India, specially Northern India, which is called the stone belt, is witnessing a very high number of kidney stone cases, and this number is increasing rapidly. It is estimated that the lifetime risk of getting a kidney stone is 10 to 15% in Northern India. The internet is full of information and health advice about every topic and kidney stones is not an exception. But I would sound cautious against blindly following internet advice. It is essential to know which health advice is authentic and is safe to follow because most information could be unreliable, wrong, incomplete and even detrimental to health. Health advice must be backed by medical evidence which comes after thorough research. Evidence-based approach is the safest approach. Authorities like the American urological association, the European association of urology and the urological society of India are the international and national bodies which make guidelines for the treatment of urological problems. These guidelines are made after reviewing the entire medical literature and the body of research available to date.
Kidney Stone Myths And Facts
Home remedies and instant cures are another danger zone. These, often unsafe and unproven, advice are termed as myths. While you may find many in your family and peer circle advising you home cure for many ailments, remember that these could be ineffective in treating your condition and sometimes counterproductive and can lead to malnutrition and unnecessary delay in the treatment. Certain myths are floating around about kidney stones on special media. for their prevention and diet. I found that some of these myths are actually very dangerous and can lead to serious adverse effects on your health. This is why I have decided to tackle 9 such widely believed myths around kidney stones in this article.
Myth Number 1: Consuming milk and milk product causes kidney stones
Stemming from the fact that milk is rich in calcium, the belief that consuming milk and milk product causes kidney stones is actually a myth. There are no researches that have shown that dairy products can increase the risk of kidney stone formation. Rather studies have shown the opposite of this. Consuming dairy products actually can reduce the risk of kidney stone formation. The mechanism behind this observation is that the calcium, which is found in good quantity in dairy products, binds the stone forming molecule known as oxalate in the intestine, which, after combining with calcium, is passed out in the stools and is not absorbed. This oxalate is present in almost all plant sources and is found in abundance in certain food items like spinach, chocolate, black tea, nuts and sweet potato etc. Adding paneer to spinach is very helpful in reducing the absorption of oxalate, which is found in spinach and is responsible for the formation of kidney stones. So milk is a very good nutrient and must be consumed in more quantity if you are suffering from kidney stone to reduce the risk of stone formation.
Myth Number 2: Reduce calcium intake to prevent kidney stone formation
This is again a myth that reducing the overall calcium intake will reduce the formation of calcium-containing stones. This is actually counterproductive and can cause serious health issues. We must understand that the human body has got an inbuilt natural reservoir of calcium in the form of bones. So your bones are the storehouse of calcium, and if you are not consuming the recommended amount of calcium in your daily diet, your body is going to absorb calcium from your bones, maintaining the blood levels of calcium and reducing the density of your bones.It has been found that reducing the calcium in your diet does not reduce the risk of calcium stone formation rather increases the risk of weak bones. It is advised that a person must consume the recommended dietary allowance of calcium daily , which is around 1to 1.2 grams of calcium per day.
Myth number 3: Tomato and other seed containing vegetables cause kidney stones
There have been a few studies examining the content of oxalate in these seed vegetables and they have not correlated with the formation of kidney stones. Oxalate is a chemical which is ubiquitously present in almost all the vegetables, and you practically cannot avoid eating oxalate. Another fact that we must understand is that the seeds are a mechanism of nature to disperse the species to different areas. This fruit or vegetable which the plant produces is eaten by the animal and the seeds present inside the fruit, basically resistant to digestion, pass in the stool of that animal at a faraway place, get deposited in the soil and new plant grows. So when we eat fruit or vegetables, these small seeds pass out as a whole in the stools and are not digested. Even if you chew them well, the amount of oxalate which is present in the seeds is not enough to increase the risk of kidney stone formation. Eating tomatoes with the without seeds, eating brinjal or ladyfingers with or without seeds will not increase the risk of kidney stone formation.
Myth Number 4: Vitamin supplements are safe if you have kidney stones
We cannot say that all the vitamins are safe in all the patients of kidney stone formation. Specially if a person has formed a kidney stone in the past or a suffering from a kidney stone currently, that person has a high risk of forming a stone again if he is taking vitamin C supplementation, supplementation of calcium in the form of tablets and sometimes high doses of Vitamin d. These vitamin supplements have not been found to cause stone formation in otherwise normal population, but there is enough data to suggest that in those patients who are suffering from kidney stones, Vitamin C, vitamin D and calcium supplementation can increase the risk of kidney stone formation. If these vitamins are required for some medical condition, the patients must visit a urologist.
Read more articles by Dr Nitin Shrivastava on various urological-related health concerns
Myth Number 5: There is a way to dissolve the kidney stones
Kidney stone once formed is in fact a stone. These stones cannot be dissolved by eating any medicine or any home remedy. There is no medicine proven till date in any research which can be consumed to dissolve kidney stones.
Myth Number 6: All kidney stones need treatment
Kidney stone treatment depends upon the size and location of the kidney stones and also on the symptoms they are producing. Most of the kidney stones are very small in size and usually don't require any treatment, and simple observation is good enough to flush the small stones out of your system. No medical or surgical therapy is advised for small kidney stones. Surgical or medical treatment is required only for the kidney stones stuck in the pipes and causing symptoms or large kidney stones.
Myth Number 7: Kidney stones can cause only pain
This is a myth that the only adverse effect of carrying a kidney stone is getting pain. Many of these kidney stones can cause a variety of symptoms and can lead to serious health issues. Kidney stones if got obstructed in the urine pipe can lead to swelling of the kidney, accumulation of the urine leading to increase in the pressure inside the kidney causing damage to the function of kidney, which gradually goes down bit by bit. This urine which is not drained can develop infection, and this infection can turn into thick pus, causing a life-threatening severe infection into the bloodstream, which is called sepsis.
Myth Number 8: Drinking beer or barley water will flush the kidney stone out and prevent recurrence
In fact the flushing effect is because of the high urine output achieved when you drink a good amount of water and produce a good amount of urine, which can be achieved by drinking a cup of tea on top of a glass of water. Any alcohol is not a recommended treatment to flush the kidney stones out. Also, the alcohol dehydrates you, and many of these drinks like beer are rich in compounds that are responsible for kidney stone formation like oxalates and purines. So alcohol actually has adverse effects on your kidney health and may increase the risk of kidney stone formation. For barley water, there are no researches that have proven barley water flushes your kidney stone or prevents the recurrence. Any stone which is expelled out of your body is actually flushed out only with a good urine flow. This can be achieved after consuming an adequate amount of fluids which could be in the form of plain water, juices, milk or barley water.
Myth Number 9: Cranberries can prevent kidney stone formation
Now we must understand that cranberries are good to prevent urinary tract infection but not kidney stones. Cranberry juice is very high in oxalate content and can increase the risk of kidney stone formation so next time you want to pass your stone, better give cranberry juice a pass.
These are the common myths and beliefs that your relatives, friends, or elders will tell you if you are talking about kidney stones. In the current age of the internet, if you want to educate yourself, go to the authentic websites of American urological association or the Harvard University or any other reliable government organisations providing guidelines for common health problems, and a trusted site like Onlymyhealth.com where you will find my articles and many other repute experts.
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