Preventing Kidney Stones and Urinary Tract Infections

Kidney stones and urinary tract infections are common at this time of year, so we have a few tips for avoiding these unwanted problems. If you are aware of the Chinese medicine cycle, you know that we are coming into the season where the kidney and bladder are at the low point of their function for the year. This is why we see such a rash of these issues now. Conventional treatment for kidney stones involves either potassium citrate for smaller stones, or more invasive and potentially damaging treatments for larger ones. The treatment for UTIs is usually antibiotics. Since antibiotics are indiscriminant in their action, they can deplete the healthy flora in the bladder and urinary tract, making you susceptible to recurring infections. Here are some simple suggestions to keep these problems at bay, starting with kidney stones first:

1) Magnesium–If you have had calcium kidney stones in the past, magnesium is the first nutrient you should turn to. Magnesium balances calcium in the body so can remedy calcifications of any kind. Those with kidney stones have been found to have low magnesium levels. Take the magnesium citrate form, 120-400 mg per day.

2) Stone Free–This herbal support for kidney and gall bladder health helps to remove toxins, increase urinary volume, reduce inflammation, and soothe the lining of the urinary tract so that stones can be more easily passed. It contains dandelion, turmeric root, parsley root, ginger root, lemon balm, licorice root and marshmallow root. The herb gravel root can also be added to help break up existing stones.

3) Avoid oxalates and Balance Calcium–If you have had oxalate stones in the past, you should reduce foods that are high in oxalates. The worst offenders are spinach, rhubarb, beets, beer, French fries, nuts and nut butters, chocolate, and potato chips. Dietary calcium should not be limited and calcium in the diet can actually bind oxalate in the gut, so if you are going to eat the above foods, eat them with a good calcium source like yogurt, cheese, or broccoli. Supplemental calcium on the other hand can contribute to stones, so make sure you have the right nutrients in your formula to help you absorb the calcium like Vitamins D & K, and also make sure you balance the calcium with magnesium in a 1:1 ratio.

4) Dont’ Overdo Vitamin C (as ascorbic acid)–Too much supplemental Vitamin C in the ascorbic acid form can contribute to stones. Limit your intake to 500 mg per day.

5) Drink Plenty of Water or Electrolyte Drinks–Many of us do not drink enough water, but water is crucial in getting the kidneys to work properly. Electrolyte drinks that do not contain a lot of sugar can also be helpful as they provide potassium and other minerals that can prevent stone formation and break down smaller stones. Gatorade is not useful for this purpose (or any other in my book) because it has too much sodium relative to potassium, and too much sugar, which can also contribute to stone formation. Coconut water is and excellent choice, healthy green juices that don’t contain spinach, or Endura, an electrolyte replacement formula by Metagenics.

6) Drink Lemon Water–The citric acid in lemon juice inhibits stone formation and breaks up small stones beginning to form. It binds calcium in the urine, reducing the likelihood of calcium stones.

And for Urinary Tract Health:

1) Probiotics that Focus on Urinary/Bladder Health–Two strains of healthy bacteria, lactobacillus rhamnosus and lactobacillus reuteri, have been studied for their positive effect on the flora that line the urinary tract  and bladder and thus can be used in the prevention of urinary tract infections. They are also helpful in cases where an antibiotic must be used to make sure the good bacteria take hold, reducing the risk of recurring infections.

2) Cranberry–Taking cranberry tablets or capsules prevents urinary tract infections in some people. It is thought that the cranberry makes the bacteria unable to “stick” to the cells that line the urinary tract and this prevents them from multiplying. There is conflicting research on whether cranberry helps with kidney stones, so we don’t recommend it for stones.

3) D-Mannose–This simple sugar sticks to e. coli, the bacteria that typically causes urinary tract infections. This keeps the bacteria from adhering to urinary tract cells so that the bacteria can then be washed away with urination.

Since both kidney stones and urinary tract infections tend to recur, taking supplements that decrease the likelihood of occurrence can make all the difference in the world. Figure out what works best for you and make sure you supplement, especially during the period from May 15th-July 15th.