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As you probably already know, Kidney Stones can be one of the most agonizing, incapacitating conditions you will experience. The following will help you better understand what they are and how to prevent or treat them in a natural way.
What You Need to Know about Kidney Stones
With all the success that doctors and scientists have had, it is a shame that so many people are still suffering from kidney stones. Millions of people in America alone suffer from this painful condition each year. Kidney stones can be a very serious business. Many people do not experience relief until after their first surgery. In the following, we will explain what you need to know about kidney stones and other remedies for this debilitating disease.
Who’s most likely to get kidney stones? What are the risk factors?
Kidney stones are a very common condition among many people. It is estimated that approximately 15% of the population will experience this disease at some point in their life.
Risk factors include increased levels of acid in the urine, disorders such as diabetes, hormonal changes during pregnancy, inflammation caused by heavy drinking or exposure to chemicals like diuretics (medications that increase the amount of urine passed), high salt intake, and low fluid intake. People who have had previous kidney stones need more caution with their fluid and food choices.
Some people are more likely to develop kidney stones than others. Some factors that increase the risk of kidney stones include family history, diet, and, as I mentioned before, certain medications. The most likely person to get kidney stones is someone who has a family history of them. This leads us to the next question:
Are kidney stones genetic (hereditary)?
It is unclear whether kidney stones are genetic, but if they are, there is no way to determine who will get them. The only thing you can do is take some preventive measures. If your parents or grandparents have suffered from kidney stones, you have a higher risk of getting them too. Compared to the general public, the risk of contracting this condition is higher for people who have a close relative (such as a parent or sibling) with a history of the disease.
What are the causes and risk factors for kidney stones?
Kidney stones are a result of the body’s attempts to eliminate substances, such as uric acid, that form crystals and then solidify into masses that can cause painful kidney stones. Kidney stones often form when urine contains too many crystal-forming substances, such as calcium, oxalate, or phosphorous.
As I mentioned before, those with a family history of kidney stones are more likely to develop kidney stones themselves. People who develop kidney stones typically have other risk factors as well. These include:
- Being overweight or obese
- Not drinking enough fluid (beware, drinking too much water can lead to kidney stones too)
- Having other health conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or gout
- Having certain medicines, such as those used to treat high blood pressure or heartburn
Low fluid intake and sluggish urination are very common in patients with diabetes. Red wine, coffee, tea, and tobacco may promote stone formation as well. Fluid restriction or dietary restrictions should be used as an alternative option to reduce the risk of another episode of kidney stones.
Some health conditions may increase a person’s risk of kidney stones, including:
-Certain types of cysts in the ureter (the tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder)
-Chronic kidney disease B PH (Benign prostatic hyperplasia)
Many health conditions may increase a person’s risk of kidney stones even if they do not cause stones themselves.
What are the symptoms and signs of kidney stones?
There are no specific symptoms of kidney stone formation. Unlike gallstones, which will be felt like an intensifying pain in the upper right portion of your abdomen when this problem occurs inside the gallbladder or liver – determining a cause is somewhat harder than with these other complications. However, if kidney stones are not detected in time, further complications can develop.
Sometimes no symptoms appear. In this case, the person may not notice that they have developed a stone and will only find out when a CT scan is taken to investigate an unrelated health problem. Once formed, kidney stones may cause no symptoms. In some cases, kidney stones may pass spontaneously or through the urinary tract without causing any problems.
In most cases of end-stage renal failure (ESRF), there will be prior symptoms present such as vomiting and nausea, abnormally light or dark skin, and bad-smelling cloudy, or bloody urine. These may include flank and back pain due to stone formation requiring surgery or a significant change in the shape of the affected area. Symptoms often also include fluid retention as well as extreme weight loss because water must be continually removed from that area if it is ill.
Other signs and symptoms of ESRF most often include joint pain and general fatigue. These changes serve as the last warning that surgery is important to save a life, due to kidney stones being one of the leading causes (along with cancer) in peritonitis requiring dialysis in all stages.
Known types of kidney stones
Every kidney stone isn’t made up of the same crystals. There are four types of kidney stones listed in order of incidence:
1) Calcium stones: a rock that is made of calcium and oxalate ions or calcium and phosphate; they look like small balls or rocks, and are made up of calcium crystals (stones). The most common type, calcium oxalate stones is found in 75 percent of cases.
2) Uric acid stones: derived from uric acid, this appearance is similar to man-made calcite. They occur when the kidneys release too much urine into the urinary tract and then they begin to dry out. The formation of fluid called creatinine in this situation can cause glycosuria which results in the precipitation of urates into a crystalline kidney stone. Found in almost 19 percent of cases.
3) Struvite stones: oxalate crystals that cause struvite urinary stones (also known as kidney pressure stones), this type accounts for less than 5 percent of all urinary tract stones. It occurs when too much acidic urine binds with oxalate causing a concreted mass. These are almost always the result of urinary tract infections and mostly affect women.
4) Cystine stones are common in men aged 50-70, known to have a genetic disorder that causes cystine (a naturally occurring acid in the body) to leak from the kidneys into the urine. The formation of these types is painless, relatively rare, and occurs in only 1% of cases.
Because it prevents the passage of urine, rather than the pressure of the stone itself, the severe pain you feel is caused by the dilation of the tissues above it. To find out what type of stone you have, you can capture the kidney stone from urine and get it analyzed under a microscope for a conclusive answer, or you can perform a 24-hour urine test. The last one is a helpful strategy for identifying any imbalances in your urine contributing to and predisposing you to develop kidney stones.
What do we do if we find out we have kidney stones?
First of all, you will go to your doctor who will perform a physical examination. Tests that look for crystals in your urine, blood tests, x-ray or CT scan, and kidney function tests may be needed. In the following stages, your treatment will depend on which type of stone you’ve developed as well as the severity of your symptoms.
How to Treat Kidney Stones Naturally
There are many reasons why people develop kidney stones, and fortunately, the majority of them can be prevented. One of the biggest concerns people have regarding kidney stones is that they are permanent. This simply isn’t true; most kidney stones can be eliminated, even if you do not manage to get rid of them completely. Here are a few ways you can treat kidney stones naturally:
If you have kidney stones, be mindful of what you eat.
It is possible to treat this condition by using a number of different methods. If you have mainly calcium stones, you will want to reduce the intake of oxalates in the body but without decreasing the amount of calcium ingested.
Certain foods such as chocolate, pepper, beets, parsley, strawberries, spinach, nuts, rhubarb, and wheat flour contain high levels of oxalates and should be avoided.
It is also known that sugar disrupts the body’s minerals, influencing the absorption of magnesium and calcium. Consequently, a diet rich in sugars can only predispose you to kidney stones.
Similarly, salt increases the level of oxalates and calcium in the urine, so regular consumption of processed salt is not recommended. Avoid as much as possible the consumption of processed foods that, as we well know, have too much salt content.
How to dissolve kidney stones with plain water
One of the most effective ways to prevent and treat kidney stones is to make sure you’re drinking enough water. In fact, the research has been pretty clear for some time now: plain water can dissolve kidney stones. In fact, not being hydrated enough is the major factor in the formation of kidney stones because it prevents urine from dissolving acid salts and minerals.
The easiest way to find out if you are hydrated is to check the color of your urine. Normally, it should be light yellow, and transparent. If it is dark to dark yellow/orange or muddy, this is a sign that you are not properly hydrated.
Of course, each person’s water needs vary, depending on their level of activity or body weight. Likewise, only maintaining the urine’s color in a pale yellow will be enough to prevent the formation of kidney stones.
Don’t forget to increase your water intake whenever your activity increases, especially in the summer months when it is hot and you will sweat more. And be careful not to drink water only when you are thirsty, it may be too late. Thirst is already signaling that you are dehydrated.
Note: If you are taking medicines such as B-complex multivitamins, you cannot use your urine color as a guide. Vitamin B2 in particular tends to stain urine color into a bright fluorescent yellow.
More Natural Remedies
“Drinking lemonade is one of five ways you can prevent kidney stones”, according to Roger L. Sur, MD, director of UC San Diego Comprehensive Kidney Stone Center. Lemon contains citrate – a substance that prevents the formation of calcium stones, so you can squeeze as much fresh lemon into the water you drink.
Citrate also breaks down and dissolves small stones, allowing them to be eliminated more easily through the urinary system. As you well know, lemon juice has many other health benefits. It is high in vitamin C and prevents the growth of bacteria.
Traditionally used for digestive and inflammatory disorders, basil juice contains acetic acid. It helps to break down the stones and relieve the pain. It also lowers uric acid levels, which reduces your risk for future stones.
Drink several cups of basil tea per day, made with fresh or dried leaves. Alternatively, you can juice fresh basil leaves or mix it into a smoothie. For medicinal purposes, you should never use basil juice for more than six weeks at a time. Long-term use may cause low blood pressure, low blood sugar, and increased bleeding.
Used since ancient times, pomegranate juice helps to improve the overall function of the kidneys and it flushes other toxins as well as stones from your body. Furthermore, it lowers acidity in the urine. A low level of acidity considerably reduces the risk of developing kidney stones.
Although more study is needed on pomegranate juice as a treatment for kidney stones, there’s some evidence that pomegranate extract can lower the risk of kidney stone development.
Even if there are no restrictions on how much pomegranate juice you can drink during the day, you should avoid consumption if you are taking cholesterol-lowering medications (rosuvastatin) or blood pressure one (chlorothiazide).
Other Methods of Preventing and Treating Kidney Stones
In the last 30 years, the number of kidney stones has quadrupled. While there are lots of suggestions on how to prevent and treat them, most people turn to medication first. This is largely because it is the easiest solution but with results that aren’t always long-lasting. With all of the options out there, you should probably try all of them at once to see what works best for you.
Kidney stones are so named because they are usually the size of a grain of sand to a pea. Sometimes, if the stone is larger, it will be the size of a grape. Thus, the probability of passing the stone through the urethra without any surgery is much lower.
Not too long ago, they needed to perform surgery to physically remove larger stones. Nowadays there are more advanced options like external Shock Wave Lithotripsy and Ureteroscopy.
There is also the Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy procedure which is considered to be the most suitable for removing large stones from the kidney. This involves a small incision in the back or side, but being a surgical procedure, we will not go into detail about it.
Shock Wave Lithotripsy consists of being immersed in a tube of water and then the ultrasound waves transmitted through the liquid will grind the stones. The vibrations created by this process break the stone down into small pieces that can then be removed naturally from the urinary tract by urine in a few days or weeks.
During the procedure, some form of anesthesia is usually needed to prevent discomfort caused by shock waves and control breathing. Nonetheless, this procedure doesn’t work so well on very large stones or on hard stones like cystine stones or calcium phosphate stones.
Shock Wave Lithotripsy is widely used, but it can still cause side effects such as blood in urine after the procedure, despite being considered a safe one. The majority of stones pass through the ureter painlessly, however, larger pieces may become stuck in the ureter, causing pain and requiring other procedures for removal.
Ureteroscopy is used to locate and treat stones in the ureter and kidneys. For this, a small telescope (ureteroscope) is inserted through the bladder up to the ureter and the kidneys. Thus, the device allows the urologist to locate the stones without having to make any cuts. Then the device extracts the smaller stones and removes them.
Stone-breaking tools or a laser can be used to grind larger stones. Once the stones have been removed, either whole or in small pieces, a stent (a small plastic tube that will hold the ureter open to facilitate the flow of urine) will be installed at the same time by the healthcare provider. It will be removed by your urologist in about a week but the important thing is that you will be able to resume your normal activity in 2-3 days after the procedure.
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Finally, it may shock you, but exercise is a crucial component of kidney stone prevention. When you live a sedentary lifestyle, you are more likely to develop stones, so a routine exercise regimen can be a great way to avoid kidney stones.
I can only hope that by applying the above principles you will avoid getting surgery because, as we have seen, kidney stones should not be ridiculed. So, do yourself a favor and, if you have a family member or know someone who regularly suffers from this disease, show them this article because only then will you be able to take control of your health with your loved ones.
About the Author
Adrian Kutnik is the Founder and Managing Editor at LiveHealthyandwell.com
Its purpose is to gather and share relevant information about how we can live a healthy lifestyle in today's environment.
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