Reducing Stress to Reduce PKD Symptoms


Not many people like to feel stressed. The advice to "take it easy" and "relax" are a common theme in Facebook memes, movie plots, and popular songs. But for people dealing with polycystic kidney disease, the counsel to relax is more than just a nice idea, it’s important for your health. If you or a loved one is dealing with PKD there are a few things you can do to help them to relax; make them a home cooked meal, offer a nice foot rub, or maybe help them donate a vehicle to Kidney Cars to help fund continuing research. Whatever your method for relaxing is, here is some information on stress and PKD to inspire you.

The Role of Adrenaline

The adrenal glands are small, hormone producing glands that sit atop the kidneys in the human body. These glands are divided into two parts and produce, between them, four different kinds of hormones:

  • Mineralocorticoids: which help to regulate salt and water in the human body, which affects blood pressure, and proper body hydration.
  • Glucocorticoids: which regulates metabolism and anti-inflammatory response in the body.
  • Adrenal androgens: which produce small amounts and regulate sex hormones in the body.
  • Catecholamines: which are various forms of adrenaline.

Most people have experienced a surge of adrenaline in their body. The racing heart, quick breathing, almost electric shock to the body that is triggered by an emotional or physical situation. This is often referred to as the "flight or fight" response.

This is one of the natural defenses of the body to protect itself from danger. The adrenalin causes increased blood flow to major muscle groups, dilated airways, and an increase in awareness. All of these natural responses to danger can help an individual to deal with emergency situations in a quick-thinking way that can save a life.

Stress, Adrenaline, and Cysts

Adrenaline can be a beneficial hormone, protecting the body when the needs arise, but the adrenals respond to more than just imminent threats. They also respond to chronic disease changes in the body, emotional stress, and psychological anxiety. This kind of low-grade "danger" can cause a small but continual amount of adrenaline to be produced in the body.

Continuing exposure to adrenaline can lead to cyst growth inside the kidneys, which in turn leads to further adrenaline production. This can quickly become a vicious cycle of stress, stress response, and increased discomfort.

Relaxation Techniques

In order to reduce the amount of stress affecting a PKD patient, and potential adrenaline production, it’s important to learn and practice good relaxation techniques. Here are a few things that have a positive impact on the human body:

  1. Make time for relaxation. If you don’t plan for it, it might not happen.
  2. Practice yoga, tai chi, meditation, prayer, or simply quiet time. Avoid stimulation (e.g. television, fast paced music, conversation) and practice deep breathing techniques.
  3. Get plenty of sleep.
  4. List your anxieties on paper, determine what is most important, and deal with them rationally. Facing anxiety can help reduce the stress it causes.
  5. Get a massage.
  6. Listen to relaxing music.
  7. Limit sugar and caffeine intake.
  8. Set and keep realistic goals. As you meet them you’ll experience satisfaction, which increases happiness.
  9. Laugh. A little laughter goes a long way toward relaxing a person.
  10. Keep a "happy" journal, listing all of the things you are grateful for or that make you happy.

Taking the necessary time to relax can have a big payoff in how a PKD patient feels and their overall health. And who doesn’t need a little more relaxation?