A painful urologic disorder, kidney stones are extremely common in the general population. In fact, in 2000, 2.7 million visits to health care professionals and 600,000 visits to emergency rooms were due to kidney stones. However, passing kidney stones can be done naturally with little medical intervention.
Explaining Kidney Stones
Your kidneys are two bean shaped organs located towards the middle of your back. They are responsible for ridding your body of excess water and waste in your blood by turning these things into urine. Urine is carried from your kidneys to your bladder through small tubes called ureters. In addition to creating urine, your kidneys also help to keep the balance of salt and other substances in your system as well as produce hormones to keep your bones strong and form red blood cells.
Sometimes, however, crystals separate from your urine and begin to build up in your kidneys. Although urine contains chemicals to prevent a build up from forming, in some people, these inhibitors don’t always work. As a result, hardened mineral deposits build up and lead to kidney stones.
Kidney stones are typically made up of calcium and either oxalate or phosphate. Other types of kidney stones include struvite, or infection stone, which forms when there is an infection in the urinary tract; uric acid stone; and cystine stones, which are rare.
Kidney Stones in Women
Although men are more frequently affected, it is not uncommon for kidney stones in women to develop. However, the majority of those affected will be male. In women, occurrences of kidney stones tends to climax when they reach their 50s. In men, the likelihood of developing kidney stone symptoms increases significantly once they reach their 40s and continues to climb until they are in their 70s. Additionally, Caucasian Americans are more likely to develop kidney stones than African Americans.
What Causes Kidney Stones?
Precisely why kidney stones develop in some people is not fully understood. However, factors that can influence the chances of you getting kidney stones include:
- A family history of kidney stones
- Consuming certain foods (although this risk only applies to those with a predisposition to the disorder)
- Urinary tract infections, kidney disorders, and certain metabolic disorders
- Having renal tubular disease (approximately 70% of people with this disease have kidney stones)
- Having hypercalciuria (an inherited disorder whereby your body absorbs too much calcium and passes it into urine, thus increasing the likelihood of kidney stones forming)
Furthermore, once you develop kidney stones, the more likely you are to develop them again in the future.
Kidney Stone Symptoms
Frequently, kidney stone symptoms do not materialize until the stones, which can be jagged or smooth, have entered into the ureter and block the flow of urine. When this happens, symptoms of kidney stones can include a sudden acute pain in the back and side, near the kidneys, or in the lower abdomen. This pain may also spread to the groin and/or involve nausea and vomiting.
Sometimes, passing kidney stones is not easy due to their size. In these instances, pain will continue as the stone gets pushed along the ureter down to the bladder. Additionally, you may have the urge to urinate more frequently. When you do urinate, you might notice blood or a burning sensation. If you develop a fever or chills, contact your doctor as you may have an infection.
Kidney Stone Removal
Not all kidney stones are diagnosed. Those known as “silent stones” are kidney stones that would normally not be noticed, as they do not produce any symptoms, but show up on an x-ray that has been taken for some other purpose. If you are complaining of pain, blood in your urine, and other typical kidney stones symptoms, then an x-ray will be taken. Not only will this help locate any kidney stones that may be in your system, but it can also determine their size. Moreover, blood and urine tests may be done in order to identify any unusual substances in your system that could be contributing to your kidney stones.
Typically, kidney stone removal can be done naturally by allowing the kidney stone to pass through your body. To help this process, it is advised that you drink lots of water. If necessary, you may also want to take some pain medication to help ease some of your discomfort. Your doctor will likely request that you catch and save your kidney stones in order for them to be tested in a laboratory. These tests will offer more insight as to why they occurred and can help you with kidney stone prevention.
In severe cases, when passing kidney stones is not possible, surgery may be performed to remove the stones.
If you are prone to kidney stones, there are a number of things you can do to help prevent kidney stones from forming again. Drinking lots of water everyday is one of the best ways to make sure there are no crystals building up in your kidneys. Aim to drink at least half your weight in ounces of water. So, if you weigh 100lbs, you should drink at least 50oz of water a day while someone who weighs 200lbs should be drinking 100oz a day.
Because calcium kidney stones are so common, avoiding those foods that are high in vitamin D may help stop kidney stones from forming. Additionally, it is a good idea to avoid calcium pills and certain antacids that have a calcium base. In some instances, your health care provider may prescribe a medication to help with your kidney stones.
Home Remedies for Kidney Stones
If you are looking for a more natural kidney stones remedy, then it is a good idea to start with your diet. Eating a healthy, well balanced diet is one way to make sure you stay in top form. Avoid sugar, caffeine, alcohol, excessive protein, salt, carbonated drinks, and refined white flour products, like pasta.
There are also herbals remedies for kidney stones. Hebs used to help pass and prevent kidney stones include bearberry, stone root, cleavers, kava kava, and crampbark. Be sure to obtain advice from a trained and qualified herbalist before taking any herbs, though. While they may be natural, herbs can also be extremely potent, so it is best to use these remedies under the advice and guidance of a professional.
Some people have also found help through homeopathy and hydrotherapy. Speak with your health care provider to learn more about these options.