Topics: Michelle Obama

In praise of first lady Michelle Obama, and water

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White House,Gregory Kane,Columnists,Michelle Obama,Analysis

If all our kidneys could talk, they just might collectively sing the praises of Michelle Obama.

It’s a sign of these troubling, polarized times that a campaign by the first lady of the United States – or the FLOTUS, as she’s better known in press releases – to have Americans drink more water has become a controversial political issue.

USA Today reporter David Jackson wrote a Sept. 12 story about the imbroglio.

“Michelle Obama traveled Thursday to Watertown, Wisconsin – naturally – to promote a new program by her Partnership for a Healthier America to encourage people to drink more water.

“‘Drink just one more glass of water a day and you can make a real difference for your health, your energy and the way you feel,’ Obama said. ‘So drink up and see for yourself.’”

Jackson’s story reported that Stanley Goldfarb, who teaches medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, thinks the FLOTUS doesn’t have her facts straight.

“There really isn’t data to support this,” Goldfarb said in Jackson’s article. “I think, unfortunately, frankly, they’re not basing this on really hard science. It’s not a very scientific approach they’ve taken. To make it a major public health effort, I think I would say it’s bizarre.”

Jackson also quoted Goldfarb’s comments from a story that appeared on Politico:

“The idea drinking water increases energy, the word I’ve used to describe it is: quixotic. We’re designed to drink when we’re thirsty. There’s no need to have more than that.”

Drink what, exactly, Goldfarb? If our choices were a soda pop or a bottle of water, what would our kidneys, not Stanley Goldfarb, tell us is the better choice?

Our kidneys would probably tell us, “Go with the water.” That means the FLOTUS is absolutely right in this matter, and Goldfarb and her other critics are absolutely wrong.

I speak as one whose kidneys went south at one point. They’re OK now, and – the expertise of Stanley Goldfarb notwithstanding – I suspect it’s because I’m drinking more water.

It was in September of 2011 that my urologist urged me to get an MRI of my kidneys. My creatinine level, which measures healthy kidney function, was up to 1.8. (The creatinine range for healthy kidneys is 0.6 to 1.3.)

I have a reputation for being a hardheaded, recalcitrant patient, so it was almost second nature for me to ignore my urologist’s advice. It wasn’t until January of 2012 that my oncologist had some lab work done, and ordered an MRI to follow.

“Are you on dialysis?” the MRI tech asked me before my test.

“No,” I answered, and before I had a chance to ask him, “Do you know something I don’t?” he told me why he’d asked.

“Your creatinine level is 5.6.”

So it was into the hospital as an inpatient, I went. The insertion of two things called nephrostomy tubes into each kidney lowered my creatinine level down to the 2.0 range and prevented me from having to undergo dialysis three days a week.

Here’s what I noticed about having those tubes in: The more water I drank, the more my creatinine level stayed under control. I recently had the tubes reinserted after a brief spell of having them out. I’ve been a water-drinking fool since.

My creatinine level continued to drop. The most recent reading was 1.2. Only two weeks before – after a chemotherapy-related nausea episode left me unable to retain either solids or fluids and severely dehydrated – it was 2.1.

Drinking more water does have health benefits. You can’t convince Stanley Goldfarb of that. You’d have no trouble selling my kidneys on the notion.

GREGORY KANE, a Washington Examiner columnist, is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated news and opinion journalist who has covered people and politics from Baltimore to the Sudan.
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