It is estimated that at least 12% of men, and 5% of women will suffer from a kidney stone at some point in their life. 3.3 million Americans require medical care from kidney stones every year, at a cost of over $5.3 billion dollars annually.
Kidney stones are nodules of crystallized minerals, mainly calcium, uric acid and oxalate, that form in the urinary tract when the concentrations of them in the system become too great for the kidneys to process.
If you experience any of the symptoms below, you might have kidney stones and should get it checked.
- intense pain in the back, sides, or inguinal area, that comes in waves
- blood in the urine
- frequent and/or painful urination.
If you have ever had a kidney stone, your risk for having more in the future is greater.
In most cases, they eventually will pass through the urinary system and be eliminated through the normal means of urination, although with considerable pain and discomfort. In some instances, medical intervention may be required if they get too big to pass without damaging tissues. Your doctor may have to break them into smaller pieces, so they can be eliminated, prescribe drugs to dissolve them, or in severe cases, surgically remove them. You should consult with a physician anytime you suspect you may have a kidney stone.
While the exact cause of kidney stones is unknown, genetic factors are strongly suspected. Also, there seems to be a correlation between diet and kidney stones. One major factor is hydration. People who do not drink enough water are at a much greater risk of developing kidney stones. Men should be drinking at least 3.3 liters of water per day, and women need 2.2 liters.
There is no reliable preventative measures that can be taken, because these minerals are a normal part of the human diet, and there is no apparent correlation between the amount of these minerals in your food, and your chances of forming a kidney stone. But, if you have developed a kidney stone, there are things you can do to lessen the severity, and hasten the elimination time of the stone. Also, if you have had a kidney stone, you can lessen your chances of developing another one by reducing your intake of certain foods. One of the most important steps is to limit the amount of oxalic acid you consume. Oxalic acid is a normal part of the human diet, and is contained in most foods, but some foods have higher concentrations. Here are some foods that have high amounts of oxalic acids:
- Vegetables – spinach, Brussels Sprouts, rhubarb, carrots, broccoli, cabbage, beets, green peppers, collard greens, okra, squash, parsley, lettuce, and kale.
- Fruits and nuts – all berries, grapes, plums, figs and tangerines, peanuts, almonds, cashews, and pecans.
- Grains – amaranth, wheat germ, wheat bran, and quinoa.
- Other foods – soy beans, chocolate and cocoa, poppy seeds, beer, tea, and black pepper.
If you are at an increased risk, or already have a kidney stone, intake of foods that are high in oxalic acid should be limited, or avoided. Foods that are lower in oxalic acid can be substituted. Also, foods that are high in vitamin C should also be limited or avoided, because Vitamin C can be converted to oxalic acid in the body.
There are some great herbs that can help prevent, and/or lessen the severity of kidney stones like:
- kava kava
- nettle leaf
- corn silk
- stone root
You should see your doctor before going on any special diets. A dietician can make a diet for you that will optimize the benefits of the available foods without compromising your nutritional requirements. And most importantly, drink lots of water.
This article is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute medical advice of any kind. If you feel you have a medical issue, seek the advice of a licensed physician as soon as possible.