A Different Kind of Fatigue

Busy with the holidays? Chanukah has passed, but we still have Christmas, Kwanzaa, and the New Year coming up. Feeling like you’re just too tired to deal with them? Maybe even fatigued? What’s the difference, you ask. Let’s go to Reuters at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-fatigued-tired-s-idUSCOL75594120070207 for the answer:

“’People who are tired,’ Olson [Dr. Karin Olson, with the faculty of nursing at the University of Alberta] explained, ‘still have a fair bit of energy but are apt to feel forgetful and impatient and experience muscle weakness following work, which is often alleviated by rest.

People who are fatigued, on the other hand, experience difficulty concentrating, anxiety, a gradual decrease in stamina, difficulty sleeping, and increased sensitivity to light. They also may skip social engagements once viewed as important to them.’”

Got it. When I was describing how tired I was to another caretaker, her suggestion was to have my adrenals checked. Hmmm, what does that have to do with Chronic Kidney Disease I wondered. Let’s find out.

First of all, what and where are the adrenals? As I reported in SlowItDownCKD 2016,

“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.

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.”

Okay then, is adrenal fatigue exactly what it sounds like? According to Dr. James L. Wilson at http://adrenalfatigue.org/what-is-adrenal-fatigue/:

“Adrenal fatigue is a collection of signs and symptoms, known as a syndrome, that results when the adrenal glands function below the necessary level. Most commonly associated with intense or prolonged stress, it can also arise during or after acute or chronic infections, especially respiratory infections such as influenza, bronchitis or pneumonia. As the name suggests, its paramount symptom is fatigue that is not relieved by sleep but it is not a readily identifiable entity like measles or a growth on the end of your finger.

You may look and act relatively normal with adrenal fatigue and may not have any obvious signs of physical illness, yet you live with a general sense of unwellness, tiredness or ‘gray’ feelings. People experiencing adrenal fatigue often have to use coffee, colas and other stimulants to get going in the morning and to prop themselves up during the day.”

I still wanted to know what the connection to CKD was. LiveStrong at https://www.livestrong.com/article/139350-adrenal-glands-kidneys/ had the following to say about the connection:

“Blood Pressure

The adrenals and kidneys also work together to regulate blood pressure. The kidneys make renin, which is a chemical messenger to the adrenals. The renin put out by the kidneys signals the adrenals to make three hormones: angiotensin I, angiotensin II and aldosterone. These hormones regulate fluid volumes, vascular tension and sodium levels, all of which affect blood pressure.

Prednisone

Many kidney patients take prednisone to minimize the amount of protein spilled into the urine by the kidneys. Prednisone also has a powerful effect on the adrenal glands.

Prednisone acts as a corticosteroid, just like the ones produced by the adrenals. When patients take prednisone, the adrenals cease producing corticosteroids. When patients stop taking prednisone, they gradually taper the dosage down to give the adrenal glands the opportunity to ‘wake up’ and start producing corticosteroids again”.

I don’t take prednisone and my blood pressure is under control via medication. Where does this leave me… or you if you’re in the same situation?

I went to WebMD at https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/adrenal-fatigue-is-it-real#1 for more information.

“Your body’s immune system responds by slowing down when you’re under stress. Your adrenal glands, which are small organs above your kidneys, respond to stress by releasing hormones like cortisol. They regulate your blood pressure and how your heart works.

According to the theory, if you have long-term stress (like the death of a family member or a serious illness), your adrenal glands can’t continuously produce the extra cortisol you need to feel good. So adrenal fatigue sets in.”

This makes sense to me, although adrenal fatigue is not accepted by the Endocrine Society as a diagnose and there are warnings that accepting it as one may mask another problem (read disease) with the same symptoms. I am a caretaker as well as a CKD patient. I am under constant stress even when I’m sleeping. You’ve heard of sleeping with one eye open? I sleep with one ear open, but I do sleep so I can rule out tiredness.

While writing this blog has helped me understand what adrenal fatigue is and how it might affect me, I’m still going to keep my cardiology appointment to explore why my blood pressure is often ten points higher in one arm than another. That’s also a possible heart problem. Maybe adrenal fatigue is affecting how my heart is working … or maybe it’s a blockage somewhere. Why take a chance?

In the meantime, I intend to partake of as many of those holiday party invitations as I can. I can always come home early if I have to or I can rest before they start. Here’s hoping you do the same whether or not you think you have adrenal fatigue.

Oh, there’s still plenty of time to order any of my books on Amazon.com or B&N.com in time for the remaining holidays. There are links to the right of the blog for the kidney books. Click on these links for the fiction: Portal in Time and Sort of Dark Places.

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