Your kidneys are two bean-shaped organs located near your abdomen where urine is collected before flowing out to the bladder. Tiny solid deposits are usually found in the kidney. These are commonly known as "kidney stones".
Kidney stones start out as small particles containing calcium, oxalates, amino acids or excretory products like uric acid that crystallize in the kidney and are usually passed through the urine and eliminated from the kidney.
Susceptibility to kidney stone formation appears to be a genetic predisposition. If you have a family history of kidney stone sufferers, early detection and prevention should form part of your health plan. Gender and climate also seem to increase one's chances of developing kidney stones as they are known to develop more in men than in women and among those living in warmer countries.
Signs and symptoms
Small kidney stones generally go unnoticed as most individuals hardly feel or experience any irregularity in the passing of urine. Problems may arise when small stones gradually grow in the kidneys making it increasingly difficult to pass through the urethra, which is a narrow tube that connects the kidney to the bladder. When a large stone passes the urethra, you may feel excruciating pain near the abdomen, feel nauseated and see some blood in your urine.
Self help measures
A nutritious and balanced diet with plenty of water and fresh fruits may help prevent or dissolve kidney stones.
- Drink at least 8-10 glasses of water everyday. Dehydration usually causes kidney stone formation. When the kidneys lack water, elimination of toxins and other waste matter collected in the kidney also ceases. Water is a natural solvent that not only helps dissolve small stones but also flushes them out of your kidney.
- Reduce your consumption of sugar, refined foods, meat and dairy products, soda and salty foods. Too much sodium, sugar and food additives interfere with your kidneys' natural processes. Too much protein may also lead to an accumulation of uric acids in the kidneys. Ideally, your kidneys should be able to eliminate these waste products without difficulty. But when your kidneys are bombarded with excessive amounts of protein and other toxins from the food you eat, elimination may become difficult. Give your kidneys a break by watching what you eat and avoiding processed foods and those that are high in sugar, fat, protein and salt.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine and alcohol act as diuretics. If you are susceptible to kidney stones, the last thing that your body needs is dehydration. Caffeine and alcohol stimulate urine production and may leave you dehydrated if water consumption is not increased in the meantime. Reduce your intake of or eliminate coffee, tea and chocolate from your diet.
- Include magnesium in your diet. Magnesium is believed to prevent calcium formations in the kidneys as well as to convert oxalates (substances that also cause kidney stones) into less harmful elements. Magnesium can be found in barley, bran, corn, rye, oats, soy, brown rice, avocado, banana and potato.
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