Sunday, August 26, 2012

Hydration, Salt, and Peeing: The Renin-Angiotensin-Aldosterone System

I guess I should use the technical name for peeing in this title - urination - but it's a catchier to say pee.  Because that's what many of us POTS folks do (and various other forms of Dysautonomia), we pee A LOT.

Why is this?  And why the heck do we have to eat so much salt?  

Well, there is this thing called the

Renin-Angiotensin-Aldosterone System.


It's a big deal. It takes place mainly in your kidneys and adrenal cortex, and affects your blood pressure directly.  Lets break down the three components:


1. Renin is a protein (enzyme) released by special kidney cells when you have decreased salt (sodium levels) or low blood volume, and stimulates the formation of Angiotensin in blood and tissues. 

2. Angiotensin then undergoes a series of reactions that convert it to Angiotensin II (AII in the diagram below), which in turn stimulates the release of Aldosterone from the adrenal cortex. 

3. Aldosterone is the main mineralocorticoid (steroid hormones that balance electrolytes) hormone secreted by the adrenal cortex, the principal biological activity of which is the regulation of electrolyte and water balance by promoting the retention of sodium (and, therefore, of water) and the excretion of potassium.  In plain English - Aldosterone helps your kidneys retain salt, and therefor retain fluids, helping to keep blood volume and blood pressure up.

Here is a diagram of the entire system.  

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Choose to be Chronically VISIBLE

Alrighty.  Time for an Op-ed.   It may tick some people off. 

I see much posting going on regarding INVISIBLE ILLNESS and spreading awareness by promoting the idea of an illness being invisible.  This term has always bothered me, as I have mentioned before on this blog.  It has the ring of victim/helplessness to me, and I tend to like things that are assertive, proponents for change, and action oriented.

I think the problem here is two fold:
1.  There is no invisible illness, JUST IGNORANCE.  What illness is truly visible?  There are very few compared to vast majority of illnesses, diseases, and conditions that people suffer in silence and try to hide - or that do not cause them to look deformed or like the traditional notion of "ill."  And that traditional notion of illness is what needs to change. By continuing to use the term invisible illness, we are separating ourselves from other people that "look sick," and in my opinion, making the problem worse. 

2.  People find their identity in the "invisible illness" movement, and use it as something to hide behind.  NOT EVERYONE.  I know that is probably not most people's conscious intention.  Many are looking to find a way to spread awareness, which I commend.  But is this how any of us want to be known?  As invisible?  Is this the best way to spread awareness? 

What society sees are deformities and stereotypes.  Not illness.  They see something out of the ordinary and recognize something is "not right" with that person.  This actually has nothing to do with if they are "ill" in some cases.   Is an amputee ill?  Maybe.  Or maybe they are missing a leg, but otherwise are perfectly healthy, and do triathlons.  This is a problem with society, not with those of us who are chronically ill, and we need to address those stereotypes if anything is going to change.   We need to speak about our conditions by NAMING THEM, and being visible, not promoting an image that quite frankly can be a bit whiny sounding at times.