Kidney Stones Diet

Kidney stones can weigh you down (no pun intended!).  One of the most common disorders of the urinary system, kidney stones develop in many ways, and their treatment in drugs and diet could vary.

When kidneys are aplomb, they flush out excess water and waste (calcium and phosphorus salts, and uric acid) from the body, and maintain a stable balance of salts and other substances in the blood (which in turn regulate blood pressure).  If the kidneys are subjected to prolonged exposure to minerals and salts like calcium, phosphorus and uric acid, calcified masses could form.

Stones can develop from inherent problems of the kidneys.  Some people are more prone to developing hypercalciuria because their bodies may absorb too much calcium from food.  In turn, kidneys are constantly dealing with excess calcium salts in the urine.  When they settle, they form crystals of calcium oxalate or calcium phosphate in the kidneys or in the ureters (the tube from the kidney to the bladder).

Oxalates are found in our diet.  They naturally occur in tomatoes and dark-green leafy vegetables like spinach.  Other vegetables that are chock-full in oxalates are beets, okra, rhubarb, and Swiss chards.  Nuts and soy-based products are also oxalate-rich.  They should be consumed sparingly, or not at all, when kidney stones have already been detected.

Foods that contain low to medium levels of oxalate are grapes, celery, green pepper, red raspberries, strawberries and liver.  They may be eaten in limited amounts, along with grits, fruitcake and marmalade.

There is however, controversy surrounding the relationship between the consumption of oxalates and kidney stones.  Some researchers found out that restricting the diet from oxalate-rich foods do not significantly reduce stone formation.  Quite surprisingly, natural sources of calcium, like milk and dairy products, have been found beneficial in preventing stones.  But beware of calcium pills:  They do more harm than good.

Apart from kidney problems due to heredity, stones can be formed by jittery parathyroid gland, a disease known as hyperparathyroidism.  The gland produces the hormones PTH (parathyroid hormone) that regulate the levels of calcium and phosphorus in the body.  Too much of it in circulation leads to high levels of calcium released from the bones and into the bloodstream.  Like hypercalciuria, the kidneys are under constant stress of calcium overload, a condition known as hypercalcemia.

To control the growth of calcium (phosphate or oxalate) stones, diet low in calcium and phosphorus is recommended.  Milk should be the primary source of calcium, and cottage cheese, lentils and groundnuts, the major source of phosphorus.  Almonds, beet, carrots, cauliflower, chickpea, coconuts, soya bean, spinach, turnips and whole wheat flour are hypercalcemic’s enemy number one.

If kidney stones are formed from excess uric acid, the urine should be kept as alkaline as possible.

When purine (found in the chemical structure of the human, plant and animal genes) breaks down, it metabolizes into uric acid.  A patient with uric acid stones needs to be well-hydrated and should avoid consuming foods that are high up in the purine alley:  anchovies, brains, gravies, kidneys, liver, sardines and sweetbreads.

Low-protein diet (which also contains low levels of purine) is ideal for this condition.  Red meat, fish and poultry should be minimized if not altogether skipped.  Vegetables should be eaten liberally, except the following:  beet, cabbage, French beans, potatoes, radishes and soya beans.  Almonds, brown bread, cherries and chocolates are high-oxalate foods, and they should be at the bottom of, if not banished from, the food pyramid.

When urine is alkaline, the diet should be adjusted to acidify urine.  Milk, fruits and vegetables can help.  Toss in asparagus, green peas (fresh), pumpkin, squash, turnips, cauliflower, tomatoes and cabbage.  A helping of watermelons, pears, peaches, pineapples, papayas or guavas breaks the monotony of leafy greens.

In general, kidney stone literature points out that it is the consumption of protein and calcium, along with water intake, that contributes (or retards) stone growth.  Enough water intake gradually washes out stones through the usual excretory process.  Water therapy is sure a lot less painful than surgery, and a lot less expensive.