDA approved during your own lifetime and help you with your own disease.

In case you are one of those people who have always wondered just what the FDA is, their website is https://www.fda.gov. That’s right: it’s a government site which is part of the U.S. Health and Human Services. What’s that? You’d like a more precise definition?

No problem. This is from the United States of American Government website at https://www.usa.gov/federal-agencies/food-and-drug-administration and offers basic information about the FDA.

Food and Drug Administration

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for protecting the public health by assuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, medical devices, our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation. The FDA also provides accurate, science-based health information to the public.

                                                                                                                                                      Agency Details

Acronym: FDA

Website: Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Contact: Contact the Food and Drug Administration

 Report a Problem with a Product

Main Address: 10903 New Hampshire Ave.
Silver Spring, MD 20993

Toll Free: 1-888-INFO-FDA (1-888-463-6332)

Forms: Food and Drug Administration Forms

Government branch: Executive Department Sub-Office/Agency/Bureau

By the way, they are also responsible for both recalls and safety alerts for the treatments they’ve approved.

In the infograph above, you’ll notice, “Sometimes, only healthy volunteers participate.” in Phase 1. Should you decide to apply for a clinical trial, you need to keep this in mind to save yourself a bit of heartache. I firmly believe in paying back for the wonderful things in my life and have applied for several clinical trials for other diseases in an effort to do so. I must have missed the small print because I was rejected for having CKD.

I wanted to help eradicate or ameliorate whatever the disease was. Sometimes it was a disease that was ravaging a loved one. It was just a little bit of a heartbreak not to be able to do so.

As for Phase 2, I went to the blog’s site at gailraegarwood.wordpress.com to use the antidote widget at the bottom of the right side of the page. It’s the turquoise one. You can’t miss it. Face Palm! You can also go directly to www.antidote.me to search for clinical trials.

Why Antidote? It’s simply an easier way to find a clinical trial. This is from SlowItDownCKD 2017:

“Antidote Match™

Matching patients to trials in a completely new way
Antidote Match is the world’s smartest clinical trial matching tool, allowing patients to match to trials just by answering a few questions about their health.

Putting technology to work
We have taken on the massive job of structuring all publicly available clinical trial eligibility criteria so that it is machine-readable and searchable.

This means that for the first time, through a machine-learning algorithm that dynamically selects questions, patients can answer just a few questions to search through thousands of trials within a given therapeutic area in seconds and find one that’s right for them.

Patients receive trial information that is specific to their condition with clear contact information to get in touch with researchers.

Reaching patients where they are
Even the smartest search tool is only as good as the number of people who use it, so we’ve made our search tool available free of charge to patient communities, advocacy groups, and health portals. We’re proud to power clinical trial search on more than a hundred of these sites, reaching millions of patients per month where they are already looking for health information.

Translating scientific jargon
Our platform pulls information on all the trials listed on clinicaltrials.gov and presents it into a simple, patient-friendly design.

You (Gail here: this point is addressed to the ones conducting the clinical trial) then have the option to augment that content through our free tool, Antidote Bridge™, to include the details that are most important to patients – things like number of overnights, compensation, and procedures used. This additional information helps close the information gap between patients and researchers, which ultimately yields greater engagement with patients.

Here’s how Antidote Match works
1. Visit search engine → Patients visit either our website or one of the sites that host our search.
2. Enter condition → They enter the condition in which they’re interested, and begin answering the questions as they appear
3. Answer questions → As more questions are answered, the number of clinical trial matches reduces
4. Get in touch: When they’re ready, patients review their matches and can get in touch with the researchers running each study directly through our tool

Try it from the blog roll. I did. I was going to include my results, but realized they wouldn’t be helpful since my address, age, sex, diseases, and conditions may be different from everyone else’s. One caveat: search for Chronic Renal Insufficiency or Chronic Renal Failure (whichever applies to you) rather than Chronic Kidney Disease.”

Before I sign off, this came in from the American Association of Kidney Patients:

Please join us on Tuesday, October 9, 2018 at 1 p.m. ET for an educational webinar on Making the Perfect Team: Working with Your Dialysis Technician in partnership with National Association of Nephrology Technicians/Technologists (NANT).  Keep in mind that’s tomorrow. Hit this link if you’d like to register https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/7744206034004582403

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

The Dynamic Duo 

Sorry Batman, not yours. I’m writing about Chronic Kidney Disease and diabetes. For a decade, I’ve been told diabetes is the number one cause of CKD. Got it… and (as you know) CKD. Then I learned that CKD can cause diabetes. Ummm, okay, I guess that sort of makes sense. And then, oh my, I developed diabetes. But how? I’d never questioned how that worked before, but I certainly did now.

Let’s go back to the beginning here. First of all, what is diabetes? I included this information in SlowItDownCKD 2013:

“According to MedicalNewsToday at https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/info/diabetes:

‘Diabetes, often referred to by doctors as diabetes mellitus, describes a group of metabolic diseases in which the person has high blood glucose (blood sugar), either because insulin production is inadequate, or because the body’s cells do not respond properly to insulin, or both. Patients with high blood sugar will typically experience polyuria (frequent urination), they will become increasingly thirsty (polydipsia) and hungry (polyphagia).’”

Guilty on all three counts as far as symptoms. It gets worse. I uncovered this fact in SlowItDownCKD 2014:

“According to Diabetes.co.uk at https://www.diabetes.co.uk/how-does-diabetes-affect-the-body.html,

‘The kidneys are another organ that is at particular risk of damage as a result of diabetes and the risk is again increased by poorly controlled diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol.’”

This is getting more and more complicated. But again, how is diabetes damaging my kidneys?

It seemed to me that I had just posted a fact about this on SlowItDownCKD’s Facebook page, so I checked. Yep, I did on September 7th.

“Did you know that high glucose levels can make your red blood cells stiffen? This hinders your blood circulation.”

And this affects the kidneys how? Let’s think about this a minute. Way back when I wrote What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, I included this information:

“A renal artery carries the blood, waste and water to the kidneys while a renal vein carries the filtered and sieved waste from the kidneys.”

The American Society of Hematology at http://www.hematology.org/Patients/Basics/ tells us there are four parts of the blood:

  1. Red blood cells
  2. White blood cells
  3. Plasma
  4. Platelets

Hmmm, so red blood cells compose one quarter of your blood and high glucose can make them stiffen. To me, that means a quarter of your blood will be working against you.  Not what we need… especially when we’re already dealing with Chronic Kidney Disease.

Back to my original question (again): How do high glucose levels affect the kidneys?

Thank you to the National Kidney Foundation at https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/Diabetes-and-Kidney-Disease-Stages1-4 for exactly the answer I was looking for:

  • Blood vessels inside your kidneys. The filtering units of the kidney are filled with tiny blood vessels. Over time, high sugar levels in the blood can cause these vessels to become narrow and clogged. Without enough blood, the kidneys become damaged and albumin (a type of protein) passes through these filters and ends up in the urine where it should not be.
  • Nerves in your body. Diabetes can also cause damage to the nerves in your body. Nerves carry messages between your brain and all other parts of your body, including your bladder. They let your brain know when your bladder is full. But if the nerves of the bladder are damaged, you may not be able to feel when your bladder is full. The pressure from a full bladder can damage your kidneys.
  • Urinary tract. If urine stays in your bladder for a long time, you may get a urinary tract infection. This is because of bacteria. Bacteria are tiny organisms like germs that can cause disease. They grow rapidly in urine with a high sugar level. Most often these infections affect the bladder, but they can sometimes spread to the kidneys.

I would say I’m heart… uh, kidney…broken about this development, but the truth is I’m not. I don’t like it; I don’t want it, but I can do something about it. I’d already cut out complex carbs and sugar laden foods in an abortive attempt to lose weight for my health. Well, maybe my daughter’s wedding on October 6th had something to do with that decision, too.

The point is, I’ve started. I’m aware of the carbohydrates in food and I’m learning how to control my intake of them… just as I’m aware that I have to break in the shoes for the wedding. Something new has to be gotten used to. I’ve had a head start.

Why the emphasis on carbs, you ask. I turned to my old favorite The National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases at https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/diet-eating-physical-activity/carbohydrate-counting  for help:

“When you eat foods containing carbohydrates, your digestive system breaks down the sugars and starches into glucose. Glucose is one of the simplest forms of sugar. Glucose then enters your bloodstream from your digestive tract and raises your blood glucose levels. The hormone insulin, which comes from the pancreas or from insulin shots, helps cells throughout your body absorb glucose and use it for energy. Once glucose moves out of the blood into cells, your blood glucose levels go back down.”

If you’ve got diabetes, your body either is not producing enough insulin or not interacting well with the insulin it is producing. Measuring my blood sugar levels when I awaken in the morning has shown me that when I’m sleeping – when I cannot help my blood sugar levels come down by eating protein or exercising, even in my dreams – is when I have the highest blood sugar. During the day I can keep it under control.

And that’s where my medication comes in. The usual – Metformin – can cause nausea, which I deal with more often than not, so that was out. However, a new medication on the market just might do the trick. It’s only been a few days, but I do notice my blood sugar upon waking is getting lower each day. This medication is not a panacea. I still have to be careful with my food, exercise daily, and sometimes counteract a high carb food with a protein. I’m not there yet, but I’m learning.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

So That’s How It’s Done

Readers have asked me repeatedly how foundations to raise awareness of kidney disease are started. You know my story: I developed Chronic Kidney Disease, didn’t understand what my nephrologist was saying so researched the disease, then decided to share my research with others who needs plain talk or reader friendly explanations. Hello, books, the blog, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus, LinkedIn, and my website. But I’m not a foundation; I’m just me doing what I can.

Back to the original question: How do foundations begin? Let’s keep in mind that we’re not talking about the biggies like the National Kidney Foundation here.

Well, remember the AAKP Conference back in June that I keep referring to? You meet a lot of people there. One fellow I met is Scott Burton who started his own kidney awareness foundation. I put the question to him. Ready? Here’s his answer.

How do you sum up 36 years of a constant back and forth struggle? Of a lifetime searching for a reason as hope fades a little more each day? How do you not get sick on this roller coaster called life? Simple answer, you don’t have a choice, so you push forward and try to find some positive in the negative, some hope in the hopeless and, ultimately, just try to live each day a little better than the last and make a positive impact. See, this isn’t a story with a fairytale happy ending, but most stories worth reading (or watching), don’t have fairytale endings; rather, they are stories that are relatable and sometimes left open ended.

This isn’t a guest blog about me or my battle, but rather one introducing the positive that has come from the negatives. That positive comes in the form of The Forever is Tomorrow Foundation which pulls from my background in marketing and video production. It just made sense to try to raise awareness and shed some light on kidney disease in the best way I know how: with real people telling real stories about real experiences in a casual and comfortable format.

That began the journey to today, a journey that began on March 3rd, 2016, when The Forever is Tomorrow Foundation was officially launched. The foundation is committed to raising awareness and shedding light on kidney disease through the creation of video content distributed via the web and social media. With many hopes and plans for the future, we are pushing forward as time and funds are available to create new content and keep things moving.

What I envisioned when setting out and establishing The Forever is Tomorrow Foundation was a resource of media content to both shed light on kidney disease to the general public  – which usually doesn’t give their kidneys a second thought – as well as creating a place for patients to find a little bit of comfort with their own battles. By telling patients’ stories, highlighting struggles and accomplishments, and also highlighting research in the field, we can create a place of inspiration and hope. While we have several video series at various stages of development in the works, our primary focus right now is ramping up our mini-documentary web series as funding allows.

We launched with two Public Service Announcements that went live in May of 2016. These two were centered around the National Kidney Foundation’s statistic, “13 people die every day waiting for a kidney transplant,” with a combined viewership of just over 30,000 views on Facebook & YouTube.

In March of 2017, we launched the first episode of “This is Kidney Disease… This is Life,” which is a web mini-documentary series of patients telling their stories in their own words. To date, four episodes of “This is Kidney Disease… This is Life” have been posted online, with just under 50,000 views spread across Facebook and YouTube.

In the coming months, we will also be releasing the first three episodes of a companion to the patient series, telling living donor stories with more episodes of “This is Kidney Disease… This is Life” to follow later this year. Additionally, we released the first video of what will grow to a regular series highlighting research focused on University of California, San Francisco, & The Kidney Project.

That’s the basic plan and history of The Forever is Tomorrow Foundation, with lots of projects in the works and plans to continue to grow. Everything comes down to funding and continuing to grow our network. We are constantly looking for new patients to highlight in our videos, and building a database of contact info for future episodes. To view our videos and learn more about the organization, follow us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/foreveristomorrowfoundation) & subscribe on YouTube (www.youtube.com/c/TheForeverisTomorrowFoundation).

Thank you, Scott, for explaining the inside workings of starting a foundation to raise awareness for kidney disease. Here’s hoping we get a bunch of readers commenting to tell us they borrowed from your structure to begin such foundations of their own and/or are interested in sharing their stories with  you. Note: The Facebook page has some of the most interesting information on kidney innovations that I’ve read about. Take a look for yourself.

On another note, KidneyX is looking for our input. This is from the email they sent me:

“We seek your feedback on how the KidneyX project can best spur innovation in preventing, diagnosing, and/or treating kidney diseases. While we encourage all relevant comments, we are interested particularly in responses to the following questions. You may respond to some or all of the questions:

  1. What unmet needs – including those related to product development—should KidneyX prize competitions focus on? If you have ideas for more than one topic area/issue, how would you rank them in order of importance? If you are a person living with a kidney disease, what makes these topic areas for product development important?
  2. What assistance or services might HHS and ASN offer to KidneyX prize winners that would encourage the greatest participation from a broad range of innovators?
  3. In what ways might HHS and ASN, through KidneyX, effectively encourage collaboration or cooperation between participants/prize winners while respecting their intellectual property rights?
  4. Particularly for those interested in participating in a KidneyX prize competition but unfamiliar with kidney functions and diseases, what information would you find it most useful for HHS and ASN to share publicly?”

You can submit your comments using the title “KidneyX Project Comment” by their September 14 deadline at:

E-Mail: please send responses to KidneyX@hhs.gov.

Mail: please send mail to
KidneyX c/o Ross Bowling
200 Independence Avenue SW, Room 624D
Washington, D.C., 20201

You don’t need to be a kidney patient to respond; you can also be an innovator.

This is, without a doubt, the most businessish (Love the writer’s license to initiate new words, don’t you?) blog I have posted to date. I hope it was both helpful and interesting to you.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Not That Kind of Trial

I enjoy reading murder mysteries and thrillers, especially Victorian era ones like the work of Anne Perry.  Sometimes they include –  or even start with – the trial and work their way backwards to the crime. The trial. That got me to thinking about a different kind of trial: clinical trials. How did they begin? What are they? WHY are they?

According to the National Institutes of Health (part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) at https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/studies/clinicaltrials/:

“Clinical trials are research studies that explore whether a medical strategy, treatment, or device is safe and effective for humans. These studies also may show which medical approaches work best for certain illnesses or groups of people. Clinical trials produce the best data available for health care decision making.

The purpose of clinical trials is research, so the studies follow strict scientific standards. These standards protect patients and help produce reliable study results.

Clinical trials are one of the final stages of a long and careful research process. The process often begins in a laboratory (lab), where scientists first develop and test new ideas.

If an approach seems promising, the next step may involve animal testing. This shows how the approach affects a living body and whether it’s harmful. However, an approach that works well in the lab or animals doesn’t always work well in people. Thus, research in humans is needed.

For safety purposes, clinical trials start with small groups of patients to find out whether a new approach causes any harm. In later phases of clinical trials, researchers learn more about the new approach’s risks and benefits.

A clinical trial may find that a new strategy, treatment, or device
• improves patient outcomes;
• offers no benefit; or
• causes unexpected harm

All of these results are important because they advance medical knowledge and help improve patient care.”

That seemed to answer my last question, too, since their purpose is safely test new drugs or therapies.

Are these something recent? Something developed since the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) was instituted? No, they are far, far older. This is from Dr. Arun Bhatt’s Evolution of Clinical Research: A History Before and Beyond James Lind, which you can find at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3149409/. I found it fascinating.

“The world’s first clinical trial is recorded in the ‘Book of Daniel’ in The Bible…. This experiment resembling a clinical trial was not conducted by a medical, but by King Nebuchadnezzar a resourceful military leader…. During his rule in Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar ordered his people to eat only meat and drink only wine, a diet he believed would keep them in sound physical condition…. But several young men of royal blood, who preferred to eat vegetables, objected. The king allowed these rebels to follow a diet of legumes and water — but only for 10 days. When Nebuchadnezzar’s experiment ended, the vegetarians appeared better nourished than the meat-eaters, so the king permitted the legume lovers to continue their diet…. This probably was the one of the first times in evolution of human species that an open uncontrolled human experiment guided a decision about public health.”

Well, then, who is this James Lind mentioned in the title of Dr. Bhatt’s paper? I turned to England’s The Museum: Brought to Life at http://broughttolife.sciencemuseum.org.uk/broughttolife/people/jameslind for the answer:

“The Scottish surgeon James Lind was born in Edinburgh and served an apprenticeship at the Edinburgh College of Surgeons. He then worked as a ship’s surgeon until he opened his own practice in Edinburgh in 1748. Lind discovered the use of citrus fruit as a cure for scurvy when he conducted an early clinical trial. While working as a naval surgeon, Lind encountered cases of scurvy, a disease which often struck sailors on long voyages. The cause, a lack of essential vitamins, was unknown at the time. Earlier doctors had suggested that fresh fruit could be used to treat scurvy, but Lind was the first to test the effects of different diets systematically on a group of patients in a clinical trial. In 1754 he began to feed 12 scurvy patients different foods and found that patients eating citrus fruits such as lemons and oranges recovered much faster than those who were given other kinds of food.”

And now? Why are clinical trials important to us as kidney patients? In this year’s May 21st blog (Use the topic dropdown to the right of the blog itself; it’s easier than scrolling through all the blogs.), I wrote about the benefits of All of Us Research Project. The following is from that blog.

“The goal is to advance precision medicine. Precision medicine is health care that is based on you as an individual. It takes into account factors like where you live, what you do, and your family health history. Precision medicine’s goal is to be able to tell people the best ways to stay healthy. If someone does get sick, precision medicine may help health care teams find the treatment that will work best.

Researchers Share Discoveries

Research may help in many ways. It may help find the best ways for people to stay healthy. It may also help create better tests and find the treatments that will work best for different people.”

KidneyX is also involved. On June 24th (Use the topic dropdown again.), I included their principles in the blog.

Principles

  • Patient-Centered Ensure all product development is patient-centered
  • Urgent Create a sense of urgency to meet the needs of people with kidney diseases
  • Achievable Ground in scientifically-driven technology development
  • Catalytic Reduce regulatory and financial risks to catalyze investment in kidney space
  • Collaborative Foster multidisciplinary collaboration including innovators throughout science and technology, the business community, patients, care partners, and other stakeholders
  • Additive Address barriers to innovation public/private sectors do not otherwise
  • Sustainable Invest in a diverse portfolio to balance risk and sustain KidneyX”

Did you notice that first principle: patient-centered? Or the fifth one: collaborative? We are included in that; we’re the patients.

IDEA Lab is one of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ partners. This is how they define themselves:

‘We test and validate solutions to solve challenging problems in the delivery of health and human services.’”

I know, I know. Now you want to know where you can join clinical trials. How about Antidote? You can go to their website at https://antidote.me/match/search/questions/1?utm_campaign=unisearch&utm_source=slowitdownckd_com&utm_medium=ctsearch&utm_content=no_js or use the widget to the bottom right of the blog. If you’d like a bit more information, I wrote about them on Oct. 7th, 2017 (Use the month dropdown if you’d like to read that blog.)

I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea… and I’ve run out of space.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Coming Home

I’m not a joiner. I’ve never been one. That’s why I was so surprised that I joined the American Association of Kidney Patients… and even more surprised to find myself attending this year’s conference in Tampa Bay, Florida. Readers had been suggesting I do so for years, but I’m not a joiner. Let’s change that; I wasn’t a joiner. The AAKP conference made the difference.

What’s that you ask? Of course, you need to know what they are. This is from their website at https://aakp.org/,

THE INDEPENDENT VOICE OF KIDNEY PATIENTS SINCE 1969™

The American Association of Kidney Patients is dedicated to improving the quality of life for kidney patients through education, advocacy, patient engagement and the fostering of patient communities.

Education

The American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP) is recognized as the leader for patient-centered education – continually developing high quality, professionally written, edited and reviewed educational pieces covering every level of kidney disease.

Advocacy

For nearly 50 years, AAKP has been the patient voice – advocating for improved access to high-quality health care through regulatory and legislative reform at the federal level. The Association’s work has improved long term outcomes in both quality of health and the ability for patients and family members affected by kidney disease to lead a more productive and meaningful life.

Community

AAKP is leading the effort to bring kidney patients together to promote community, conversations and to seek out services that help maximize patients’ everyday lives.

An IRS registered, Sec. 501(C)(3) organization, AAKP is governed by a Board of Directors. The current board is comprised of dialysis patients, chronic kidney disease patients, [Me here: You did notice ‘chronic kidney disease patients,’ right?] transplant recipients, health care professionals and members of the public concerned with kidney disease. The board and membership are serviced by a staff of five employees under the direction of Diana Clynes, Interim Executive Director, at the AAKP National Office located in Tampa, Florida.”

What’s not mentioned here is that the organization was started by only six patients. I find that astounding, but I’ll let them explain their history:

Founded by Patients for Patients

King County Hospital, New York

The American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP) has a rich history in patient advocacy and kidney disease education. AAKP started in 1969 with six dialysis patients at King County Hospital in Brooklyn, New York. They wanted to form an organization that would elevate the kidney patient voice in national health care arena, provide patients with educational resources to improve their lives and give kidney patients and their family members a sense of community. They met twice a week in the hospital ward and while hooked up to primitive dialysis machines for 12 to 18 hours at a time they brainstormed, researched and eventually formed AAKP.

The group originally called themselves NAPH (National Association of Patients on Hemodialysis, which later changed to AAKP). AAKP joined forces with other patient groups to fight for the enactment of the Medicare End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) Program, testifying before congressional committees, seeking public support and creating a newsletter (the forerunner of today’s AAKP RENALIFE) to keep everyone informed. This effort was crowned with success in 1972 when Congress enacted the program that continues to provide Medicare funding for dialysis and kidney transplantation.

After winning the initial and critical battle for the Medicare ESRD Program, AAKP turned its attention to other important issues — the need to establish a secure national organization to preserve the visibility and influence of patients with Congress and to develop national, educational and supportive programs.

Today & Beyond

AAKP has grown into a nationally recognized patient organization that reaches over 1 million people yearly. It remains dedicated to providing patients with the education and knowledge necessary to ensure quality of life and quality of health.”

This former non-joiner has found her association. I originally avoided the conferences because I thought they would be focused only on dialysis and transplant patients. Boy, was I ever wrong. Here are some of the outbreak (small group) sessions that dealt with other aspects of kidney disease:

Social Media (You’re right: I signed up for that one right away since I identify as a CKD awareness advocate.)

Dental Health

How Kidney Disease Impacts Family Members

Managing the Early Stage of CKD

Understanding Clinical Trials

Treatment Options

Staying Active

Veterans Administration

Caregiver’s Corner

Living Well with Kidney Disease

Avoid Infections

Of course, there were many outbreak sessions for dialysis and transplant patients as well. And there were two opportunities to lunch with experts. That’s where I tentatively learned about governmental aspects of our disease. There were opportunities to learn about nutrition, medications, working, and coping. I’ve just mentioned a few of the 50 different topics discussed.

The general sessions, the ones everyone attended, informed us of what the government’s national policy had to do with kidney disease, legislation, nutrition, patient centered care, and innovation in care (Keep an eye out for Third Kidney, Inc.’s August guest blog.).

I have not covered even half of what was offered during the conference. Did I mention renal friendly food was available and you could dialyze near the hotel if need be? The exhibitors went beyond friendly and explaining their products to being interested in who you were and why you were there. This was the most welcoming conference I’d been to in decades.

AAKP President Paul Conway summed up my feelings about the conference when he was interviewed by The Tampa Bay Times on the last day of the conference,

“This meeting is a way for us to bring patients together and educate them on trends that could affect their own health.”

I met so many others who have kidney disease and so many others who advocate for different types of kidney disease and patients’ rights. I was educated about so many areas, especially those I previously had known nothing about, for example, legislation. It was like coming home. Would I attend again? You bet’cha. Would I urge you to attend? At the risk of being redundant, you bet’cha.

I was so excited about AAKP that I almost didn’t leave myself enough space to tell you about yet another freebie. The Book of Blogs: Moderate Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1 is no longer in print since it has been divided into SlowItDownCKD 2011 and SlowItDownCKD 2012. But I still have a desk copy. Let me know if you’d like it. My only restriction is that you have not received a free book from me before.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Let Your Voice Be Heard

Someone on a Facebook Chronic Kidney Disease Support Group Page asked how we can make others more aware of what CKD patients want. I’ve been tweeting (exchanging remarks on Twitter) with those who could answer this question just recently. How perfect was that?

The first thing the American Society of Nephrology requested is that those of you who are familiar with Twitter, or are willing to become familiar with this social media, join the monthly #AskASN twitter chats. To join Twitter you simply go to Twitter.com and sign yourself up, no special expertise necessary. That pound sign, or as it’s commonly known now – hashtag, before the words signify that this is a person or group with a Twitter account. What comes after the hashtag is your handle, the name you choose for yourself. Mine is – naturally – #SlowItDownCKD. You can search for me on Twitter.

#AskASN is one of the hashtags of the American Society of Nephrology, the ASN which you’ve often seen me quote. Yes, they are respected. Yes, they are doctors. And, yes, they do want to know what we as kidney disease patients want them to know about our lives as their patients. Big hint: their next Twitter Chat will be in late July.

This year’s May 28th blog was about KidneyX, the same topic as June’s Twitter Chat. Here’s a little reminder of what KidneyX stands for:

“Principles

  • Patient-Centered Ensure all product development is patient-centered
  • Urgent Create a sense of urgency to meet the needs of people with kidney diseases
  • Achievable Ground in scientifically-driven technology development
  • Catalytic Reduce regulatory and financial risks to catalyze investment in kidney space
  • Collaborative Foster multidisciplinary collaboration including innovators throughout science and technology, the business community, patients, care partners, and other stakeholders
  • Additive Address barriers to innovation public/private sectors do not otherwise
  • Sustainable Invest in a diverse portfolio to balance risk and sustain KidneyX”

Did you notice that first principle: patient-centered? Or the fifth one: collaborative? We are included in that; we’re the patients.

IDEA Lab is one of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ partners. This is how they define themselves:

“We test and validate solutions to solve challenging problems in the delivery of health and human services.”

And this is what they had to say during the KidneyX Twitter Chat:

HHS IDEA Lab‏Verified account @HHSIDEALabJun 19

Absolutely. Patients are innovators and we need to recognize that #askASN#KidneyX

Patients. They want to hear from us, patients.

Before reproducing a small part of the @AskASN KidneyX Twitter Chat, I want to introduce the players.

Kevin J. Fowler (@gratefull080504) is a patient who has had a preemptive kidney transplant and is highly involved in the patient voice being heard.

Tejas Patel (@GenNextMD) is a nephrologist with a large social media presence who advocates “for halting the progression of ckd so no dialysis or transplant [is necessary].”

James Myers (@kidneystories) is a fairly recent transplant with a strong advocacy for transplant patients.

I’m me; you already know me.

Now, the excerpt:

Thank you @GenNextMD Me too! #AskASNhttps://twitter.com/GenNextMD/status/1009245134964318209 …

Kevin J. Fowler added,

  • Tejas Patel @GenNextMD

Replying to @kidneystories

I am advocating for halting the progression of ckd so no dialysis or transplant #askasn #moonshot

Replying to @gratefull080504@GenNextMD

@GenNextMD That’s what those of us pre-dialysis want, too. The question is how do we do that? As a lay person, I’m at a loss here.

Replying to @Slowitdownckd@gratefull080504

Major undertaking by medical community, organizations (ASN, AAKP, NKF, RPA) and implementation of breakthrough therapies keeping patient central. Engaging all stakeholders will help prioritize what works for patients. Dialogue via formal & social media helps us understand better.

Replying to @GenNextMD@Slowitdownckd@gratefull080504

We recently had patient editorial in @CJASN by @gratefull080504 and interview https://www.kidneynews.org/kidney-news/features/patient-engagement … Lot of work needs to be done

I read the article. I think you should, too. Kevin makes the point that patient voices need to be heard and the nephrologist who was interviewed with him, Dr. Eleanor D. Lederer, agrees.

From reading my blog alone, you’re already familiar with the oft quoted American Society of Nephrology (ASN), American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP) which was the subject of June 25th blog, and the National Kidney Foundation (NKF), a staple in the blog. But what is the RPA?

Let’s find out. It turns out that this is the Renal Physicians Association. Their website is at https://www.renalmd.org/. If you go there, you’ll notice four different choices. One of them is Advocacy. That’s the one I clicked. Keep in mind that this site is for physicians.

Become An Advocate for Excellence in Nephrology Practice

It is not only your right but also your obligation to let elected officials and policy makers know how you feel about important issues. It is your responsibility to speak out on matters that affect you directly or no one else will. RPA has developed pathways to allow you to do this.

Recognizing that nephrologists and their practice teams have limited time, an easy way to get involved in federal advocacy is by joining the RPA Political Action Committee (PAC) and Nephrology Coverage Advocacy Program (NCAP).

Take Action Nationally!

RPA’s Legislative Action Center (LAC) facilitates the important communication between RPA members and their members of Congress as well as representatives in their state legislatures. The LAC allows RPA members to track the progress of and search for all current legislation being considered by Congress.”

Our doctors are being asked to speak with the government on our behalf. But how will they know what we want or need, you ask. Easy enough: you tell them when you see them. You have regular appointments; that’s when you can talk with them about legislation you feel is necessary.

I never knew how much my opinion is wanted. I never knew how much YOUR opinion is wanted. Now we all know, so how about speaking out, raising your voice, and advocating for yourself. It’s not that scary if you start by just speaking with your doctor.  Although, I’ll be looking for you on ASN’s #askASN Twitter Chat in late July.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Last Week, The Country… This Week, The World

Last week, I wrote about a U.S. clinical trial program, AllofUs Research Program. This week we’re going global. Huh? What’s that, you ask. It’s KidneyX.

I can just feel you rolling your eyes. (Ask my children if you don’t think I can do that.)  Hold on a minute and I’ll let KidneyX explain what they are from their website at http://www.kidneyx.org.

“The Kidney Innovation Accelerator (KidneyX) is a public-private partnership to accelerate innovation in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of kidney diseases. KidneyX seeks to improve the lives of the 850 million people worldwide currently affected by kidney diseases by accelerating the development of drugs, devices, biologics and other therapies across the spectrum of kidney care including:

Prevention

Diagnostics

Treatment”

I know, I know. Now you want to know why you should be getting excited about this program you don’t know much about. Let’s put it this way. There hasn’t been all that much change in the treatment of kidney disease since it was recognized. When was that? This question was answered in SlowItDownCKD 2015:

“…nephrologist Veeraish Chauhan from his ‘A Brief History of the Field of Nephrology’ in which he emphasizes how young the field of modern nephrology is.

‘Dr. Smith was an American physician and physiologist who was almost singlehandedly responsible for our current understanding of how the kidneys work. He dominated the field of twentieth century Nephrology so much that it is called the “Smithian Era of Renal Physiology“ .He wrote the veritable modern Bible of Nephrology titled, The Kidney: Structure and Function in Health and Disease. This was only in 1951.”

1951?????? It looks like I’m older than the history of kidney disease treatment is. Of course, there were earlier attempts by other people (Let’s not forget Dr. Bright who discovered kidney disease in the early 1800s.) But treatment?

Hmmm, how did Dr. Smith treat kidney disease I wondered as I started writing about KidneyX.

Clinics in Mother and Child Health was helpful here. I turned to their “A Short History of Nephrology Up to the 20th Century” at https://www.omicsonline.org/open-access/a-short-historic-view-of-nephrology-upto-the-20th-century-2090-7214-1000195.php? and found this information:

“His NYU time has been called the Smithian Era of renal physiology for his monumental research clarifying glomerular filtration, tubular absorption, and secretion of solutes in renal physiology …. His work established the concept that the kidney worked according to principles of physiology both as a filter and also as a secretory organ. Twenty-first century clinical nephrology stems from his work and teaching on the awareness of normal and abnormal functioning of the kidney.”

I see, so first the physiology and function of the kidney had to be understood before the disease could be treated.

 

I thought I remembered sodium intake as part of the plan to treat CKD way before the Smithian Era. I was wrong. This is also from SlowItDownCKD 2015:

“With all our outcry about following a low sodium diet, it was a bit shocking to realize that when this was first suggested as a way to avoid edema in 1949, it was practically dismissed. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the importance of a low sodium diet in Chronic Kidney Disease was acknowledged.”

Aha! So one of our dietary restrictions wasn’t accepted until the 1970s. I was already teaching high school English by then. Things did seem to be moving slowly when it came to Chronic Kidney Disease treatment.

Let’s see if I can find something more recent. This, from the National Kidney Fund at https://www.kidney.org/professionals/guidelines/guidelines_commentaries sounds promising, but notice that this has only been around since 1997. That’s only 21 years ago. It has been updated several times, but there doesn’t seem to be that much difference… or maybe I just didn’t understand the differences.

“The National Kidney Foundation Kidney Disease Outcomes Quality Initiative (NKF KDOQI)™ has provided evidence-based clinical practice guidelines for all stages of chronic kidney disease (CKD) and related complications since 1997…. KDOQI also convenes a small work group of U.S. based experts to review relevant international guidelines and write commentary to help the U.S. audience better understand applicability in their local clinical environment.

Clinical Practice Guidelines are documents that present evidence-based recommendations to aid clinicians in the treatment of particular diseases or groups of patients. They are not intended to be mandates but tools to help physicians, patients, and caregivers make treatment decisions that are right for the individual. With all guidelines, clinicians should be aware that circumstances may appear that require straying from the published recommendations.”

Time to get back to KidneyX before I run out of room in today’s blog. Here’s more that will explain their purpose:

“Principles

  • Patient-Centered Ensure all product development is patient-centered
  • Urgent Create a sense of urgency to meet the needs of people with kidney diseases
  • Achievable Ground in scientifically-driven technology development
  • Catalytic Reduce regulatory and financial risks to catalyze investment in kidney space
  • Collaborative Foster multidisciplinary collaboration including innovators throughout science and technology, the business community, patients, care partners, and other stakeholders
  • Additive Address barriers to innovation public/private sectors do not otherwise
  • Sustainable Invest in a diverse portfolio to balance risk and sustain KidneyX”

This may explain why think tanks for kidney patients, all types of kidney patients, are beginning to become more prevalent.

Let’s go back to the website for more information. This is how they plan to succeed:

“Building off the success of similar public-private accelerators, KidneyX will engage a community of researchers, innovators, and investors to bring breakthrough therapies to patients by:

Development

Driving patient access to disruptive technologies via competitive, non-dilutive funding to innovators.

Coordination

Providing a clearer and less expensive path to bringing products to patients and their families.

Urgency

Creating a sense of urgency by spotlighting the immediate needs of patients and their families.”

One word jumped out at me: urgency. I am being treated for my CKD the same way CKD patients have been treated for decades…and decades. It’s time for a change.

One thing that doesn’t change is that we celebrate Memorial Day in the U.S. every year. And every year, I honor those who have died to protect my freedom and thank my lucky stars that Bear is not one of them. There is no way to describe the gratitude those of us who haven’t served in the military – like me – owe to those who have and lost their lives in doing so.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

All of Me, uh, Us

When I was a little girl, I liked to listen to my father whistle ‘All of Me,’ written by Marks and Simon in 1931 when Charlie, my father, was just 16. Only a few years later, it became a sort of love language for my mother and him. Enter a former husband of my own and my children. When my folks visited from Florida and my then husband’s side of the family journeyed over to Staten Island from Brooklyn to visit them, they all sang the song with great emotion. (By then, Bell’s palsy had robbed my father of the ability to whistle.)

To this day, I start welling up when I hear that song. But then I started thinking about the lyrics:

“All of me
Why not take all of me?”

Suddenly, it popped. For us, those with chronic kidney disease, it should be:

“All of us

Why not take all of us?”

For research purposes. To “speed up health research breakthroughs.” For help in our lifetime. To spare future generations whatever it is we’re suffering… and not just for us, but for our children… and their children, too.

The National Institutes of Health has instituted a new research program for just that purpose, although it’s open to anyone in the U.S. over the age of 18 whether ill with any disease or perfectly healthy. While only English and Spanish are the languages they can accommodate at this time, they are adding other languages.

I’m going to devote most of the rest of this blog to them. By the way, I’m even more inclined to be in favor of this program because they launched on my first born’s birthdate: May 6. All of Us has its own inspiring welcome for you at https://launch.joinallofus.org/

This is how they explain who they are and what they intend to do:

“The goal is to advance precision medicine. Precision medicine is health care that is based on you as an individual. It takes into account factors like where you live, what you do, and your family health history. Precision medicine’s goal is to be able to tell people the best ways to stay healthy. If someone does get sick, precision medicine may help health care teams find the treatment that will work best.

To get there, we need one million or more people. Those who join will share information about their health over time. Researchers will study this data. What they learn could improve health for generations to come. Participants are our partners. We’ll share information back with them over time.”

You’ll be reading more about precision medicine, which I’ve written about before, in upcoming blogs. This is from All of Us’s website at https://www.joinallofus.org/en, as is most of the other information in today’s blog, and makes it easy to understand just what they are doing.

How It Works

Participants Share Data

Participants share health data online. This data includes health surveys and electronic health records. Participants also may be asked to share physical measurements and blood and urine samples.

Data Is Protected

Personal information, like your name, address, and other things that easily identify participants will be removed from all data. Samples—also without any names on them—are stored in a secure biobank.

Researchers Study Data

In the future, approved researchers will use this data to conduct studies. By finding patterns in the data, they may make the next big medical breakthroughs.

Participants Get Information

Participants will get information back about the data they provide, which may help them learn more about their health.

Researchers Share Discoveries

Research may help in many ways. It may help find the best ways for people to stay healthy. It may also help create better tests and find the treatments that will work best for different people.

I’m busy, too busy to take on even one more thing. Or so I thought. When I read the benefits of the program (above) and how easy it is to join (below), I realized I’m not too busy for this and it is another way to advocate for Chronic Kidney Disease awareness. So I joined and hope you will, too.

Benefits of Taking Part

Joining the All of Us Research Program has its benefits.

Our goal is for you to have a direct impact on cutting-edge research. By joining the program, you are helping researchers to learn more about different diseases and treatments.

Here are some of the benefits of participating in All of Us.

Better Information

We’re all human, but we’re not all the same. Often our differences—like age, ethnicity, lifestyle habits, or where we live—can reveal important insights about our health.

By participating in All of Us, you may learn more about your health than ever before. If you like, you can share this information with your health care provider.

Better Tools

The goal of the program is better health for all of us. We want to inspire researchers to create better tools to identify, prevent, and treat disease.

You may also learn how to use tools like mobile devices, cell phones and tablets, to encourage healthier habits.

Better Research

We expect the All of Us Research Program to be here for the long-term. As the program grows, the more features will be added. There’s no telling what we can discover. All thanks to participants like you.

Better Ideas

You’re our partner. And as such, you are invited to help guide All of Us. Share your ideas and let us know what works, and what doesn’t.

Oh, about joining:

Get Started – Sign Up

Here’s a quick overview of what you’ll need to do to join.

1

Create an Account

You will need to give an email address and password.

2

Fill in the Enrollment and Consent Forms

The process usually takes 18-30 minutes. If you leave the portal during the consent process, you will have to start again from the beginning.

3

Complete Surveys and More

Once you have given your consent, you will be asked to complete online health surveys. You may be asked to visit a partner center. There, you’ll be asked to provide blood and urine samples and have your physical measurements taken. We may also ask you to share data from wearables or other personal devices.

Before I leave you today, I have – what else? – a book give away. The reason? Just to share the joy that’s walked into my life lately. It’s easy to share the troubles; why not the joys? If you haven’t received one of my books in a giveaway before, all you have to do is be the first person to let me know you want this copy of SlowItDownCKD 2017.

 

I need to get back to that online health survey for All of Us now.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

 

Published in: on May 21, 2018 at 10:38 am  Leave a Comment  
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