If you’ve never experienced the incredible hell that is kidney stones, consider yourself blessed. And though this is a strange topic for this website, it’s really all I can write about at the moment. And I’m okay with that. So you should be too. So I’m going to declare that those of you who do not have to deal with kidney stones are the focus of my Good Stuff attention. Because having them sucks. So let me horrify you into understanding the stakes here.
Kidney stones are typically a compound called Calcium Oxalate, which is a fancy way of saying that they are an rocky, uneven asteroid that is about the same hardness of your bones. Most kidney stones are tiny, on the order of a few millimeters. The problem is that the ureter, the tube that runs from your kidney to your bladder, is also only 3-4 millimeters in diameter.
The intense pain that most kidney stone sufferers feel comes from the above rocky asteroid slowly scraping, tumbling, and generally getting stuck in said ureter. The pain is like a constant repeating back spasm that never goes away. If you’ve never had a back spasm, imagine getting punched in the kidney (to either side of your lower spine), and then imagine that punch is happening every several times a second, every second of every day, will only stop once you pass an asteroid out of your penis (or urethral tube trying not to be sexist), which will probably take days or even weeks, or will be slightly improved with heavy narcotics.
But everyone knows about the pain. Thankfully, you normally get a few days off from your job per your local physician or ER doctor. The problem is that kidney stones typically take more than a few days to pass. Dealing with taking pain meds and peeing through this stupid cheese grater attachment they call a strainer isn’t that big of a deal when you’re at home.
But when your time off expires, and you still haven’t passed the damn stone or stones, you have to go back to work. And keep in mind, your doctor has prescribed heavy narcotics to deal with the pain, a drug called Tamsulosin, otherwise affectionately known as Flomax (guess what that does), possibly some anti-biotics if they’re worried about a possible UTI, and the dignified affair of peeing in a stupid plastic filter 5 or 6 times a workday. Thankfully, I’m a man, so I can just stick the filter below my gentleman bits and proceed with not giving a damn about splattering all over the lifted toilet seat and floor. I pity my fellow female sufferers, who have to, well, I don’t actually know. Stick the filter half way in the toilet and pray?
Oh and I should also mention that your doctor is inevitably going to force you into a weird diet to avoid oxalate rich foods and drinking nothing but water. Seriously, nothing but water. No coffee, no tea (tea is super rich with kidney stone producing oxalates), no dehydrating soda, nothing but water. Sure, you can spice the water up with a lemon or a cucumber. But you will be drinking water until you pass asteroids through your sensitive bits.
Alright, I’m Scared. What Do I Do?
So this is the second time in two years that I’ve had kidney stones, and unfortunately, when you pass the stone and gift wrap it and present it with a card to your urologist, they don’t give you a life history of the stone. If you’re lucky, they’ll say it’s some percentage of calcium and some percentage of oxalate. If it’s something else, then you’re kidney’s got issues, and that’s not good.
Generally, if you’ve never had kidney stones before, you probably don’t need to change your diet. Yet. Once you get kidney stones for the first, time, that’s a sign from your body that you need to change something. Most people will immediately look for a diet change to prevent kidney stones. I’ve seen all sorts of advice, but there seems to be some consensus around some of the foods that cause kidney stones.
This is probably the bane of my existence, to be honest. I love indulging my salty taste buds with things like chips and salsa. I’ve tried to limit my sodium intake over the last year. But obviously it didn’t work. Sodium works against you in two ways. First, it dehydrates you, which means less fluids are flowing through your kidneys, which prevents kidney stones from being flushed before they become too big. Second, a high sodium intake will actually increase the amount of calcium in your bloodstream, which inevitably ends up in your kidney.
Tasty tasty meat:
Okay, don’t freak out. I find this one a little bullshit too. However, if all you do is eat bacon and steak all day, you’re setting yourself up for a pissy time. A diet high in animal protein will increase the amount of calcium in your urine and also will cause an increase of uric acid. Uric acid will acidify the urine, which leads to the formation of kidney stones. You’ll also lower your citrate content by consuming copious quantities of animal meat, and citrate actually helps prevent the creation of stones. However, I’d like to mention here that if you’re eating enough meat to cause kidney stones, you’ll probably have other problems, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and your doctor will probably be bitching at you already.
Other weird oxalate rich foods: Here’s a list of other weird foods that can increase the amount of oxalates in your urine, which therefore will aid in the creation of kidney stones. I wouldn’t recommend cutting these out entirely, but don’t consume this stuff in excess amounts: Beets, Chocolate, Rhubarb, Tea, and Most Nuts. Yeah, spinach. Like I said, other than maybe chocolate, which you have to eat an absurd amount of to have issues, I doubt most people will have problems with this list.
Foods to Eat
So I’ve told you what not to eat, but here’s a few tasty things that you can eat that will prevent stones. Once again, I would only worry about increasing your intake of this stuff if you’ve had a kidney stone before. If you’re not eating any of this at all, well I would suggest at least eating some of this stuff.
This seems weird considering the stone is literally made of calcium, but here’s the thing. Calcium tends to bind to oxalates, which is why kidney stones are created in the first place. But if you stick some calcium in your stomach, which is likely to be digested and passed through the intestines, that means the calcium will “scrub” your stomach of oxalate, and those potential kidney stones will go out your poop shoot instead of getting stuck in your kidney. So feel free to eat yogurt, drink milk, and eat cheese. These are all good anti-kidney stone tools.
Potassium: Potassium in your mouth seems to cause citrates in your urine, which prevents kidney stone growth. So anything high in potassium is a good thing. That includes bananas, white beans, potatoes with the skin on them, apricots, yogurt, salmon, avocados, and mushrooms. Spinach is also a food that’s rich in potassium, but ironically enough, it’s also super high in oxalates. I’m not sure if that means spinach is a net positive, negative, or neutral, but I would keep that in mind if you see spinach being suggested on any websites.
The Most Important Thing to Do Ever in the World
Drink water. Seriously. Beyond all other things I just said, whether you are at risk of stones or not, this is the one thing you should always do. Drink all the waters. Water is good for you for so many reasons. We’re like 95% made of water. And we pee, sweat, and otherwise excrete a large amount of water every day. So stick more water in your mouth. Do it now.
Don’t like tap water? Fine. Buy bottled water. Buy a good water filter system. Stick a lemon in your water. Or a cucumber. Or a lime. Whatever. Just drink tons of water.
If you have to ask how much water you need to drink, you’re doing it wrong. If you’re asking if you’ve drunk enough water, you haven’t. Drink another few glasses. Feel slightly thirsty? You’re dehydrated. Drink water. Things like tea and coffee aren’t super bad for your water consumption, but you should always be drinking at least as much water as you drink of either of these. If you drink sodas, drink twice as much water as you drink sodas.
If you don’t drink enough water, you will feel my pain. I guarantee it. And you don’t want that. So I guess that’s what I want to say with this article. Drinking water, now that’s Good Stuff.