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The Mystery Called Kidney Stones Unlocked

About 12% of the world population is suffering from kidney stones. These are scary statistics, given the amount of risk kidney stones pose to renal function so much so that it makes you prone to end-stage renal failure. Not only this, you are more likely to suffer from diabetes, heart disease, and cardiovascular problems if your body makes kidney stones.
kidney stone: image source wikimediacommons

Your kidneys are hardworking little organs that excrete body waste and eliminate toxins. When these organs are not able to eliminate excess minerals (read oxalates/uric acid/phosphorus), they accumulate on its lining as crystals of stone.

A kidney stone develops from the buildup of excess minerals in the urine. It begins as a small crystal-like material that may develop into a big solid mass in the absence of timely intervention.

How does that happen?

Urine contains chemicals, which hinder the formation of these painful crystals. In some cases, small particles of crystals travel through the urinary tract and are easily passed out in urine, without being noticed.

Unfortunately, in some people, these crystals accumulate and combine together to form a stone. These stones can stick to the lining of the urethra or sit in an area from where they cannot be passed out in the urine.

These stones may develop in people who drink less amount of water or have a family history of stones or rely on a diet rich in oxalate foods, sodium, processed, and overly sweet foods.

Water is needed to dilute the buildup of minerals in the urine that combine together to form stones and settle on the lining of your kidneys.

What Type of Kidney Stones Do You Have?

There are different types of kidney stones. Ask your doctor what type of stones you are suffering from. If you aren’t sure, you want to avoid meats, too many salty foods and of course, animal protein. You may also want to LIMIT the consumption of dairy, but not eliminate the same, as your body needs calcium from fortified products, including milk. Calcium is also needed to bind and block oxalates and throw them out from the body.

Research reveals that patients on a normal calcium diet with a low animal protein consumption has a lower incidence of kidney stone frequency compared to those who consumed low calcium diets.

So rejecting calcium-rich foods from your kidney stone diet is a mistake you do not want to commit.

  • Calcium oxalate (will discuss in detail below)
  • Calcium phosphate - calcium combines with phosphorus in the urine (avoid- dairy, cheese, beef, chicken, egg, seafood -limit fast food, processed food, and frozen food that have phosphorus as an additive and preservative)
  • Uric acid -produced by the breakdown of food in the body - too many chemicals in the food can raise uric acid levels, thus posing a risk of uric acid stones-  avoid egg, poultry, animal protein, red meat, alcohol, and sugary drinks
  • Cystine stones- Larger than the typical kidney stones - a condition that runs in families -too much acid can cause cystine stones (avoid packaged meals, salty foods, processed foods, meats, and French fries)

Risk Factors for Oxalate Kidney Stones

Aim for no more than 1 teaspoon of sodium/salt daily

  • Some medications (antibiotics, painkillers), family history, and medical disorders may make you vulnerable to kidney stones.
  • Some other leading risk factors for stone disease may include dehydration, obesity, diabetes, excessive intake of animal protein, history of bowel disease, and limited fruit and vegetable consumption.
  • Lack of physical activity often results in obesity and diabetes. These are the risk factors for kidney stones.

When the stone obstructs the ureter, which connects the kidney, you may start experiencing pain from a kidney stone - radiating pain on the side of the abdomen, groin, and back.

Nausea, burning during urination, foul-smelling urine, fever, vomiting, chills, and/or blood in the urine are common symptoms of a kidney stone.

Vinegar, lime juice may help ease pain from kidney stones. Being alkaline, these may change the pH level in the body and make the urine alkaline.

Since lemon has citrate, it might help prevent the formation of new stones. Additionally, regular use of lime juice may prevent stones from getting bigger.

However, the most important way to prevent stone formation is to increase the intake of fluids (> 2.5 Litters) daily.

It is equally important to limit your salt intake.

Potassium citrate can help prevent the formation of stones. It is used to treat patients with uric acid stones or oxalates or those with low urinary citrate. Potassium citrate can raise the pH level of the urine by making it alkaline and thus help dissolve stones. Lemon is rich in citrate.

Are nuts bad for kidney stone patients?

Certain nuts, particularly peanuts, walnuts, cashews, are not recommended for patients with a family history of kidney stones. Being rich in oxalates, peanuts (groundnuts) can contribute to the formation of calcium oxalate kidney stones. It is better to limit the intake of almonds too if you have kidney stones.

What are oxalates?

Oxalates have become a villain in the world of kidney stones. Oxalate is a naturally occurring compound in some foods, such as spinach, beets, peanuts, potato chips, French fries, etc. It is typically found in a majority of foods and you cannot avoid it completely. However, you should aim to limit the intake of oxalate-rich foods.

What To Eat & Avoid

High-oxalate foods
Limit the intake of high oxalate foods. The idea is to combine high calcium foods with fewer high-oxalate foods.

  • Spinach
  • sweet potatoes
  • baked potatoes
  • Fried potatoes- French Fries
  • Raspberries - berries
  • Certain nuts, especially peanuts, cashews
  • Stevia and artificial sweeteners
  • Okra
  • Cocoa powder, coffee
  • Soy
  • Beans
  • Oranges
  • Soda
  • Wheat bran
  • Beet
  • Black Tea 
  • Soy tofu, soy milk, miso paste
  • Egg, pork, cheese, meats

Drinking milk is not related with kidney stones!

Increase dietary calcium intake
Many people are apprehensive of eating calcium, wondering whether calcium-rich foods are behind the cause of kidney stones. However, the case is different. Low amounts of calcium might raise the risk of formation of calcium oxalate stones. In reality, a diet rich in calcium is known to bind oxalate in your intestines. This means if you eat a calcium-rich diet, the amount of oxalate absorption in the body will come down. As a result, stones in the kidney are less likely to form.

Eat calcium-rich foods, such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, and beverages every day. Calcium-fortified dairy products can help too.

Additionally, it is equally important to combine calcium foods with high oxalate foods to help your cause. You may combine low-fat cheese with spinach salad, for example. Or eat yogurt with berries.

Limit vitamin C intake
Your body produces oxalate when Vitamin C is metabolized. The end product of ascorbic acid metabolism is an oxalate compound. If you take large doses of Vitamin C, you are increasing the risk of high oxalate in your urine, further raising the risk of kidney stone formation. 

Drink Loads of water
If you have a history of kidney stones, you cannot ignore the importance of fluid intake. It is a cardinal sin not to drink plenty of liquids if you are prone to kidney stones. Aim for at least 10-12 glasses of water per day.  Also, including lemonade (lime juice) in your routine can help reduce the risk of calcium oxalate stone formation.

Reduce protein intake
The idea is to include the right amount of protein in your diet. Research reveals that too much of protein may put you at high risk of kidney stone formation. 

Lower sodium intake
Reduce the amount of sodium intake in your diet. The idea is to ingest only 2-3 grams of sodium per day. It is critically important to limit the intake of processed foods, canned products, pickles, meat, dry soup mixes, and ready-to-eat foods.


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