Prevent Kidney Stones:
to Prevent the Formation of Problematic Kidney Stones
Dr. Ben Kim
single most painful condition that I have ever addressed as a health care provider
is the acute pain associated with passing a sizeable kidney stone. More than a
few women who I have treated over the years have said that passing a large kidney
stone is much more painful than giving birth.
particularly scary about passing a kidney stone is that in most cases, there are
no warning signs. One minute you are going about your normal business, and then
all of a sudden, you begin to have waves of unimaginable pain on one side of your
pain associated with passing a kidney stone typically arises when a stone grows
large enough to get stuck in one of your two ureters.
your kidneys work on a continuous basis to filter water, waste products and minerals
out of your blood and send them as urine down your ureters to your bladder, where
your urine sits until there is enough volume to prompt your nervous system to
prompt you to release urine out to the world via your urethra.
technically speaking, because you are eliminating minerals via your genitourinary
system on an ongoing basis, you are always passing asymptomatic and mostly microscopic
dietary and lifestyle factors can cause these asymptomatic and microscopic kidney
stones to begin clumping together. Some of these larger stones are eliminated
without your awareness, but if the circumstances are just right, some of them
can grow large enough to cause a blockage of your urine flow, which is when the
waves of intense pain typically begin.
painful kidney stones pass through the urinary system on their own within several
hours to a couple of days. You may see blood in your urine for a while and require
the use of strong pain medication to get through it, but if you are reasonably
lucky, you should be back to your activities of daily living within a few days.
you are unlucky and you have one or more stones that are too large to pass on
their own, or if a lodged kidney stone causes enough backup of urine to causes
an infection in your genitourinary system, you may require more aggressive treatment.
let's get to what matters most to the majority of our readers: what are dietary
and lifestyle factors that can increase your risk of forming large kidney stones
and what are concrete steps that you can take to minimize your chances of developing
not eat more protein
than you need.
if you exercise regularly, your body requires no more than half your body weight
of protein in grams per day to be optimally nourished. This means that if you
weigh 160 pounds, you need no more than 80 grams of protein per day.
you eat excessive amounts of protein, especially animal protein, your body leeches
calcium phosphate out of your bones to neutralize the acid-forming effect that
protein has on your blood. After calcium is used for this purpose, it is eliminated
from your body through your kidneys, and if enough of a compound called oxalate
is available in your system, calcium combines with oxalate to form significant
amounts of calcium oxalate, which is the most common type of troublesome kidneys
is important to note that eating a low-protein diet has not been shown to decrease
your risk of forming kidney stones - all that is known for sure is that a high-protein
diet can increase your risk of developing them.
not eat too many oxalate-rich foods.
your health care provider determines from your health history that you have a
tendency to form large calcium oxalate stones, you should not eat large amounts
of the following oxalate-rich foods:
(any type of cocoa)
and beet greens
circumstances allow, eat oranges on a regular basis.
found in oranges can decrease calcium oxalate formation in your genitourinary
system; citrate competes with oxalate in binding to freely available calcium.
A study published in the October 26 issue of the Clinical Journal of the American
Society of Nephrology indicates that citrate found in oranges is a more effective
binding partner with calcium than citrate found in other citrus fruits like lemons.
regular consumption of substances that have a strong acid-forming effect on your
sweeteners, alcohol, carbonated soft drinks (pop), refined cereals, flour
products, coffee, and tobacco products all put significant pressure on your body
to leech calcium from your bones to neutralize their acid-forming effects. Just
as it is with eating too much protein, regular exposure to large amounts of these
acid-forming substances can increase the amount of calcium that is excreted through
your genitourinary system, which can increase your risk of developing large, calcium-based
plenty of water-rich foods.
plenty of water-rich plant-based foods like vegetables, fruits, and cooked whole
grains and legumes can promote regular production of urine, which can decrease
the chance of having small, asymptomatic stones clump together in your genitourinary
system to become large, problematic stones.
large amounts of water on a regular basis to encourage regular urine formation
is not something that I recommend because doing so can put unnecessary
stress on your kidneys and your cardiovascular system over time. When you
strive to acquire adequate amounts of water from water-rich plant foods, the natural
bulk of these foods serve as a natural regulatory measure that can prevent you
from introducing stressful amounts of water - and calories, for that matter -
into your system.
you find yourself or someone in your life in the midst of a painful blockage,
it is best to visit your doctor or local hospital immediately. Medication for
pain control, antibiotics to prevent an infection from developing, regular intake
of water to encourage the stone(s) to pass, and plenty of physical and emotional
rest to facilitate healing are the four key ingredients to an efficient recovery.
health care provider may choose to have an x-ray or CT scan taken to determine
the size and location of the troublesome stone(s). The general rule of thumb that
I have found to be reliable is that stones that are 4-5 mm or less in diameter
tend to pass on their own, while stones that are 6 mm or more in diameter tend
to require some form of intervention.
it is with all acute and painful conditions, when it comes to kidney stones, an
ounce of prevention is worth many pounds of cure.
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