Are you feeling pain in your back or side? If there is blood in your urine and/or nausea and vomiting alongside pain- then you probably have a kidney stone(s). Nearly all kidney stones are around the size of a chickpea, but they can even be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a table tennis ball. Smaller stones usually pass through urine along with medication but surgery might be required for the larger ones.
What are Kidney Stones?
The function of the kidneys is to remove waste and fluid from the blood to make urine. Sometimes when there is too much waste and not enough fluids in one’s blood, then the wastes might build up and stick together in one’s kidneys. These build-ups or clumps are known as kidney stones. Kidney stones usually originate in one’s kidneys but they can develop anywhere along the urinary tract (kidneys, ureters, bladder, urethra).
Types of Kidney Stones
Mainly, there are two types of kidney stones: calcium stones and non-calcium stones. Elevated levels of mineral calcium in urine bind with other substances in the urine such as oxalate and phosphate to form stones which account for almost 70-80% percent of all kidney stones. Avoid eating high-oxalate food items such as potato chips, peanuts, chocolate, beets, and spinach as this can reduce the risk of developing calcium stones. Some uncommon types of kidney stones which do not contain calcium are as follows:
- Uric acid stones- Uric acid stones form when the urine contains more than usual levels of acid. They are more common in men than in women. A purine-rich diet can increase the acidic level in the urine.
- Crystine stones- Crystine stones form when urine contains too much amino acid cystine. They are very rare and are usually seen in people with a genetic disorder known as cystinuria. In this type of stone, an acid that naturally occurs in the body leaks from the kidney into the urine.
- Struvite stones- Struvite stones form when the waste products of bacteria are associated with infection and are composed of magnesium ammonium phosphate. They can be prevented if their underlying causes such as UTI are taken care of.
Kidney Stone Symptoms
Small kidney stones or “silent stones” that move easily through one’s body do not show symptoms. One can have a kidney stone for years and not know about it. Although, when it starts to move or becomes large- it might show some symptoms. Here are the most common kidney stone symptoms:
- Pain during urinating
- Blood in the urine
- Feeling the need to urinate often
- Being unable to urinate
- Urine smells bad or looks cloudy
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sharp pain in one’s back or lower abdomen
- Fever or chills
If one is facing more than one of these symptoms, then they should contact their healthcare professional immediately.
Kidney stone symptoms in women are the same as that of men. Pain in the labia might accompany the common kidney stone symptoms.
Kidney stones also cause some complications, especially in the elderly. Urine infection in old age can cause confusion sometimes and might require home healthcare services.
Kidney Stone Causes
Almost anyone can get a kidney stone, but some people are more likely than others to develop them. Males are inclined to get kidney stones more often than females. Some common causes of kidney stones are-
- Not drinking enough water.
- A diet consisting of high proteins, sodium, oxalates, and/or sugar.
- Consuming colas and/or too much animal protein.
- Being overweight.
- Someone in the family who has kidney stones (genetics).
- Having kidney stones before.
- One having had intestinal surgery or surgeries.
- Having polycystic kidney disease or another cystic kidney disease.
- Having a condition that causes the urine to contain high levels of cystine, oxalate, uric acid, or calcium.
- Having a condition that causes swelling or irritation in one’s bowels or joints.
- Taking certain medicines such as diuretics or water pills, and/or calcium-based antacids.
- Not getting enough calcium and/or citrate.
Foods that cause Kidney Stones (list of foods to avoid kidney stones)
Some common food items that cause kidney stones are-
- Nuts and nut products
- Beef, chicken, and pork (especially organ meat).
- Potato chips
- Fish and shellfish
- Legumes such as peanuts
- Wheat bran
- Dairy products such as milk and cheese
Kidney Stone Treatments
Treatments for kidney stones vary according to the size of the stone, what it is made of, and its location. There are certain urine tests, blood tests (calcium, phosphorus, uric acid, blood urea nitrogen, creatinine. and electrolytes), X-rays, and CT scan to detect kidney stones.
If the test results suggest a small kidney stone, one’s doctor might prescribe some pain medicines and tell one to drink plenty of fluids so that the stone is removed along with urine.
But if the kidney stone is large or is blocking the urinary tract, then additional treatments might be necessary.
- One course of action might be shock wave lithotripsy. This technique applies shock waves to break up the stone into smaller pieces so that they can pass easily with the urine. This treatment takes about 45 minutes and is done under general anesthesia.
- Another kidney stone treatment is ureteroscopy. This technique is a minimally invasive surgery that is used to remove the stone. Sometimes, if the stone is very large- then the stone is broken down into smaller pieces with a laser so that the smaller pieces can pass through the urinary tract.
- In rare cases, percutaneous nephrolithotomy is performed to remove the kidney stone.
- Another rare surgery is open stone surgery which is performed in about 0.3-0.7% of the cases.
After the diagnosis, the doctor might suggest the right treatment option according to one’s kidney stone(s). Some kidney stone medicines can be prescribed to decrease the pain, manage nausea/vomiting, or simply to relax the ureter.
Some home remedies for Kidney Stone pain (Natural remedies for kidney stones)
Not only drinking ample fluids is an important part of passing kidney stones but also to prevent new stones from developing. It ensures that the stones pass and the toxins are flushed out. Although drinking enough water is a vital part, there are more natural remedies for kidney stones to pass. Please contact your health care professional before starting any of the remedies listed below as following the wrong course of treatment might lead to additional complications.
- Drinking water- Upping one’s water intake can help speed up the process. Aim for 12 glasses of water per day rather than the usual 8. One can also add some fresh lemons to the water, since lemon contains citrate, it might help to break smaller stones.
- Basil Juice- This remedy has been routinely used for digestive and inflammatory disorders. Since basil contains acetic acid, it might help breaking down smaller stones and help them pass.
- Apple cider vinegar- Again, it contains acetic acid and helps dissolving the stones and also helps with the pain. According to some studies, apple cider vinegar also helps in reduction in the formation of kidney stones.
- Celery Juice- It is known for clearing away toxins that aid in the formation of kidney stones.
- Pomegranate Juice- It helps improve the overall functioning of the kidneys. It also helps lowering of the acidity levels in urine, which reduces the risk for any future kidney stones.
- Kidney Beans- Kidney bean broth is known for improving overall kidney health and function. It might help in dissolving and flushing out kidney stones.
- Dandelion root, wheatgrass, and horsetail juices- These might not be readily available in Indian households, but can be easily bought. These may help in providing vital nutrients and help eliminate wastes.
Kidney Stone diet plan
Following a regular kidney stone diet plan has been proven helpful in a lot of cases. There isn’t a single diet plan for stone prevention since everyone’s body functions differently. All the diet recommendations are based on the stone type and are customized for each person. You may ask your doctor to provide a detailed kidney stone diet chart to follow, with healthy kidney food items.