A Kidney Stone's #1 Natural Enemy

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Kidney Stones are among the most painful conditions you can have. Here’s what you need to know in order to treat and prevent them.

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Before I delve into the topic of kidney stones, I want to remind you that the intent and purpose of this video and article is to provide you with information based on my own experience as a practicing physician for more than 20 years.

Then, using the forum below, called Vital Votes, you can add your own experience, so that collectively, as a community, we can compile a large variety of great strategies to address common health challenges such as kidney stones.

If you’re not already registered, take a moment to join the community now – it’s completely free.

What Causes Kidney Stones?

In the U.S., about 10-15 percent of adults will be diagnosed with a kidney stone in their lifetime. Roughly 1 million Americans develop kidney stones each year.

Once you have had one kidney stone attack, your chance of recurrence is about 70 to 80 percent, and the younger you are when you have your first attack, the greater your risk of recurrence.

Typically, a kidney stone is the result of a super-saturation of minerals and acid salts in your urine, such as calcium and uric acid, which then crystallize and form solid masses. This can happen if you don’t drink enough fluids, and if your urine is highly acidic or highly alkaline.

Certain drugs can also promote kidney stones, such as Lasix (furosemide), Topomax (topiramate), and Xenical, among others.

Most kidney stones contain crystals of various types, with calcium as the key ingredient. However, usually one type of crystals predominates, and determining the type helps you identify the underlying cause.

The most common type is calcium oxalate stones, comprising about 75 percent of all cases. Oxalate is found in some fruits and vegetables, but your liver actually produces most of your oxalate.

You’d think one of the solutions for avoiding kidney stones would be to eliminate or radically reduce your intake of calcium, because calcium is part of the stone, but that is actually NOT a wise strategy.

This is because, normally, the calcium in your diet binds to the oxalate, and helps you excrete it in other ways than through your urine.

Other types of stones, and their underlying causes, include:

    • Struvite stones: Found more often in women, these are almost always the result of urinary tract infections.
    • Uric acid stones: These are a byproduct of protein metabolism. They’re commonly seen with gout, and may result from certain genetic factors and disorders of your blood-producing tissues.
    • Cystine stones: Represent a very small percentage of kidney stones. These are the result of a hereditary disorder that causes your kidneys to excrete massive amounts of certain amino acids (cystinuria).

Two risk factors that elevate your chances of developing kidney stones include high blood pressure and digestive problems.

Signs and Symptoms of Kidney Stones

Most likely you’ll never know you have a stone until it moves into your ureter—the tube connecting your kidney to your bladder. At that point, common symptoms include:

  • Pain in your side and back, below your ribs
  • Episodes of pain lasting 20 to 60 minutes, of varying intensity
  • Pain “waves” radiating from your side and back, to your lower abdomen and groin
  • Bloody, cloudy or foul-smelling urine
  • Pain with urination
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • “Urgency” (persistent urge to urinate)
  • Fever and chills (indicates an infection is also present)

The pain you feel is a result of distention of the tissues above the stone, since it is blocking the passage of urine, rather than from the pressure of the stone itself.

To diagnose a kidney stone you can collect the kidney stone and have it analyzed for a definitive answer, or you can do a 24-hour urine test. This is a useful strategy to ascertain any imbalances in your urine that contribute and predispose you to develop stones.

Watch What You Eat if You Have Kidney Stones

There are a number of strategies you can use to treat this condition. If you suffer mainly from calcium oxalate stones, you’ll want to minimize the amount of oxalates in your body (as opposed to reducing your calcium intake).

Two foods in particular contribute to creating oxalates, namely soy, and beer. If you’ve read my newsletter for any amount of time, you already know I warn against unfermented soy products for a number of reasons, but preventing the formation of kidney stones is yet another.

Other foods that contain high levels of oxalate that you’ll want to avoid include:

  • Spinach
  • Rhubarb
  • Chocolate
  • Parsley
  • Beetroot
  • Strawberries
  • Wheat flour
  • Pepper
  • Nuts

A diet high in sugar can also set you up for stones, since sugar upsets the mineral relationships in your body by interfering with calcium and magnesium absorption.

Diets high in processed salt are also bad news as salt increases the amount of calcium and oxalate in your urine. Processed foods have notoriously high salt content and should therefore be avoided as much as possible.

Keep in mind that the salt referenced here is processed salt, like your regular table salt, not high quality, unprocessed salts that contain numerous essential minerals that your body actually needs for optimal health.

Naturally, eating fresh, whole foods according to your nutritional type is the best way to ensure you’re eating what your body needs for optimal performance, regardless of what health conditions you seek to avoid or improve.

Prevent and Treat Kidney Stones with Plain Water

Probably the single most effective way to prevent and treat kidney stones is to make sure you’re drinking enough water.

Actually, the number one risk factor for kidney stones is not staying hydrated enough, as it prevents your urine from dissolving minerals and acid salts.

One of the ways you’ll know if you’re drinking enough is to look at the color of your urine. Ideally, you’ll want your urine to be a light yellow. If it’s dark yellow or even orange, it may be a clue that you’re not drinking enough.

Every person’s water requirement is different, depending on your particular system 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 during summer months when you’re likely to sweat more. Also know that once you’re thirsty it’s usually too late. Thirst is usually a sign of dehydration.

The only condition that will interfere with that analysis is if you’re taking a multivitamin containing B vitamins, or a B vitamin complex. Vitamin B2 (riboflavin), specifically, tends to turn your urine a bright, fluorescent yellow, which will prevent you from using the color of your urine as a guide.

Are You Still Drinking Soda?

With respect to your fluids, you also want to stay away from soda as it is loaded with phosphorous.

Sadly, the number one source of calories in the U.S. is from soda, and is in many cases the main source of fluids. The average
American drinks a staggering 56 gallons of soda a year, which is a surefire way to ensure health problems, including an increased risk of kidney stones.

In fact, children as young as five years old are now starting to struggle with kidney stones, and soda consumption is a major contributor to this disturbing trend.

Also, diet soda is probably worse for your health than regular soda, so please don’t think switching to a “lighter” variety will make a positive difference.

Quitting soda is one of the fastest and easiest ways to improve your health, and can reduce your risk of developing kidney stones. If you’re struggling to quit drinking soda, a very effective technique called Turbo Tapping may help reduce your cravings.

Other Approaches That Can Help Prevent and Treat Kidney Stones

Kidney stones can range in size from a grain of sand to a golf ball. If you do get a large kidney stone, naturally you will not be able to pass it without some type of intervention.

In the past they had to do surgery to physically remove these larger stones, but now there are some more advanced options such as extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy. This treatment entails being submerged in a tub of water where sound waves traveling through the liquid shatter the stones. They then pass as gravel through your urine in a few days or weeks.

Lastly, it may surprise you, but exercise is a very important aspect of kidney stone prevention. If you live a sedentary lifestyle, you definitely raise your risk of developing stones, so implementing a regular exercise regimen can go a long way to keep kidney stones at bay.

Hopefully, by applying the principles above you will prevent it from ever getting to that stage, because kidney stones are no laughing matter, painful as they are.

So if you know someone who suffers with kidney stones on a regular basis, hopefully you’ll pass this article along to them, because this is the type of information you, and your friends and family, can use to take control of your health.