Health Supplements and Nutritional Remedies for Kidney Stones
Hard deposits sometimes form in the kidneys and may travel down to the ureters and bladder. These are called uroliths or kidney stones. They are made up of a combination of minerals and chemicals, the most common of which are calcium and oxalate or phosphate. Stones usually form when the urine becomes too concentrated and the minerals crystallize and form hard deposits called stones.
Kidney stones may be very small and may pass out to the urine undetected. Sometimes, however, they may cause pain severe enough to bring you to the hospital for treatment. Aside from sharp pain that occurs at the back or side of the abdomen, symptoms may also include nausea, vomiting, blood in the urine, pain in urination, fever and chills (if infection is present).
What Causes Kidney Stones?
There are many possible reasons one can develop kidney stones. These include:
- A diet high in calcium, vitamin D or oxalate
- Too little fluid intake
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Genetic/hereditary factors
- Metabolic disorders such as hyperparathyroidism and gout
- Urinary tract infections and other kidney disorders
- Certain medications such as diuretics
- Certain medical conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease
- Surgery, such as gastric bypass surgery
Certain factors increase your risk of developing kidney stones. Men are more likely to form stones compared to women. Being 40 years or older and having a family history of the condition also increase your risk of having kidney stones. Other risk factors include obesity, dehydration, certain foods and diets, surgery, medications and certain health conditions.
Treatment of Kidney Stones
Treatments may vary, depending on the size and number of your kidney stones. Small kidney stones may pass out in the urine just by increasing your fluid intake to flush them out. Pain killers such as ibuprofen or naproxen may be sufficient to reduce mild to moderate pain. Medical treatment may include the use of medicines (alpha blockers) to relax the ureters (the tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder), thus allowing small stones to descend and pass out in the urine.
Larger stones may be removed by using different procedures such as ureteroscopy, percutaneous nephrolithotomy, or open surgery.
Medications may be taken to prevent stones from forming again, and these include allopurinol, potassium citrate, hydrochlorothiazide, orthophosphates, and acetohydroxamic acid. Antibiotic therapy may be needed if infection occurs.
Natural Remedies for Kidney Stones
You can avoid developing kidney stones by doing a few diet and lifestyle modifications:
- Drink lots of fluids (at least 2.5 quarts) daily, and more, if you live in hot climates.
- Limit your salt intake to 2400 mg a day.
- Limit your intake of oxalate-containing foods (tea, nuts, chocolate, beets, spinach, etc).
- Do not take more than 2 grams of vitamin C per day.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet with less animal protein.
- Lose excess weight.
- Exercise regularly, at least 150 minutes per week.
- Continue eating calcium-containing foods, but be careful about taking calcium supplements.
- Avoid potential food allergens such as dairy, wheat, corn, food additives and preservatives.
- Eat fruits, vegetables, and high fiber, antioxidant-rich foods.
- Avoid eating refined foods, such as pasta, white breads, and sugar.
- Eat foods that are rich in magnesium and low in calcium, such as brown rice, corn, rye, barley, bran, oats, soy, potato, avocado, and banana.
- Use healthy oils, such as vegetable oil or olive oil.
- Eat fatty fish, such as halibut or salmon, which are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Avoid trans fats, which are found in processed foods, commercially baked goods, French fries, onion rings, and donuts.
- Avoid tobacco, alcohol, coffee and other stimulants.
If you have nutritional deficiencies, ask your doctor about taking health supplements:
- A daily multivitamin that contains antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E, B-complex vitamins and minerals, such as zinc, selenium, and magnesium.
- Magnesium citrate, to relieve symptoms of kidney stones.
- Fish oil, which contains omega-3 fatty acids, to help reduce inflammation and promote health.
- Inositol hexophosphonate (IP-6), which promotes kidney health.
- N-acetyl cysteine, which has antioxidant effects.
- Probiotic supplements, to maintain gastrointestinal health and promote immune function.
There are a few herbal supplements that are believed help promote kidney function. These include cranberry, green tea, milk thistle and grapefruit seed extract. However, there are a number of herbal supplements that may not be suitable for people who have kidney disorders, and these include those that are high in potassium (such as alfalfa, garlic, and coriander) and phosphorus (such as American ginseng, feverfew, and turmeric). Herbal supplements that you should avoid if you have kidney disease include astragalus, barberry, licorice root, cat’s claw, parsley root, nettle, yohimbe, and java tea leaf. Some herbal products may interact with your current medications. Consult your doctor about taking health supplements and herbal products for kidney stones.
This information should not take the place of medical advice. We encourage you to talk to your health care providers (doctor, registered dietitian, pharmacist, etc.) about your interest in, questions about, or use of dietary supplements and what may be best for your overall health.
National Kidney Foundation. Herbal Supplements and Kidney Disease. https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/herbalsupp
WebMD. Understanding Kidney Stones – Prevention. http://www.webmd.com/kidney-stones/understanding-kidney-stones-prevention
Mayo Clinic. Kidney Stones. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/kidney-stones/basics/definition/con-20024829