Dr. Barry Nierenberg at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida studies the relationship between faith and health.

His findings were presented during the American Psychological Association’s Division of Rehabilitation Psychology national conference.

First, the details.

  • 16 children (ages 6 to 20) undergoing hemodialysis due to end-stage renal disease (ESRD) were studied.
  • The patients were questioned about spirituality behaviors and attitudes.
  • Responses were correlated to dialysis-related blood levels of blood urea nitrogen (BUN), lymphocytes, albumin, phosphorus, parathyroid hormone (PTH), and urea reduction ratio.
    • BUN is a measure of nitrogen in the blood in the form of urea, and an indicator of kidney function.

And, the results.

  • Greater spiritual attitudes were associated with lower BUN levels.
  • As children reported more agreement with statements like, “I am sure that God cares about me,” and “God has a plan for me,” their average BUN levels over 1 year were lower.

The bottom line?
Unfortunately, no other details were included in this NewsWise story.

The author says that an earlier study reported that children who attended church were more likely to have higher T-cell counts than non-churchgoing children. T cells are important to the immune response and protect against viral, fungal, and protozoal infections. They are the cells most susceptible to HIV.

However, says Dr. Nierenberg, “that finding is difficult to interpret. It’s likely that the more ill a child is, the less ability they have to attend church.”

Others have studied the relationship between patients’ religion/spirituality and kidney dialysis. Most data come from the nursing literature and are general observations. However, it provides preliminary insight for healthcare professionals who deal with these patients and their families.

Here’s a summary of reports from 2008.
Chronic kidney failure

  • Religion and spirituality are important resources for family members coping with this chronic disease — mainly in view of threatening prognoses.
  • Strong spiritual beliefs are associated with more problems in “sleep disturbances,” while religious beliefs are more strongly associated with less trouble in “daytime dysfunction.”
    • Spiritual is a person’s innate desire to find meaning in life, fulfillment, and purpose.
    • Religion is a group of beliefs and practices meant to help people express their spirituality and draw closer to their Creator.
  • 4 areas pertaining to women’s spiritual experience with their illness include acceptance, understanding, fortification, and emotion modulation.
  • Spirituality, religion as coping, and religious involvement correlate with social support.

Peritoneal dialysis

  • Spirituality is one of several factors that condition morbidity, and the course and complications of peritoneal dialysis.

3/12/09 14:54 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at www.Vicus.com, a complementary and alternative medicine website.