What and Why?
Passing a kidney stone can give you one of the worst pains going: nobody who gets it ever wants it to happen again. The key to avoiding this it is not to make stones in the first place, and we know quite a lot about how to prevent that.
Your kidneys work a bit like your gall bladder, first straining a lot of the fluid from your blood as it passes through and then clawing back most of it minus the wastes you want to get rid of. That has the effect of concentrating the wastes into a much less watery urine, which is economical but a little dangerous. It does not take a lot extra of some these waste materials to completely saturate the fluid available; any more than that is liable to fall out of solution as solid crystals or grit. Once a crystal has formed, more solid will deposit on its surface whenever the urine fluid is saturated, so that the crystal tends to grow. It may just block up the tubes from your kidneys, making them prone to infection; or it may get dislodged and drift with the flow of your urine until it sticks at a narrow place in the tube. When that happens the flow of urine is blocked and your efforts to dislodge it cause renal colic, the very severe pain which is often the first you know of having kidney stones.
Most stones are formed from having too much calcium in your blood and not enough magnesium. Either of these will react together with oxalic acid, wasted from your metabolism or eaten in certain foods. Calcium oxalate easily forms crystals whereas magnesium oxalate is more soluble: if the balance is too heavily in favour of calcium you are very likely to form stones. So preventing them comes down to keeping that balance right, at the same time watching how much oxalic acid you are likely to be forming.
People who eat lots of meat produce more waste acids in general and leak more calcium from their bones. So do a few people who use salt too freely. Alcohol both wastes calcium into your urine and hinders your handling of magnesium, upsetting the balance both ways. Sugar and refined floury food increases your uptake of calcium so that more gets into your urine. If you use lots of milk or medicines containing calcium to keep down indigestion you are increasing the load of calcium your kidneys have to bear.
What can I do?
Advice to maintain and maximise health
1. Diet: Base your routine daily diet most heavily on vegetables, avoiding sugar, salt and refined (white) floury foods altogether if you have ever had a stone. Vegetarians only make about half the kidney stones that regular meat-eaters do.
2. Avoid oxalic acid: Coffee, tea, and cocoa products all contain oxalic acid so consuming lots of them gives you more scope for stone formation. Alcohol changes unfavourably the calcium and magnesium balance in your urine. Home-made Lemon Barley Water and Honey Cider Vinegar are both safe drinks and barley water is positively therapeutic.
If you use Vitamin C supplements you will certainly need to limit your consumption of foods (besides those in item 2) which are rich natural sources of oxalic acid — mainly peanuts, spinach, rhubarb and beetroot.
3. Limit Vitamin C intake: If you’ve ever had a kidney stone, restrict your intake of Vitamin C to 3000mg or less daily, however valuable it is in other ways. Vitamin C is changed to oxalic acid which then adds to your urinary burden. However you may need some Vitamin C to improve your magnesium intake inexpensively or to recover from more threatening illness such as cancer, so the issue is not clear-cut.
4. Supplements: Kidney stones can be successfully dissolved back into your urine if to your dietary precautions (1, 2 and 5) you add supplements of Magnesium Orotate 1500mg daily and Vitamin B6 50mg daily — Nature’s Own Ltd manufacture excellent products. Magnesia (Magnesium Oxide) 300mg is much cheaper but you need 1500mg extra Vitamin C as well to make sure that you absorb enough of it (see 3 above). The same applies if you use Dolomite which also contains calcium but with a preponderance of magnesium.
5. Eat Strawberries: Strawberries have the opposite effect and have been used successfully to dissolve away kidney stones. Take advantage of their short season, whether as prevention or treatment. You need rather a lot of them, but what better excuse could you have?
7. Drink lots of water — up to three litres daily — to flush acid wastes away quickly. Made up some of it as stinging nettle tea or lemon barley water, both of which are positively helpful. You can also eat nettles as a vegetable and use barley in bread or soups with equal benefit. Homoeopathic or herbal practitioners (Contact details are included in the therapy pages) have many additional treatment possibilities to offer if these self-help suggestions fail.
8. The best natural first aid for renal colic is a hot bath followed by a Priessnitz Pack, which may enable you to pass the stone successfully without undue pain or delay. Firm pressure for ten minutes on your tail-bone (easy to feel deep in the cleft of your buttock, just behind your anus) may also be effective.
9. Acupuncture and reflexology are alternative therapies to consider if you have a stubbornly recurrent kidney stone problem.