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January 28, 2011

How do you know when your kidneys are failing?

Filed under: Health, TV shows — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 6:57 am

A few nights ago, I was watching an old episode of the TV show “House” when the patient suddenly started having “rapid heart rate.”  The doctors, who were gathered around his bed, immediately started trying to bring down his heart rate by using some drug which they mentioned, but I didn’t catch the name of it.  Then I heard one of the doctors say that “rapid heart rate” was an indication of failing kidneys.  

In case some readers of this blog are not familiar with the TV show “House,” it is a great show that is quite educational; I watch the re-runs every night.  Each episode starts with a person who is brought to the hospital with some minor health problem, and it is all downhill from there, until Dr. House comes up with a brilliant diagnosis, which the audience would never have guessed in a million years.  Before the mystery is solved, the patient always takes a turn for the worse and experiences one new symptom after another.  The plot frequently involves failing kidneys.

A few months after having a stroke, I experienced “rapid heart rate” myself.  (The medical term for it is “tachycardia.”)  I was very alarmed by this new development, but I hesitated to call 911 because that would mean another $24,000 trip to the hospital and possible open heart surgery. Instead, I called my son who helped me to calm down.   The next day, I headed straight to the office of my Chinese doctor.

My Chinese doctor told me that heart rate is controlled by the kidneys.  On previous visits, he had told me that blood pressure is controlled by the kidneys and that my stroke had been caused by high blood pressure.  He gave me some herb pills for the kidneys but after a couple of months, I had stopped taking them because I thought that I was fully recovered. Big mistake!  I should have consulted the doctor before discontinuing the herb pills.

Strangely, high blood pressure and rapid heart rate do not necessarily occur at the same time.  When I went to the hospital as a stroke patient, my blood pressure was 205/100 but my heart rate was normal.  At the hospital, there was no Dr. House to tell the other doctors to check my kidneys.  My whole family was gathered around my bedside and all of them are very healthy, so I would have had no problem getting a kidney, but I digress.

Three weeks before I suffered the stroke, I was experiencing “dry mouth.”  I would wake up in the middle of the night with no saliva at all in my mouth.  I would drink water but that didn’t help much.  I wish I had consulted my Chinese doctor immediately.  Instead, I waited for three weeks before making an appointment.  In fact, my appointment was on the morning that I ended up in the hospital; I had to call and cancel the appointment from my hospital bed.

Another thing that I was experiencing three weeks before the stroke was what Western doctors call malaise.  I had no energy at all and didn’t feel like doing anything.  The night before I had a stroke, I went to bed with all my clothes on, except my shoes, and I didn’t even have the energy to get under the covers. My daughter came over to visit and when she saw that I was so out of it, she handed me some money and told me to get an appointment with my Chinese doctor right away.  I told her that I already had an appointment and went back to sleep.  Unfortunately, I had waited too long to get to a Chinese doctor.

When I finally did go to my Chinese doctor after getting out of the hospital, he told me that “dry mouth” is an indication of diabetes and that diabetes is caused by failing kidneys.

To determine the health of the kidneys, a Chinese doctor checks your pulse. But not the way a Western doctor checks your pulse.  In Chinese medicine, the doctor uses three fingers and checks both wrists.  By checking the pulse, a Chinese doctor can determine if your kidneys are functioning properly or if there is a problem that will eventually lead to a stroke or heart trouble.  I’m back to taking Chinese herbs that help the kidneys and now I’m feeling fine.

I have always had a strong interest in health and medicine.  At the age of 15, I was reading Grey’s Anatomy, which I had checked out from the library.  When my mother discovered what I was reading, she threw the book into the kitchen stove because it had “dirty pictures.”  Then she joined a Catholic book club so that she could buy proper books for me to read.  One of the book club selections was a book by Dr. Gayelord Hauser called “Diet Does It.”  It was this book that turned me into a “health nut,” back when this was almost as bad as being a “Holocaust Denier” is today.   At 15, I wanted to be a doctor.  On alternate days, I wanted to be a sports writer, but that’s another story for another day.



  1. Can you give me name of your dr?

    Comment by elliottyounkin — March 30, 2013 @ 7:55 pm

  2. I thank God I found this article! I am experiencing rapid heartbeat; I have a lousy diet and in recent months, have contracted arthritis. Can you tell me where to find a Chinese doctor in my area of South jersey? Is there a website, or are therir keywords I should Google? Thank you for your help! – Cyn

    Comment by Cyn — February 21, 2012 @ 10:13 am

    • Rapid heartbeat can mean that the heart is weak and in order to pump enough blood, it must beat rapidly. When the number of heartbeats per minute is low, this means that the heart is strong and each beat of the heart pumps a lot of blood. The kidneys regulate the beat of the heart and rapid heartbeat can also mean that the kidneys are failing. Arthritis is caused by inflammation and has no connection to the heartbeat.

      To find a Chinese doctor, look up “Traditional Chinese Medicine” (TCM) on google. If there is a TCM doctor in your area, you will probably find him or her by this search. TCM doctors prescribe herbs that have been used for years in China. You purchase these herbs directly from the doctor, not from a pharmacy. If you have “dry mouth”, this is a sign of weak kidneys. Colorless urine is also a sign of weak kidneys that are not filtering anything out of your system. Frequent urination is a sign of weak kidneys and that the kidneys are working overtime in an attempt to get the poisons out of your body. All of these signs (dry mouth, colorless urine and frequent urination) are indications of Type II diabetes. According to TCM doctors, Type II diabetes is caused by weak kidneys because the kidneys regulate the use of insulin. Type II diabetes is caused by the body not using insulin to process the sugar that you eat. TCM doctors use acupuncture to treat all of these conditions.

      If you suffer an incident of really rapid heartbeat, you should go to a hospital and be treated for kidney failure.

      Comment by furtherglory — February 22, 2012 @ 1:18 pm

  3. What chinese herbs are you taking for your kidneys?

    Also, there is a condition called Sjogren’s Syndrome that can cause dry mouth amongst other things. Does your Chinese doctor not know about Sjogren’s Syndrome? That’s been mentioned a few times on House.

    Comment by Jason — November 19, 2011 @ 12:33 am

  4. P.S. The book was published in 1962 and cost 60 cents. It has held up very well.

    Comment by Skeptic — January 29, 2011 @ 3:32 pm

  5. Further Glory,

    You are ahead of me in how early you came upon these things. When I was 18 and home from college, there was a paperback book sitting on a table in the living room, so I started to read it. It excited me! The title was “Eat and Grow Younger” by Lelord Kordel, another “name” in the small “health nut” universe at that time.

    My mother never read the book, a friend had loaned it to her. Do you know, when my dear mother died, I found that old book in her house. The friend never asked for it back! I was excited again to find it, and have it now sitting in front of me. The previously white background on the cover is sort of brown now, but the red apple with green leaves still stands out! This was my introduction to healthy eating which became a life-long interest. I’m so grateful to that now. But it was inevitable because I also have an avid interest in health.

    I really enjoyed this blog. My question is: What are the symptoms of kidney problems? Dry mouth and malaise? I don’t have that. But what else causes high blood pressure? What is the name of this Chinese herb you take? Thanks.

    Comment by Skeptic — January 29, 2011 @ 3:29 pm

    • Another sign that your kidneys are weak is frequent urination and getting up at night to go the bathroom. Getting up one time during the night is O.K. according to my Chinese doctor, but any more than that is cause for concern.

      Bags under the eyes caused from retaining water is another bad sign and it means that your kidneys are weak. Dark circles under the eyes is a serious symptom of weak kidneys.

      Blood pressure is the force that is required to push the blood through your blood vessels. High blood pressure could be caused by the veins and arteries being clogged up with plaque from having high cholestrol for years.

      There are two different kinds of pills that I take, one that is labeled “Kidney Yang” and the other that is labeled “Heart and Kidney herbs” Both of them are a combination of around 6 to 10 herbs. The names are all in Chinese, as these herbs have no English name.

      In the Chinese Yin and Yang system, bad kidneys would be a Yin condition, so the herbs are meant to correct a Yin condition by taking Yang herbs. The Chinese are totally against eating bananas and potatoes which are both extreme Yin because they are really high in potassium. Too much potassium is bad for the kidneys. I have given up bananas and potatoes for my New Year’s resolution.

      p.s. My Chinese doctor says the color of the urine should be light yellow. Colorless urine is a bad sign, as is dark urine. Bubbles or foam in the urine is also a sign of weak kidneys; the urine should be a clear light yellow with no signs of mucus.

      Comment by furtherglory — January 29, 2011 @ 5:35 pm

  6. Best wishes for your continuing good health F.G

    Comment by littlegreyrabbit — January 28, 2011 @ 11:06 pm

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