Our kidneys filter all our blood every eight hours. Kidney tubules select substances to return to the general circulation or for excretion. These are funnelled through to the bladder, and then passed out via urine.
Kidney stones are crystallised minerals that become lodged in kidney tissue. The crystals are usually calcium oxalate, but sometimes mixed with calcium phosphate. Occasionally they consist of uric acid (as in Gout): in rare cases they consist of cystine, although this is usually a glitch in the genes.
The larger the stone, the more damage to the kidney tissue. Inflammation and infection are a very real threat. If the stone becomes dislodged (in an attempt to pass out in the urine) the pain can be violent.
If small stones become lodged in the ureter, the tube connecting each kidney to the bladder, the urine is forced backwards into the kidneys, causing pain, inflammation and a medical emergency.
- There are ten times as many cases of kidney stones today as there were at the turn of the century.
- There is a strong hereditary and gender link (four out of five stone-formers are men).
- Various elements of the modern diet are partly to blame. Indeed, it is one of a group of conditions that are far more common in industrialised countries, where more processed foods are consumed. Foods such as sugar, coffee, milk, red meat and refined flour all contribute to kidney stone formation.
- The long term use of antacids is also implicated.
What To Do
- Drink lots of water (a minimum of 2.5 L daily) to keep the urine dilute.
- A high fibre diet reduces the excretion of calcium in the urine. A study in Japan showed that people who ate the equivalent of two teaspoons of rice bran, twice a day, had a dramatic decline in the formation of kidney stones. You could try this... just make sure that your diet is routinely high in fibre.
- Special foods for healthy kidneys include; green beans, barley, pumpkin seeds, asparagus, dandelion (leaf and root), water melon, green tea, chicory and onions.
- Take the juice of half a lemon in warm water each morning. Lemon, and all citrus, have enough citric acid to inhibit calcium oxalate crystallisation.
- A low protein diet is recommended. Red meat in particular increases the urinary excretion of calcium, phosphate, oxalate and uric acid ... the entire mineral repertoire of the kidney stone.
- Statistics show that stone-formers tend to eat more fat. Decrease the amount of fats in your diet, particularly the saturated fats in meat and whole milk products.
- Studies show that alcohol increases your risk of kidney stones.
- Limit your intake of oxalate containing foods as they may increase the formation of calcium oxalate stones. Foods containing high amounts of oxalate include: cocoa (including chocolate), coffee (even decaf), parsley, rhubarb, spinach and tea.
- Restrict your sugar consumption, as it is associated with increased urinary calcium excretion. If something (in this case calcium) is found in the urine, it has passed through the kidneys. The less calcium and other stone-forming minerals that pass through the kidneys, the better.
- Avoid carbonated soft drinks as the phosphate added to give them fizz increases calcium excretion.
- The urine of stone-formers has a low magnesium:calcium ratio, so increase your consumption of foods with a high magnesium:calcium ratio include barley, bran, corn, buckwheat, rye, soy foods, oats, brown rice, avocado, banana, lima beans and potato.
Herbs and Supplements
- (See Glow)
- Vitamin B6 and magnesium are an indispensable team in the treatment of kidney stones. Vitamin B6 is required for the breakdown of oxalates in the body. A deficiency makes oxalic acid accumulate and form crystals with calcium. Take 100 mg of B6 twice daily. Magnesium increases the solubility of calcium oxalate, discouraging crystal formation. Take 200 mg of magnesium twice daily.
- The herbs cornsilk, buchu and marshmallow all soothe the kidneys. Take in a tea, tablet or tincture form daily.
- Herbs that increase uric acid excretion seem also to help oxalic acid excretion...therefore recommended for gout and kidney stones. These herbs include: Cleavers, Gravel root, parsely, celery seed and nettle leaf. Water based remedies such as herbal tisanes are particularly good for the kidneys and bladder.
- A homoeopathic remedy often recommended for kidney stones is Berberis 30C.
- The tissue salts silicea and Nat. phos. slowly help to dissolve kidney stones.
- Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is capable of being converted to oxalate in the body. However, there is no clear evidence that extra ascorbic acid supplementation will increase the risk of kidney stones. Nevertheless, if you have, or have had kidney stones, limit your vitamin C supplementation to no more than 1000 mg daily.
- As most kidney stones contain calcium, it is wise not to exceed 1g of calcium supplementation daily. If you have been advised to take extra calcium, then choose calcium citrate, as the citrate inhibits calcium oxalate crystallisation.
At a glance
- Good food
- Water, fibre, green beans, barley, pumpkin seeds, asparagus, dandelion (leaf and root), water melon, green tea, chicory and onions.
- Food to avoid
- Red meat, alcohol, sugar, soft drinks, high oxalate foods; cocoa (including chocolate), coffee, parsley, rhubarb, spinach and tea. Note: Vitamin C and calcium are not recommended in dosages over 1 g if there is a risk of kidney stones.
- Remedies to begin
- B6, magnesium, cornsilk, buchu, marshmallow.
- The kidneys are the organs of fear. Kidney stones may symbolise a crystallisation of your fears.