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Kidney Stones: Natural Treatment versus Medical Treatment

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The pain of passing a kidney stone through the urethra has been described as hundreds of times stronger than the pain endured during natural childbirth. I have seen friends of mine, very strong men with boundless energy and strength knocked unconscious in seconds by the pain of a kidney stone stuck in their urethra. If you have never experienced this sensation, consider yourself very fortunate. For those of you who do suffer from kidney stones or know someone with this affliction, this article will deal with the causes of kidney stones, prevention and different types of treatment.

Kidney stones are made of salts and minerals in the urine that stick together to form small “pebbles”. They can be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball. They may stay in your kidneys or travel out through the urinary tract.

The urinary tract (shown in the above diagram) is the system that produces the urine and eliminates it from your body. It is made up of the kidneys, the tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder (the ureters), the bladder, and the tube that leads from the bladder out of the body (the urethra).

When a stone travels through the ureter, it may not cause any pain but if that stone is too large to pass through the urethra and it gets stuck there, the pain can be so intense that the strongest person will just pass out.

What Causes Kidney Stones

To understand the cause of kidney stones, it is very important to understand the role the kidney plays in your body. It is so important that in Chinese Medicine the kidney is considered the primary organ of health care, more important than the heart or the brain.

The kidney is responsible for maintaining your electrolyte balance. This means that electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium are kept for recirculation or eliminated and a very critical balance is maintained.

This activity controls your blood pressure (too much sodium causes water retention and your blood pressure rises), the balance of magnesium and potassium ions for muscle contraction (this controls not only voluntary muscles but also the heart muscle keeping it contracting and expanding at the correct rhythm ). It calculates the PH of the electrolytes and eliminates and retains enough to maintain the exact PH of your blood which should be 7.35. If this changes by as much as .05, it destroys the ability of your blood stream to carry oxygen and instant death can result.

If your kidney feels that there is not enough water in your body, it will retain fluid, decrease urination and kidney stones may begin to form.

If your kidney feels there is insufficient calcium in the cells and blood plasma, it will try to hold on to any calcium that arrives in the kidney and that calcium will be in the form of calcium oxalate and stones may form.

Water

Health professionals are always telling people to drink lots of fluids. We are told that it is beneficial but not always why it is good for us. Elderly people who cannot control their bladders very well have a tendency to drink fewer fluids because they do not want to keep running to the bathroom. This usually results in low blood pressure which can cause fainting or dizziness but not having enough water passing through your kidneys can allow for the formation of kidney stones. The average adult must drink 2 to 3 litres of water a day and does not have to be all water. Clear liquids such as tea, coffee and natural unsweetened fruit juices can account for up to 50% of your liquid volume.

If you work out on a regular basis you can very easily become dehydrated. You must always hydrate your body in advance so that you do not get thirsty. By the time you are thirsty it may be too late. This usually results in muscle cramps because of the lack of electrolytes that have been depleted through perspiration but this type of person may also develop kidney stones because of a chronic low level of fluids in the body.

Dietary Calcium

More than 80% of all kidney stones are composed of calcium oxalate. This means that the calcium in your kidney has combined with oxalates found in foods such as chocolate, strawberries, spinach, beet greens and most nuts to form these tiny or not-so-tiny stones in your kidney.

The natural assumption to make is that I must I have too much calcium in my body and yet the opposite is true. As I pointed out earlier, the kidney decides how much of any electrolyte to either keep or eliminate. If your kidney senses that your dietary calcium is LOW, it will try to hold on to the calcium that arrives in the kidney and not let it pass out and this eventually may result in the formation of a kidney stone. On the other hand, if your body has an adequate supply of calcium from your diet then the kidney has no reason to hold on to the calcium it has and allows it to be eliminated.

Other Causes

Diabetics that suffer from high blood pressure and also suffer neuropathy of the kidneys may be prone to kidney stones. Some people have a rare condition known as hypercalciura (too much calcium in their bodies) and even more rarely some people suffer from a condition known as Hyperparathyroidism ( an overactive thyroid gland). Men who are prone to attacks of gout may develop kidney stones but these are a different class of stone composed of uric acid and are not the norm. Even people who suffer from IBS (irritable bowel diseases) such as Crohn’s, diverticulitis or Celiac disease may be deficient in dietary calcium and be susceptible to kidney stones.

Medical Treatment

*Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL). This uses shock waves that pass easily through the body but are strong enough to break up a kidney stone to a small size so they  easily pass out through the urethra.

*Ureteroscopy. The surgeon passes a very thin telescope tube Uureteroscope) up the urinary tract to the stone’s location and then either removes the stone or breaks it up for easier  removal.  Occasionally a stent is placed in the ureter to keep it open for a short time and drain any stone pieces.

Drug Treatment

If you do suffer from kidney stones you will need very potent narcotics and although they help with the pain, they are very constipating and can leave you in a much disorientated state. Some physicians also prescribe thiazide diuretics which stimulate the bladder to eliminate fluids but these can be very dangerous if you do not drink enough water.

Natural Treatments

Although I am a strong believer in natural remedies and alternative health care, this is one area of my industry that actually makes me angry. There are so many products out there, kidney stone removal kits, kidney flushes etc that promise to rid you of your kidney stones and not only do they not work but they can be very dangerous because some of these products may even upset your electrolyte balance even further and have the potential to even upset the rhythm of your heart.

The only natural treatment is actually prevention which involves drinking at least 3 litres of fluid a day and a diet that is specific for a kidney stone patient and this usually involves dietary calcium and avoidance of oxalate rich foods.

Prevention: The Kidney Stone Diet

Increase Fluid Intake: At least 3 litres of liquid a day of which 50% should be water. A glass of water should be taken with each meal, between meals and before sleep.

Avoiding dehydration is most important for the prevention of kidney stones because it dilutes the urine and prevents their formation.

Dietary Calcium

Many people are lactose intolerant or just by choice do not consume any dairy products (milk and cheese). If you are one of those people and you suffer from kidney stones you must find a way to introduce dietary calcium into your body for example, lactase-free milk, soy or rice milk. Those people who do not want to do this suggest that calcium supplements can be used and this is true but you must be careful to take your calcium WITH FOOD. When calcium is taken at the same time that you eat, it combines with oxalates in your diet and the excess calcium oxalate is excreted in the feces. If you take your calcium on an empty stomach it will eventually combine with oxalates in the kidney and be eliminated through your urine. But if your body senses low calcium levels, it will hold on to the calcium oxalate in your kidney and stones may form.

Dietary calcium is the best because the calcium is organically bound and easily distributed throughout your body sending out signals of normal levels and thus preventing the kidney from trying to retain calcium. This process prevents the formation of calcium oxalate crystals in the kidney.

Consume one or two servings of calcium-rich foods per day and this includes milk, cheese, canned fish with bones (especially sardines), milk puddings, rhubarb, yogurt, broccoli, ice cream, almonds, brazil nuts and cream soups.

Avoiding High Oxalate Foods:

Fruits: all berries and berry juices, concord grapes, currants, figs, tangerines.

Vegetables: baked beans, kidney beans, soy beans, beets, carrots,celery,chives, sweet potato, spinach, zucchini, tomato and watercress.

Starches: fruit cake, popcorn, graham crackers, wheat germ and whole wheat flour.

Fats: nuts, peanut butter, sunflower seeds, poppy, pumpkin and sesame seeds

Beverages: ginseng tea, draft beer and Ovaltine.

You must also decrease your salt intake and watch for prepared products with sodium on the label. You also must decrease your animal protein in your diet to small portions and avoid organ meats, game meats and anchovies, herring, mussels and scallops.

Although this diet may seem very drastic, it is important to remember that as long as you drink plenty of fluids you can still have most of the restricted items because you will constantly be flushing out your kidney.

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