If you had ever experienced “passing a kidney stone” you have endured on of the most painful conditions known to man. Kidney stones may be silent and manifest no symptoms, but most often produce sudden, severe and excruciating back pain that can be intermittent and radiate from the back across the abdomen and then into the genital area or inner thigh area. This pain may be associated with nausea, vomiting, abdominal bloating, blood in the urine, painful urination, along with fever and chills. Stones can be anywhere in the genito-urinary tract and may block the kidneys, bladder, or the ducts or tubes in-between. Typically, symptoms from kidney stones are dependent on the anatomical location, the type of stone formation (chemical-make-up) and the actual size.
Now that summertime is in full swing, I must caution you that stones are more common in the summer. This is primarily due to increased sweating and insufficient fluids or dehydration. Research studies show that soft drinks containing phosphoric acid encourage the recurrence of kidney stones in some people. So do yourself a favor, and avoid the rush to your local emergency room by getting off colas and soft drinks today. Read on for more helpful facts.
Kidney Stones Better Prevented Than Passed
- One in every 10 Americans will have at least one kidney stone in their life.
- If you have had kidney stones in the past you are likely to get them a second time.
- Men are more likely to develop kidney stones than women.
- More Caucasians suffer from kidney stones than African Americans.
- Most people develop kidney stones between the ages of 20-40.
- The amount of kidney stones have increased over the last 20 years: kidney stones in men have increased 10% and in women 5%.
- 75-85% of kidney stones are calcium stones.
- Struvite stones are found more often in women.
Definition – Kidney . The kidney is the organ located behind the abdomen on each side of the spine that is responsible for removing excess fluid and waste from your blood through urine, which is carried by the ureters to the bladder until it is eliminated through urination.
Definition – Kidney Stones. Kidney stones, also known as nephrolithiasis or renal stone disease, are crystals that form with minerals and stick to the inner surfaces of your kidneys or urinary tract creating a hard mass. The stone formation usually occurs when the urine becomes too concentrated (not enough fluids and high levels of mineral salts like calcium, oxalate, uric acid and cystine). The different shapes of kidney stones are: jagged, staghorn and smooth.
Symptoms . You may have kidney stones without ever having any symptoms. You will experience symptoms, however, if they are big, being passed, block the flow of urine or if they occur as a result of an infection (as in Struvite stones primarily caused by urinary tract infections). Symptoms will include: intense pain that starts (may stop intermittently) in your back or side just below the edge of your ribs and may radiate to the groin; nausea/vomiting; bloody, cloudy or foul smelling urine; persistent urge to urinate; and fever and chills with comorbid infection.
Types & Causes . Calcium Stones – This is the most common form of kidney stone. These stones form when there is an excess of calcium in the urine (hypercalciuria). The excess calcium (not removed by urine) binds with other excessive waste products, typically, oxalate (hyperoxaluria). Oxalate is a compound that can be found in tea, chocolate, green leafy vegetables, nuts, tomatoes and colas. Reasons that a person may have excessive amounts of calcium in their urine is if they ingest large amounts of vitamin D, have recently had treatment for thyroid hormones, have recently taken diuretics, suffer from cancer, suffer from kidney conditions, suffer from an overactive parathyroid gland (hyperparathyroidism), are inactive and etc. While genetic factors, intestinal bypass surgery and a diet high in oxalates may cause a person to have excessive amounts of oxalic acid in the body. It is the rampid combination of these factors that cause calcium stones to be so common.
Other causes of calcium stones include nanobacteria (a bacterial organism about 1/100th the size of conventional bacteria), excessive chlorides and a reduction of citrates in urine. Nanobacteria is thought to secrete a sticky, calcium-rich coating that allows them to adhere to cells inside artery walls and to each other. The coating then calcifies into a shell, protecting the bacteria from the immune system as well as all antibiotics, radiation and even chemotherapy. Nanobacteria is hypothesized to cause such conditions as aortic valve sclerosis, bladder stones, bone spurs, breast implant calcification, calcium deposits in the skin, kidney stones and prostatic stones. Some people have a defective gene (CLCN5) that causes an overproduction of chloride in the urine, which may lead to excess calcium in the urine, ultimately leading to calcium stones. Citrate is excreted in the kidneys and a reduction will occur if there is too much acid in the body. The function of citrate is to neutralize the acid in kidneys, which would inhibit the formation of kidney stones.
Uric Acid Stones – These stones are formed from uric acid. The digestion process produces uric acid and if the urine itself is too acidic then the uric acid will not dissolve, leaving behind remnants that will later form stones. About 10% of people with kidney stones have uric acid stones. My guess is that number will be going up considering that uric acid is a byproduct of protein and protein diets are still at their height of popularity. Other factors that may contribute to high levels of uric acid in urine are genetics, chemotherapy treatments and if they are male (it is more common in men).
Struvite Stones – These stones are often referred to as infection stones since they are nearly always caused by chronic urinary infections. For this reason, they are more common in women who suffer from UTI’s (urinary tract infections) more than men. The UTI’s are caused by a bacterium that produces an enzyme, which increases the amount of ammonia in urine. This increase of ammonia contributes to the construction of the struvite stones, which are large and form in the staghorn shape. These stones are dangerous and can cause extensive damage to the kidneys if not removed soon enough.
Cystine Stones – These stones are not very common at all, in fact, they only represent 1% of all kidney stones. They form from the amino acid cystine found in protein, which does not dissolve well. Therefore, remnants may result in stones. A person may have an excess of cystine in their urine from a hereditary disorder called cystinuria. In this condition the kidneys excrete excess amounts of the amino acid. This type of kidney stone is not easily remedied and may require life-long treatments.
- One of the main reasons that people get kidney stones is a lack of hydration. “The solution to pollution is dilution!” You must drink plenty of water daily in order to provide your body with enough liquids to flush out your system effectively. More water may be necessary if you live in a hot or dry climate or if you work in a very hot environment.
- Eat a well balanced diet. Too much protein, too little fiber and the consumption of too many foods or beverages rich in oxalates can contribute to kidney stones. Also, avoid consuming too much salt; excessive sodium can contribute to increased levels of calcium in the urine.
- Exercise. The body releases calcium when it is chronically in an inactive state.
- Pay attention to risk factors and proactively adopt a prevention strategy. You are at risk for kidney stones if: it runs in your family; you live or work in a hot climate; you are male; you suffer from chronic UTI’s, renal tubular acidosis (RTA), cystinuria, gout, renal calcium leak, cystic kidney disease, hyperparathyroidism, cancer, etc.; if you are on certain medications or treatments such as diuretics, chemotherapy, thyroid hormones, etc.; if you are on a high protein diet; if you drink excessive amounts of tea or cola; if you are chronically under stress; etc.
- Balance the pH levels in your body. “Too much acid in the blood (acidosis) can disturb many bodily functions. Healthy kidneys help maintain acid-base balance by excreting acids into the urine and returning bicarbonate (an alkaline, or base substance) to the blood. This “reclaimed” bicarbonate neutralizes much of the acid that is created when food is broken down by the body.”
- Be sure to supplement with potassium and magnesium, especially if you are taking calcium supplements. Low levels of citrate can be associated with potassium or magnesium deficiencies. Also, a deficiency in vitamin B6 can cause an overproduction of oxalic acid.
- Get rid of excess calcium in the blood. EDTA (ethylenediamine tetra-acetic acid) chelation therapy helps to dissolve calcium deposits in the body. In addition, it detoxifies the body and rids it of toxins and heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, aluminum, copper, arsenic, mercury, etc. It is also known as the most effective method of eliminating the effects of nanobacteria
- If you have a kidney stone that needs to be passed, once it has passed save it and bring it to your physician to have it analyzed. Since kidney stones are likely to reoccur and there are a vast number of possible contributors, you will want to determine the source of your kidney stone in order to effectively prevent it from reoccurring.