I lived almost 55 years before I experienced a kidney stone, or at least one that left no doubt as to what it was. People have described the pain as being the closest you can get to childbirth, and yet I had no idea how fast it would hit and how hard.
Mine sent me to the Emergency Room within minutes, and I was unable to breathe through the pain. Like childbirth, the pain did ebb and flow, and I could feel the pain building before it hit full force. But once it did, I had no recourse.
I was given a few forms of pain medication and more often than I would have thought, and yet during the waves, nothing gave me relief. I was incredibly grateful when the decision was made to put me under, so they could insert a stent to relieve the pressure. Not even during labor did I want to be put under, and yet this time that's all I wanted.
Kidney stones are created by dissolved minerals that collect on the inner lining of your kidneys. Most are small and pass without any notice through the urinary tract. But if they are larger and/or block your ureter, the tube that connects the kidney to the bladder, they can cause extreme pain. Most of the pain comes from pressure that builds up in the kidney when the flow is too slow or has stopped.
Kidney stones are made up of minerals, and there are four main compositions. The two most common are calcium stones and uric acid stones.
Calcium stones are comprised of calcium and oxalate, often found in foods; spinach, kale, chard, bran, rhubarb, beets, potatoes, nuts & nut butters, peanuts, coffee, tea, and chocolate.
Uric acid stones occur when your urine is too acidic. This can occur when you are chronically dehydrated, have a diet high in protein and dairy, processed foods, sodas and sugar.
The Signs And Symptoms
In my case, I noticed pressure and some back pain in the region of my left kidney the day before. I thought it was odd, but did suspect a stone right away. I took some aspirin and kicked up my drinking, and added lemon juice to my glasses of water. The pain went away, and that evening I casually mentioned to my husband that I may have a kidney stone.
I slept fine through the night and in the morning, I woke up refreshed. A couple of hours into my day as I was talking to my husband, my kidney started to ache. I had barely enough time to recognize the pain and mention it when the pain took over.
Within moments, I couldn't stand up straight and the pain was unbearable. By the time I got to the ER, I was doubled-over and barely able to speak.
Other than the sudden onset on pain, I didn't notice any of the signs that I had a stone. In my case, it was likely that it broke off and left the kidney and was immediately stuck in my ureter.
However, there are signs;
Pain in the back or side near a kidney
Sharp pain that leads toward the belly and down the groin
Pain and/ or burning while urinating
Feeling the urgency to urinate, must like a UTI (Urinary Tract Infection)
Blood in your urine
Cloudy or smelly urine
Nausea and/or vomiting
Fever and chills
Many of these signs are present with a UTI as well, the difference is the pain in the back, side, belly, and groin.
What Causes Kidney Stones
Kidney stones run in my family. My father has been plagued by them, and once required significant surgery. But I was never concerned about them.
I ate well and took care of myself, and if you down the list of the habits that can lead toward kidney stones, other than a couple of dietary choices, I didn't do those on a regular basis.
I do meet a few of the criteria though. They do occur more often in men than women, but they also tend to be more common in non-Hispanic Caucasians over other ethnicities. There is a genetic connection, and in my case my father has a strong history with them.
Other than having had them before and being genetically pre-disposed for them, the other causes you may have more control over. Some of the causes or indicators that you are susceptible to kidney stones;
You don't drink enough water
Your diet is high in protein, sodium and/or sugar
You are overweight, obese
You've had GI surgery
Your diet is full of beets, chocolate, spinach, rhubarb, tea, and nuts that are oxalate rich
You have a condition that increases the levels of cystine, oxalate, uric acid or calcium in your urine
You have chronic inflammation in your GI Tract and/or your joints
You take diuretics or water pills
You regularly take calcium-based antacids
You have kidney disease
And it's been observed that chronic stress can lead to kidney stones as well.
What To Do If You Have a Kidney Stone
Most of the time, they will pass on their own. You may not even notice them, or you may just feel a little pressure and a sharp pain that goes by with little or no intervention.
If you do suspect you have one, and you're not in so much pain that you require medical intervention, there are a couple of things you can do to help dissolve the stone and help it pass.
Drink, drink, and drink more water
Add citrus to your water like lemon juice, lime juice or orange juice
Add apple cider vinegar to your juice or drink it in a cup of water with some lemon or even honey if you need to
Drink unsweetened cranberry juice to help hydrate and prevent infection, but you don't want to overdo it. Cranberries are high in oxalate which can cause kidney stones
Take aspirin if you need to and rest. You can eat normally if you feel like it, but what you want to do most is drink lots of fluids, particularly water, citrus and apple cider vinegar.
When To Seek Medical Care
Most will pass on their own, but if you have extreme pain and can't get comfortable in any position, it's time to visit your doctor.
Additionally, if you have blood in your urine, you are nauseous, vomiting or have a fever. Also, if you are having a hard time urinating. Not being able to pee can lead to the pressure in your kidney that took me down. You want to avoid getting to that stage if at all possible.
I was told that a preacher was in for a kidney stone was cussing up a storm, more so than I was, and I can let it rip when given the right motivation. Basically, you never want to go through that.
Preventing Kidney Stones
There's no way to prevent them 100%, and once you have one, you are more likely to get them again. That fact is not an easy one to accept once you have gone through it, but there are steps we can all take to help limit the possibility and the severity.
First and foremost, stay hydrated. If you find yourself thirsty, you've been dehydrated for some time. Aim to drink 6 – 8 glasses a day and monitor your urine. The less color the better.
The more concentrated your urine, the less likely you can break down the salts and minerals that form stones.
Second, include citrus juice into your daily routine. I'm not a fan of juice in general, because of the high sugar content, but adding lemon juice to your water first thing in the morning is a great habit to have. Not only can the citrus help prevent stone formation, it can help thin the bile in your liver which supports your liver function.
Third, eat more calcium-rich foods. This may seem counter-intuitive since the most common form of kidney stone is a Calcium stone, but apparently calcium binds with other minerals preventing the formation of stones.
This doesn't hold true for calcium supplements taken on their own or without food.
Fourth, eat less oxalate-rich foods or reduce the oxalates in your food by cooking them. The more you cook your food, the more oxalates leach out of them. Additionally, when you eat them, include calcium-rich foods. Calcium binds to oxalate and can prevent stones from forming.
I don't eat a lot of dairy, but when I have salads that include oxalate-rich foods, I add a small about of cheese. I realize, I didn't prevent my stone from forming, but remember there is no 100% guarantee, and I have a genetic predisposition or them.
Another strategy is to take a calcium supplement during a meal.
Fifth, Reduce sodium. When your urine is high is sodium, it prevents calcium from being reabsorbed aback on the bloodstream, and that can lead to the formation of Calcium stones.
Sixth, reduce high-acidic foods particularly meats, processed foods and sugar. These foods increase your urine acidity which can lead to the formation of both uric acid and calcium oxalate stones.
Seventh, avoid taking high amounts of Vitamin C. Foods rich in vitamin C don't appear to affect the formation of stones, but supplementation, especially in men, does. According to one study, Vitamin C supplementation can double the risk for men.
Eighth, you can include high-quality supplements if your diet is not providing what you need. There are a few that are common; potassium citrate, vitamin B-6, pyridoxine and Omega-3.
Before taking supplements, you should speak with your health practitioner. Additionally, though you can buy supplements off the shelf, not all will do what you are paying for. Particularly omega-3s. Fish oil is highly-oxidative, and it's been estimated that 85% of the fish oil you buy off the shelf has already degraded and once it goes into your system it has a very limited shelf life meaning it doesn't reach all of your cells.
Finally, learn to manage stress. The more chronic stress and inflammation you have, the more at risk you are. This includes internal and external stress. Stress can increase your acidity and slows down normal digestion and detoxification pathways.
As a certified FDN-P, I specialize working with women and balancing their hormones. Though there is no 100% guarantee you won't have a kidney stone in your lifetime, many of the steps for balancing hormones are in alignment with preventing the formation of kidney stones.
If you would like to speak with me about your risk factors and what you can do to prevent stones, reduce stress, and/or balance hormones, I invite you to schedule a free Hormone Troubleshooting Session.
This call is not a sales call. The focus is to determine a strategy or two that will work for you. We're all different with different needs, habits and the like. And often though we know what to do, it's difficult to actually do what's necessary. I can help with that.
To schedule your free Hormone Troubleshooting Session, click the button below.
It's hard to know what to do at times, and it's harder still to do what you know we should, but it's not impossible and it can be simpler than you think. Take me up on my offer and let's ensure you don't go through any unnecessary pain and suffering.
Your partner in health,
P.S. If you take omega-3s, which I highly recommend that you do, because you can't get enough in your diet even when you eat well, I can offer you a low-cost test to determine your fatty acid profile. I also have access to a new Scandinavian method of omega-3 balancing that is test-based, so you know it works.
Omega-3s help to lower chronic inflammation and can support the prevention of kidney stones among a wide range of other benefits. It is believed to today, that most chronic illnesses and major health conditions such as heart disease have a chronic inflammation connection, and Omega-3 and Omega-6 balance is essential to prevent chronic inflammation.
If you would like to know more, schedule a Hormone Troubleshooting Session with me and we can discuss testing your to see your fatty acid profile or start you on this new method right away.
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