Kidney stones can develop in 1 or both kidneys and most often affect people aged 30 to 60. A kidney stone is a solid piece of material that forms in the kidney out of substances within the urine. They may be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball. They are usually yellow or brown. A stone may stay in the kidney or break loose and travel down the urinary tract. A small stone may pass all the way out of the body without causing too much pain. A larger stone may get stuck anywhere between the kidney and bladder. A problem stone can block the flow of urine and cause intense pain.
There are four major types of kidney stones:
- The most common type of stone contains calcium
- A struvite stone may form after an infection in the urinary system. These stones contain magnesium and ammonia
- A uric acid stone may form when there is too much acid in the urine. Uric acid stones generally indicate a need to minimise meat consumption
- Cystine stones are rare and are familial
Treatment depends on the type of stone. For example, the dietary changes that help prevent uric acid stones may have no effect on calcium stones.
Dehydration from reduced fluid intake or strenuous exercise without replacing the fluid lost increases the risk of kidney stones. Obstruction to the flow of urine can also lead to stone formation.
A number of different medical conditions can increase the risk of developing kidney stones:
- Gout causes chronically high levels of uric acid in the blood and urine, which can lead to the formation of uric acid stones.
- Hypercalciuria (high calcium in the urine) – an inherited condition – commonly leads to stone formation. In this condition, too much calcium is absorbed from food and excreted into the urine, where it may form calcium phosphate or calcium oxalate stones.
- Other conditions associated with an increased risk of kidney stones include hyperparathyroidism; kidney diseases such as renal tubular acidosis; and some inherited metabolic conditions, including cystinuria and hyperoxaluria. Chronic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure (hypertension) are also associated with an increased risk of developing kidney stones.
- People with inflammatory bowel disease or who have had an intestinal bypass or ostomy surgery are also more likely to develop kidney stones.
- Some medications also raise the risk of kidney stones, including some diuretics and calcium-containing antacids.
Certain dietary habits may increase the risk of stone formation in susceptible individuals. These include:
- Inadequate fluid intake
- High intake of animal protein
- High-salt diet
- Excessive sugar consumption
- Excessive vitamin D supplementation
- Excessive intake of oxalate-containing foods such as spinach
Citric acid (citrate) occurs naturally in many foods and may protect against kidney stone formation. The best food source commonly available is citrus fruits, particularly lemons.
Potassium reduces urinary excretion of calcium, and people who eat high amounts of dietary potassium appear to be at low risk of forming kidney stones. The best way to increase potassium is to eat fruits and vegetables.
Bran, a rich source of insoluble fibre, reduces the absorption of calcium, which in turn causes urinary calcium to fall. Oat and wheat bran are also good sources of insoluble fibre.
Animal protein from meat, dairy, poultry, or fish increases urinary calcium which, in turn, increases the risk of stone formation.
Salt increases urinary calcium excretion in stone formers, so intake should be minimised.
Increasing dietary oxalate can lead to an increase in urinary oxalate excretion and stone formation. Foods high in oxolate should therefore be avoided, especially spinach, rhubarb, beetroot leaves, nuts, chocolate, tea, bran, almonds, peanuts and strawberries.
Some studies suggest that consumption of soft carbonated drinks may increase the risk of forming a kidney stone, due to the high content of phosphoric acid which is thought to affect calcium excretion.
Nutritional supplement treatment options
IP-6 (inositol hexaphosphate, also called phytic acid) reduces urinary calcium levels and may reduce the risk of forming a kidney stone.
Chondroitin sulphate may play a role in reducing the risk of kidney stone formation by lowering urinary oxalate levels in stone formers.
Both magnesium and vitamin B6 are used by the body to convert oxalate into other substances. Vitamin B6 deficiency leads to an increase in kidney stones as a result of elevated urinary oxalate. Vitamin B6 is also known to reduce elevated urinary oxalate in some stone formers who are not necessarily B6 deficient.
Vitamin E has been shown to reduce kidney stone formation in people with elevated levels of urinary oxalate.
Botanical Treatment Options
Pumpkin seeds – studies have found that eating pumpkin seeds reduces urinary risk factors for forming kidney stones. The active constituents of pumpkin seeds responsible for this action have not been identified.
Juniper berries stimulate the kidneys, and destroy bacteria in the kidneys, bladder, and bile ducts. Any person who has built up waste, crystallization, and stones in their kidneys will also have bacteria. Juniper berries are a priority for any effective kidney cleansing routine or as a natural remedy for kidney stones.
Uva ursi (Bearberry) is one of the top herbs for stimulating and detoxifying the kidneys. The parts used are the leaves. This herb is another staple for any kidney cleansing formula or herbal remedy for kidney stones.
Dandelion leaf is an excellent herb for stimulating the kidneys.
Cornsilk, Horsetail, and Parsley – These herbs are all powerful kidney simulators and detoxifiers. It is important to only use corn silk from organically grown corn, as corn is one of the most heavily sprayed crops.
Article contributed by Dr Tracy S Gates, DO, DIBAK, L.C.P.H., Consultant, Pure Bio Ltd. Copyright © Pure Bio Ltd 2023. All rights reserved. Pure Bio Ltd are a leading UK supplier of the highest quality PURE nutritional supplements, based in Horsham, West Sussex.
Proud Winners of Southern Enterprise Awards, Best Nationwide Hypoallergenic Nutritional Supplements Distributor 2022. Visit www.purebio.co.uk for all your nutritional supplement needs.
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