Feed Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

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Memories of Another Sort

When I was teaching Creative Non-Fiction at Phoenix College, I got into the habit of taking my classes to The Poisoned Pen, an award winning independent book store here in Arizona. I wanted them to hear well known authors talk about their writing process and see that these people were human beings just as they, my students, were. I retired from teaching several years ago, but I still go to writers’ workshops at the Pen. Last time I was there, I stumbled upon an advance copy of a book by Lisa Stone.

What’s an advance copy? It means either Advance Reading Copy of Advance Review Copy – depending upon who you talk to and is abbreviated ARC. TCK Publishing at https://www.tckpublishing.com/advance-review-copies/ informs us:

“Big traditional publishers often print thousands of ARC copies to send out to trade reviewers, bloggers, booksellers, librarians, and other people who can generate word of mouth for the book. In today’s technological environment, digital ARCs are gaining rapidly in popularity, sent out in email blasts and through various online services. ARCs are also used in giveaways and contests to give ordinary readers early access to books in an effort to build buzz.”

Lisa Stone, the author of the ARC of The Darkness Within (the one I picked up), is the nom de plume of Kathy Glass. She’s a bestselling British author who wrote about cellular memory – alternately called cellular memory phenomenon – after organ transplant. I was transfixed. We all know I rarely write about transplantation, but today I am. Here’s a reminder from SlowItDownCKD 2015 as to just what that is:

“WebMD at http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/kidney-transplant-20666 tells us:

‘A kidney transplant is surgery to replace your own diseased kidneys with a healthy (donor) kidney.’

I should mention that while there are transplants from both living and cadaver donors, both will require lifelong drugs to prevent rejection. “

Now for the biggie: what is cellular memory? According to Medical Daily at http://www.medicaldaily.com/can-organ-transplant-change-recipients-personality-cell-memory-theory-affirms-yes-247498:

“The behaviors and emotions acquired by the recipient from the original donor are due to the combinatorial memories stored in the neurons of the organ donated. Heart transplants are said to be the most susceptible to cell memory where organ transplant recipients experienced a change of heart.”

Lisa Stone’s protagonist had a heart transplant and his personality became that of his donor. Far fetched? Maybe.

But what about the case of Demi-Lee Brennan, the Australian young lady who had a liver transplant that changed her blood type and immune system back in 2008? The Sydney Morning Herald at http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/transplant-girls-blood-change-a-miracle/2008/01/24/1201157559928.html included this quote from one of her doctors.

“We didn’t believe this at first. We thought it was too strange to be true,” Dr Alexander said. ‘Normally the body’s own immune system rejects any cells that are transplanted … but for some reason the cells that came from the donor’s liver seemed to survive better than Demi-Lee’s own cells. It has huge implications for the future of organ transplants.’”

And those who have received kidney transplants? Is there anything to report about cellular memory there? I turned to the Daily Mail, a British newspaper, at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-533830/My-personality-changed-kidney-transplant–I-started-read-Jane-Austen-Dostoevsky-instead-celebrity-trash.html#ixzz4t3Ml4sAt and found this:

“’A spokesman for UK Transplant said: ‘While we are aware of the suggestion that transplant recipients take on aspects of the personality of the organ donor, we are not aware of any evidence to support it.

While not discarding it entirely, we have no reason to believe that it happens. We would be interested to see any definitive evidence that supports it.’

Examples cited as proof of cellular memory include a U.S. woman terrified of heights who became a climber and a seven-year-old girl who had nightmares about being killed after being given the heart of a murdered child.”

The Liberty Voice, a publication that is new to me and seems to be part of The Guardian, at http://guardianlv.com/2013/06/organ-transplants-cellular-memory-proves-major-organs-have-self-contained-brains/ had the sort of background information I was looking for:

“In our modern culture, cellular memory was first studied in heart transplant recipients when the patients displayed strange cravings, change in tastes, cravings and mild personality. Major organs like the heart, liver, kidney, and even muscles are known to contain large populations of neural networks, which are self-contained brains and produce noticeable changes. Acquired combinatorial memories in organ transplants could enable transferred organs to respond to patterns familiar to the organ donors, and it may be triggered by emotional signals. Science discovered evidence that nervous system organs store memories and respond to places, events, and people recognized by their donors.

Gary Schwartz has documented the cases of 74 patients, 23 of whom were heart transplant recipients. Transfers of memories have not been reported in simpler transplants like corneas because they don’t contain large population of neurons. Dr. Andrew Armour a pioneer in neurocardiology suggests that the brain has two-way communication links with the “little brain in the heart.” The intelligence of neural brains in organs depends on memories stored in nerve cells.”
You can find the Schwartz study at http://www.newdualism.org/nde-papers/Pearsall/Pearsall-Journal%20of%20Near-Death%20Studies_2002-20-191-206.pdf.

Since I didn’t know the publication, I checked on some of the contributors…especially since the documentation was on such a small population. Well, will you look at that; Gary Schwartz is a local teaching at The University of Arizona. This is his faculty entry at http://neurology.arizona.edu/gary-e-schwartz-phd  

“Dr. Schwartz is Professor of Psychology, Medicine, Neurology, Psychiatry and Surgery. He is the Director of the Laboratory for Advances in Consciousness and Health (LACH, formerly the Human Energy Systems Laboratory). After receiving his doctorate from Harvard University, he served as a professor of psychology and psychiatry at Yale University, director of the Yale Psychophysiology Center, and co-director of the Yale Behavioral Medicine Clinic. Dr. Schwartz has published more than four hundred scientific papers, edited eleven academic books, is the author of several books including The Afterlife Experiments, The Truth About Medium, The G.O.D. Experiments, and The Energy Healing Experiments.”

As for Dr. Armour, his full name seems to be Dr. John Andrew Amour. I found a host of books he’s edited or written and conferences where he’s spoken.

I’m convinced cellular memory exists. I leave it up to you if you can – or even want to – accept this theory.

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

A Laboring Electrolyte

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

It’s the Heat AND the Humidity

Hawaii is so beautiful… and Maui so healing. There was just one thing, though. I somehow managed to forget how humid it is. As you may or may not remember, after we’d come back from the Caribbean and from San Antonio last year, I vowed never to go to a humid climate during the summer again. Well, Maui was Bear’s 71st birthday present so maybe that’s why I so conveniently forgot my vow.

Here’s why I shouldn’t have. This is updated from SlowItDownCKD 2016.

ResearchGate at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/263084331_Climate change and Chronic Kidney Disease published a study from the Asian Journal of Pharmaceutical and Clinical Research from February of 2014 (That’s over three years ago, friends.) which included the following in the conclusion:

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

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

“.…Dr. HL Trivedi of the Institute of Kidney Diseases and Research Centre (IKDRC) said, ‘…. Rapid water loss causes the kidney’s functioning to slow down, resulting in temporary or permanent kidney failure.’ Extreme heat causes rapid water loss, resulting in acute electrolyte imbalance. The kidney, unable to cope with the water loss, fails to flush out the requisite amount of Creatinine and other toxins from the body. Coupled with a lack of consistent water intake, this brings about permanent or temporary kidney failure, explain experts.”

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

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

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

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

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

The CDC offers the following advice to avoid heat illness:

“People with a chronic medical condition are less likely to sense and respond to changes in temperature. Also, they may be taking medications that can worsen the impact of extreme heat. People in this category need the following information.
• Drink more water than usual and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.
• Check on a friend or neighbor, and have someone do the same for you.
• Check the local news for health and safety updates regularly.
• Don’t use the stove or oven to cook——it will make you and your house hotter.
• Wear loose, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
• Take cool showers or baths to cool down….”

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

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

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

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

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs at https://www.visn9.va.gov/VISN9/news/vhw/summer07/humidity.asp,
“Hot weather can lead to dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke, but the dangers increase when you add humidity to the mix. When the temperature rises above 70F and the humidity registers more than 70 percent, you need to be on the alert.

Who’s most at risk?
People with high blood pressure, heart disease, lung disease or kidney disease (I made that bolded.) are most vulnerable to the effects of humid conditions, as are those over age 50. Other risk factors that can affect your body’s ability to cool itself include being obese; having poor circulation; following a salt-restricted diet; drinking alcohol; having inefficient sweat glands; and taking diuretics, sedatives, tranquilizers or heart or blood pressure medication.”

So, pretty much, the way to deal with heat and humidity having an effect on your (and my) CKD is to avoid it. That doesn’t mean you have to move, you know. Staying in air conditioning as long as you can so your body is not overheated and can better handle this kind of weather will help. Wearing a hat and cool clothes will also help. I certainly relearned the value of wearing cotton this past week. It’s a fabric that breathes. I’ll bet that this is how those CKD patients who live in humid areas deal with it. Feedback, anyone? Robin? Mark?

Now for some great, unrelated news: One of our daughters gave Bear the best birthday present. She and her husband FaceTimed us in Maui on Bear’s birthday to tell us we’re going to be grandparents. This is a first for them… and for us. To make this even better – as if that were possible – little one is expected on our anniversary. I love the ebb and flow of the universe, don’t you?

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think I need to go to sleep now.

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

Good Grief!

No, Charlie Brown, grief is not good. Grief is not good at all. My big brother, Alan Peckolick, died 10 days ago. You can read about him in lots of publications and I’ll even provide the links.* But you can’t read about him as my big brother in any of these.

Nowhere do they mention how Alan used our brother Paul’s accordion for sound effects as he told us scary stories when forced to babysit. Nowhere do they mention how this non- violent boy promptly tackled his friend to wash his face in snow after he caught the friend throwing a snowball at me, his little sister. Nowhere do they mention his being told to take Paul and me to his scout meeting and his doing it, inappropriate or not.

Six and a half years is a big age difference when you’re growing up. You sort of catch up as adults. We never did. We lived in different worlds. He was a giant in the art world. I was happy raising my little girls, acting, teaching, and writing on a less than giant scale. Nevertheless, he was my brother and I made sure we kept in touch.

As Jews, we sat shiva. That is the week long period of mourning for the first degree relatives of the deceased. At their loft in Manhattan where shiva was being observed, I met many members of his social circle who were surprised Alan had a brother and sister and who asked me to tell them anecdotes about growing up with him. They praised his art world, and rightly so. I praised the big brother as a child… and then a teenager. They were charmed by the Alan that was this age; I was charmed by the Alan they knew as an adult.

But I found myself grieving. It was not unexpected. I hurt all over, nothing specific, just a general aching… or was it my heart I felt aching? Wait a minute, what was happening to my kidneys throughout this process of grief?

The day he was taken off life support, I was at my lab having the usual quarterly blood draw. Alan and Jessica Weber, his wife, were in Connecticut where they have a country house and where the catastrophic fall that landed him on life support occurred; I was in Arizona. There was nothing I could do from afar and I knew I could trust Jessica to keep me informed. I thought keeping myself to my usual schedule would help me cope.

Except for the values in the next sentence, all my tests came back as low as they could while still being in the normal range. That had never happened before. While my GFR stayed stable, my BUN was at 30 (‘normal’ range is 8-25), Bun/Creatinine Ratio 29.1 (‘normal’ range is 10-28) and my glucose was 113 (‘normal’ range is 65-99). I was underwhelmed. I figured it was my brother’s situation making my body goes haywire. I still am.

PyschCentral at https://psychcentral.com/lib/your-health-and-grief/ offers the following explanation of how grief affects our bodies:
“…. At the death the brain ‘translates’ the stress of grief into a chemical reaction in the body. The pituitary gland located at the base of the brain is stimulated to produce a hormone called adrenocorticotrophin hormone (ACTH). This reaction is a “protective” one and in essence makes the body ready to do battle. The ACTH (from the pituitary gland) then travels to the adrenal gland, a gland at the top of the kidneys, which causes a chemical reaction which ultimately produces cortisone. As the cortisone level increases it causes the production of ACTH to level off.

What happens in the case of grief where the stress continues for many months? The cycle does not operate as it should. Because the stress is continuing, the production of ACTH is continuing thus causing the adrenal gland to produce more and more cortisone. The result is an abnormally high level of cortisone circulating in the blood sometimes exceeding ten to twenty times the normal levels.

A high level of cortisone is one of the things that causes our immune system (the system that normally fights off disease carrying bacteria fungi and viruses) to falter. The high level of cortisone affects yet another gland the thalamus which manufactures the white cells of our blood. With the thalamus not functioning properly, it cannot produce white cells that are effective. Those white cells normally locate and phagocytize (eat up) the invading germs, viral particles or even pre-cancerous cells. Thus with the white cells unable to function properly the individual is 100% more susceptible to the most common germs.”

Well, what is cortisol? As I mentioned in SlowItDownCKD 2016,
“Cortisol is a hormone that controls metabolism and helps the body react to stress, according to Endocrineweb. It affects the immune system and lowers inflammatory responses in the body.”

So our already compromised immune system is compromised even more compromised. Are we now at the mercy of our grief? Nothing that dramatic, folks.

 

We can up our vitamin D – with our nephrologist’s approval first, of course. As mentioned in the glossary of What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease,
“Vitamin D: Regulates calcium and phosphorous blood levels as well as promoting bone formation, among other tasks – affects the immune system.”

We can up our NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep. I turned to The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2 for this information:
“WebMD tells us
During the deep stages of NREM sleep, the body repairs and regenerates tissues, builds bone and muscle, and appears to strengthen the immune system.”

My favorite deterrent to a further compromised immune system? Hugs. MedicalNewsToday at http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/275795.phpat explains:
“Oxytocin has an anti-anxiety (anxiolytic) effect ….”

Less anxiety, less stress. That’s something that could be useful during times of grief. I didn’t have to clear this with my nephrologist, hugging is a way of life with my family and friends, and it somehow, magically, lessens the pain for a little while.

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

*The links to Alan’s obituaries:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/alan-peckolick-dead_us_5988ae58e4b0d7937388f5be
https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/alan-peckolick-influential-designer-from-madison-avenue-to-hollywood-dies-at-76/2017/08/10/ea33134a-7dd7-11e7-9d08-b79f191668ed_story.html?utm_term=.d2b395bfa3c6

Shocked

When I checked my phone messages this morning, I saw one from the wife of someone I have known and loved my whole life. That shook me. The message was from his wife, not him. I couldn’t bring myself to listen to it until after I’d had a cup of coffee and fed Shiloh, our dog.

It was bad news. He was in the hospital on life support. I was shocked. Immediately, I felt nausea and a band started to tighten around my head. I noticed my voice was rough as I tried to process what his wife was telling me.

She did an exemplary job of explaining what had happened step by step and including what will happen at the hospital now. After reassuring myself that she had friends around her to support her while she’s emergency central, so to speak, we hung up…and I tried to go through my usual early morning routines.

I knew it wasn’t working when I took the wash out of washing machine, put it back in the washing machine, and started the empty dryer. I knew it wasn’t working when I fed the dog I’d just fed.

So I retreated to the library to start the daily ‘kidney work’: checking email, texts, and LinkedIn for messages from readers; posting on Instagram and Facebook; and perusing Twitter for articles that might interest you. I was having trouble concentrating. Maybe thinking about what I’d write in today’s blog would be more productive.

It was obvious, wasn’t it? I’d write about what shock does to your body and to your kidneys.

In befuddedly casting around on the internet for information, I found this at http://www.harleytherapy.co.uk/counselling/7-warning-signs-acute-stress-reaction-emotional-shock.htm.

By Harley Therapy January 23, 2014 Anxiety & stress, Counselling  

…. While it’s true you aren’t in “medical shock” – an acute circulatory condition where blood pressure falls so severely that multiple organ failure can occur – you are still in a medically recognised kind of shock.

Psychological shock, a form of psychological trauma, is the body’s very real stress response to experiencing or witnessing an overwhelming and/or frightening event….

You might feel as if your brain has turned to mush, or you have ‘brain fog’….

Life might even feel unreal, as if you are disconnected, floating slightly outside of your body and watching yourself carry on doing things. This is called dissociation….

When your brain decides that there is ‘danger’ around, it triggers the primal ‘fight, flight, or flight’ response. Back when we were ‘cave people’ these responses where helpful, but nowadays the overload of adrenaline they involve just leave you with a racing heartbeat, muscle tension, headaches, stomach upset, and random aches and pains….

Sleep is often affected by emotional shock. Insomnia is common. Even if you are sleeping more than ever, you are unlikely to get quality sleep but might suffer disturbed sleep, full of stress dreams. It’s common to develop ‘night panic attacks’ where you wake up suddenly with a racing heart and severe anxiety….

I could identify with this. It seemed I had to correct the spelling of every other word today. My husband was trying to pin down dates for a California trip and I was responding with dates for a New York trip. The doorbell rang, so I answered the phone. You get the idea. I’ve already mentioned the particular headache and the nausea. But what about my kidneys? What was happening to them?

The Medical Dictionary at http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/shock+organs, defines shock as “a sudden disturbance of mental equilibrium.” That is a pretty accurate description of what happened when I returned that phone call this morning.

The same site goes on to explain that shock “is associated with a dangerously low blood pressure.” And blood pressure, of course is:

pressure that is exerted by the blood upon the walls of the blood vessels and especially arteries and that varies with the muscular efficiency of the heart, the blood volume and viscosity, the age and health of the individual, and the state of the vascular wall

Thank you to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/blood%20pressure for that definition.

Notice the word “arteries.” Arteries also run into the kidneys. The following is from What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease.

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

In other words, when you’re in shock – even if it’s emotional shock – the pressure of your blood can be dangerously low. But low blood pressure may also lead to Acute Kidney Injury (AKI). Uh-oh, I remember writing about that in The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2.

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

Let me make sure you (and I) understand that this is the worst case scenario. A few thoughts about how cardiovascular disease and the kidneys interact before I get on the phone to check on my beloved friend again. This is from a study that was included in The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1.

“The brain and kidney are both organs that are affected by the cardiovascular systems,” said the study’s lead author, Adam Davey, associate professor of public health in Temple’s College of Health Professions and Social Work. “They are both affected by things like blood pressure and hypertension, so it is natural to expect that changes in one organ are going to be linked with changes in another.”

You can find the article at http://www.EurekAlert!.org/pub_releases/2012-11/tu-dkf111312.php

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

And Then There Are Bhutan and India

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Till Sep 30, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

So much to digest, umm, I mean understand.

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

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

Singapore Knows CKD

I have an online friend, Leong Seng Chen, who lives in Singapore and is highly active in the Chronic Kidney Disease Awareness community there. Last week, I asked if any readers would like to see certain organizations that weren’t already there added to the blogroll – the list of CKD organizations to the right of the blog itself. He mentioned two but one was a Facebook page and the other was for dialysis. I usually write a blog about current Facebook pages once a year and don’t usually write about dialysis.

His request, which I couldn’t honor, got me to thinking about what is going on for CKD patients in Singapore. So, I started poking around.

The Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (of all places!) looked into this in 2008, a decade ago, and published the following at http://cjasn.asnjournals.org/content/3/2/610.full.

The NKF Singapore Prevention Program presents a unique approach that incorporates a comprehensive multilevel strategy to address chronic kidney disease …. What makes the NKF Singapore program different is that it incorporated a public health approach to preventing ESRD by using primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention initiatives that can intervene at several stages in the progression of kidney disease. These include 1) surveillance of the general population for urinary abnormalities, 2) screening of the general population for clinical conditions that increase the risk of chronic kidney disease, such as diabetes mellitus and hypertension, 3) the institution of a disease management program to facilitate the management of patients with diabetes and hypertension, which are among the leading causes of ESRD in the country, and to a limited extent, 4) tracking of the individuals who participate in the screening program. Thus, both population-based and high-risk prevention strategies were incorporated into the Singapore Prevention Program.

If you think about it for a moment, this is an astoundingly comprehensive approach to awareness, prevention, and treatment.

I was intrigued and looked further. This chart is from Health Exchange/Singapore at https://www.healthxchange.sg/digestive-system/kidney/chronic-kidney-disease-singapore-stats-prevention-tips. As you can see, it includes statistics up to (and including) 2012. That’s still half a decade ago.

I had naively assumed the National Kidney Foundation was an American organization. Here, in the United States, it is. There, in Singapore, it’s a Singaporean organization.

In Singapore, CKD awareness is not just an adult undertaking. There is a bus provided by the NKF that goes to schools, among other places, to educate young children about how to prevent and recognize the disease, as well as what the kidneys do. Somehow, I found that charming and necessary simultaneously. Why don’t we do that in the United States, I wonder. Take a look at https://www.nkfs.org/kidney-health-education-bus/ to see for yourself what I’m talking about here.

The National Registry of Disease Office was founded by the Ministry of Health in 2001. While the most current statistics I could find, they only record Chronic Kidney Failure, or End Stage Chronic Renal Disease (ESRD). According to their website at https://www.nrdo.gov.sg/about-us,

We are responsible for:
● collecting the data and maintaining the registry on reportable health conditions and diseases that have been diagnosed and treated in Singapore
● publishing reports on these health conditions and diseases
● providing information to support national public health policies, healthcare services and programmes

Meanwhile, the statistics from Global Disease Burden Healthgrove are only four years old and give us a better understanding of what’s happening in Singapore as far as CKD. You can choose different filters at http://global-disease-burden.healthgrove.com/l/67148/Chronic-Kidney-Disease-in-Singapore

As they phrase it: These risk factors contributed to, and were thought to be responsible for, an estimated 100% of the total deaths caused by chronic kidney disease in Singapore during 2013.

I hadn’t been aware of just how involved with CKD Singapore is until Leong started telling me. Now, I’m astounded to learn that this country is number four in deaths from our disease.

Just as in the United States, Singapore posts lists of nephrologists, herbal aids, hospital studies, and even medical tourism sites. While I may or may not approve of such listings, they have opened my eyes to the fact that Singapore plays with the big boys when it comes to CKD. Come to think of it, they may even be more developed when it comes to educating the public. Remember those education buses?

Many thanks to Leong Seng Chen, my CKD friend on Facebook this past year and- hopefully – many more years to come.

On another topic entirely, winning a place in Healthline’s Top Six Kidney Disease Blogs two years in a row spurred me on to finally rework both The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Parts 1 and 2 into something more manageable: each book will be divided into two books with their own indexes and renamed SlowItDownCKD and the year. Right now I’m working on SlowItDownCKD 2011. Hey, let’s hold the cheering down there.

In addition, all the Kindle versions of each of the SlowItDownCKD books are now $2.99 in order make them more accessible to more people. I’m working on lowering the price for the print books too, but that seems to be more complicated…or maybe I just don’t understand the process yet. I would stick to Amazon.com since B & N.com simply never responds to my attempts to lower the price on any of my books.

By the way, have you heard about this from AAKP? (You can read more about it on their website.)

AAKP has been in the news and across social media lately as public interest continues to build in KidneyWorks – a groundbreaking national initiative we developed in full collaboration with our partners at the Medical Education Institute (MEI). The multiphase initiative aims to identify and address barriers to continued employment for individuals with chronic kidney disease (CKD). Phase I of KidneyWorks involved a consensus roundtable of national experts on kidney disease and workforce experts who convened in Washington, D.C. and the development and public release of a White Paper detailing strategies to help working-age people with non-dialysis chronic kidney disease (CKD) improve their lives, slow CKD progression, and keep their jobs. Phases II and III will involve the development, production and dissemination of strategies and online and mobile tools that help workers, caregivers and employers help achieve the goals of KidneyWorks.

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

Updated

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fast Stats

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

Gluten Free

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

What Foods Have Gluten?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

 

 

The Other Side of the Coin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

 

 

Here, There, and Everywhere

I was thinking about the AAKP Annual National Meeting coming up in September. You see, I’ve never been to one. Years ago, when I first started writing about Chronic Kidney Disease a reader asked if I’d be there. I was almost a decade younger then and had lots on my plate: teaching college classes, acting, writing, being an active mother, and getting used to my new diagnose. I had no time to run off to meet a bunch of people with the same disease. I didn’t even know anyone there!

Yep, things have changed for me. I’ve retired from both education and acting as of 2013, my children are out of the house although we still have almost daily contact, and I’m better at dealing with CKD. So I’m going. I thought you might like to know something about this group since it was started by patients for patients.

AAKP is the acronym for the American Association of Kidney Patients. I am flabbergasted that six patients in Brooklyn, New York, started this group in 1969 while they were undergoing dialysis and that today AAKP reaches one million people at all stages of kidney disease. I’m a member as of last week. Did I mention that membership is free? This year’s meeting will be in St. Petersburg, Florida from September 8th to the 10th.

I also shied away because I thought they’d have nothing to offer me since I’m stage 3 and the association was started by dialysis patients. I was wrong. Some of the General Sessions deal with national policy and kidney disease, innovations in kidney disease care, patient centered kidney disease care, and the kidney friendly diet. This is not all of them, just the ones I’m interested in.

The smaller Breakout Sessions that might interest others in the early or moderate stages of CKD are social media, dental health, clinical trials, staying active, veterans’ health, lab values, and vaccinations. But that’s not all: there’s even lunch with the experts on the first two days. The topics range from transplant, caregiver, advocacy, cooking, and support groups to acute kidney injury. I mentioned those areas that interest me, but there’s more, far more.

Before I start to sound like I’m selling you a product, here’s their web site so you can explore this association and national meeting for yourself: https://aakp.org.

Let’s say you don’t want to travel. How else can you partake of the kidney patient world, the part of it that doesn’t deal with going to the nephrologist or renal dietician? Well, have you heard of Renal Support Network at http://www.rsnhope.org/? Lori Hartwell has had kidney disease since she was two years old and wanted to instill hope in those with the disease. Now you understand the URL. There are also podcasts about kidney disease at http://www.rsnhope.org/kidneytalk-podcast/ or you can go through the menu on their home page.

Here’s something you can do to help other kidney patients and maybe, just maybe, see your work in print.

Calling all Storytellers who have kidney disease, Share your Experience!

Enter RSN’s 15th Annual Essay Contest.
This year’s theme is “Describe a positive decision that you have made about your healthcare.”
First Prize: $500, Second Prize: $300, Third Prize: $100
Winning essays will be published on RSNhope.org and in Live&Give newsletter

Lori was especially helpful to me when I was first starting out in CKD awareness advocacy. I think you’ll find something of interest to you on her website, although I’ll bet it won’t be the same something for any two people. What I especially like is the Health Library with articles on varied subjects.

Further afield, The Bhutan Kidney Foundation is doing an Amazonian job of spreading kidney disease awareness. I am constantly reading about their walks and educational meetings, as well as governmental initiatives. I think they may even have a Facebook page. Let me go check. Hi again. I’m back and they do.

Have you heard of Mani Trust? This is an India based group that strives to provide humanitarian help to individuals and their country, including those suffering from kidney disease. We know this is not a Western-part-of-the-world-only problem, but I wonder if we realize just how widespread it is.

Remember I told you about the CKD awareness presentation I offered at a global conference several weeks ago? I found astounding facts from World Life Expectancy at http://www.worldlifeexpectancy.com. One of the most striking facts I included in that presentation is that globally 864,226 people  died of kidney disease last year. That makes kidney disease number 15 in the cause of death hit parade.

In Malaysia, there were 2,768 deaths due to kidney disease, over 2% of the country’s total population. In Albania, there were 443, that’s also close to 2% of the country’s total population. Ghana had 2,469 deaths, which is 1.3%.  Egypt? 15,820, which is almost 3½ %. Here in the United States, there were 59,186 deaths, which is almost 3% of our population. What’s my point?

Kidney disease is a global problem. I don’t know what I can do to help in other countries in other parts of the world, but I do know what I can do to help here… and what you can do to help here. If you’re able to, attend the national meetings and local conferences about kidney disease and spread whatever new information you’ve learned. If you are unable to travel, keep your eye on the Facebook kidney disease pages which often have files and delve into them. Share this information, too. If you don’t travel and you’re not on a computer, register for mailing lists and share information from them, too. Of course, check everything you read with your nephrologist before you share and use the advice yourself.

 

You’ll find a blog roll – a list of kidney care and awareness organizations – on the right side of my blog. Why not explore some of these and see which ones appeal to you? If you like them, you’ll read them. And, hopefully, if you read them, you’ll share the information. According to the latest CDC findings, more than one out of every seven people in the United States has CKD. Let’s try to change those figures. By the way, you can read more about this at https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pubs/pdf/kidney_factsheet.pdf.

Until next week,
Keep living your life!

How Did It Get Political?

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Dr. Amy D. Waterman at UCLA’s Division of Nephrology’s Transplant Research and Education Center. We’d met at Landmark’s 2017 Conference for Global Transformation. She has brought to the world of dialysis and transplant the kind of education I want to see offered for Chronic Kidney Disease. I also asked for ideas as to how I could help in developing this kind of contribution to CKD awareness… and the universe answered.

First the bad news, so you can tell when the good news come in. Here in the U.S., The National Kidney Foundation at https://www.kidney.org/news/national-kidney-foundation-statement-macarthur-amendment-to-american-health-care-act issued the following statement on May 3 of this year:
“The National Kidney Foundation opposes the American Health Care Act (AHCA) as amended. The amendment to AHCA, offered by Representative Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), raises significant concerns for millions of Americans affected by chronic diseases. If this bill passes, National Kidney Foundation is highly concerned that insurers in some states will be granted additional flexibility to charge higher premiums, and apply annual and lifetime limits on benefits without a limit on out-of-pocket costs for those with pre-existing conditions, including chronic kidney disease. The bill also permits waivers on Federal protections regarding essential health benefits which could limit patient access to the medications and care they need to manage their conditions. These limits could also include access to dialysis and transplantation. For these reasons, we must oppose the legislation as amended.


In addition, National Kidney Foundation is concerned that the elimination of income based tax credits and cost sharing subsidies, combined with the reduction in funds to Medicaid, will reduce the number of people who will obtain coverage; many of whom have, or are at risk for, chronic kidney disease (CKD).”

The world sees what stress Trump is causing our country (as well as our planet.) Yet, there is hope in the form of a new bill.

“… the bill — introduced in the House by Reps. Tom Marino (R-Pennsylvania), John Lewis (D-Georgia) and Peter Roskam (R-Illinois) — aims to:
• Have the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issue a series of recommendations to Congress on “how to increase kidney transplantation rates; how palliative care can be used to improve the quality of life for those living with kidney disease; and how to better understand kidney disease in minority populations” – to back federal research efforts;
• Create an economically sustainable dialysis infrastructure and modernized quality programs to improve patient care and quality outcomes — for instance, by creating incentives to work in poorer communities and rural areas;
• Increase access to treatment and managed care for patients with a confirmed diagnosis of kidney disease by ensuring Medigap coverage for people living with ESRD, promoting access to home dialysis and allow patients with ESRD to keep their private insurance coverage.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, more than 660,000 Americans are receiving treatment for ESRD. Of these, 468,000 are undergoing dialysis and more than 193,000 have a functioning kidney transplant.”

Thank you to the CDC at bit.ly/2rX8EG5 for this encouraging news. Although it’s just a newly introduced bill at this time, notice the educational aspects of the first point.
For those outside the U.S, who may not know what it is, this is how Medicare was defined in What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease “U.S. government health insurance for those over 65, those having certain special needs, or those who have end stage renal disease.”

An interview with Trump while he was campaigning last year was included in SlowItDownCKD 2016, (11/14/16) This is what he had to say about medical coverage for those of us with pre-existing conditions like CKD. (Lesley Stahl is the well-respected interviewer.)
“Lesley Stahl: Let me ask you about Obamacare (Me here: that’s our existing health care coverage.), which you say you’re going to repeal and replace. When you replace it, are you going to make sure that people with pre-conditions are still covered?
Donald Trump: Yes. Because it happens to be one of the strongest assets.’ ….
What does the president elect say about Medicare? Those of us over 65 (That’s me.) have Medicare as our primary insurance. I am lucky enough to have a secondary insurance through my union. How many of the rest of us are? By the way, if Medicare doesn’t’ pay, neither does my secondary.”

This is from the same book:
“Here’s what Trump had to say in a rally in Iowa on December 11th of last year (e.g. meaning 2015).
‘So, you’ve been paying into Social Security and Medicare…but we are not going to cut your Social Security and we’re not cutting your Medicare….'”

We do not have the most truthful president here in the U.S., so you can see how even the introduction of the Marino, Lewis, Roskam bill is good news for us. While this is not meant to be a political blog, our pre-existing illness – our CKD – has caused many of us to unwittingly become political.


I see myself as one such person and so will be attending the AAKP Conference in St. Petersburg, Florida, in September. What’s the AAKP you ask? Their Mission Statement at https://aakp.org/mission/ tells us:

“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 more than 40 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.”

For those of you of can’t get to the Conference, they do offer telephone seminars. The next one is June 20th. Go to https://aakp.org/aakp-healthline/ for more information.

Talking about more information, there will be more about AAKP in next week’s blog.
Until next week,
Keep living your life!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“VA eKidney Clinic

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Getting a Little Too High

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

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

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

Time to back track. What is uric acid anyway?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life.

Yet Another Possibility

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

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

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

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

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

  • Sugar Free
  • Fat Free
  • Gluten Free

And Contain:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

The Helper Asks for Help

Imagine my surprise when I received an email from Deanna Power, Director of Outreach Disability Benefits Help at the Social Security Administration. My first thought: are they raising my monthly amount? But isn’t it the wrong time of year for an awards letter from them? And why would the email be from Disability anyway? Hmmm, so I did the logic thing; I opened the email and read it.

Look at this! Ms. Power wants me to help those on dialysis and those who have a transplant understand the application for SSA. While I don’t usually deal with either End Stage Chronic Kidney Disease or Transplantation, this struck me as worthwhile. Take note of the possibility of SSA for less advanced kidney disease, too. So, without further ado…

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If you have been diagnosed with kidney disease, you know that maintaining your career can be challenging due to your health needs and frequent doctor’s appointments. There might be financial assistance available for you.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) will compare any applicant with kidney disease to its own medical guide of qualifying conditions, the Blue Book (written for medical professionals), which outlines exactly what treatments or test results are needed to qualify. This is under Section 6.00 which outlines three separate listings for kidney disease. Meeting one is enough to medically qualify.

6.03: Chronic kidney disease with hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis. Dialysis must be expected to last for a continuous period of at least one year. Disability benefits will be paid throughout your treatments. An acceptable medical source (blood work, physician’s notes, etc.) is needed to approve your claim. You also may meet a kidney disease listing before your first round of dialysis, so be sure to check listing 6.05 (below) if your doctor is considering dialysis.

6.04: Chronic kidney disease with transplant. You will automatically medically qualify for disability benefits for at least one year. After that the SSA will revaluate your claim to determine if you are still eligible for disability benefits.

6.05: Chronic kidney disease, with impairment of function. This is the most complicated listing. The Blue Book – which was written for medical professionals – is available online, so you should review it with your doctor to know if you’ll qualify. In simplified terms, the Blue Book states:

You must have one of the following lab findings documented on at least two occasions, 90 days apart, within the same year:

  • Serum creatinine of 4mg/dL or greater, OR
  • Creatinine clearance of 20 ml/min or less, OR
  • Estimated glomerular filtration rate of 20 ml/min/1.73m2 or less

Additionally, you must have one of the following:

  1. Renal osteodystrophy (bone disease caused by kidney failure) with severe bone pain  and acceptable imaging documenting bone abnormalities, such as osteitis fibrosa, osteomalacia, or bone fractures, OR
  2. Peripheral neuropathy, OR
  3. Anorexia with weight loss, determined with a BMI of 18.0 or less, calculated on at least two occasions at least 90 days apart within the same year, OR
  4. Fluid overload syndrome with one of the following:
  • High blood pressure of 110 Hg despite at least 90 days of taking prescribed medication. Blood pressure must be taken at least 90 days apart during the same year.
  • Signs of vascular congestion or anasarca (fluid build up) despite 90 straight days of prescribed medication. Again, the vascular congestion or anasarca must have been recorded at the hospital at least twice, three months apart, and all within the same year.

You may need additional tests to evaluate your kidney function to determine your eligibility.

The SSA has a special approval process called a “Medical Vocational Allowance” that helps people with less advanced kidney disease get financial assistance when your kidney disease prevents you from performing any work that you’re qualified for. The SSA will look at how your treatments prevent you from working, and then compare your restrictions to your age, education, and work history.

Older applicants have an easier time qualifying this way, as the SSA believes they’ll have a harder time getting retrained for a new job. If you don’t have a college degree, you’ll also have an easier time getting approved, as people with college degrees often have a variety of skills that can be used at sedentary jobs. The more physical your past jobs, the better your chances of approval.

A Medical Vocational Allowance relies heavily on the findings from the Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) evaluation. An RFC documents how much you can stay seated or on your feet, how much weight you can lift, your ability to stoop and walk, and more. You can download an RFC online for your doctor to fill out on your behalf.

The majority of applicants can complete the entire process online. This is the easiest way to apply as you can save your progress to complete your application later. If you’d prefer to apply in person, call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 to schedule an appointment at your closest Social Security office. There are at least four locations in every state.

The most important components of your application will be your thoroughness and attention to detail. Fill out every question on the application. Describe how your kidney disease impacts your ability to work specifically, or how it keeps you from performing daily tasks as you used to. Any complications or side effects from your treatments and medications need to be recorded as well.

The SSA will not require you to submit your medical records yourself, but you do need to list every hospital where you’ve received treatment. If the SSA can’t find evidence documenting your kidney disease, you won’t be approved.

It takes an average of five months to be approved. That’s when your benefits start. You will be eligible for Medicare 24 months after “the onset of your disability,” which is typically the point at which your kidney disease stopped you from working. If your kidney disease is end stage, your waiting period will be waived.

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Many thanks to Ms. Power for suggesting I pass on this information. Please use the links, file your papers, and make life a bit easier for yourself if you fit into any of these designations. It’s all about helping each other after all, isn’t it?

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Just Blend In

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

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

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

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

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

2 beets (what a mess to peel and chop)

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

8 strawberries

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

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

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

Calories – 2100

Potassium – 3000 mg.

Phosphorous – 800 mg.

Protein – 5 ounces (141,748 mg.)

Sodium – 2000 mg.

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

Potassium

 

 

Sodium

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

 

 Calories
Beets    33
Carrots    42
Kale    38
Strawberries    37
Totals   150

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

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

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

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

Protein  Phosphorus Potassium  Sodium   Calories

6000              14                232               9               4

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

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

Benefits of fiber

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Getting Juiced

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

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

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

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

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

“Different stages require different treatment or no treatment at all.  There are five stages with the mid-level stage divided into two parts. The higher the stage, the worse your kidney function.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Women Marching to the Kidney’s Beat

In keeping with my theme of March being Women’s History Month – minus the history – and National Kidney Month, today’s blog will be about those women around the world who have contributed to Chronic Kidney Disease knowledge. Two such women, Dr. Vanessa Grubbs and Dr. Bessie Young, were highlighted in February’s tribute to Black History Month and women in nephrology. Thank you again, ladies, for all you do for CKD patients.

When you realize the study of nephrology as we know it is only a little over 50 years old (Incredible, isn’t it?), you’ll understand why I raided The International Society of Nephrologists (ISN) October 2010 issue at http://www.theisn.org/images/ISN_News_Archive/ISN_News_35_October_2010_LR.pdf for the following information. I’ve added notes for clarification when needed.

United States: An accomplished researcher and physician, Josephine Briggs is a former ISN councilor and former councilor and Secretary of ASN (American Society of Nephrologists). She is the former director of the Division of Kidney, Urologic, and Hematologic Diseases, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), US National Institutes of Health (NIH), and was responsible for all NIH funded renal research in the 1990s. Today, she is Director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. She maintains a lab at NIDDK, researching the renin-angiotensin system, diabetic nephropathy, circadian regulation of blood pressure, and the effect of antioxidants in kidney disease.

Europe: Rene Habib, who passed away (in 2010), was a truly pioneering renal pathologist. She provided the first description of many renal diseases and worked with ISN founder Jean Hamburger to establish nephrology as a new discipline in Europe. Her contributions and energy were central to establishing pathology as an essential and integrated component of this new field worldwide.

India: Vidya N. Acharya was the first woman nephrologist in India and trained some 150 internists in nephrology. For three decades, her research focused on Urinary Tract Infection. She was a consultant nephrologist at Gopalakrishna Piramal Memorial Hospital and director of the Piramal Institute for training in Dialysis Technology, Renal Nutrition and Preventive Nephrology in Mumbai. She received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Indian Society of Nephrology in 2007.

China: HaiYan Wang is the Editor of Kidney International China and has been an ISN and ASPN (American Society of Pediatric Nephrology) councilor and Executive Committee member as well as a member of the editorial boards of Chinese and international renal journals. She has published over 200 articles and books in Chinese and English. She graduated from Beijing Medical University. After three years of internship, she became a nephrology fellow at the First Hospital Beijing Medical University. Since 1983, she moved on to Chief of Nephrology and later became Professor of the Department of Medicine at the First Hospital Beijing. She has been Chairman of the Chinese Society of Nephrology and is Vice President of the Chinese Medical Association. Her unit is the largest training site for nephrology fellows in China.

United Arab Emirates: Mona Alrukhaimi is co-chair of the ISN GO (International Society of Nephrologists Global Outreach Programs) Middle East Committee, and the leader of the KDIGO (Kidney Disease: Improving Global Outcomes) Implementation Task Force for the Middle East and African regions. She is also a Member of the Governing Board of the Arab Society of Nephrology and Renal Transplantation. Since 2006, she has actively organized World Kidney Day activities in the United Arab Emirates and prepared the past four rounds of the ISN Update Course in Nephrology. Having played an active role in the Declaration of Istanbul on Organ Trafficking and Transplant Tourism, she contributes to serve on the custodian group and takes part in the Steering Committee for Women in Transplantation under The Transplantation Society.

South Africa: Saraladevi Naicker carried the weight of setting standards and provided the first training program for nephrologists in Africa over the last decade (Remember this article was published in 2010.). Specializing in internal medicine, she trained in Durban and later helped set up a Transplant Unit in the Renal Unit at Addington Hospital. In 2001, she became Chief Specialist and Professor of Renal Medicine at University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and in 2009 was appointed Chairman of Medicine at Wits. She is proud that there are currently (Again: in 2010) six postgraduate students from Africa studying for higher degrees in nephrology under her tutelage. Over the years, Naicker’s unit has served as the main training site for young nephrologists from across Africa and many individuals trained by her are currently practicing in Africa. Naicker received the Phillip Tobias Distinguished Teaching Award in 2006, an honor which bears testimony to her teaching prowess.

Israel: Batya Kristal is Professor of Medicine at the Technion Medical School, Haifa. She is the first woman to direct an academic nephrology department in Israel. At the Western Galilee Hospital, Nahariya, she leads a translational research project focusing on different aspects of oxidative stress and inflammation. She also heads a large clinical nephrology and dialysis program, which uniquely integrates staff and patients from the diverse ethnic population of the Galilee. Founder of the Israeli NKF, initiator and organizer of the traditional annual international conferences at Nahariya, she is truly an important role model for women in the country.

Australia: After holding resident positions in medicine and surgery and as registrar in medicine at the Baragwanath Hospital in Johannesburg, Priscilla Kincaid-Smith was director and physician of Nephrology at Royal Melbourne Hospital and Professor of Medicine at University of Melbourne. She demonstrated overwhelming evidence of the link between headache powders and kidney damage and contributed to research on the links between high blood pressure and renal malfunction. The only female ISN President so far, she was named Commander of the Order of the British Empire “for services to medicine”, was awarded the David Hume Award from the National Kidney Foundation (USA) and became a Companion of the Order of Australia.

There’s very little room for me to add my own words this week so I’ll use them to add myself as a lay woman in nephrology (What hubris!) to let you know that the edited digital version of SlowItDownCKD 2016 will be out on Amazon later this week. You guessed it: in honor of National Kidney Month.

 

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

I’m Wearing Out

I’ll hold off the Cuba blog for another week because something else seems more relevant right now. I was thinking about last week’s blog and what my friend’s surgeon told her about slow bone healing when you have Chronic Kidney Disease. Some vague memory was nagging me.  And then I got it. Yay for those times we conquer mind fog.

fluRemember I’d had the flu that morphed into a secondary infection recently? My breathing was so wheezy and I was feeling so poorly that I went back to immediate care a second time just ten days after the first time I’d been there.

What is immediate care you ask? That’s a good question. Let’s allow HonorHealth at https://www.honorhealth.com/medical-services/immediate-care-urgent-care to answer.

“If you need medical care quickly for a non-life-threating illness or injury.… Patients of all ages can walk into any one of the four HonorHealth Medical Group immediate care centers, with no appointment needed, for such ailments and injuries as lacerations, back pain, cough, headache, or sinus or urinary tract infections.

…advantages:

  • Your co-pay is lower with immediate care compared to urgent care.
  • All four Valley locations are within offices of HonorHealth primary care physicians. That means any follow-up care you might need will be easy to access.
  • Your medical records, including labs and radiology images, soon will be linked systemwide with other HonorHealth facilities. So if you find yourself in an HonorHealth hospital or at an HonorHealth specialist, your medical information will be easily accessible by trusted caregivers. In addition, you won’t need to provide the same information over and over again; it will be in your medical record.”

It’s also clean, well equipped, and the wait is never too long. That’s where I go when I can’t get an appointment with my primary care doctor. There may be a different immediate care facility in your area.

Back to the bone issue. While I was there, an x-ray of my chest was ordered to check for pneumonia. I’m lucky: there wasn’t any. But, there was the unfolding of the thoraxthoracic aorta which I blogged about, and there was “levoconvex curvature and degenerative spurring of the thoracic spine.”

I am way past the point of panicking when I encounter a medical term I don’t know in a report about my body, but I am still curious… very curious. As I wrote in the blog about the unfolding aorta:

IMG_2982“…. In The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1 there’s an explanation of thorax. … ‘the part of the human body between the neck and the diaphragm, partially encased by the ribs and containing the heart and lungs; the chest’ according to The Free Dictionary at http://www.thefreedictionary.com/thorax. Thoracic is the adjective form of thorax.” Adjectives describe the noun – the person, place, thing, or idea.

And degenerative? There’s a poignant discovery about that in What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease: “Ah, CKD is a degenerative disease.”  Well, all right then. Both CKD and the spurring of my thoracic spine are degenerative. What exactly does degenerative mean, though? My all-time favorite Merriam-Webster Dictionary tells us it’s the adjective (yep, that means describing) form of degeneration. Their definition of degeneration at https://www.merriam- webster.com/dictionary/degeneration is “deterioration of a tissue or an organ in which its function is diminished or its FullSizeRender (2)structure is impaired.” This doesn’t sound too great; it sounds like CKD.

What about “levoconvex curvature”? I understand curvature and I’m sure you do, too, so let’s just deal with levoconvex. I see convex in the word and know that means curving outward. Levo is new to me. GLOBALRPh at http://www.globalrph.com/medterm6b.htm, which defines itself as The Clinician’s Ultimate Reference, tells us this simply means left. Now how did I miss that when I studied Greek and Latin all those years ago?  Looks like my spine curves outward to the left. I couldn’t find any relationship between this and CKD except that it may cause kidney pain if the curvature is severe enough.

FullSizeRender (3)Sure enough, there is a connection between CKD and the spurring of my thoracic spine and it’s degeneration. But wait. I forget to explain spurring. This is how it was explained in The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2:

“…bone spur.  A what?  Oh, an osteophyte!  Osteo comes from the Latin osseusosossis meaning bone and the Greek osteon, also meaning bone. {Thank you for the memory, Hunter College of the City University of New York course in Greek and Latin roots taken a zillion years ago.}”

Funny how the memory works sometimes and others it doesn’t. I can just see one of my kids rolling her eyes and saying, “So?”

So, it means that there is extra bone growing on my poor thoracic spine as part of the degeneration of my body. Even though it’s my body I’m writing about, I find it amusing that bone is growing rather than diminishing as part of the degeneration. It seems backwards to me.

However, there you have it: chronic kidney disease is a degenerative disease.  The spurring of the thoracic spine is also degenerative. Since I just turned 70, I’m not surprised about the spine thing. Keep in mind that CKD can hit at any age.

You knew it. This is turning into a plea to get tested for CKD. Here’s a bit of information from the National Kidney Foundation of Arizona at NKF-logo_Hori_OBhttps://azkidney.org/path-wellness that can help with that:

“Path to Wellness screenings provide free blood and urine testing, which is evaluated onsite is using point-of-care testing devices to assess for the risk of diabetes, heart and kidney diseases. Those screened are also presented with chronic disease management education, an overall health assessment (weight, blood pressure, etc.) and a one-on-one consultation with a physician. Enrollment opportunities are offered for a follow-up 6-week series of Healthy Living workshops that teach chronic disease self-management skills. For more information, click the link above or call our main line at: (602) 840-1644.”

IMG_2980

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

The Three Musketeers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FullSizeRender (3)

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

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

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

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

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

“Vitamin D is responsible for:

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

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

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

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

“Calcium

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

Vitamin D

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

Phosphorusfish

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

 

It’s Unfolding Now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

What Are You Doing for Others?

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

mlk-do-for-others

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

 

Where Does It All Come From?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life.

Starting the New Year with a Miracle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Miracles Redux

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week and the New Year,

Keep living your life!

 

It’s a Miracle!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Never Too Old to Learn

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

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

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

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

Abnormal levels of cholesterol, triglyceride or both

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

cholestero

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s a pretty big ‘so.’

Until next week,

Enjoy your life!

Cleaning Out

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

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

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

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

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

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

“…with CKD I’d talk over detoxing and/or taking supplements to support cell power with my nephrologist before actually following that advice.  Some nephrologists are dead (Yikes! Wrong word choice) set against detoxifying while others have a more eclectic approach to gentle detoxifying.”

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

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

FullSizeRender (3)‘…people feel as if there is a thick fog dampening their mind. While the medical and mental health establishments don’t generally recognize brain fog as a condition, it’s a surprisingly common affliction that affects people of all ages. Symptoms include pervasive absentmindedness, muddled thought processes, poor memory recall, difficulty processing information, disorientation, fatigue, and others.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!IMG_2982

Clean…or Dirty?

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

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

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

: free from dirt, marks, etc.

: not dirty

: tending to keep clean

: free from pollution or other dangerous substancesdictionary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Choose organic clean foods whenever possible.

Drink at least two liters of water a day.

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

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

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

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

Consume healthy fats.

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

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

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

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

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

Thanksgiving

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!  

Starting My Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

red-meat-chart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

TED Doesn’t Talk to Me; But YouTube Does

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YouTube is a Google company.”

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

Nudity or sexual content

Violent or graphic content

Hateful content

Spam, misleading metadata, and scams

Harmful or dangerous content

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

Threats

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Updates, Anyone?

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

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

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

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

Diet and Nutrition Apps

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

kidneyapp

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

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

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

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

Thank you for your patronage. We hope KidneyDiet® has helped you.

Sincerely,
The KidneyDiet® Team

FullSizeRender (3)I consider this a great loss for those looking for a simple nutritional app for their CKD.

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

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

Restaurant Nutrition is another app offered by Google Play, which means I can’t even get into it. I did get through to the reviews and couldn’t find any positive ones. I didn’t see the point in pursuing this any further.IMG_2980

There are even kidney disease games, such as KidneyWarrior, to teach yourself and your loved ones about your disease. This is the author’s description of the game:

“A new hero emerges to fight a dreadful illness. A quest to save his father. A brand NEW approach to mobile gaming •Play as Glo, a young hero on his exciting adventure to save his father •SHOOT, SMACK, and SPIN your way through 3 different and exciting stages, packed with hours of gaming •LEARN about what kidneys do and how kidney disease affects people worldwide Created on behalf of Project ARK, an organization focused to support research efforts on combating kidney disease. As a high school organization, Project ARK seeks to raise awareness on campus and within the community.”

To borrow a term from a now defunct cigarette brand: We’ve come a long way, baby!

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Is it CKD? Or Is It Arizona?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My method was ridiculously simple:

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

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

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

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

 

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

Until next time,

Keep living your life!

Then Why Wait?

paul-peckIt’s that time of year again, ladies and gentlemen. Time for what, you ask. Well, yes, it is almost time for Halloween (and my fellow writer brother’s Halloween birthday) but it’s also time for your flu shot… or jab, depending upon which part of the world you’re in. I’ve written before about why it’s important to have this protection, especially if you’re getting older – like me. But I don’t think I’ve written about why it’s a good idea to wait.

“’If you’re over 65, don’t get the flu vaccine in September. Or August. It’s a marketing scheme,’ said Laura Haynes, an immunologist at the University of Connecticut Center on Aging,” in the same NPR article referred to later in this blog. Considering the information my own immunologist gave me, I have to agree. But, here we are back to what my cousin calls my probing question: why?

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season-2016-2017.htm:

“Getting vaccinated before flu activity begins helps protect you once the flu season starts in your community. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for the body’s immune response to fully respond and for you to be protected so make plans to get vaccinated. CDC recommends that people get a flu vaccine by the end of October, if possible. However, getting vaccinated later can still be beneficial. CDC recommends ongoing flu vaccination as long as influenza viruses are circulating, even into January or later.”

Wait a minute. How do the private companies that produce the flu vaccine know what strains to include protection against? NPR (National Public the shotRadio) at http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/09/15/493982110/yes-it-is-possible-to-get-your-flu-shot-too-soon has something to say about that:

“To develop vaccines, manufacturers and scientists study what’s circulating in the Southern Hemisphere during its winter flu season — June, July and August. Then, based on that evidence, they forecast what flu strains might be circulating in the U.S. the following November, December and January, and incorporate that information into flu vaccines that are generally ready by late July.”

Nope, still doesn’t answer my question.  I decided to turn to CNN at http://www.cnn.com/2016/09/26/health/wait-for-flu-shot/ :

“”… antibodies created by the vaccine decline in the months following vaccination “primarily affecting persons age 65 and older,” citing a study done during the 2011-2012 flu season. Still, while ‘delaying vaccination might permit greater immunity later in the season,’ the CDC notes that ‘deferral could result in missed opportunities to vaccinate.’”

This is in keeping with what my own immunologist and my PCP (primary care physician) both warned me. Bear is 70. I’m close to it. We won’t be having our inoculations until later in October. Which brings us around to the question of why have the flu shot at all?

FullSizeRender (3)The England’s Department of Health chart included in The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2  partially answers this question:

Even if you feel healthy, you should definitely consider having the free {In England, that is} seasonal flu vaccination if you have:

  • a heart problem
  • a chest complaint or breathing difficulties, including bronchitis or emphysema
  • a kidney disease  {I bolded and italicized this for obvious reasons.}
  • lowered immunity due to disease or treatment (such as steroid medication or cancer treatment)
  • a liver disease
  • had a stroke or a transient ischaemic attack (TIA)
  • diabetes
  • a neurological condition, for example multiple sclerosis (MS) or cerebral palsy
  • a problem with your spleen, for example sickle cell disease or you have had your spleen removed.

I found this little nugget that’s more emphatic about why Chronic Kidney Disease patients need to have the vaccine in SlowItDownCKD 2015:

DaVita at http://www.davita.com/kidney-disease/overview/treatment-overview/immunizations–which-shots-you-need-and-why/e/4837 tells IMG_2980us,

‘Immunizations may prevent people from contracting other diseases, infections and viruses. The immune system of a person with chronic kidney disease (CKD) becomes weakened, making it difficult to fight off many diseases and infections. Patients with CKD may become more susceptible to illness and even death if they do not receive regular immunization treatment. Getting the proper immunizations is an essential part of a person’s kidney care.’”

You’ve probably heard that there are different strains of the flu. I went to England’s National Health Services site at http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/vaccinations/Pages/how-flu-vaccine-works.aspx to discover what they are:

“There are three types of flu viruses. They are:

  • type A flu virus – this is usually the more serious type. The virus is most likely to mutate into a new version that people are not resistant to. The H1N1 (swine flu) strain is a type A virus, and flu pandemics in the past were type A viruses.
  • type B flu virus – this generally causes a less severe illness and is responsible for smaller outbreaks. It mainly affects young children.
  • type C flu virus – this usually causes a mild illness similar to the common cold.

Most years, one or two strains of type A flu circulate as well as type B.”

A new site for me, but one I suspect I’ll be returning to in the future, Public Health at http://www.publichealth.org/public-awareness/understanding-vaccines/vaccines-work/ explains how a vaccine works:

virus“A vaccine works by training the immune system to recognize and combat pathogens, either viruses or bacteria. To do this, certain molecules from the pathogen must be introduced into the body to trigger an immune response.

These molecules are called antigens, and they are present on all viruses and bacteria. By injecting these antigens into the body, the immune system can safely learn to recognize them as hostile invaders, produce antibodies, and remember them for the future. If the bacteria or virus reappears, the immune system will recognize the antigens immediately and attack aggressively well before the pathogen can spread and cause sickness.”

I’ve already had something. I don’t know it was, but it felt like a little bit of a preview for the flu and it was awful. When I become ill, I can be down for anywhere from three to six weeks.  This time? Probably 10 days which, by the way, is the usual run for the common cold. Was it a cold? Strain C of the flu? I don’t know, but you can bet it reinforced that I’ll be getting that flu shot. Why go for more misery if I can help it?

Until next week,FullSizeRender (2)FullSizeRender (2)

Keep living your life!

Not Your New Age Crystals

Sometimes, a reader will ask a question and I’ll research the answer for him/her, always explaining first that I’m not a doctor, don’t claim to be one, and (s)he will need to check whatever information I offer with his/her nephrologist before acting on it. There was just such a comment this week: “Just wondering if you have any advice on Gout and it’s effect on Kidney disease? Mary.” Advice? No. Research? Yes.

What is itLet’s establish just what gout is first. This is how it’s defined in What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease :

“gout: particularly painful form of inflammatory arthritis characterized by a build-up of urate crystals in the joints, causing pain and inflammation.”

Urate crystals? MedicineNet at http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=11853 defines these as: “… salt derived from uric acid. When the body cannot metabolize uric acid properly, urates can build up in body tissues or crystallize within the joints.”

Okay, what’s uric acid then? Thanks to the Merriam Webster Online Dictionary at http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/uric%20acid for the definition:

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

Whoops, looks like I missed a definition here: tophi simply means the deposit itself.

You may be wondering what that has to do with Chronic Kidney Disease.  This paragraph from The IMG_2982Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1 explains:

“Researching that brought me to an English article from Arthritis Research UK which cited an American study.  I’m going to reproduce only one paragraph of the article here because it brought home exactly what gout with Chronic Kidney Disease can do to your body.

‘The findings were presented at Kidney Week 2011 by researcher Dr Erdal Sarac. He concluded: ‘This study reveals a high prevalence of gout in patients with CKD. Male sex, advanced age, CAD, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia were significantly associated with gout among CKD patients.’”

You may need some more definitions to fully understand that paragraph, so I’m reproducing these from What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease:

CAD: coronary artery disease

hyperlipidemia: high cholesterol

hypertension: high blood pressure

Gout sounds bad. I’ll bet you’re wondering how you can help avoid gout… especially if you have CKD. Let’s go back to The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1 for a moment.

“One disease, CKD, can be implicated for three others if you also have gout.  … I didn’t know that gout is also somehow in the mix of being medically compromised.  I have hyperlipidemia and hypertension and CKD.  True, I’m not an older male but should I become more vigilant about any hints of gout? ….

bottled waterI would have to be careful about my food and beverage intake. Oh, wait, I’m already doing that by following the renal diet. In both, you are urged to cut back on alcohol and drink more water instead. Purines are a problem, too, but then again I am limited to five ounces of protein {A purine food source} per day. Hmmm, avoiding sugar-sweetened drinks may help. Say, with CKD, I have to watch my A1C {How the body handles glucose or sugar in a three month period} so that I don’t end up with diabetes.  That means I’m watching all my sugar intake already. I see fructose rich fruits can be a problem.  But I’m already restricted to only three servings of fruit a day!  Oh, here’s the biggie: lose weight.  Yep, been hearing that from my nephrologist for four (Me here: it’s more like nine years now.) years.  To sum up, by attending to my CKD on a daily basis, I’m also attempting to avoid or lessen the effects of gout.

This is getting very interesting.  I also take medication for both hypertension and hyperlipidemia.  Are they also helping me to avoid gout?  It seems to me that by treating one condition {Or two in my case}, I’m also treating my CKD and possibly preventing another.  It is all inter-related.”

By the way, based upon another reader’s question I mentioned cherries and gout in The Book of FullSizeRender (3)Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2:

“From my reading, I’ve also garnered the information that cherries can help with iron deficiencies, lower blood pressure, improve sleep, help with gout, and lower the risk of heart disease.

Or can they? Remember that too much potassium can actually cause an irregular heartbeat or possibly stop your heart.”

So now, we need to watch purines and potassium, too. Aha! Following the renal diet already is helping to avoid potassium. What about purines? According to WebMD at http://www.webmd.com/arthritis/tc/diet-and-gout-topic-overview:

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

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

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

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

Does this list sound familiar? It should if you’re following the renal diet. While not exactly the same, there’s quite a bit of overlap in the two diets.

Mary… and every other reader… I hope this was enough information for you to write a list of questions about CKD and gout to bring to your next nephrology appointment.

IMG_2980Until next week,

Keep living your life!

How Sweet She Is

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

The Lamp Post and the Kidneys

disabledThis past week, my car and I tangled with a lamp post. My car got the worst of it. Luckily, I was driving very slowly in a parking lot while looking for the Disabled Parking Spots. (Ironic, isn’t it?) All I got were bruises and stiffness. Or did I?

As usual when confronted with something I didn’t know about, I started wondering:  What happened to my kidneys safely buried in my body while my skin turned black and blue from the seat belt and my hand ended up with tendonitis from gripping the steering wheel so firmly?

Do you remember where the kidneys are? Here’s the drawing from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health which was included in What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease. You can see that they are internal organs, which means they are not directly under the skin, but protected by layers of fat and muscle (Hmmmm, I usually wish there were more muscle and less fat over them), and other organs.

Location of Kidneys

What is it

According to The University of Michigan Medical School’s Dissector Answers at http://www.med.umich.edu/lrc/coursepages/m1/anatomy2010/html/gastrointestinal_system/kidney_ans.html#a1:

“Besides their peritoneal covering, each is embedded in two layers of fat, with a membrane, the renal fascia, in between the layers. Inside the renal fascia is the perirenal fat, while outside the membrane is the pararenal fat. (The perirenal layer is inside, while the pararenal layer is around the renal fascia.)”

Great! All I needed to know now is what that meant.  We already know from the quote above that perirenal fat is inside the renal fascia, while pararenal fat is outside, but what’s the fascia?

The Medical Dictionary section of the Free Dictionary at http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/fascia cleared that up right away:

renal-fascia“a sheet or band of fibrous tissue such as lies deep to the skin or invests muscles and various body organs.”

Wait a minute; what about peritoneal? I had this vague memory of hearing the word before, but not its definition. Just to mix it up a little bit, this time I turned to MedicineNet at http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=4842, but for the root word peritoneum since the suffix ‘al’ just means relating to and will only confuse the issue. …

“The membrane that lines the abdominal cavity and covers most of the abdominal organs.”

I needed the information on AnatomyZone at http://www.anatomyzone.com/tutorials/location-and-relations-of-the-kidney/ to find out what lies in front of the kidneys.

“… the colon runs in front of the kidney. …. It runs in front of the lower part of the kidney, the inferior pole of the kidney. That’s the hepatic flexure….. the descending part of the duodenum sits in front of the medial part of the kidney.   The descending part of the duodenum is retroperitoneal as well and it sits right up against the kidney….on top of the kidney. This is the suprarenal gland or the adrenal gland.

…. the other side of the colon sits in front of the left kidney…. the stomach and the spleen sitting in front of it. … the end of the pancreas sitting in colonfront of it as well. “

This reads a bit choppy because it is describing an interactive visualization of the kidneys. If you want to find out more and have a little fun with the site, do click through on the site’s URL. I found this even more entertaining than my Concise Encyclopedia of the Human Body (London: Red Lemon Press, 2015) which I can pore over for hours just marveling at this body of ours.

It seems to me that I’ve ignored whatever is behind the kidneys so let’s find out what’s there. Oh, of course…

“The ribs and muscles of the back protect the kidneys from external damage. Adipose tissue known as perirenal fat surrounds the kidneys and acts as protective padding.” Many thanks to another interactive site, Inner Body at http://www.innerbody.com/image_urinov/dige05-new.html#full-description for this information.

By the way, adipose tissue – or perirenal fat – is an energy storing fat. While necessary, too much of this makes us appear fat and can compromise our health. This is the white, belly fat mentioned in conjunction with kidney disease in The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney FullSizeRender (3)Disease, Part 2:

“Other studies have suggested that once diagnosed with kidney disease, weight loss may slow kidney disease progression, but this is the first research study to support losing belly fat and limiting phosphorus consumption as a possible way to prevent kidney disease from developing.  Dr. Joseph Vassalotti, chief medical officer at the National Kidney Foundation  11/3/13”

It seems I’ve developed a sort of pattern here. We’ve looked in front of the kidneys and behind them. What’s above them, I was beginning to wonder. Then I realized I already knew… and so do you if you’ve been reading my work: They lie below the diaphragm and the right is lower than the left because the liver is on the right side above the kidneys. The adrenal glands which were mentioned above are also on top of your kidneys. According to Reference.com, a new site for me at https://www.reference.com/science/function-adrenal-gland-72cba864e66d8278:

“Adrenal glands are triangular-shaped, measure approximately 1.5 inches high and 3 inches long and are composed of two parts, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. The outer part is the adrenal cortex, which creates cortisol, aldosterone and androgen hormones. The second part is the adrenal medulla, which creates noradrenaline and adrenaline.adrenal

Cortisol is a hormone that controls metabolism and helps the body react to stress, according to Endocrineweb. It affects the immune system and lowers inflammatory responses in the body. Aldosterone helps regulate sodium and potassium levels, blood volume and blood pressure. Androgen hormones are steroid hormones that are converted to female or male hormones in other parts of the body.

Noradrenaline helps regulate blood pressure, increasing it during times of stress, notes Endocrineweb. Adrenaline is often associated with the adrenal glands, and it increases the heart rate and blood flow to the muscles and the brain.”

It looks like my kidneys and I had nothing to worry about.  They’re well protected from the impact of the accident.  *sigh* If only my car had been as well protected…

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Until next week,

Keep living your life!

 

 

The Nutrition Action Health Letter Article

I am now officially excited.  I’d been getting some comments about this article which I thought wasn’t being published until September. I wondered why. It was my mistake. The article was to appear in the September issue, which I didn’t realize is published before the month begins.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest’s September Nutrition Action Health Letter is out… and younutrition can read it online, too. The URL is http://www.nutritionaction.com/wp-content/uploads/cover-Kidney-Check-How-to-Keep-Yours-Going-Strong.pdf. Many thanks to Bonnie Liebman for such a fine job of reporting and aiding in spreading Chronic Kidney Disease Awareness. It’s long, six pages, so what we have here are excerpts.

 

David White“I didn’t know that I had end-stage renal disease until I was admitted to the hospital in 2009,” says David White, who was then in his mid-40s. “A few days later, I stopped producing urine.”

Doctors told White that he had crashed. “It was scary,” he says. “I went from ‘Something may be wrong’ to ‘Oh my god am I going to die?’ to ‘I have to spend the rest of my life on dialysis.’”

And with four hours of dialysis three times a week, he never felt great.

“People call it the dialysis hangover,” says White, from Temple Hills, Maryland. “You’re so tired that you want to sleep all day after dialysis and most of the following day. And then you gear up for the next treatment.”

And White struggled with his one-quart-a-day limit on fluids. “When you drink too much, moving isn’t comfortable, laying down isn’t comfortable,” he says. “It’s hard to breathe.”

For Gail Rae-Garwood, the news about her kidneys came when she switched to a new doctor closer to herNutrition home in Glendale, Arizona.

“She decided that as a new patient, I should have all new tests,” says Rae-Garwood, now 69. “When the results came in, she got me an appointment with a nephrologist the next day. When you get an appointment with a specialist the next day, you know something is not right.”

Rae-Garwood had chronic kidney disease. “My GFR was down to 39, and apparently had been low for quite a while,” she says. (Your GFR, or glomerular filtration rate, is the rate at which your kidneys filter your blood.) “‘What is chronic kidney disease and how did I get it?’ I demanded,” recalls Rae-Garwood.

Every 30 minutes, your kidneys filter all the blood in your body. Without at least one, you need dialysis or a transplant. Yet most people have no idea how well their kidneys are working. “It’s very common for people to have no idea that they have early chronic kidney disease,” says Alex Chang, a nephrologist at Geisinger Health System in Danville, Pennsylvania.

A routine blood test sent to a major lab—like Quest or LabCorp—typically includes your GFR. If it doesn’t, your doctor can calculate it.

kidney function“A GFR is pretty routine for anyone who has blood work done,” says Chang. “But if you have very mild kidney disease, and especially if you’re older, a doctor might not mention it since kidney function tends to decline as you age.”

Doctors also look for kidney disease by testing your urine for a protein called albumin …. “That’s usually only done if you have high blood pressure or diabetes or some risk factor for kidney disease other than age,” says Chang.

Rae-Garwood’s previous doctor missed that memo. “I had been on medication for high blood pressure for decades,” she explains. “I wonder how much more of my kidney function I could have preserved if I’d known about it earlier.”

***

David White had kidney transplant in 2015. “It’s given me my life back,” he says. “No more dialysis.”

He takes anti-rejection drugs and steroids, and, like Rae-Garwood, he gets exercise and has to watch what he eats.

“I’ve changed my diet radically,” says Rae-Garwood. “I have to limit the three P’s—protein, potassium, What is itand phosphorus. I’m restricted to 5 ounces of protein a day. We have no red meat in the house. Any product above 7 or 8 percent of a day’s worth of sodium I don’t buy.

“And you know what? It’s fine. It’s been nine years now, and I’ve been able to keep my GFR around 50.”

Both patients are now advocates for preventing kidney disease. “I’ve written four books and almost 400 weekly blogs, and I post a daily fact about chronic kidney disease on Facebook,” says Rae-Garwood. White chairs the the MidAtlantic Renal Coalition’s patient advisory committee, among other things among other things.

“Get tested,” urges Rae-Garwood. “Millions of people have chronic kidney disease and don’t even know it. All it takes is a blood and urine test.”

My hope is that as a result of this article, more libraries, medical schools, and nephrology practices will IMG_2982order copies of What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney FullSizeRender (3)Disease, The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1, The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2, and SlowItDownCKD 2015. If you have a Kindle, Amazon has two wonderful low cost or free programs that may make it easier for you, your loved ones, and anyone you think could benefit from these books to read them.

This is how Amazon explains these programs:

“Kindle Unlimited is a subscription program for readers that allows them to read as many books as they want. The Kindle Owners’ Lending Library is a collection of books that Amazon Prime members who own a Kindle can choose one book from each month with no due dates.”

Barnes and Noble doesn’t have any such programs, but they do offer discount deals daily, which you can use to purchase any book.IMG_2980

I urge you to help spread awareness of Chronic Kidney Disease in any way you can. Here’s another quote from the article that may help you understand why:

“One out of ten adults have chronic kidney disease. Most don’t know it because early on, kidney disease has no symptoms. And because the risk rises as you age, roughly one out of two people aged 30 to 64 are likely to get the disease during their lives….”

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Not Quite the Bionic Woman

knee braceI have a knee brace.  The little sucker goes from mid-calf to mid-thigh… and it’s going to have a twin for the other knee.  I’m sort of disappointed because I thought it was going to be solely for when I exercise daily.  Only that’s not true; it’s going to be for eight hours a day. How did I so misunderstand what the doctor was saying?

More importantly, what the heck is this for?  I double checked this with the rheumotologist: it’s to postpone knee surgery as long as possible. As I understand it, there’s even a possibility of avoiding the surgery all together. I like that option. It’s also meant to minimize the pain. I like that, too.

The culprit here is osteoarthritis, which has worsened with age.  Lucky me. All those years of dance, judo, Tai Chi, Aikido, and stage movement blueshave done a job on my knees. That doesn’t mean I stop dancing or exercising, though. It also doesn’t mean I start taking more medications, either. Hey! I have Chronic Kidney Disease.

Let’s do our usual back tracking here. First question: What is osteoarthrosis of the knee? The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has a wonderfully clear explanation with an accompanying diagram:

“Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis in the knee. It is a degenerative, ‘wear-and-tear’ type of arthritis that occurs most often in people 50 years of age and older, but may occur in younger people, too. In osteoarthritis, the cartilage in the knee joint gradually wears away. As the cartilage wears away, it becomes frayed and rough, and the protective space between the bones decreases. This can result in bone rubbing on anatomy of the kneebone, and produce painful bone spurs. Osteoarthritis develops slowly and the pain it causes worsens over time.”

You can read more about osteo and other types of knee arthritis on their site at http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00212.

Well, that explains why the knees clicking isn’t a source of amusement anymore and why getting on my knees to play with sweet Ms. Bella is now agony.

As for medications, sure NSAIDS will help… except I can’t take them. Here’s a reminder why not from What Is It and How Did I Get It? FullSizeRender (2)Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease:

 “NSAID: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, aspirin, Aleve or naproxen usually used for arthritis or pain management, can worsen kidney disease, sometimes irreversibly.”

I’ll pass on those. I do take Limbrel, though. That’s not a NSAID and does help with the pain of arthritis. In The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 1, I defined Limbrel:

“a food medication {By prescription only} to deal with the pain preventatively.“

So now we understand why the knee braces (and the Limbrel). They – the braces – supposedly fit under your clothes. Uh, no, not if you’re a woman IMG_2982who wants to wear anything remotely stylish or not live in longish skirts. I could not get my capris or slacks on over the brace. Living in Arizona, longish skirts may work in the winter time, but they are too damned hot for the summer… which lasts from early May to late October.

So, how do these babies work you ask. I went over to the manufacturer’s website for the answer to that one.

“The Unloader One applies a gentle force design to reduce the pressure on the affected part of the knee, resulting in reduction in pain and thus allowing the patient to use the knee normally and more frequently.

Untreated, the cartilage will gradually wear down. The increased pressure on the underlying bone is the cause of the pain experienced by most osteoarthritis (OA) sufferers. The wear and tear on the cartilage will gradually cause the knee to become painful and feel stiff when moving.”

You can read more about knees on their website, but remember this is the site of a product for sale:  http://www.ossur.com/oa-solutions/unloader-uploaderbraces-and-osteoarthritis/knee-pain/unloader-braces-and-oa-knee-pain

I wanted to know a bit more about how the knee works. The National Institute of Health at http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Knee_Problems/default.asp explained in detail.

Bones and Cartilage

The knee joint is the junction of three bones: the femur (thigh bone or upper leg bone), the tibia (shin bone or larger bone of the lower leg), and the patella (kneecap). …The ends of the three bones in the knee joint are covered with articular cartilage, a tough, elastic material that helps absorb shock and allows the knee joint to move smoothly. Separating the bones of the knee are pads of connective tissue called menisci (men-NISS-sky). …The two menisci in each knee act as shock absorbers, cushioning the lower part of the leg from the weight of the rest of the body as well as enhancing stability.

Muscles

There are two groups of muscles at the knee. The four quadriceps muscles on the front of the thigh work to straighten the knee from a bent position. The hamstring muscles, which run along the back of the thigh from the hip to just below the knee, help to bend the knee.

Tendons and Ligaments

The quadriceps tendon connects the quadriceps muscle to the patella and provides the power to straighten the knee. The following four ligaments connect the femur and tibia and give the joint strength and stability:

  • The medial collateral ligament, which runs along the inside of the knee joint, provides stability to the inner (medial) part of the knee.LateralKneeDia_cropped1
  • The lateral collateral ligament, which runs along the outside of the knee joint, provides stability to the outer (lateral) part of the knee.
  • The anterior cruciate ligament, in the center of the knee, limits rotation and the forward movement of the tibia.
  • The posterior cruciate ligament, also in the center of the knee, limits backward movement of the tibia.

The knee capsule is a protective, fiber-like structure that wraps around the knee joint. Inside the capsule, the joint is lined with a thin, soft tissue called synovium.”

CKD brings a new way of thinking about every part of your body… even your knees. Think about it.
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IMG_2980

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

Teachers Teach

Many of you have asked that I post the interview by The American Federation of Teachers. I aim to please, so here it is.

 Gail Rae-Garwood

From NYC teacher to international health advocate

Posted August 9, 2016 by Liza Frenette

Gail Rae-Garwood talks and writes all the time about slowing down — but she’s not referring to her lifestyle speed. She’s talking about putting the brakes on Chronic Kidney Disease.

When this retired high school English teacher and United Federation of Teachers member was diagnosed with CKD in 2008, she was shocked. A new doctor detected unhealthy levels for kidney functioning in routine blood and urine workups. She was sent to a nephrologist. “I didn’t know what it was and what it meant,” she said. “I was terrified and thought I had nowhere to turn.”

She began researching and finding ways to manage this inflammatory disease through a specialized, calibrated diet, exercise, stress reduction and proper sleep. Then she realized she wanted to help others steer toward solutions. Rae-Garwood writes a weekly blog, a daily post and has published four books designed for people with CKD. She answers questions from around the world. She has spoken at coffee shops, Kiwanis Clubs, independent bookstores and senior citizen centers. She’s been a guest blogger for the American Kidney Fund, which promotes prevention activities AKF logoand educational resources, and provides financial assistance for clinical research and for kidney patients who need help with dialysis and transplants.

While she is careful about getting enough sleep and eating right, Rae-Garwood does not let any waking time slip by unnoticed. She has been interviewed on Online with Andrea, The Edge Podcast, Working with Chronic Illness, and Improve Your Kidney Help. She has been interviewed for the Wall Street Journal’s Health Matters and The Center for Science in The Public Interest.

Her action is not all talk. She also puts on the sneakers: In addition to her regular walks for health, she hustled up a team for the National Kidney Foundation of Arizona Kidney Walk.

By now, even her heart is probably kidney shaped.

Rae-Garwood also organized several talks at the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, not far from where she lives in Arizona.

Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and Asians are more prone to CKD, she said. “I wanted to bring awareness everywhere I could.”NKF-logo_Hori_OB

Education is vital because so many people are unaware they even have the disease. Rae-Garwood is one of many who did not have any symptoms. “Many, like me, never experienced any noticeable symptoms. Many, like me, may have had high blood pressure (hypertension) for years before (CKD) was diagnosed. Yet, high blood pressure and diabetes are the two leading causes of CKD.”

And CKD, left unchecked and untreated, can wreak havoc and death. According to the American Association of Kidney Patients, “The increase of kidney disease is now reaching epidemic proportions. The rates are even higher among racial and ethnic minorities. Chronic kidney disease can progress to end-stage renal disease and the need for dialysis or a kidney transplant.”

Rae-Garwood’s goal is to educate people and help them with their health. “You can slow down the progress of the decline of kidney function,” she said.

And she is the very living proof that people want to see.

kidneys5“I have been spending a lot of time on my health and I’m happy to say it’s been paying off. There are five stages. I’ve stayed at the middle one for nine years and even improved my health. That’s what this is about. People don’t know about CKD. They get diagnosed. They think they’re going to die. Everybody dies, but it doesn’t have to be of CKD. I am downright passionate about people knowing this,” she said.

After her first book was published, Rae-Garwood received an e-mail from a doctor in India. He said his patients were extremely poor and could not afford the book – yet the information she wrote about was so important to them.

“He asked how I could help. I thought: ‘I could write a blog!’” she said. Her efforts began by putting her book chapters on the blog, piece by piece. The doctor in India printed them and gave them to his patients. Newer blog posts have more up-to-date information, keeping patients informed.

Her informational blog has 106,000 readers from 107 different countries, she said, based on a report from WordPress. On her blog, Rae-Garwood answers questions from readers, lists books about CKD, reports on events, lists support groups, etc. She writes about things that have worked for her, such as using a stationary bike and stretching bands, and walking  — and cautions readers to seek advice from their doctor.

The year-round outdoor climate in Arizona helps Rae-Garwood stay active. While she loved living on Staten Island, she said she owned an old Victorian that she could not afford to fix up in retirement. With an arthritis condition, she also noticed that she was “becoming a bit of a shut-in in the winter.” So she moved to the southwest two months after retiring.

GFRRae-Garwood is not letting any of that sunshine go to waste. Since her 2008 diagnosis. she’s been driving on a steady road to wellness and spreading awareness like a modern day Johnny Appleseed. In her retirement from teaching, she has devoted much time to writing, speaking and teaching about how to thwart the disease. The skills she developed in 32 years as a teacher in Brooklyn, Staten Island, Queens and Manhattan have served her well in this new role as health advocate.

Her own four self-published books are “SlowItDownCKD 2015,” “The Book of Blogs, Moderate Stage Kidney Disease Part 1,” “The Book of Blogs, Moderate Stage Kidney Disease Part2” and “What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease.” The books are available online at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

For more information on the disease and this active, 69-year-old retiree, check out https://gailraegarwood.wordpress.com.

I hope that this interview has been both enjoyable and informative. It’s how I live my life…

Until next week,

Keep living YOUR life!

Maybe for You, But Not for Me

hairLast week, when I wrote about thinning hair, I received loads of suggestions. While I was pleased with all the interaction, it was clear to me that we had people answering from three different positions: pre-dialysis (like me at Stage 3 Chronic Kidney Disease), dialysis, and post-transplant. What also became clear is that the ‘rules’ for each position are different. That got me to wondering.

But first, I think a definition of each of these is necessary. My years teaching English ingrained in me that ‘pre’ is a prefix meaning before; so pre-dialysis means before dialysis. In other words, this is CKD stages 1-4 or 5 depending upon your nephrologist. It’s when there is a slow progression in the decline of your kidney function.

I remembered a definition of dialysis that I liked in SlowItDownCKD 2015, and so, decided to repeat it here.IMG_2980

“According to the National Kidney Foundation at https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/dialysisinfo,

‘Dialysis is a treatment that does some of the things done by healthy kidneys. It is needed when your own kidneys can no longer take care of your body’s needs. There are several different kinds of dialysis. Basically, they each eliminate the wastes and extra fluid in your blood via different methods.’”

And post -transplant?  Simply put, it means after having had an kidney (or other organ) placed in your body to replace one that doesn’t work anymore.

I know as a pre-dialysis that I have certain dietary restrictions.  Readers have told me some of theirs and they’re very different. It’s not the usual difference based on lab results that will tell you whether you need to cut back more on one of the electrolytes this quarter. It seemed like an entirely different system.

FullSizeRender (2)Let’s go back to What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease to see what my basic dietary restrictions as a pre-dialysis CKD patient are.

 “The (e.g. renal) diets seem to agree that protein, sodium, phosphorus and potassium need to be limited. … Apparently, your limits may be different from mine or any other patient’s.  In other words, it’s personalized.”

Well, what about those on dialysis? What do their dietary guidelines look like? I found this in The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, Part 2:

“Knowing End Stage Renal Disease is not my area of expertise, I took a peek at National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC), A service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)National Institutes of Health (NIH), at http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/KUDiseases/pubs/eatright/index.aspx#potassium anyway to see what dialysis patients can eat.

“Potassium is a mineral found in many foods, especially milk, fruits, and vegetables. It affects how steadily your heart beats. Healthy kidneys keep FullSizeRender (3)the right amount of potassium in the blood to keep the heart beating at a steady pace. Potassium levels can rise between dialysis sessions and affect your heartbeat. Eating too much potassium can be very dangerous to your heart. It may even cause death.”

I suspected that potassium is not the only dietary problem for dialysis and dug a bit more.  I discovered this information on MedicineNet at http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=78054, along with the caveat that these also need to be individualized as per lab results.

  1. Fluids: Allowance is based primarily on the type of dialysis and urine output. If you have any edema, are taking a diuretic, and/or have congestive heart failure, your allowance will be adjusted.
  2. Sodium: This will be modified to maintain blood pressure and fluid control and to help prevent congestive heart failureand pulmonary edema.
  3. Potassium: Your intake of this will be adjusted to prevent your blood levels from going too high or too low.
  4. bananaPhosphorus: The majority of dialysis patients require phosphate binders and dietary restrictions in order to control their blood phosphorus levels.
  5. Protein: Adequate protein is necessary to maintain and replenish your stores. You may be instructed on increasing your intake now that you are on dialysis.
  6. Fiber: There is a chance that constipation may be a problem due to fluid restrictions and phosphate binders, so it’s important to keep fiber intake up. You will need guidance on this because many foods that are high in fiber are also high in potassium.
  7. Fat: Depending on your blood cholesterol levels, you may need to decrease your intake of trans fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol.
  8. Calories: If you are over or underweight, you will be instructed on adjusting the amount of calories that you take in each day.
  9. Calcium: Most foods that contain calcium also contain phosphorus. Due to your phosphorus restrictions, you will need guidance on how to get enough calcium while limiting your intake of phosphorus.

Big difference here!  More protein, less calcium, phosphate binders, fat and calcium. No wonder the responses I got to last week’s blog were so varied.

And post-transplant? What about those dietary restrictions? The Mayo Clinic at http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/kidney-transplant/manage/diet-nutrition/nuc-20209734 has that one covered, with the same warning as the other two groups’ diets: your labs dictate your amounts.

  • Eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each dayfruits and veggies
  • Avoiding grapefruit and grapefruit juice due to its effect on a group of immunosuppression medications (calcineurin inhibitors)
  • Having enough fiber in your daily diet
  • Drinking low-fat milk or eating other low-fat dairy products, which is important to maintain optimal calcium and phosphorus levels
  • Eating lean meats, poultry and fish
  • Maintaining a low-salt and low-fat diet
  • Following food safety guidelines
  • Staying hydrated by drinking adequate water and other fluids each day

So it looks like you get to eat more servings of fruits and vegetables a day, must avoid grapefruit and its juice, and be super vigilant about calcium and phosphorus levels. Notice the same suggestion to have enough fiber in your diet as when on dialysis.

Whoa! We have three different sets of diet guidelines for three different stages of CKD, along with the strict understanding that everything depends upon your lab results. That means that the post-transplant patients were right – for them – that I needed more protein.  And the dialysis patients were right – for them – too. But for the pre-dialysis patients? Nope, got to stay below five ounces daily. IMG_2982

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

The American Kidney Fund Blog

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

Slowing Down CKD—It Can Be Done

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

No doctor had ever mentioned CKD before.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_1398SlowItDownCKD 2015 Book Cover (76x113)

 

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

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

What’s Your Type?

Every Sunday night, I take a blues dance lesson taught by my daughter, Abby Wegerski, as Sustainable Blues Phoenix at Saint Nick’s Tavern and SlowItDownCKD 2015 Book Cover (76x113)stay to dance to the music of the live band – the Rockets 88s – for a while. Last week, my good buddy, Karla Lodge, organized a fund raiser. I like to support Karla in whatever she does, so I decided to push myself and go to the fundraiser (a half hour drive each way) after dancing.

To make it even more fun, Bill Weber, the creator of Avery’s World, was in from Los Angeles visiting a relative in Tucson. They drove up to Scottsdale to join us at the fundraiser.  Now that you’ve been introduced to some of the people and events in my life, forget them. Here’s the important part: as we were having dinner, my Chronic Kidney Disease Awareness Advocacy came up. Bill’s relative lit up. It turns out Avery's Worldsomeone very close to her is a transplantee. Her first question to me: What’s your blood type?

I explained I was in the moderate stages of CKD and not anywhere near transplant, but she insisted it was very important to know your blood type when you have CKD. She didn’t know why. I didn’t know why…so that’s the subject of today’s blog.

Here I am starting in the middle again. We all have a blood type.  That’s fairly common knowledge, but what exactly are blood drawblood types? We’ll go about this a bit differently by defining blood group, which is a synonym for blood type. To paraphrase a song we used to sing during the two times I went to a two week stint at summer camp on a farm, “I know because the dictionary tells me so.” In this case it’s the Merriam-Webster Dictionary at http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/blood%20group:

“one of the classes (as those designated A, B, AB, or O) into which individuals or their blood can be separated on the basis of the presence or absence of specific antigens in the blood —called also blood type

What is itFor those of you who are wondering, an antigen is something that’s introduced to the body and causes the body to produce antibodies (think germs). As an undergraduate in good old Hunter College of The City University of New York I learned that ‘anti’ is a prefix meaning against. ‘Gen’ is a root which means causing something to happen.  Got it. An antigen causes something to happen against something else. In this case, your red blood cells.

4I see a hand raised in the back of the room. (This does remind me of when I was teaching college out here in Arizona.) Why are there four types you ask? Good question. Anyone have the answer? I don’t either, so let’s look it up together. Look! The Smithsonian Institute sums it up in one sentence: “But why humans and apes have these blood types is still a scientific mystery.” Now I don’t feel so uninformed that I couldn’t answer the question. Anyway, you can read more at: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/the-mystery-of-human-blood-types-86993838/#JwJKP357AyhDRy4R.99 and, yes, this is THAT Smithsonian Institute.  Where, oh where, is Bones when you need her?Bones-tv-show-f38

Did you know there are numerous other blood groups, too? Usually people don’t – unless they happen to be a member of one of them. The same link above can offer you more information about these since we’ll be sticking to the four major ones today. You should know that your blood type is inherited.

Again, why is it important to know your blood group?  Thank you to Disabled World at http://www.disabled-world.com/calculators-charts/blood-chart.php for the following chart, which demonstrates the answer.

blood-donor-match

They also offer a simple explanation of why blood groups are so important:

“Blood types are very important when a blood transfusion is necessary. In a blood transfusion, a patient must receive a blood type compatible with his or her own blood type. If the blood types are not compatible, red blood cells will clump together, making clots that can block blood vessels and cause death.

blood_test_vials_QAIf two different blood types are mixed together, the blood cells may begin to clump together in the blood vessels, causing a potentially fatal situation. Therefore, it is important that blood types be matched before blood transfusions take place. In an emergency, type O blood can be given because it is most likely to be accepted by all blood types. However, there is still a risk involved.”

As a CKD patient for the last nine years, I have never needed a blood transfusion. Come to think of it, I’ve never needed one in my almost 70 years on this planet. But that’s not to say I may not need one sometime in the future… or that you might not need one. But I’m interested in why it’s especially important to know your blood type as a moderate stage CKD patient.

I scoured What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease, The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease – Part 1, The Book of Blogs: Moderate Stage Chronic Kidney Disease – Part 2, and SlowItDownCKD 2015. Although there is abundant discussion of how the kidneys filter the blood, why their effectiveness in this filtering diminishes in CKD and the production of red blood cells, there is no mention of blood type in any of the books.

IMG_1398

I’m beginning to wonder if Bill’s relative meant that knowing your blood type is important in general, not especially if you have CKD. Karla, a Physician’s Assistant, was strangely quiet during this part of the discussion. I attributed that to her being pre-occupied with the fundraiser she was running… maybe that wasn’t the reason.

questionAlthough I didn’t find the answer to my question, I did run across some intriguing theories during my research. I’m not endorsing them since I know so little about them, simply offering you the information.

The Blood Type Diet at http://www.dadamo.com/ (I do remember a colleague being interested in this one about a decade ago.)

Blood Type and Your Personality at http://bodyecology.com/articles/link_blood_type_personality_diet.php

Until next week,

Keep living your life!

A Cautionary Tale

Last week, I found myself crushed for time: a friend was coming to visit from Florida, we had a Father’s Day brunch at our house, there were Ave Qtheater tickets, one of the kids needed immediate aid since she was in her own time crunch, the list goes on and on. Taking that into account and not wanting to add that old demon ‘stress’ to the list, I thought I’d do a quick, easy blog about acupuncture/acupressure and Chronic Kidney Disease.

But while researching I discovered a number of sites with online doctors and changed my topic immediately. The ones I clicked on were:

I’m sure there are more, but rather than be an alarmist, I want to be an explainer.

Explainer of what you ask. Not acupuncture or acupressure.  There’s a discussion of how acupressure works in the May 4th blog in SlowItDownCKD 2015 Book Cover (76x113)SlowItDownCKD 2015.  Acupuncture works on the same principle, but using very fine needles rather than pressure. I happily and confidently made use of both before my CKD diagnose and only ceased my treatments when the senior acupuncturist working on me told me these treatments would not help with the CKD. That was over nine years ago. He may have changed his opinion since then.

I want to explain why online doctors are not such a great idea. I can practically see some of you rolling your eyes at me while others are thinking, “Why not?” Okay, maybe they’re legal, but are they ethical? I found a fairly straight forward abstract on ResearchGate which states:

“…online medical consultations pose greater dangers to patients compared to traditional off-line consultations…. while new technologies may aid doctors in making better diagnoses at a distance, they often bring new concerns.”

You can read more about this yourself at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/228234723_Online_Medical_Consultations_Legal_Ethical_and_Social_Perspectives

arthritisI find myself struggling here. I am all in favor of online doctor summaries by your doctors, test reports from your labs, and general medication explanations from the internet. However, I simply cannot understand how someone who has never met you, someone who has not examined your body, someone who has never spoken with you can advise you on your health.

I’ve mentioned before that I have psoriasis, arthritis, neuropathy, sleep apnea, and probably a host of other as-yet-undiagnosed-inflammatory based diseases (This might be a good time to reread last week’s blog about inflammation caused disease.