Although kidney stones more commonly afflict men, they draw a quick comparison to women due to their ability to induce pregnancy-like pain. “I’ve been in car accidents that weren’t as painful as passing a stone.” Childbirth is an amazing event which allows us to give the gift of life, kidney stones are not an amazing event and they yield only pain and internal destruction—all of which can accumulate in less than nine months.
Kidney stones are “composed of waste products—things the body does not need.” A concept mentioned heavily in this book is the need to hydrate ourselves, but with the duality of quantity and quality fluids. “Your kidneys do not make urine – they make clean blood.”
A stone boom, like the baby boom, quickly became evident after World War II and it has been linked to our diets. A Mayo Clinic study unearthed results showing that two-thirds of stone sufferers could be cured with basic dietary advice alone. John and crew recommend two simple concepts to help curb and or prevent kidney stones:
- Drink Fluids
- Eliminate Excess and Unwanted “Trash” – trash referring to unhealthy foods.
What is oxalate:
- “…throwaway product that the body excretes in urine.”
- “it has no known function in animals.”
Four common sources of oxalate include:
- “…protein rich diet is at the heart of the stone epidemic in western countries.”
- Excess vitamin C.
- The waste products of general metabolism.
- Spinach/dark green leafy vegetables, rhubarb, various berries, okra, beans, beets, wheat bran, tea, cocoa, cola drinks, nuts, and etc…
NATURALLY GOOD & NATURALLY BAD TOO?
As you can see from the above list, natural foods, of which the fourth listing is mostly comprised, have oxalate. John offers further insight into this arena with the tomato example. Tomatoes contain oxalate, but only a moderate amount. Tomato sauce though, which contains a “concentrated amount”, could have the oxalate of ten tomatoes in as little as half a cup. This is why it is so vital to rely on a variety of natural foods in order to maintain your health and livelihood. He wants you to choose the tomatoes, strawberries, and weaker teas rather than the sauces, jams, and strong teas.
John and crew also mention a man who bought a tomato farm and “nibbled” on them, all day for three months. He got a stone…
AGING OF FOODS
“It is also believed that aging increases the amount of oxalate in plants.” In other words, food should be both naturally nutritious and fresh. So avoid the preserved or no longer fresh versions of these foods.
“…reducing calcium is unnecessary for many people and may actually aggravate the problem…” A few things in this book floored me, like the kidneys cleaning the blood quote mentioned earlier, and here is another. There was a study of men over the age of forty who entertained low calcium diets and the results were: They generated more stones than those men on a medium-calcium diet.
According to John, most oxalate is absorbed in our colon. Remember, the gastrointestinal tracts begins at your mouth and ends at your anus—the colon is at the last stretch, right before the finish line. In a healthy bowel, most of the free oxalate is combined with calcium, forming small stones, in the upper intestines. Unlike your kidneys excretion route, the GI tract is much wider and can easily accommodate sand-sized and bigger stones, eventually eliminating them from the body without much effort.
As we do reach the finish line, only a minute amount of free and unattached oxalate is left remaining, compared to the previous amount. So in essence, a low calcium diet permits more free oxalate the freedom to travel at will through the GI tract only to be absorbed into circulation at unhealthy levels. Eventually, the kidneys will attempt to eliminate this waste product.
To wrap up oxalate, David writes about how there was a fear of an epidemic due to calcium and vitamin D supplements, but it does not exist. He does recommend neither a high nor a low calcium diet. In my opinion, get your nutrients from natural sources and avoid the middlemen. “…only a small fraction of the calcium you eat is absorbed by the body. Most is excreted via the intestines and stool.”
URIC ACID (10%)
Uric acid is the result of the metabolism of purines which are found in all animal protein and many seeds and plants (beans, peas, lentils). “Many patients with uric acid stones are binge eaters, or they participate in fasting or diet supplement programs for rapid weight loss.” This aspect, which provided another WOW moment for me, will be touched on soon.
“You must reduce the portion size of all kinds of meats, including chicken, veal, and fish. White meat is still meat.”
“For the purposes of stone formation, these meats are just as bad as red meat.”
How dare you John! That is what most “heathy” americans would say, because they were told on numerous occasions by the medical profession, doctors on television, and by word of mouth or popular belief that some meats were better than others. They knew bleeding red meat was a sure heart attack in the future, but they did not see this one coming. How could this be? How can one meat—fish > chicken > beef—be better than another, but not be? Tell me it’s not…
Meat starts its journey walking, swimming, or flying and finishes, not before being fried, baked, etc…, by having its purines converted into uric acid. Uric acid is less soluble so it cannot be easily dissolved away, but it does:
- Lower your pH
- Promote stone formation
- Suppress citrate formation
- Citrate is the “body’s natural inhibitor of calcium oxalate formation” (stones).
Glycine, metabolized to form oxalate, and methionine, which drives calcium into the urine, are both amino acids found in meat. “A diet higher in protein will therefore increase urinary calcium even if the amount of calcium in the diet remains constant.” John and crew also mention that a normal person with a high calcium diet will have low urine calcium (eliminated in feces).
“…your body does not need 16 ounces of meat at dinner.”
These stones arise from an infection which can be caused by the build-up of waste products due to heavy consumption and or a lack of adequate hydration.
“…an increase in dietary sodium increases the urinary calcium.” It is tremendously important to realize how you can upset the homeostasis of your body with the cumulative build up of bad choices. Even with a stable calcium intake, an increased intake of sodium will lead to an increased calcium excretion and further increase your odds of excruciating pain and internal damage in the future.
“A well-balanced diet should provide all the vitamins needed by a healthy adult.”
John and crew state that we can get our vitamin D from food—animal products, so be careful—and moderate exposure to sunlight. An excess amount can lead to stone formation because vitamin D is known to increase calcium absorption.
“The rational for taking vitamin C supplements is folkloric.” There are few people I know that do not seek mega doses of this vitamin when they feel a sickness approaching, if not every day. We seek to fix things both rapidly and on a large-scale and this tends to only hide the problem for a short while, as another series of problems festers beneath.
In the case of vitamin C, excess amounts are excreted as oxalate. Remember, most oxalate is eliminated in the body by coupling with calcium in the the gastrointestinal tract, but the process of consuming too much vitamin C bypasses this. Our body reabsorbs vitamins and various other substance in the GI tract in order to nourish the rest of the body. As the excess vitamin C hits your circulation, it:
- Lowers your pH
- Reduces citrate (natural inhibitor)
- Promotes stone formation
When coupled with poor dietary choices, alcohol has a much more potent effect—by itself, alcohol dehydrates your body. Remember: “Fluids are the single most important ingredient in the prevention of kidney stones.”
Depleted fluids due the intake of alcohol leads to the inability to excrete uric acid metabolized from meat and other foods. In other words, you eat a bunch of food that produces a lot of toxic waste in your body, but you no longer have enough fluids within your body to efficiently flush out all of these stone forming materials.
FAD DIETS & LOSING WEIGHT QUICKLY
“The best way to lose weight is to combine a nutritionally balanced diet with exercise and behavior modification.”
This is that WOW moment that I mentioned earlier. As you try to lose weight as quickly as you possibly can, it results in an “infusion of the same substances in your system as the digestion of meat.” When you lose weight, it doesn’t just go poof, as many informercials may misleadingly promise. Instead, your body, especially your kidneys, are left to clean up the mess left behind by that fat-loss pill you take now. As you do burn this fat off, it is utilized as energy (ketosis) and acidifies your urine.
“In other words, the kidneys have the same job to do whether you are metabolizing your own excess tissue or a large steak.”
Diets such as the Atkins’ Diet which promote a low carb, high fat, and high protein regimen, force the body to utilize ketosis or fat burning for energy. John and crew mention that the initial rapid weight loss experienced by these unfortunate dieters, is due to water depletion alone. In the end though, this type of diet leads to:
- Decreased citrate (natural inhibitor)
- An acidic environment
- Increased urinary calcium
TANNING SALONS & UV RAYS
UV rays increase vitamin D, thus increasing calcium absorption and causing dehydration, all of which play a crucial role in stone formation.
HEALTH FOOD STORE
“Any leaf, root, or berry extract can contain a very large amount of oxalate.” Moderation, variety, and natural sources are the key here. Extracts, as mentioned earlier, are concentrated versions which can contain an increased amount of oxalate at a smaller dose.
John and crew on protein supplements: “Most of them are very expensive and unnecessary for most healthy adults.” “It is thought, erroneously, that protein supplements will ‘build’ muscle.” Continuing with sources of unconscionable levels of protein, milk—regular (animal proteins) or soy (high protein)—and even vegetarian burgers can have way too much.
VEGETARIAN: TO BE OR NOT TO BE
“Switching to a vegetarian diet is not the answer to kidney stones.” This is all too true in that many fall into this diet regimen for hopes of quick weight loss—increases oxalates and taxes the kidneys—and choose foods that are labeled vegetarian, but not necessarily healthy. There is a difference between a diet for health reasons and a diet suited for quick restoration of body image. Choose the healthy options, reap the benefits, and your weight will follow.
Herbal teas also come into question, mostly the ones from exotic sources. Just be careful with what you put into your body and recall that these herbs go unregulated by the FDA.
John and crew also mention hair regrowth products which utilize “unwanted and unhealthy amino acids.” They also recommend that you avoid tricolor vegetable pastas that contain spinach, beets, or tomato juice. As for keeping your breath fresh, these products use distilled parsley which is high in oxalates.
“…your diet and fluid intake make a big difference in whether the gene that controls stone formation can assert itself.”
DISEASES & DISORDERS
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) causes fluid loss and dehydration due to inflammation and diarrhea. This fluid loss leads to a loss a bicarb (a base) and thus gives rise to an acidic environment. Another vital role intermingled with the coupling of calcium and oxalate, is the need for fat absorption. IBS has poor fat absorption and thus disallows this coupling.
“…whenever the skeleton is not bearing weight, the body begins to remove calcium from the bones.” Paralysis and immobilization are two causes mentioned within the text, another is the unwillingness to be active. Preventing stone formation truly is a whole lifestyle modification.
With all that you have read thus far, can you come to a valid conclusion as to why men suffer from kidney stones more often than their female counterparts?
“…larger muscle mass, hence they have more of the daily breakdown and rebuilding of tissue that results in metabolic waste.” Not only do men have a larger muscle mass, they seek to make it even larger. I myself once fell into the belief that getting big muscles was healthy. Eventually, I did choose to ponder about my exercise methods, and in time, I did modify them for health purposes.
I never had a great answer for why I did not believe lifting heavier and heavier weights was necessary for health. Our body should not be worn down like that and I want my joints to be functioning when I am 150 years were my go to solutions. This book really opened my eyes to how devastatingly taxing it can be, to over-exercise in order to achieve a macho-like appearance, on our kidneys and body in general.
Men also eat more meat and protein and drink more alcohol. The male anatomy involved in excreting urine includes the depressor muscle, a muscle that enables the bladder to contract and expel urine when functioning appropriately. However, when under the influence of alcohol, it contracts less efficiently. Stagnant urine accumulates, providing stone-forming waste products with an environment that promotes their formation and the rise of an infection.
While men are off topping each other’s macho-ness with increased stupidity at each turn, women are way too damn ladylike to even take the time to urinate. Our body needs fluids and there is no argument against this. But wait, women do have an argument that is more of a tactic.
Because going to the bathroom and expelling waste products is an absolute no-no and not to mention, disgusting, women tend to drink less fluids. Women also tend to take more analgesics (pain medicine) for headaches and menstrual cramps. Whether they choose one or the other, or even both of the above habits, they both damage the kidneys and promote urinary tract infections and stones (struvite).
Pregnancy can also be difficult because it gives rise to a new life that requires a skeletal system of its own—requires calcium from mommy. The baby is also moving around while in there, and at times he or she chooses to use the bladder as a pillow, a discomfort for the mother which leads to frequent urination or the use of the avoidance tactic. Drink up and use the restroom more often ladies, that is the advice of David and crew.
So, our kidneys function as part of the waste removal program that runs within most bodies, but does this mean we treat it with a lack of respect? Do we jump to the conclusion that this waste has nothing to do with us? Do we continue to avoid the inevitable and accept life the way it is because that is the way it has always been?
I urge you to think seriously about your health and the attitude that it won’t hurt me if… that many fall back on in order to avoid reality. Our body is a very complex system with a very complex clean-up schedule, a little tinkering here and there does indeed add up. So think more than twice when you sit down for a steak dinner, or scoop some more protein out in order to meet you daily “needs”, or when you load up on vitamin C to prevent and or cure whatever ails you now, or even when you seek to lose weight in a hurry.
Have you ever had a kidney stone, or do you know someone who has?
How would you describe the pain?
What foods were you eating at the time?
Did you find relief or any treatments that helped (share)?
Do you take vitamin C, protein supplements, or try to lose weight quickly?