Friday, June 14, 2013

"It's Raining Stones!"

That's what my urologist said yesterday during the consultation.  Perhaps because the sudden hot weather of the last few weeks, he was getting an extraordinary number of kidney stone cases, as people are dehydrating.  (In the nineteenth century, kidney and bladder stones were often associated with long sea voyages, because fresh water and even beer was in short supply.) 

 While I was waiting for my surgery, my wife was talking to a woman in the waiting room whose husband was getting a kidney stone removed as well.  He is a runner, and was in the E/R a few days before.  He ignored the "without fail see an urologist" instruction on the discharge form, out of fear of the misery of the surgery.  But after a second visit to the E/R, he realized that there was no real choice.

I was surprised to find that kidney stones are one of the most common health problems in the U.S.:
Each year in the United States, people make more than a million visits to health care providers and more than 300,000 people go to emergency rooms for kidney stone problems.
There are a number of causes of kidney stones, and exactly what type of stone determines what sort of dietary changes are required:

Calcium Oxalate Stones

  • reducing sodium
  • reducing animal protein, such as meat, eggs, and fish
  • getting enough calcium from food or taking calcium supplements with food
  • avoiding foods high in oxalate, such as spinach, rhubarb, nuts, and wheat bran

Calcium Phosphate Stones

  • reducing sodium
  • reducing animal protein
  • getting enough calcium from food or taking calcium supplements with food

Uric Acid Stones

  • limiting animal protein
I'm not sure what kind of stone I had, but pretty everything that I eat is a problem, so the solution seems to be: drink more water:
Drinking enough fluids each day is the best way to help prevent most types of kidney stones. Health care providers recommend that a person drink 2 to 3 liters of fluid a day. People with cystine stones may need to drink even more. Though water is best, other fluids may also help prevent kidney stones, such as citrus drinks.
I keep a big Cato Institute mug on my desk at work; I think I am going to make a point of filling it at least three times a day, and finishing it three times a day.  It makes you wonder how much of a dent in the cost of national health care we could make just getting people to drink more fluids, especially in the hot parts of the country.  (In New York City, just to annoy Nanny Bloomberg -- more soft drinks that are low in sodium.)

1 comment:

  1. I don't know much about kidney stones, but going back to high school chemistry, if you have a solution of some compound in water, the greater the concentration, the greater the tendency to precipitate out...into crystals...with sharp edges. The lower the concentration, the less tendency to precipitate, and I think a very low concentration may dissolve some of the existing crystals.
    Therefore, drink plenty of water, especially when your urine becomes strong and smelly.
    Of course, it's been a few years since high school chemistry.