Easy Steps to Preventing Kidney Stones
Kidney stones are so painful they can be completely debilitating and end up with a costly hospitalization. Recently at Nuview Nutrition we have been getting numerous calls from people with kidney stones and bladder infections. The heat of the summer increases your risk and people are more susceptible to these conditions as diets are changing and hydration levels are low and both will increase your risk of developing a painful kidney stone. Staying hydrated, eating a nutrient-dense diet and getting regular exercise will decrease your risk and keep your kidneys healthy.
First let’s look at what is a Kidney stone? Kidney stones are made of clusters of minerals, acids and salts in the body that bind to one another inside the kidneys, becoming lodged and sometimes blocking the urinary tract, giving you intense pressure and pain when you try going to the bathroom. Kidney stones form when your urine contains a high level of crystal-forming substances, while at the same time too little of the substances you need to break up crystals and flush minerals from the body. This perfect storm creates the ideal environment for kidney stone formation.
Types of Kidney stones: About 80 percent of kidney stones are the type known as calcium stones. Calcium that is normally present in the body combines with other substances (oxalates, phosphates or carbonates) to form an abnormally hard stone. In most cases, oxalates are the substance that calcium binds to, which we acquire from certain fruits and vegetables that naturally carry them. While calcium stones are much more common, sometimes kidney stones can also be caused by the buildup of other acidic salts, such as uric acid. Other types of kidney stones include: struvite stones, uric acid stones or cysteine stones (the type most tied to hereditary factors).
Emotional Connection: The emotional aspect is something that is also very important to consider, we are connected in every way. Condensed matter represents condensed thought pattern and emotions, particularly to do with fear and grief: they are like unshed tears that have become solidified. They should be released and let go of, but instead they are held on to, enabling them to grow. This is a blockage of energy, connected to the issues mentioned above relationships, sadness, loss, negative emotions and fear. A couple of questions to ask yourself are:
- Are you getting stuck in old emotional places?
- Are you attached to the past and unable to move into the future?
Working through the emotional release is just as important as treating and addressing the underlying issues!
Causes of Kidney stones: The main reasons that kidney stones form includes:
- eating a poor diet high in oxalates, sugars and soda
- taking synthetic calcium supplements
- genetic factors (if someone in your immediate family has kidney stones often, you’re more likely to develop them too)
- an abnormal pH balance, meaning the body becomes overly acidic
- having trouble with normal digestion, such as healing from gastric bypass surgery, having an inflammatory bowel disease or chronic diarrhea
- food allergies or sensitivities that can affect digestion
- medication or drug use
- nutrient and mineral deficiencies
- thyroid disorder (which can cause the thyroid to produce too much parathyroid hormone, which raises calcium levels)
Tips to preventing reoccurring kidney stones
Staying Hydrated Lowers Your Risk of Recurrent Kidney Stones
Urine has various wastes dissolved in it. When there is too much waste in too little liquid, crystals begin to form. The crystals attract other elements and join together to form a solid that will get larger unless it is passed out of the body with the urine. In most people, having enough liquid washes them out as well as other chemicals in urine to stop a stone from forming.
Research shows, for instance, among patients with kidney stones that those who increase hydration to reach two liters of urine a day had a 12 percent recurrence rate compared to 27 percent among those who didn’t increase their fluid intake.
The National Kidney Foundation recommends drinking more than 12 glasses of water a day, but a simpler way to know if you are drinking enough water is to check the color of your urine; you want your urine to be a very light, pale yellow (darker urine is more concentrated).
Every person’s water requirement is different, depending on your particular metabolic requirements and activity level, but simply keeping your urine light yellow will go a long way toward preventing kidney stones.
Remember to increase your water intake whenever you increase your activity and when you’re in a warmer climate. If you happen to be taking any multivitamins or B supplements that contain vitamin B2 (riboflavin), the color of your urine will be a very bright, nearly fluorescent yellow and this will not allow you to use the color of your urine as a guide to how well you are hydrated.
Cut out the Soda
While water and mineral water were protective, drinking soda is associated with kidney stones, possibly because the phosphorus acid it contains acidifies your urine, which promotes stone formation.
In addition, one South African study found that drinking soda exacerbates conditions in your urine that lead to formation of calcium oxalate kidney stone problems. The sugar, including fructose (and high fructose corn syrup in soda), is also problematic.
A diet high in sugar can set you up for kidney stones, since sugar upsets the mineral relationships in your body by interfering with calcium and magnesium absorption.
Sugar can also increase kidney size and produce pathological changes in your kidney, such as the formation of kidney stones. According to The National Kidney Foundation, you should pay particular attention to keeping your fructose levels under control:
“Eating too much fructose correlates with increasing risk of developing a kidney stone. Fructose can be found in table sugar and high fructose corn syrup. In some individuals, fructose can be metabolized into oxalate.”
If you’re a soda drinker, cutting back is an important strategy to remember. In one study, those with kidney stones who eliminated soda from their diet lowered their risk of recurrence by about 15 percent
Eat a Nutrient-Dense Diet
If you eat a generally poor diet — mostly processed foods that are low in nutrients, electrolytes and antioxidants – you’re at an increased risk for developing kidney stone symptoms. Eating a very salty or high-protein diet, above your actual protein needs or about 30 percent of your diet, can result in an increase of ammonia in the urine.
Focus on fresh foods, or “eating the rainbow,” in order to balance the body’s pH and prevent too much acidity.
- Whole food Diet: Some research shows that people who follow a mostly plant-based diet, low in dairy products and meat, tend to have fewer kidney stones than people who eat lots of processed meat, packaged sodium foods and conventional dairy. Fresh foods that promote healthy kidney function include bananas, leafy greens of all kinds (and fresh-squeezed veggie juice), sprouted legumes, sprouted grains, fish and small amounts of pasture-raised poultry.
- Foods high in Vitamin E: Berries, olive oil, almonds, avocado and butternut squash are a few of the best sources of antioxidant vitamin E, which helps balance levels of oxalates and other toxins in the body, while also preventing mucus membrane damage, thereby reducing the risk of stone formation.
- Increase your Alkalinity: It might seem counterintuitive, but foods that are acidic in nature and help balance the body’s pH level, like lemon or apple cider vinegar, can help the body pass kidney stones. Mix a small amount with water, or add some to a smoothie with raw honey.
- Add in foods that have magnesium and potassium: Consuming plenty of magnesium and potassium can help balance calcium levels in the body, so include lots of leafy green veggies, cruciferous veggies, melon, bananas and avocado in your diet.
- Change your grains: (as opposed to refined grain products) — Sprouting grains reduces their anti-nutrient content, making their nutrients more digestible.
Get Regular Exercise
Exercise, especially weight-bearing exercises like strength training or various other resistant training, is good for building bone strength and preventing demineralization of your skeletal system. On the other hand, being sedentary can cause bones to release more calcium into the blood, which increases the odds of it accumulating in the kidneys.
Avoid these foods:
- Cut the sugar: there’s some evidence that a sugar-heavy diet can worsen kidney stones. Make sure to limit the amount of packaged sugary snacks you eat, sweetened drinks (especially if they’re carbonated), dairy and even fruit if it seems to worsen your symptoms.
- Avoid processed grains: Most grain products (including flour and products like cereal, bread, rolls, cake, etc.) contribute to kidney stones because they have high levels of anti-nutrients including phytic acid.
- Avoid oxalate foods: While all fruits and vegetables generally offer a variety of electrolytes and nutrients, some that can increase oxalate buildup in people prone to kidney stones include: spinach, rhubarb, tomatoes, collards, eggplant, beets, celery, summer squash, grapefruit/grapefruit juice, sweet potatoes, peanuts, almonds, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, parsley and cocoa.
- Do not eat processed meats: — processed meat can cause the body to excrete calcium, which means more is sent to the kidneys where it can build up and form stones.
- Cut out caffeine and alcohol — both are dehydrating and can be difficult to digest, which can make kidney stones worse.
Alternative options for treating kidney stones:
Castor Oil Packs and Hot Compresses
These hot compresses have special anti-inflammatory abilities that are useful for relieving pain associated with kidney stone symptoms, like cramping or muscle spasms in the abdomen. You can buy a castor oil pack or make your own by soaking a clean towel in pure castor oil, pressing it onto the kidneys and allowing it to seep into the skin.
Similarly, try pressing a hot compress over the kidneys several times per day to increase blood flow, relax tense muscles and help stones pass more easily. You can soak a towel in hot vinegar to make this even more effective for dulling pain, such as using a 50:50 mix of apple cider vinegar and water.
Supplements that Can Help Reduce Kidney Stones (always check with your practitioner first to make sure of the correct supplements to use):
- Magnesium helps to balance other minerals in the body and prevents electrolyte imbalances. Take about 250 milligrams two times daily in capsule form or as part of a mineral powder supplement.
- B vitamins: B vitamins help reduce calcium and oxalates from accumulating. Take a daily B complex vitamin make sure it includes b6.
- Antioxidant supplement or multivitamin containing vitamin E is also helpful in lowering inflammation and reduces calcium and oxalate build up
- Cranberry extract: reduces risk for developing urinary tract infections and balances calcium levels.
- Aloe Vera juice/gel: reduces crystallization of minerals within the urinary tract. Take 1/4 cup daily.
- Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils: Essential oils help the body detoxify itself of built-up heavy metals, toxins and access minerals, including lemon, orange, lime and helichrysum. Take citrus oils either internally (such as adding two drops of 100 percent pure oil to your water twice daily) or topically by combining several drops with a carrier oil (like coconut oil) and massaging it into the lower abdomen twice daily. Helichrysum oil should only be used on the skin and not ingested.
One thing to avoid is taking calcium supplements and antacids since these can make matters worse. It’s a better idea to get calcium naturally from foods (like raw dairy products, Greek yogurt, kefir, almond milk, beans and leafy greens) or speak to your doctor about what you can do if you’re worried about your calcium levels.
Taking preventative measures can greatly reduce your chance of reoccurring kidney stones. Using the suggested remedies can help make the stone passing more bearable. If you need a customized plan Nuview Nutrition specializes in customized plans that reverse and delay chronic illness.
Dr. Josh Axe: 5 Kidney Stone Natural Remedies for Fast Relief
Dr. Mercola: Preventing Kidney Stones May Be as Simple as Changing Your Diet
Deb Shapiro: Your Body Speaks Your Mind
Cindy Crandell R.N., C.N.
Functional Medicine Nutritionist
Nuview Nutrition LLC