Delicious Living: November 2004
By: Joel Warner
| A few years ago, at 48, Greg Wright discovered blood in his
urine. Concerned, the Hamden, Connecticut, resident contacted his doctor,
who confirmed through an ultrasound that Wright had kidney stones-one in
each kidney. It is an all-too-common discovery for men in this country:
One in seven suffers from kidney stones. In fact, kidney stones are becoming
a bigger health problem every year, though doctors can only speculate on
why their occurrence is on the rise, and why they are more likely to appear
in men than women.
Acute pain in the back and side typically signals kidney stones, and in this regard Wright was lucky-his stones were painless. Still, Wright wanted to eliminate the problem, because if left unchecked, stones can become painful and lead to infection. So he began taking medication that reduced his body's creation of uric acid. "It seemed to stop the growth, but it took a long time," says Wright. "The stones didn't appear to be shrinking."
After about a year, Wright asked his doctor what else he could try. To his surprise, the doctor suggested naturopathic medicine. In fact, it's not an unusual idea: Many Americans who suffer from kidney stones are discovering a host of natural, noninvasive techniques that can help prevent stone formation and eliminate stones that have already formed. Like many people unfamiliar with naturopathic medicine, Wright was skeptical-but he gave it a try. Within six months of naturopathic treatment, his stones began to dissolve.
Kidney Stone Basics
What are kidney stones? Kidney stones are hard masses of crystals that form in the kidneys, twin fist-sized organs that remove extra water and waste from the blood and expel it in the form of urine. Often these stones contain calcium oxalate or calcium phosphate. Although many stones can pass unnoticed from the body, some can become lodged in the urinary tract for extended periods. The resulting pain can be excruciating, radiating from the back, abdomen, and genital area. Other kidney stone symptoms include nausea, vomiting, bloating, bloody urine, chills and fever.
Who gets them? Kidney stones are by no means just a modern-day complaint. Even 7,000-year-old Egyptian mummies have been discovered with evidence of stones. But kidney stones are becoming increasingly common: In 1994 more than 5 percent of adults reported having had kidney stones at some point, up from just over 3 percent in 1980. And although the disparity s shrinking, men are more likely to be affected; 6.3 percent report having stones, compared to only 4.1 percent of women. White men ages 20 to 40 are most susceptible.
Some doctors believe the increased incidence of kidney stones in men may have to do with their not drinking enough water when active, which leads to dehydration and possibly urinary complications. Others say it may be associated with a preference for high-sodium foods, such as red meats and canned goods, which can contribute to stone formation. Still others say men may have a genetic disposition to the ailment.
What are the causes? Kidney stones are sometimes linked to urinary tract infections, kidney disorders, and hypercalciuria,, an inherited condition in which the body absorbs too much calcium from foods. One other harbinger is a family history of kidney stones, though, again, doctors are not sure why this is the case. "There is a clear evidence that if one of your first-degree relatives developed stone disease, you are much more likely to get stone disease," says Leslie Spry, MD, a kidney specialist in Lincoln, Nebraska, and spokesman for the National Kidney Foundation.
But many people, both men and women, seem to develop stones out of the blue- Wright, for example didn't have a family history of stones. That's why it's a good idea for everyone to think about ways they can keep their kidney's healthy.
Once you've formed one kidney stone, you are statistically more likely to form future stones. Doctors recommend a variety of preventive measures. Many of these treatments depend on the type of stone that's passed, which is why doctors often ask you to save your stones for analysis. Following are some general recommendations.
Drink plenty of H2O One of the first steps doctors suggest to help prevent kidney stones is to drink lots of liquids, especially water, because this helps flush out the substances that produce them.