Kidney stones are among the most painful things that commonly occur to people. And as men, our chances of developing kidney stones are 5 times greater than women.
Every single year in the United States more than a million people go to the doctor for kidney stones, and more than 300,000 people go to the emergency room. People go to the doctors because they are seeking relief from the terrible pain. But modern medicine’s typical answer is to prescribe pain killing drugs or to ocassionally use dangerous or ineffective procedures to break up stones. There are no good medical solutions to the problem. It is best to avoid the condition in the first place.
Scientists don’t fully understand what causes some people to develop kidney stones and others not. There seems to be a genetic component because people whose parents or grandparents had kidney stones are more likely to develop them than others. However, lifestyle factors are the biggest contributors. In the past few decades rates of kidney stones have increased significantly. That indicates that lifestyle factors are the cause.
There are several different types of kidney stones. By far, the most common are calcium stones – calcium oxalate or calcium phosphate. That is the type that we’ll be discussing in this article. We’ll look at another type – uric acid stones – in another article that also reviews the related subject of gout.
Citrus Protects Kidneys
Research clearly shows that a substance called citrate protects against kidney stones. Citrate helps to dissolve existing stones and to prevent new stones from forming.
Not surprisingly, some of the best sources of citrate are citrus fruits like lemon, orange, grapefruit, and tangerine. Research shows that eating more citrus or drinking more citrus juices helps to keep the kidneys healthy.
Drinking a glass or orange juice daily is natural kidney health insurance.
An Apple A Day
Another substance called malate or malic acid has also been shown to improve kidney health and prevent stone formation. The term malic translates as “relating to apple”. So it should come as no surprise that one of the best natural sources of malic acid is the apple.
It turns out there is good reason for the idiom, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”. By eating apples regularly and/or drinking natural apple juice, you protect your kidneys.
Calcium Rich Diets Reduce Stone Risk
Because calcium stones are composed in part of calcium, doctors used to recommend that those who had a history of stone formation should reduce caclium intake. But it turns out they were wrong. Research shows that calcium intake actually reduces the risk of stone formation. The reason why is that dietary calcium can bind with oxalates and phosphates – the problematic substances – in the digestive system. They are then excreted so that they cannot turn into stones in the kidneys.
There is one exception, however. While dietary calcium reduces the risk of stone formation, supplemental calcium can increase the risk. So strive to obtain your calcium from natural foods such as dairy, leafy green vegetables, and bone-in foods such as sardines. And eat these calcium-rich foods with foods high in oxalates or phosphates such as rhubarb, nuts, beets, and sweet potatoes.
Healthy Magnesium Levels Reduce Risk
Magnesium, like calcium, can bind to oxalates and phosphates. Examples of foods that contain significant amounts of magnesium include fish, leafy green vegetables, avocado, and banana.
Some people take a magnesium supplement regularly. If you do, try magnesium citrate or magnesium malate. They are both well-absorbed forms plus they contain citrate or malate, both of which can reduce kidney stone risk.
Choosing Beverages Wisely
What you drink and how much can have a significant impact on the health of your kidneys.
Many experts advise drinking more water to reduce the risk of kidney stones. However, as we’ve seen in previous articles, drinking more water than you need can have harmful effects. Instead, it’s a good idea to drink as much fluid as you need, but not more. If you find that you are in the habit of drinking too little fluids throughout the day, then increasing that can benefit your kidneys.
It is true that keeping yourself adequately hydrated will help reduce the risk of kidney stones. But the common advice to “drink enough water to make your urine clear” is bad advice. And more is not necessarily better. Enough is the right amount, and your thirst can be your best guide.
What you drink is also important. Most water is too low in minerals and can cause an electrolyte imbalance. However, high mineral waters have historically been used in the treatment of kidney stones. So replacing some of your regular water with natural mineral water may be beneficial.
Also, drinking some natural fruit juices such as orange juice and apple juice has been proven to reduce the risk of kidney stones as we’ve already seen.
Some studies have shown that drinking green tea can reduce stone formation.
Finally, there are some “don’ts” when it comes to beverages and kidney health. Alcohol can exacerbate kidney stone formation. For that reason and for other health reasons it is best to keep alcohol consumption to a minimal. You needn’t be a tea-totaler, but less is more when it comes to kidney health.
And soda has been shown to greatly increase kidney stone risk. All sodas can be problematic, and those containing phosphoric acid (like Coca Cola, Pepsi, and other colas in particular) are a double whammy. They have been shown to pull calcium from the bones (which weakens the bones) and deposit it in the kidneys. For kidney health, replace sodas with some of the beneficial options.
If you’ve ever experienced kidney stones then you understand the importance of prevention. If you’ve never experienced them, take my word for it; you don’t want to. They are extremely painful. And they are preventable with some simple and enjoyable lifestyle adjustments.
Eat more citrus and apples or drink citrus and apple juice regularly. Eat calcium-rich foods with meals, and avoid calcium supplements. Eat magnesium-rich foods. Unlike calcium, magnesium supplements are just fine. Stay hydrated, but don’t go overboard. And opt for kidney health-promoting fluids like fruit juices, mineral water, and green tea. Do these things and stay healthy.
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