As you might have guessed from the headline, I recently had to deal with a kidney stone. Amazingly, a tiny kidney stone can literally bring a strong man to his knees.
Dr. Cleveland, Dr. Sheppard, Dr. Dray and the entire staff at Middle Tennessee Urology Specialists performed some non-random acts of kindness to help me resolve the blockage that stopped me in my tracks a few weeks ago. After my follow-up visit with them today I sincerely complimented the administrative staff, the nurses, radiology techs, other medical assistants and even the doctors on how well I was treated during every treatment encounter. These folks really do run a superb clinical operation and are the friendliest people in the health care business! (Well, except perhaps for the staff at my office.) With five doctors, completely equipped state-of-the-art facility and a can-do attitude, this clinic is first rate.
I was able to coax some tips from Dr. Sheppard about preventing kidney stones. As pleasant as they all were, I would really like to avoid that office from now on. I always like to share good advice, so here are the tips.
First of all, don’t live in the southeastern United States. It turns out that the incidence of kidney stones is highest here. (But, I love it here and you probably do too, so we need to look into some other steps to prevent these costly and painful concrete demons.)
Most important of all recommendations is the simplest: DRINK MORE WATER. Although there are legitimate concerns about the purity of the water that is available from municipal sources, and these will be addressed in a future column, for now, just heed this advice. “Your kidneys act more-or-less as a filter.” The more water that you can pass through this elaborate filter system, the better.
Dr. Sheppard added that lemon juice seems to have a benefit in reducing the incidence of kidney stones. His advice is to drink a glass of real lemonade every day and add a slice of fresh lemon to drinking water. Apparently there is an ingredient in real lemons that helps, so lemon-flavored drink mixes don’t count.
There are some other things that might help prevent the dreaded calcium aggregate from plugging your plumbing. Avoid dietary sources of oxalate. “What foods would that be, you ask?”
Well, the things we love to eat here in the Southeast. Primarily black tea and dark green leafy vegetables. (Who knew spinach and turnip greens could turn on us?) Other foods high in oxalates include rhubarb, beets, peanuts, chocolate (Oh no! Could Snickers be bad for us?) okra, grits, celery and green peppers. I think instead of actually studying the food, the researchers just made a list of everything we eat in the south! On a lighter note, fruitcake is high in oxalates, too, but who really eats fruitcake?
Other tips include eating less meat, particularly marinated meats that have been highly processed and contain sodium (now they’re messing with our barbeque), fewer carbonated beverages and avoid grapefruit juice.
Summer is a dangerous time for people at risk of kidney stones. Probably because we tend to become dehydrated during the warmer months, kidney stones cases increase significantly during the summer.
How much water is enough? Dr. Cleveland recommends three liters per day, evenly spaced during the day rather than all at once. That’s about eight 12-ounce glasses. Obviously, if you are sweating heavily you should increase this amount.
There are several kinds of kidney stones and some people have hereditary conditions that predispose them to forming stones.
Thankfully, most kidney stones will pass without intervention. Many times the stones cause no symptoms at all. People often pass a small stone without being aware that it was there. It is possible for even a small stone to block the ureter (tube between the kidney and the bladder) and cause a great deal of pain for a while, then be pain-free for a period. If you have any concerns about recurrent kidney stones, a visit to the urologist may be helpful.
Next week, some surprising news about the effectiveness of chiropractic care.
Dr. Mark Kestner