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Alternative ways to prevent stones

MagazineJune 1999 (Vol. 10 Issue 3)Alternative ways to prevent stones

Effective treatment of kidney stones requires a diagnosis of your specific stone type

Effective treatment of kidney stones requires a diagnosis of your specific stone type. However, there are several general things which you can do to lower your risk of becoming a stone former in the first place. If you've already had one, your risk of recurrent stones is considerable unless you alter your lifestyle.

Eat calcium rich foods, including milk and dairy products, all cheeses (especially Swiss and cheddar), almonds, brewer's yeast, parsley, corn tortillas, globe artichokes, prunes, pumpkin and sesame seeds, cooked dried beans, cabbage, winter wheat, soya beans, salmon, sardines and green vegetables. Ironically, some of these are also high in oxalates, so choose carefully.

Avoid high oxalate foods, such as beans, cocoa, instant coffee, parsley, rhubarb, tea, spinach, beet tops, carrots, celery, cucumber, grapefruit, kale, peanuts, pepper and sweet potato. Although the influence of these foods on your risk of stone formation is small, especially if your diet is high in calcium, regular "stone formers" should consider limiting or cutting them out altogether.

Drink plenty of fluid. Water is the first and best choice. You should aim to drink at least 8 to 10 glasses a day. This will lower the concentration of stone forming minerals in the urine. Probably due to its high calcium content, harder water has been correlated with a smaller incidence of kidney stones (Urol Res, 1979; 7: 157-60).

Increase dietary fibre. Patients with kidney stones tend to have lower intake of fibre (Br J Urol, 1981; 53: 416-20). Adding fibre to the diet of stone formers has been shown to lower their calcium excretion by as much as 40 per cent (Rev Paul Med, 1989; 107: 19-24; Br Med J, 1980; 281: 426). This may be due to the phytic acid found in whole grain wheat, corn, rye, millet, barley and beans which, by binding to calcium and magnesium, helps remove their excess from the body more efficiently (Lancet, 1980; ii: 1113-4).

Cut out sugar. Sugar must be processed by insulin which, in turn, causes calcium to be excreted into the urine (J Clin Invest, 1975; 55: 845-55). While the effect is most marked in stone formers, sugar consumed by normal individuals has also been found to increase the excretion rates of calcium, oxalate, uric acid and glycosaminoglycans (Nutri Health, 1987; 5: 9-17). To placate your sweet tooth, eat fruit which contains fructose and so doesn't need insulin for processing.

Try herbal remedies. Cranberry juice or extracts may help to reduce urinary calcium levels (Urol, 1973; 1: 67-70), as might rose hip tea (Planta Med, 1992; 58: 509-12).

The Chinese herb Desmodium styracifolium is thought to inhibit the formation of calcium oxalate stones by increasing urine output and decreasing the excretion of calcium (Br J Urol, 1993; 71: 143-7). Compounds isolated from the rubia, cassia and aloe species bind calcium in the urinary tract and significantly reduce the growth rate of urinary calcium crystals (Pharmacology, 1980; 20: 104-12). Madder root (Rubia tinctoria) and Aloe vera may be used either as a preventative or to reduce the size of the stone during an attack (J John Bastyr Coll Nat Med, 1981; 2: 18-27).

Khella (Ammi visnaga) has long been known as an effective relaxant for the ureter, thus allowing stones to pass more easily (Br J Urol, 1933; 5: 213-24; W Mitchell, Naturopathic Application of Botanical Remedies, Seattle, Washington: W Mitchell, 1983).

The most powerful herbs for dissolving stones are Hydrangea arborescens, gravel root (Eupatorium purpureum), parsley (Petroselinium crispum), Arctostaphylos uva ursi and wild carrot (Daucus carrota).

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