How Kidney Stones Are Treated
Those whose composure has been rocked by one of those attacks have left few stones unturned in their search for the right diet or drug or medical device that will prevent them from ever going through that kind of misery again.
Prevention of these stones is a must because there is no easy way to remove a stone once it forms and lodges itself in the kidney. Open-kidney surgery is still the treatment of choice in the United States, but people sometimes lose kidneys, or parts of kidneys, as a result.
Difficult as they are to get out, most kidney stones get in by a simple biochemical process that anyone can understand. First, imagine a glass of water and a carton of table salt. Start pouring salt into the water and it will dissolve and disappear. Pour in enough salt, however, and the water becomes saturated — it can't hold any more salt — and you'll start to see crystals of salt falling like snowflakes to the bottom of the glass.
Most kidneys stones start the same way. The fluids that pass through your kidneys contain different kinds of minerals and molecules. One of those minerals is calcium, and one of those molecules is oxalic acid, which combines to form calcium oxalate. Normally, it floats invisibly in the fluid, but when there's too much of it or too little fluid, it starts to fall out of solution. Here or there a calcium oxalate crystal forms and attracts another and another until there are enough to make a nice little stone snowball, with sharp edges to torment its owner while defying almost every effort to get rid of it. This problem has stumped many people, including the inventive Benjamin Franklin, who tried and failed to shake loose his stone by eating blackberry jam and standing on his head.
Results with magnesiumOne modern strategy for preventing kidney stones is to fight mineral with mineral. In other words, fight unwanted calcium crystals with crystals of a similar mineral, such as magnesium. Magnesium supplements seem to inhibit new kidney stones from forming in people who are prone to them. And, while magnesium is one of the oldest cures for kidney stones — its use has been documented as far back as 1697 — it is also one of the newest.
Lately, the Swedes have taken an interest in magnesium. In one recent study, Swedish researchers gave 200 mg of magnesium hydroxide to a group of 41 men and 14 women who individually had averaged about one stone per year and who, as a group, had passed a whopping 460 stones during the ten years before the experiment.
Magnesium's effects were excellent. After two to four years of the therapy, only 8 of the 55 patients reported new stones. And as a group, their average rate of developing new stones fell by 90 per cent, to only 0.08 stones per year, per person. For comparison, the researchers kept an eye. on a group of 43 stone sufferers who did not use magnesium. They averaged a much higher formation rate. After four years, 59 percent of those tested had developed new stones.
Like calcium, magnesium can bind itself to oxalic acid and form a mineral compound. When calcium and magnesium are both present in the urine, they compete with each other to link up with any oxalic acid present. The critical difference is that magnesium oxalate is less likely to form crystals. It usually remains dissolved in the urine and passes out of the body — unstoned (Journal of the American College of Nutrition, vol. 1, no. 2, 1982).
A role for vitamin B6Another way to approach the prevention of kidney stones is to lower the amount of oxalic acid in the urine. You can do that by avoiding foods such as spinach, rhubarb, tea, chocolate, parsley, beetroot, unripe tomatoes and peanuts, all of which are high in oxalic acid. You can also do it by taking more vitamin B6. By a complicated chain of reactions that still isn't entirely understood, B6 lowers the amount of oxalic acid in the urine of people who have a disposition towards kidney stones.
Researchers in India recently found that a supplement of only 10 mg of vitamin B6 per day lowered the oxalic acid content of urine 'significantly' in 12 people, all of whom had developed at least one stone per year for the past few years (International Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, Therapy and Toxicology, vol. 20, no. 9, 1982). That was a discovery worth reporting. Why? Because the Indian researchers got results with only 10 mg of vitamin B6 per day, while other scientists had been prescribing as much as 100 mg or more per day. And the Indian scientists studied B6's effects for six months — longer than anyone else.
In addition, they found that vitamin B6 achieved better, faster effects than thiazides. Thiazides are a family of drugs commonly used to lower blood pressure and prevent kidney stones by increasing the output of urine from the body. However, they also cause lightheadedness, and they can elevate the amount of sugar and uric acid in the blood, which can promote diabetes and gout, respectively. Thiazides can also reduce the amount of potassium in the blood, which translates into muscle weakness and cramps. So the vitamin B6 news is truly good news.
Another natural kidney-stone preventer is water. In fact, many doctors say that this free commodity everyone has on tap at home is all you'll ever need.
Water: no-cost stone prevention
'Water is the best and safest treatment for most patients with kidney stones,' Dr. William D. Kaehny of the University of Colorado says flatly. Drink the amount of water necessary to produce 3—5 pints of urine a day, he tells stone patients and set an alarm clock to wake yourself in the middle of the night so that you can urinate and drink another glass of water. Most people, he says, will not develop the second stone if they put themselves on the water wagon.
It's a little ironic that water, which is so cheap, can prevent stones because more than one researcher has called kidney stones a 'disease of affluence'. That's because, in many cases, the people who get kidney stones are those who have enough money to buy and enjoy red meat, chicken or fish almost every day. The connection is simple: researchers have found an association between increased animal protein intake and higher oxalic acid and calcium in urine, which means more raw material for stones (Journal of Uroloo, January 1981).
What's more, people who develop kidney stones don't eat their cereal or their vegetables the way they should. That's the verdict from a survey conducted in Ireland, where 8 percent of the population suffer from stones at some point in their lives. Researchers there studied the diets of 51 kidney-stone patients and compared them to the diets of 51 people of similar weight, age and constitution, but without kidney stones. They found three big differences.
First, the stone group ate less fiber, and fiber has been known to affect urinary calcium and oxalic acid excretion. Second, the stone group got fewer of their calories from carbohydrates such as vegetables, grains, and fruit. And, third, the stone group had a higher intake of fats such as those found in red meat (British Journal of Uroloo, vol. 53, no. 5, 1981).
British researchers found that diets high in refined carbohydrates (e.g. sugar, white flour, white rice) may encourage the formation of kidney stones. During a period of one month, the researchers fed a diet of low, normal or high levels of refined carbohydrates to 19 healthy young males. Reporting their finds in the British Journal of Urology, the researchers concluded, 'There is the likelihood that a dietary structure which includes significant amounts of sugar or sugar products will increase the risk of calcium stone formation. '
Alcohol consumption may also be a risk factor. In an experiment conducted at the University of Vienna Medical School, the relationship between drinking habits and stone formation was studied in 379 patients. The researchers found that those who prefer alcoholic drinks have significantly higher urinary excretions of calcium, phosphate and uric acid — the substances from which most stones are made. Not surprisingly, say the researchers, the more alcohol you drink, the more of these substances you excrete in your urine, thereby increasing your chances of forming a stone (Journal of Urology, January 1981).
The message for kidney-stone sufferers is, in effect, just like the advice that more and more doctors have been giving to anyone who eats the typical Western diet: eat less red meat, less fat and get more energy from whole grains, vegetables, and fruit. That recipe is recommended not only for kidney stones, but also to prevent heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer.
Surgery — and alternativesFor those people who have existing stones, the most common form of treatment is still surgery. In most cases, surgery involves opening the kidney and removing the stone or stones. The risk is that scar tissue may form in the kidney and later cause the organ to fail. Kidney surgery may also entail a long stay in the hospital and a long convalescence.
One American dentist James Nicolette, dreaded the knife enough to travel to Germany to have his stone removed by a new non-surgical method. He was only the 76th person to experience this drugless technique, which uses focused high-frequency (ultra) sound waves to shatter the stone into tiny pieces.
James Nicolette is now back in the United States, and he and a group of people who call themselves the Kidney-Stone Formers Club have mounted a campaign to alert more people to the causes of kidney stones and to convince the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to permit the use of the sound wave treatment. (In the UK, this method is gaining increasing acceptance.) — using an ultrasound machine called a lithotripter — But he isn't standing around waiting for the FDA to act. He's busy preventing his next stone the natural way, and he recommends the same for everybody.
'I've been using magnesium and B6 for about seven months, ' Nicolette said. 'I've also eliminated a lot of things from my diet. I used to be a big meat eater, but now I eat very little meat. I eat a lot of bran. And I drink as much water as possible — more than I ever drank before. Since this whole thing started, I've become a firm believer in nutrition. '
How to Prevent Kidney Stones Naturally Reviewed by Healthy Kite on 8/21/2016 Rating: