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June 20, 2018  |  Login
Kidney Stones
by James F. Balch, M.D. and Mark Stengler, N.D.

Kidney stones have become an increasingly common medical problem in Western society, mainly due to poor dietary habits. Although many kidney stones are so small that they pass unnoticed, they may sometimes become very large, up to the size of a marble. It is not hard to imagine that as these large stones move through the urinary tract, they cause great-and often excruciating-pain. Kidney stones are most likely to affect white men over the age of the thirty. People of any race or sex who live in the southern United States also have a higher risk, probably because of dietary habits in that region.

Complementary therapies offer effective, natural pain relief for more minor cases, as well as strategies for keeping the stones from growing any larger, but on the whole, it is far easier to prevent kidney stones in the first place. History holds a clue to their prevention: Back in the early 1900s, when Americans ate natural, wholesome foods, kidney stones were largely unheard of. As the century wore on, and as diets became lower in fiber and higher in fat, sugar, dairy, and junk, the disorder became much more common. Now a man living in America has a 10 percent chance of passing a kidney stone at least once in his life. If you suffer from kidney stones, take heart in the knowledge that you can prevent a recurrence of this painful condition with changes in diet and lifestyle and by using specific nutritional supplements.

There are different types of kidney stones, with 80 percent being composed of calcium salts, especially the oxalate type. Some stones are also composed of calcium phosphate, uric acid, struvite, cystine, or other materials. If your stones are mainly composed of uric acid, please follow the recommendations on the gout page. This section focuses on the prevention and the treatment of calcium-oxalate stones.

If you have been diagnosed with or suspect that you have kidney stones, then you should be under the care of a professional. Your doctor will rule out other conditions or underlying causes and will check for infection. In cases of very large stones or severe pain, you may need to be hospitalized. This condition can be a medical emergency when stones block the urinary tract for a long time, causing urine to back up and distend the kidney (hydronephrosis). You are also at more risk for a urinary tract infection during an acute kidney stone crisis. Conventional treatment may involve breaking the stones up with sound waves (lithotripsy) or surgical removal.

Smaller stones that are not causing symptoms or an infection will usually pass through without any problems if you follow our recommendations. People with a chronic susceptibility to this condition should remember that an effective prevention program generally requires the nutritional approach outlined in this section.

Next: What are the Symptoms of Kidney Stones

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