If you do a search for home remedies for kidney stones, also known as renal calculi, you’ll find there’s no shortage of information on the subject. Recommended remedies include everything from homemade potions, to snake oil, to various over-the-counter medications and supplements. First of all, if the calculi are causing you a problem, step one is to see your doctor; the next step is to follow your doctor’s advice and recommendations. You might be surprised to find out that your doctor might even have a few home remedies in mind and advise you that there are more than a few treatments for kidney stones you can and should do yourself.
It can be helpful in treating renal lithiasis, and even more so in preventing their formation, to understand the basic function of one’s kidneys as well as how stones are formed and why they can cause problems. You can then begin to look into what home treatment might consist of. When you get to the point in this article where home remedies for kidney calculi become the topic of discussion, you may be pleasantly surprised as to how simple and straightforward those remedies can be.
About Your Kidneys
One of the functions of one’s kidneys is to eliminate waste products from your body. They do so by producing urine. While producing urine, the kidneys may sometimes produce stones as well. Producing those stones is of course not one of the intended functions of the kidneys. Kidneys do much more than produce urine however. They also help to regulate your blood pressure, maintain your body’s calcium levels and other chemical levels in the bloodstream, and play a major role in the production of red blood cells. These bean-shaped organs, located between your rib cage and your pelvis, are therefore very important organs and are in fact vital organs.
Blood flows into and out of the kidneys through the renal arteries and the renal veins, respectively. The basic unit within a kidney is called a nephron. Plasma and non-cell elements in the blood that enter the kidney from a renal artery are passed through the nephrons, which act as filters. Components in the filtered plasma that the body needs are returned to the bloodstream, while those that are not needed or are toxic are secreted into what eventually becomes your urine. While the kidneys can only filter so much blood at a time, during the course of a day, your entire blood supply will pass through the kidneys and will be filtered approximately 25 times. Since it is the plasma that is filtered and not the red blood cells, you should not observe blood in your urine unless you have a kidney problem.
Not all of the activities that go on within one’s kidneys are covered here, but one of the key functions the kidneys perform is to keep the chemicals in your blood in the proper proportions. If things get out of balance, the absorption, re-absorption, filtering, and secretion processes one’s kidneys are performing tend to set the chemical levels right again. Too much of a particular chemical or compound will simple be eliminated in the urine, sodium being a prime example. There may be times however when excessive amounts of calcium or other compounds or minerals are eliminated. Over a period of time, crystals of some of these minerals or compounds can accumulate and form stones if their concentration is high enough, which is one reason why your diet often plays an important role in whether or not you will ever have a kidney stone problem.
About Kidney Stones
Kidney stones are made up of a collection of crystallized chemicals and compounds, and there are several different types of these stones. They tend to form when certain chemicals are in the urine in higher than normal concentrations for an extended period of time. This is normally a process that takes a number of weeks or even months. The stones tend to build up inside the kidneys, but they can also build up in one or both of the ureters.
The most common type of kidney stone is the calcium stone. A calcium stone is produced when calcium in the urine combines with another substance, most often an oxalate, a compound found in various foods and supplements. Other less common types of stones are cystine stones, struvite stones, and uric acid stones.
The best way to avoid renal lithiasis is to drink plenty of water, which will tend to keep stones from forming and to flush away stones that are developing before they become large enough to cause a problem. The stones will generally go unnoticed until they pass into one of the ureters where, if they are large enough, can block the flow of urine into the bladder, causing it to back up into the kidneys. When that is the case, the stones can cause considerable pain that comes on suddenly, with the pain often felt as a sharp pain on one side or in the back.
When Kidney Stones Require Treatment
Kidney stones usually do not need to be treated unless they have become large enough to potentially cause a blocking problem. Smaller stones tend to pass through and out of the system. In some instances, surgery may be required to remove stones that have become too large. Open surgery to remove the stones was a common practice, but it is seldom required today. If stones need to be removed, their removal can usually be accomplished by less invasive surgical procedures, such as endoscopic surgery, or by ultrasound techniques, which will literally crush the stones to the point where the small pieces that remain can easily be passed through the urinary system. There are also medications that can be prescribed that can break down the stones in the kidneys. Sodium bicarbonate, diuretics, and various phosphates are among the most effective medications for treating the more common calcium stones. Other medications are used to treat uric acid, oxalate, and struvite stones.
It’s important to find the cause of renal lithiasis. Simply removing them may not be enough. If the cause has not been determined and properly addressed, the stones will likely return. Prevention may be as simple as drinking significantly more water than you are used to. Dietary changes may also be recommended. In some cases, special medications may need to be taken to prevent stones from reoccurring.
Treating Kidney Stones at Home
It might seem that something potentially as serious as a kidney stone would not be a condition you would or should try to treat on your own. There are some good reasons for treating kidney stones at home however unless the symptoms are so severe that medical intervention is necessary. A good reason for home treatment is that surgical intervention techniques always carry with them a risk of either kidney damage or infection. These risks, even though they may be low, become practically non-existent if the condition can be successfully treated at home. In truth, over 90 percent of all kidney calculi that form will usually pass out of the system on their own without any treatment being necessary. Letting them pass on their own is not however a matter of simply ignoring them, which is something you don’t want to do, but it is still the safest and simplest approach to take in most instances. The truth is most physicians would rather be faced with a situation where home treatment is allowable since surgical intervention in the urinary system can at times cause unwanted complications, such as urinary tract infections (UTIs).
If you do treat renal lithiasis at home, you will still need to follow your physician’s advice and recommendations since there are things you should and should not do and foods you should and should not eat during the course of your treatment. You will also want to be taking proper preventive measure so your kidney problem won’t simply repeat itself down the road. It’s recommended that home remedies or alternative therapies not be relied upon as the primary means of treating renal calculi. Both can however be implemented as supplementary methods of therapy and can be of significant use in preventing the stones from recurring or from developing in the first place.
Home Remedies for Kidney Stones
The home remedies that are best for treating kidney stones do not involve mixing together strange concoctions of herbs, supplements, and other food items. The most effective home remedy for treating renal calculi or preventing them from occurring consists of little more than drinking plenty of fluids and possibly making a few adjustments in your eating habits. There are several supplements that can be helpful as well. Eliminating a food item from your diet can sometimes be just as effective as a remedy as adding something can be. One of the best home remedies of all though happens to be water.
1) Water and Other Fluids – A well-worn piece of advice is to drink at least eight glasses of water a day. This number has been shown to be on the excessive side, especially since water is present in many of the food items you eat or drink in the course of a day. Too much water can even be harmful, but eight glasses a day comes nowhere near to being so. As far as the kidneys are concerned however, drinking up to 8 glasses of water or other fluids every day can make a great deal of sense. The more fluids you take in, the lower the chance of renal calculi forming becomes. Think of the water you drink as washing out your kidneys several times a day. It really doesn’t work that way, but a healthy intake of water nevertheless has a cleansing effect in one’s kidneys. Most caffeine-free beverages and non-alcoholic beverages contain much of the water you need.
2) Avoid Oxalates – One exception to the fluids you might consider drinking is decaffeinated tea. Some decaffeinated teas, especially black teas, contain an abundance of oxalates, which, when combined with calcium that may be present in your urine, can form renal calculi. Oxalates cannot be avoided completely since they are found in many natural foods. Foods that are particularly high in oxalates include nuts, beans, spinach, beets, black tea, and strawberries. Oxalates are by-products of vitamin C, so excessive amounts of vitamin C, which is excreted from the kidneys, can also contribute to stone formation.
3) Vitamin C – Vitamin C deserves some additional special attention since it is an essential vitamin. The conventional wisdom is that you cannot take in too much of this vitamin since your body will simply eliminate any excess amount. There is a good deal of truth to this. Vitamin C, when taken in normal amounts in your regular diet or as a supplement, not only is good for you but also can actually help in preventing renal calculi. Excessive amounts of vitamin C however can have the opposite effect, since those excessive amounts, when discarded by your kidneys, can produce oxalates in your urine, which in turn can cause renal calculi to develop.
4) Get Plenty of Calcium – Since calcium is a primary contributor to the formation of calculi, it might seem that ingesting less of this mineral would make sense. This is not the case however. Not only does your body require calcium, but also your health is dependent on the levels of calcium being kept within a certain range. One of the functions calcium performs is to bind with oxalates in your intestines, preventing those oxalates from entering the bloodstream and finding their way to your kidneys. It’s more important therefore to keep excess oxalates away from your kidneys than to keep excess calcium away. There is a certain balance to be achieved between the levels of calcium, oxalates, and vitamin C in your body. Your vital organs, including your kidneys, generally do a good job of regulating these levels. If you get enough calcium and enough vitamin C in your diet and go easy on the oxalates, your body should do the rest as far as keeping everything in the proper balance and keeping stones from developing.
5) Protein Is Good for You, but Too Much Is Not – You don’t want to completely eliminate protein from your diet, but it would be in your best interest to keep the amount you take in relatively low. You can accomplish this by switching from red meats to lean meats and coldwater fish. Excessive amounts of protein can cause your kidneys to excrete excessive amounts of calcium, which in turn can increase the risk of renal calculi forming.
6) Reduce Your Intake of Sugar and Sodium – Both sugar and sodium are thought to contribute to the formation of stones, and these substances often contribute to other kidney problems as well.
7) Eat Foods Rich in Antioxidants – Antioxidants don’t necessarily prevent stones from forming, but there does appear to be an association between the levels of antioxidants in your system being too low and the formation of stones. Blueberries, tomatoes, and cherries are three food items particularly rich in antioxidants.
8) Eat Foods Rich in Magnesium – Magnesium is an extremely important mineral. It is one that is involved in a large number of cellular functions. Therefore, any diet that is to be a healthy diet needs to provide sufficient amounts of magnesium. Magnesium, among its many other important functions, is essential in keeping your kidneys in proper working order. Think bananas, avocados, oats, or potatoes when you think of magnesium.
You may have noticed by now that in going down the list of home remedies for renal calculi, a pattern is emerging. While there are some definite things you need to do, such as drinking plenty of fluids, and some things you need to avoid, such as oxalates, sugar, and sodium, treating and preventing the accumulation of stones in either kidney at home primarily consists of following a healthy diet. Exercise should probably be mentioned as well. In other words, if you keep yourself fit and trim, renal calculi should not ever be a concern. There may not be any statistics to bear this out, but it would seem to make sense that one reason renal calculi are as common as they are is because there are so many people who are as not nearly as healthy as they could or should be.