You and Your Doctor Are Your Medical Team – September 2023

The topic this month is Chronic Kidney Disease / CKD – a condition characterized by a gradual loss of kidney function over time. The difference between Chronic Kidney Disease is that there is kidney damage but they are still able to perform some of its functions, and Renal Failure is the condition when kidneys are fully damaged and cannot perform any of its functions. These are a few statistics to catch your attention and let you know how serious this condition is if it goes “unchecked”.  About 37 million / more than 1 in 7 /15% of US adults are estimated to have CKD, and most are undiagnosed.  2 of 5 adults with severe kidney disease don’t know they have it, and 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. (approximately 80 million) is at risk for kidney disease. Kidney disease is more common in women (14%) than men (12%). In 2021, more than 48,000 Canadians were living with CKD. Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney disease in Canada. Up to 50% of people with diabetes will have signs of kidney damage in their lifetime. Studies have shown that Diabetes and high blood pressure are responsible for two-thirds of chronic kidney disease cases, and over a quarter of all cases of kidney failure.

Your kidneys have many  important functions, such as: (a) Keeping a balance of water and minerals such as sodium, potassium, and phosphorus in your blood, which helps control your blood pressure, (b) Removal of waste from your blood after digestion, muscle activity, and exposure to chemicals or medications, (c) Creates renin, which your body uses to help manage your blood pressure, (d) Produces a chemical called erythropoietin, which prompts your body to make red blood cells and (e) Makes an active form of vitamin D, needed for bone health and other things.

Most people may not have any severe symptoms untiltheir kidney disease is advanced. Some symptoms include: feeling more tired and having less energy than “normal”, trouble concentrating-decreased mental sharpness, a poor appetite, nausea/vomiting, trouble sleeping, muscle twitching-cramping at night, swollen feet and ankles, puffiness around the eyes – especially in the morning,  dry- persistent itchy skin; shortness of breath; need to urinate more often than “normal”, especially at night and having a metallic taste in  the mouth.

CKD has varying levels of seriousness and it usually progresses over time although treatment has been shown to slow the progression, often keeping chronic kidney disease from getting worse. Kidney disease also increases your risk of having heart and blood vessel disease, which happens slowly over a long time.  If left untreated, CKD can progress to kidney failure, early cardiovascular disease, and death.

Your doctor may prescribe medications to manage your kidney disease. Diet is also an important factor in this management. Diet change may be a major adjustment in some people’s life style,but it is a significant part of slowing the advancement of kidney damage and reduced function. We are fortunate where we live, as we have fairly easy access to fresh food, year-round and have more options to notselect ‘processed’ foods. Processed foods contains large amounts of chemicals, preservatives, salt/Sodium/NaCl, phosphates/ “PHOS” and fillers.  A hint: A food that comes in a can, box, jar, packaged or is a “convenience” food i.e. deli meats, it has been processed in a factory. Read the labels of those items – if you cannot pronounce the ingredients/words – it most likely is a chemical, not a “real” food.

There are two forms of protein: Animal-protein: Chicken, Fish, Meat, Eggs and Dairy, and Plant-protein:Beans, Lentils, Nuts and whole Grains – but are high in Phosphorus. When you frequently eat a large amount of protein your kidneys have to work harder to remove the food “waste”, not a good thing. A website to help guide you in a special renal diet: Eating Right for Chronic Kidney Disease – NIDDK (

Early detection can help prevent the progression of kidney disease to help reduce the risk of kidney failure. It is important to see your doctor on a regular basis, like a twice a year check-up, even if you feel well. At that time your doctor may order some blood and urine tests to check the functional status of your kidneys, and/or a  CT scan to visualize  your kidneys and urinary tract to check if there are any structure problems, check the size of your kidneys, etc…

Again, Prevention –  early detection is the best lifesaving approach.

For more information about Lake Chapala visit:

Jackie Kellum

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