January 6, 2022 Glynis Kennedy
What are kidney stones?
Kidney stones (renal calculi) are a medical condition rated as one of the most painful. It is painful because they are solid crystals moving through the urinary tract.
They usually originate in kidneys but can be developed in other parts of the urinary tract like:
Kidney stones form when your urine has a high concentration of minerals and similar substances that can form crystals (solids) when there is insufficient fluid to wash them out of the body.
Those crystals stick onto each other, or they stay separated. When they stick together, they form stones that vary from a grain of sand to larger stones that are approximately 5 millimeters or more in size.
The pain that you experience comes from the stone lodging itself in the urinary tract and stopping the urine flow or moving through narrow canals, and some say it is worse than childbirth.
Most common types of kidney stones
Not every kidney stone is the same; they vary in size, shape, color, and the material of crystals that form them.
These are the most common stones, often made of calcium oxalate (they can also consist of maleate or calcium phosphate). Eating less oxalate-rich food may reduce the risk of developing stones of this type; some of those foods are:
- Potato chips
Uric acid stones form in people suffering from gout or going through chemotherapy, also more common in men because men tend to have higher uric acid levels.
Purines, a substance from animal protein, may increase the acidic level of urine.
Mostly found in women with UTIs (urinary tract infections), they mainly result from a kidney infection. Treating the infection could prevent the formation of this type of stone. They tend to obstruct the urinary tract due to their size.
Cystine stones are the rarest type that occurs in women and men with cystinuria genetic disorder. This type forms when kidneys leak cystine into the urine; cystine is a natural acid to our bodies.
Some common factors that increase the risk of developing stones are:
- If you do not drink enough water daily, the greater the risk. Especially for people who live in warm climates and sweat a lot.
- Some types of diets. Diets containing a lot of salt (sodium), protein, and sugar can increase the risk of some types of kidney stones. Too much sodium increases the quantity of calcium that your kidneys must filter, significantly increasing the risk.
- Obesity. A high BMI (body mass index), weight gain, and large waist size can also increase the risk of stones forming.
- Surgeries and digestive diseases. Any changes caused in the digestive process that affect the absorption of water and calcium, like bypass surgery, bowel diseases, diarrhea, increase the stone forming amounts (crystals) in the urine.
- Medical conditions such as:
- Renal tubular acidosis
- Repeated urinary tract infections
- Some medications and supplements. Excessive use of laxatives, dietary supplements, vitamin C, calcium-based antacids, and certain ones for migraines and depression may increase the risk of kidney stones forming.
- Personal or family history. If you previously had a kidney stone, you are at an increased risk of forming another one, or if someone from your family had problems with kidney stones, you are more likely to develop them also.
Symptoms usually show only after the stones have formed and started to move in or from your kidneys or through the urinary tract. If a stone or stones pass to the ureters and become lodged, they could block the urine flow, causing the ureter to spasm and the kidney to swell.
If that happens, you can experience some of these symptoms and signs:
- Sharp and severe pain below the ribs on the side and in the back
- Radiating pain to the groin and lower abdomen
- The pain of fluctuating intensity and reoccurring in waves
- Burning sensation or pain while urinating
Other signs, indicators, and symptoms may include:
- Brown, red, or pink urine
- Foul-smelling or cloudy urine
- Often needing to urinate
- Urinating in small amounts
- Vomiting and nausea
- If an infection is present, chills and fever
If you have any signs, symptoms, and indicators that worry you make an appointment with your medical doctor, immediate medical attention should be sought if you experience:
- Severe pain that disables you from sitting still or in a comfortable position
- Nausea and vomiting induced by pain
- Chills and fever accompanied by pain
- Blood present in your urine
Problems with passing urine
Kidney stone treatment depends on the severity of the issue, whether it is causing urine retention and pain, and it depends on the size and material of the stone.
Your doctor will make you do a urine test, blood test, x-ray, or CT scan to get the proper treatment. If your results show that the kidney stones are small, your doctor could suggest you drink lots of fluids and take pain medicine to flush out the stones through the urinary tract. However, additional treatment may be necessary if you have a large kidney stone or a urinary tract blockage.
Lithotripsy is a treatment that uses shock waves to break larger kidney stones into smaller ones. Then the tiny stones can be expelled out of the body through the urinary tract with urine. It takes about 45 minutes to an hour and can be done while under general anesthesia, meaning you will be sleeping and experiencing no pain.
Ureteroscopy is another option done under general anesthesia in which the doctor removes or crumbles a stone with a tube-like shaped tool. Small stones can be removed, while larger ones are broken down into pieces small enough to pass through your urinary tract. A laser does that.
In some rare cases, percutaneous nephrolithotomy surgery is needed to remove the kidney stone. The doctor inserts a tube directly into your kidney to remove the stone, and the patient will remain in the hospital for a few days to recover.
The best cure is prevention.
The usual eight to twelve cups of fluids per day are the best way to prevent kidney stones from forming for most people. If you have any medical problems that require limiting fluid intake, always consult with your doctor beforehand.
A balanced diet with less animal protein (meat, eggs) and sodium should also help with prevention.
If you pass a kidney stone, save it and take it to your doctor. He or she could recommend a diet change based on the kidney stone material to prevent forming more stones.
Any health conditions which make you more likely to suffer from kidney stones can be ameliorated by a medicine provided by your doctor.
A person with an underlying medical condition or taking medications regularly should always seek consultation with a doctor before relying on home remedies.
Home remedies can better act as prevention or steps for easing the symptoms.
An easy way to prevent and treat kidney stones because dehydration is one of the leading causes. Dehydration causes the build-up of crystals as there is not enough fluid to flush them out through the urinary tract.
- Lemon juice
A cross-sectional study from 2019 found that lemon juice without sugar was a high efficacy remedy in kidney stone prevention.
Citrate is a compound in lemons that aids the breakdown of calcium deposits and slows down their growth. Four ounces of lemon juice can effectively increase citrate levels.
Keep in mind to check the labels on juice products as many products have small amounts of pure extract and large amounts of sugar and sweeteners, which increase the risk.
Purchasing pure extract or fresh lemons is the best option. Squeeze the lemons at home and get the best out of them. Oranges and melons also contain high levels of citric acid.
- Apple cider vinegar
Another product that contains lots of citric acid is apple cider vinegar. Consuming vinegar showed a significant reduction in the risk of kidney stones in a 2019 study of over 9,000 people.
But more research will be needed to confirm the benefits to act as a standalone remedy.
- Managing weight
A study from 2019 suggests that obesity and kidney stone formation are linked to conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which can contribute to their formation.
The study’s authors can not say with certainty that those conditions are a causality, but a balanced diet is an essential step in treating and preventing kidney stones.
High sugar, salt, and fatty foods are sure to increase the risk of deposits in the kidneys.
- Caffeinated and sugary drinks
Alcoholic, carbonated, caffeinated drinks can all contribute to an increased risk of kidney stones development.
Sodas with artificial or natural sugars also do not benefit our well-being.
- Daily calcium requirements
Calcium is the most plentiful mineral in our body. It is stored in teeth and bones, providing hardness and structure. It is also needed for muscle movement and nerves, which carry messages between every part of the body and the brain.
Stones made of calcium oxalate are the most common kind, but a daily requirement of calcium is vital even to kidney stone prevention.
You can get calcium from:
- Dairy products
- Fish with debile, soft bones
- Dairy products
- Calcium-enriched cereals and juices
- Chinese cabbage (bok choi)
Using herbs as a way to boost and strengthen the body’s systems.
Before starting any treatments, you should talk with your provider to diagnose the problem. Always mention any herbal therapies you may be using to your provider as they can interfere with conventional medicine.
- Green tea (Camellia sinesis). Antioxidants and immune effects, use caffeine-free products or use the leaves of this herb to prepare a tea.
- Milk thistle (Silybum marianum). Detoxification support. Milk thistle uses the liver so it can interact with a good variety of medications. Consult your physician.
- Grapefruit seed extract (Citrus paradisi). Antifungal, antiviral, and antioxidant activity. Grapefruit products could interact with a few types of medications; consult your physician.
Usual remedies used for kidney stones are:
- Berberis – for sharp stabbing pain that radiates to your groin.
- Colocynthis – for restlessness and pain that feels better when you bend forward.
- Ocimum – for nausea and vomiting from the pain
A well-balanced diet with a healthy water intake will significantly reduce the chance of developing kidney stones.
If you develop one, there is a chance you can pass it on your own and, in that case, save it and take it to your doctor so he can identify the compound from which it is made, and he or she can recommend you further steps.
If you can not pass it on your own, you will need treatment.
Natural medicines can help prevent kidney stone build-up but consult your physician beforehand.