How what you eat can help to prevent kidney stones

If you've ever passed a painful kidney stone or two, you'll know that you don't want any more.

As of writing this I have passed somewhere around 40 or 50, and I'm only 41 years old. My first confirmed stone was when I was 18, it was a bad one. However, I believe that I've had them since I was about 11 or 12. I can remember being taken to the hospital for "sever gas", as a youngster, but never actually passed gas . The pain did subside eventually and suddenly for no apparent reason. I know now that it was a stone.

Anyway, I'm asked frequently about my experience with kidney stones, having had so many, so I decided I would do this post. I put it under Food and Diet because it defiantly has to do with what you eat. I don't think it's the whole story of course. I think that those of us that pass lots of stones have a chemical imbalance that causes us to produce them. I do know that diet can be changed to help control or prevent them.

If your like me you've seen Urologists several times and probably quite a few of them. Each of them have given me different advice for what I should do. The obvious one is drink more water. Its true, you do need to drink plenty or water, but that's true for everyone. I usually drink more than anyone I know, but at times I forget and will realize sometime in the afternoon or evening that I've barely had anything to drink at all, all day.

Speaking of not drinking enough... your headache may be a dehydration headache, I was having frequent headaches and often found that simply drinking more fluids will make it go away. If you find that you are having frequent headaches, try drinking more water throughout the day for a week. It may help a lot. If your like me and drink more than most, it may still not be enough.

Another thing on staying hydrated. I also noticed at some point that I was sweating more than other people. This had to do with my diet and I will talk more about that. But even after changing that I still sweat more than most, causing me to dehydrate faster that a lot of people. Another reason to drink more!

Doctors have told me many other things too, don't drink coffee, sodas (especially caffeinated sodas) don't drink milk, don't eat cheese, don't eat ice cream, etc. The suggestions go on and on, but none of these things kept me from passing stones or even slowed them down. None of it was helpful at all. In fact I think it was just guessing at what the real problems were.

There was a point before I had really changed much about my diet that I would frequently wake up with cold sweats in the middle of the night. I'm not talking about slightly wet either. I once had woke up and hand a pool that had formed on my chest, and the sheets were completely soaked. I did not have a cold or anything, I was just sweating. I don't know exactly the foods that caused this, but I suspect that it was all the processed foods, beef jerky, soda's and things like that. I think my body was getting rid of the excess salt and preservatives. Since changing my diet I have not had the cold sweats, but I do sweat more easily and frequently than most people I know.

I know that you may be thinking that I am just really unhealthy, but I'm really not. I am not severely overweight although I'm probably at a 25 or 26 on my BMI. So, I could stand to lose about 10 lbs. I don't have high blood pressure or high cholesterol. I am an avid cyclist although this last year I really haven't been riding much, just too many competing priorities I suppose.

Anyway, back to the focus of the kidney stones...

I had ruptured my Achilles playing soccer. (I know, whats that got to do with stones... don't worry I'm getting there.) That put me in a cast for at least 3 months after surgery to put the Achilles back together. I was lightly dieting and exercising a lot to stay/get in shape for cycling season and lose a little weight. I didn't want to stop and do nothing so I starting dieting more seriously. My mother-in-law was doing this Medi-Fast diet and having great results. I decided that I would try that.

After a few weeks I found that I was allergic to soy, which was a bummer, since that was what the food was almost exclusively based on. Soy Protein Isolate to be more exact. There are lots of names for it, Concentrated Soy is another popular one. I also found out that 50% of the population is allergic to soy too.

After I was back on my feet again and out of the cast I found out that the high protein diet caused more problems than I realized. In those few weeks on this high protein diet I created a huge number of stones. I had a stone in each kidney that was too large to pass on my own and there were more than 10 stones on one side and 7 on the other. So, I was scheduled for surgery on each kidney, one month apart.

Needless to say I didn't want to go through that again. I started doing some research online and found that others had linked eating a lot of protein to kidney stones too. What's scary to me is that nearly everything recently has been pumped full of protein.

Anyway, the way it works, as I understand it, is that if you take in too much protein and can't / don't use it you have to get rid of it. It exits through your body via urine. But to exit it has to attach to calcium. And of course my stones are calcium stones. This made sense to me, but it also worried me too. I eat a lot of protein. I especially like to eat jerky. Its a favorite snack!

Anyway, I changed my diet and became basically vegetarian. I did more reading and research and decided to also stop taking in dairy. That's not so much for the protein but mostly because dairy is REALLY bad for you. I love cheese though, that one is really hard to stay away from. I tried other things and even did a juice diet for a while and felt the benefits of that. Changing your diet to be healthy isn't really the point of this post, so I will move on.

Ok, So I was on a low protein diet and was concerned that I may not get enough protein and create more problems. The only type of food you can eat and get a complete protein is meat or eggs. There is no other way to do it with a single food, not even nuts. BUT, if you simply eat a rainbow of fruits, vegetables, and grains... you will get a complete protein. For instance, a PB&J sandwich is a complete protein. Easy!

I've gotten a lot of concern from family, friends and even my doctor over not getting enough protein, but the fact is that cows are huge walking slabs of beef, and all they eat is grass, and in some cases they also eat grains. Where are they getting their protein? Hmm, I wonder if their grabbing a burger every once in a while... right? Also, there have been vegans for years, I'm not the first.
Something to make note of, if you do decide to become vegan, you will need to take a vitamin B substitute, like B-12, at least a few times a week. The other option is to not wash your produce, so that you get all that lovely bacteria just like farm or wild animals do. You need bacteria in your body to survive, and if you wash your produce and are not taking any in from meat and dairy, then you need to supplement. 
Anyway, I did this low protein diet pretty faithfully for 2 years, and in that time I did not pass any stones. I did fall off the wagon recently but I'm getting back on. During the time I fell of the diet, and went back to eating meat, I started passing stones again, fairly frequently. I've had 2 in the short 6 or 8 months that I've been off the wagon. I fear going to the doctor and finding out that I have a bunch of them again from eating too much protein.

Side affects of this nearly completely vegan diet I was on are many:

  1. Cold sweats while I slept stopped
  2. My dandruff went away
  3. Psoriasis on my scalp and legs went away
  4. My sever dry skin went away
  5. I watched the yellow grow out of my toe-nails (I didn't know they weren't white)
  6. My cholesterol levels dropped
  7. My blood pressure got better (but wasn't bad to begin with)
  8. I didn't drag so much in the mornings
  9. I slept better at night
  10. Generally I felt better
  11. I had more energy
On top of all that I hadn't realized how much of what I ate had meat or dairy in it. To be honest, it was nearly everything.

It's funny, my drive for doing this was to not have stones anymore. And like I said, if you've had one or two you'd understand why. Those few stones I've had recently have reminded me that my body chemistry isn't like everyone else's so I need to get back on the wagon. 

You may also wonder why I ever fell off the low protein and dairy diet with all those benefits. Well, its pretty simple... I love pizza, and still can't resist it. I eat it any time its available. I know that the cheese isn't good for me and that if it's a meat lovers that I am getting too much protein. I try to stick with the veggie pizza's but I don't always get to pick the pizza.

I don't know if what I've said here will help you or not, but it defiantly makes a difference for me. If you have a different theory or have had a different experience or a remedy, I would love to hear about it. It would be great to prevent stones from occurring ever again. However, I think that's unlikely to happen for me.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please feel free to leave a comment.