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Kidney Stones! They Hurt!

Kidney stones! They hurt! And they’re on the rise. That’s right. They're becoming more and more common. They're becoming what many would consider epidemic.  Everywhere you turn, someone says something like, “yeah, I had one last spring, put me down for 3 days. It was so bad I puked for 2 days, even while I was on all that medication”. There's more, “It’s the most excruciating pain I’ve ever had and that was my second one”. Or this one, "Where's Bob? Heard he was in the hospital with a kidney stone, again!"
 What’s going on? Why are more and more people being diagnosed and treated for this problem? As a physician I have seen many presentations of this extremely painful condition, moreover, just this last year, I had 3 friends who were not patients, people I consider very healthy, who had struggled with this problem.

One was a very young professional woman I work with who practices a very healthy lifestyle, and I have to tell you I was astounded by her graphic complaint of pain, loss of work, and fear of continued attacks. Truly afraid of another stone, this young lady is in her twenties, is a physical trainer, and says there was no family history of urinary stones until her protracted presentation to an emergency room last spring with a stone in her right ureter.

What’s going on? First, you should know that there is a well known region in the United States called “the kidney stone belt”. It exists basically for three reasons. First, it’s warm. Second, dehydration is common because it’s warm, and thirdly, folks there, eat greens. You guessed it, the south, “The Bible Belt”.

People here, are in the heat about 8 months out of the year.  Dehydration at the kidney level tends to form crystals of ionic electrolyte minerals we process daily, like calcium, uric acid, and cysteine, the products of metabolism that our bodies excrete regularly, the biggest of these being calcium. But what’s interesting, is it really isn’t the calcium that’s the culprit in most kidney stones. It’s another salting agent we call oxalic acid. And when it acts on calcium it becomes the salt, calcium oxalate.

Oxylates are a huge component of “greens”. Very popular in the south, collard, spinach, mustard greens, and even Polk salad are full of the stuff. Moreover, a well indulged product of southern living, “iced tea”, is packed with this salt. The result is a lot of excruciating back pain and kidney disease induced by lifestyle, and climate. The southern states are well known harbors of kidney stone disease, Arizona being number one.

So why is it happening everywhere now? The twenty first century lifestyle is the likely culprit. Consider that we are a people on the constant move. More mobile than ever, we are not tethered to our walls or desks with our telephones anymore. Even information is mobile, we carry our phones and the ever-present internet with us everywhere. With this, we reach for quick fixes when we’re not wired in, or maybe I should say, wirelessed in.

What has become a huge fad in the last 15 years, is we are drinking more and more coffee at places like, “Java The Hut”, “Starbucks”, “Dunkin Donuts” and other coffee shops, and really, not just for style, but for effect. Keep in mind that caffeine not only picks us up, but it inhibits an important chemical in our bodies called antidiuretic hormone (ADH), a compound that acts on the distal convoluted tubule of the unit of the kidney called a nephron. ADH works to conserve fluids in our bodies. So caffeine dehydrates directly, and can help promote and concentrate crystals in the kidney.

We also drink alcohol, which also inhibits ADH as well as cause dehydration through respiration and “insensible water loss”, which exacerbates an already dehydrated state. And in our furious business lifestyles, we run around dehydrated most of the time because we do not drink enough water anyway.

The most common of urinary stones is the “calcium oxalate stone”. These are spiculed, mace like and barbed stones which stick and cut on their way out of the kidney after being dislodged. This sounds scary, but usually isn’t very painful, although, sometimes very uncomfortable. Uric acid and other stones can do this too.

What you should understand is that the ureters, the tubes that connect the kidneys  to the bladder, although very tough, and  can withstand squashing and stabbing, do not do well with distension. If a stone lodges somewhere in this tube on its way down, the result is urinary distension behind the stone and excruciating pain described by some women, as intense as the pain of end stage labor contractions! This condition is called “hydronephrosis” and is the real center of kidney stone pain.

Generally a patient presents to the emergency room in fulminate pain, there is usually but not always, vomiting. We give pain medication and antiemetics which palliate pain and also allow the ureter to relax and allow stone passage. We do “stone hunts” with the CAT scanner, generally sending you home with more medicine, and arranging follow up with a kidney surgeon, called a Urologist. Yeah, if things get worse they either blast the stone with ultrasound (The Lithotripter) or operate.

What’s really new is the movement toward alternative medicine, which in recent years shows fascinating results. Although based mostly on anecdotal studies, these therapies have become the most utilized for kidney stones in the western world. One technique is to dissolve the stones instantly with combinations of oils and herbs. Another, which is described as quite common in Europe, is to drink cola and eat asparagus. The method we have found most intriguing for calcium oxalate stones is the “olive oil and lemon juice” technique. This method is described all over the web.

As a physician, I look at these treatments with a raised eyebrow, however, having spoken to many biochemists regarding these techniques, it is very possible that these compounding  therapies work to dissolve the spicules on small stones, allowing them to pass without creating blockage. I have to say, that if I have a kidney stone, I would be tempted to try a little olive oil and lemon juice over fentanyl and phenergan any day. I certainly don’t care to be operated on.

Ultimately, it seems very important that we watch our hydration, and be careful with those greens, not to mention all that iced tea.   
Dr. Counce


23 Comments to Kidney Stones! They Hurt!:

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Philip on Tuesday, September 06, 2011 8:04 PM
I don't know if this will help anyone but about 18 months ago I experienced my first and last episode of kidney stone pain. As you know the pain is excruciating and I was writhing around on my bed screaming in agony and doubled up in pain. At the hospital I was given pain med's and told to drink plenty of water. I now know that this is the standard response from most doctors. The hospital did find a 5mm kidney stone that was on its way down to my bladder and a couple more just sitting there waiting .... to cause me more pain. After several days, very little pain relief and out of total desperation I turned to the Internet to learn more. I tried everything I could find to relieve the pain, no matter how crazy it sounded. I even found a "So Called" remedy that promised an 80% success rate. Now I am no fool when it comes to the Internet and at 55 years of age I have almost 17 years experience in sales and marketing, but I was desperate and ready to try anything to stop the pain, so I bought the remedy. To my absolute amazement it worked and within a few hours of taking the remedy my pain started to subside and within 12 hours it had gone completely. What amazed me even more was I passed all of my kidney stones, pain free, over the next 2 days. A few days later, I went back to the hospital for a follow up and they confirmed that all of my kidney stones were gone. As for drinking plenty of water, I drink bottles of the stuff. I even wrote a post on my blog called Kidney Stone Pain Sufferers Should Drink More Water. I also eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruit and veg and NO processed foods (No more Big Macs lol). Also I rely on natural sources of vitamins and minerals and NOT supplements. Common sense seems to have left the building in this world of ours. I have been kidney stone pain free now for 18 months.
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sierrasil scam on Tuesday, February 07, 2012 12:04 AM
i know what is pain of kidney stone bcoz i had faced that problem its very bad experience.
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Phenocal on Wednesday, February 08, 2012 2:28 AM
I must say this is quite interesting Information. It was very pleased to find this site. I want to thank you for this great read!!
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Medicinal cordyceps mushroom on Monday, July 08, 2013 11:50 PM
Thanks for so informative post about kidney stone..I know pain of kidney stone, Thanks to great post and please keep blogging me….

Dr. Counce on Wednesday, February 08, 2012 5:54 PM
I am glad we were able to be helpful. It is always a pleasure.
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HTY Gold on Monday, June 18, 2012 3:42 AM
Good post and right to the point. It was right in everyday life as well.
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Dr. Counce on Friday, July 19, 2013 6:40 PM
Thank you.

math tutor on Wednesday, May 15, 2013 11:28 PM
They sure do. Got them last year and it was worse than UTI. I cried for two days because of the pain and the treatment lasted for a month before the stones disappeared - that's my motto now, just water and water all the way.
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Dr. Counce on Sunday, May 19, 2013 8:08 PM
I agree. It's all about the water, especially out here in the southwest.

Laser eye correction on Monday, August 19, 2013 4:27 AM
The issue that you raised in your blog about the kidney stone is really very serious, and most of people lose the quality and integrity of such subjects, when they try to pen it down. But, your job is well done.
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Dr. Counce on Thursday, September 12, 2013 4:51 PM
Thank you very much.

massage college on Thursday, September 12, 2013 1:58 AM
These medical tips and advices are really very much effective.Keep it up with sharing such useful information with us.Thanks for the post.
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Dr. Counce on Thursday, September 12, 2013 4:52 PM
Thank you for your positive comments.

Tattoo Removal Clinic Sydney on Sunday, December 08, 2013 11:28 PM
The problem of kidney stone has been seeing widely in most of the people. I am sure it will be an useful post for them. thanks to you for this sharing.
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Dr. Counce on Saturday, December 21, 2013 12:04 PM
You are very welcome. Thank you for reading The Searchlight.

hyperhidrosis melbourne on Monday, January 27, 2014 5:01 AM
Kidney stones is so common issue. Many peoples gets affected from it. All the information you provided on that topic was really well. Thanks for updating that.
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Dr. Counce on Saturday, February 08, 2014 9:24 PM
Our pleasure. Thank you for your readership.

nutritional food supplements on Wednesday, April 09, 2014 11:45 PM
Kidney stones are quite common and usually affect people aged 30–60 years of age. They affect men more than women.
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Dr. Counc on Monday, May 05, 2014 11:49 AM
Thank you for your comments.
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