Health: Be careful what you put in the brown paper bag

  • Apr. 22, 2019 3:18 p.m.

Sir William Osler, professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University remarked, “The one thing that separates man from animals is man’s desire to take pills”. Now, a report from the University of California says 30 million North Americans, largely due to what I’ve labelled “Pillitis”, suffer from chronic kidney disease (CKD) and 95 percent don’t know they have it.

Kidneys are the master chemists in our body. They control water balance, keep the blood neither too acidic nor alkaline, help to control blood pressure, and filter every drop of blood in our body every 3 minutes.

Unfortunately humans do not learn from history. Years ago Australians began to use mixtures of powders containing Aspirin and phenacetin to ease pain. By the 1970s, 25 percent of those dying of kidney disease had consumed too much of this powder.

Chronic kidney disease today is being caused by several factors. According to Karl L. Womer, Director of the Kidney Transplant Clinic at Johns Hopkins Hospital, five percent of all hospital patients develop kidney infection. This figure can escalate to 23 percent in intensive care areas, and jumps to 30 percent if patients are scheduled for cardiac surgery! If these statistics had not come from this prestigious hospital, I would not believe them. They’re certainly scary enough to make anyone run for the woods.

Today, an increasing number of cases of CKD are also due to advancements in medicine. It’s impossible to undergo some of these new procedures without the risk of infection. So be grateful if, following a hip replacement, bypass coronary operation or any hospital admission, you leave without an infection.

Following surgery an infection may require the prolonged use of antibiotics. But these life-savings drugs can also injure the kidney’s filtering system, of one million nephrons which when placed in a single line stretch for 70 miles!

There are also more invasive diagnostic procedures requiring the use of catheters and the injection of dyes. They’re performed with great care, but always hovering is the risk of infection. And if it happens it’s often due to bad luck.

Another point is often forgotten. Be sure you need the operation. If a surgical problem is minor, causing little trouble, sometimes it may be better to live with the devil you know than the one you don’t.

But the main problem is that humans are still ingesting too much medicinal garbage. I’m not related to our Maker, so I have no first-hand knowledge to report from Him or Her. But I believe our creator designed kidneys to excrete natural products, not to handle the volume of synthetic drugs available in pharmacies and consumed by so many unsuspecting people.

Unfortunately, millions of North Americans slowly damage kidneys by being brain-washed by TV commercials pushing painkillers that claim to provide instant relief. A report in the British Medical Journal states that people who take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Advil. Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), and Aspirin over a long time face a 31 percent increase in the risk of chronic kidney disease.

I often asked my patients to bring all their pills to me in a brown paper bag. It amazed me that the bag often contained many drugs that had been used over a prolonged period of time. And that some patients had no idea of what they were for.

My advice is to be careful what you put in the paper bag. It’s a dangerous habit to turn to painkillers for every ache and pain. Researchers at the University of California report that the misuse of drugs has resulted in a 10 percent increase every year of patients being attached to kidney dialysis machines. That’s a tragedy that could be prevented by swallowing fewer pills.

So, use the lowest effective dose of a painkiller for the shortest possible time. And remember that ad agencies know there’s a sucker born every minute who will believe every ad they see on TV.

Sign up for short medical tips on my new website,

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Westerner Park asks City of Red Deer for financial help

Westerner Park says it needs city financial support

Pfizer posts 4Q loss, misses Street views, on lower revenue

Drugmaker Pfizer reported a $337 million loss in its fourth quarter after… Continue reading

UK to allow Huawei equipment in 5G networks but not in ‘core’ parts

LONDON — Britain decided Tuesday to give Huawei limited access to build… Continue reading

Birds flocking to national parks in the Canadian Rockies

BANFF, Alta. — It turns out tourists aren’t the only ones who… Continue reading

Country music fans enjoy free concert at Red Deer mall, ahead of ACMA awards

Fans like to get up close and personal and that’s exactly what… Continue reading

Your community calendar

Feb. 1 A Jump Rope Competition will be held at the Abbey… Continue reading

Virus in China affects sports events, Olympic qualifiers

GENEVA — Amid growing concern at the spread of a new virus… Continue reading

Ottawa 67’s boss Andre Tourigny gets call to coach Canada’s junior team

CALGARY — After serving as an assistant coach this year for Canada’s… Continue reading

Juno Awards nominees to be unveiled for music’s big night in Saskatoon

TORONTO — The 2020 Juno Awards nominees are set to be revealed… Continue reading

Harvey Weinstein NYC sex assault trial picks up pace

NEW YORK — The closely watched #Metoo era rape trial of Harvey… Continue reading

Calgary sport school that grooms Olympic champions threatened with shutdown

CALGARY — The National Sport School in Calgary that produces Olympic and… Continue reading

Quebec to seek consensus on offering medical aid in dying to mentally ill

MONTREAL — Quebec on Monday walked back a plan to offer medical… Continue reading

GOP defends Trump as Bolton book adds pressure for witnesses

WASHINGTON — Senators faced mounting pressure Monday to summon John Bolton to… Continue reading

Most Read