About 1 in 10 adults in the United States will develop kidney stones at some point in their lifetime. Considering the incredible pain these stones cause, it's no wonder plenty of people who develop these stones are desperate for some relief.
What are some great ways to find kidney stone relief?
Fortunately, there are a few ways to make it easier for a kidney stone to pass. The first method? It's as simple as a trip to the kitchen sink...
1. Drink Lots of Water
One of the most important steps people can take to make it easier for a kidney stone to pass? Drink lots of water.
How much water should someone drink?
Most people are told to drink about 8 tall glasses of water per day. When someone is dealing with a kidney stone, more water is necessary. In general, people should try to increase their water intake by about 50% in these cases (or, about 12 tall glasses of water).
There are a few reasons why people should try to drink more water while they are trying to pass a kidney stone.
How does drinking more water help?
Kidney stones are the result of minerals and salts hardening together, most often in the kidneys. One of the most common types of kidney stones? Uric acid stones, which form when the urine is highly acidic.
Now, water helps properly dilute uric acid. So, when someone doesn't drink enough water, uric acid concentrates in the urine, which increases the risk of uric acid stones.
What are the signs of dehydration?
In order to tell if someone is drinking enough water, pay attention to the urine's color. The urine should be pale yellow or clear. If the urine is dark yellow, then someone is dehydrated and needs to drink more water.
Signs of severe dehydration include:
- Feeling dizzy
- Rapid heartbeat
- Sunken eyes
- Rapid breathing
- Dry skin
- Lack of energy
What about food?
Besides drinking plenty of water, avoiding certain kinds of food can also help decrease kidney stone pain...
2. Avoid Foods That Are High in Oxalate
As mentioned above, one of the most common components of kidney stones is oxalate. Therefore, people who are trying to pass a kidney stone should try to stay away from sources of dietary oxalate, as it can make symptoms worse.
What exactly is oxalate, anyway?
Oxalic acid is a compound in many plants that can combine with certain minerals to form oxalate. Oxalate isn't just found in plants, though. The human body can also metabolize vitamin C to produce oxalate.
Why does this compound lead to stones?
Oxalate itself can combine with other substances to form compounds. In the human body, this binding typically occurs in the colon or urinary tract, including the kidneys. Most often, when oxalate in the human body combines with something else, it is with calcium. This bindingâ€”when it occurs in the kidneysâ€”results in calcium oxalate stones, which comprise roughly 80% of all kidney stones.
What are some of the most common sources of oxalate?
Some of the most common sources of oxalate include:
It's not just while passing a kidney stone that these foods should be avoided; people should avoid these foods for a short time after the kidney stones have passed as well.
The following drink, though, you can reach for at any time, especially while trying to find pain relief from passing a kidney stone...
3. Reach For the Lemon Juice
Next, it is a good idea to consume lemon juice in any number of ways to help kidney stones pass.
Why is lemon juice great for kidney stones?
Remember our friend oxalate? When high levels of it are present, the risk of kidney stones increase. And, when it combines with other substances in the body, it is most often calcium. When this binding occurs in the kidneys, stones can occur.
Reduce oxalate, get calcium and oxalate to bind before reaching the kidneys, or prevent oxalate from binding with calcium.
Lemons can help kidney stones pass because they contain citrate, a chemical that binds to calcium. So, when citrate binds to calcium, calcium cannot bind with oxalate to form calcium oxalate kidney stones.
But that's not all. Citrate can also tear calcium away from stones that have already formed, helping them break apart.
How can someone use lemon juice to fight kidney stones?
There are plenty of ways to use lemon juice to help kidney stones pass.
1. Add lemon to your water.
First, it is helpful to simply squeeze a few lemons into glasses of water. Remember how it's important to drink plenty of water to help kidney stones pass? Just squeeze some lemons into that water! It's an extra-potent way to pass those stones.
2. When life gives you kidney stones, make lemonade.
What a sweet solution. Lemonade tends to be higher in lemon juice than lemon water, so this method may be extra potent for certain individuals. To keep it healthier, avoid adding too much sugar.
3. Add lemon juice to other foods.
Lemon juice isn't just limited to drinks. For instance, plenty of people squirt some lemon juice onto sliced apples to prevent them from browning. This step is just another way for someone to get more lemon juice into their diet.
4. Get creative!
The only limit to this technique is your own imagination: try to get creative with lemon juice. This way, it can strip calcium away from kidney stones, helping them to break part more quickly.
What about OTC remedies?
Don't have any lemons? Not a problem. Plenty of over-the-counter (OTC) anti-inflammatory medications may help, too...
4. Take Anti-Inflammatory Medications
In addition to taking steps to make the kidney stones easier to pass, it is also important to control the pain. One of the primary tools people can use to control pain? Anti-inflammatory medications.
What are some common anti-inflammatory medications and why do they help?
To be clear: anti-inflammatory medication won't make kidney stones pass faster. However, it will make the time it takes them to pass much more bearable.
What are some medications that may help?
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Motrin) are the most common anti-inflammatory over-the-counter (OTC) medications used to control pain.
How do they work?
These medicines reduce inflammation at the site of pain. Now, inflammation can lead to warmth, redness, and swelling in addition to pain. Therefore, by controlling inflammation, people will feel more comfortable.
How can someone take these medications for pain relief?
Just because these drugs are legal and easily accessible doesn't mean that it's not possible to overdose on them. For example, overdosing on Tylenol can lead to liver damage while overdosing on Motrin can lead to kidney damage.
Talk to a doctor and read the instructions on the medication's packaging. It might be tempting to pop a handful of pills when suffering from kidney stone pain, but doing so can completely backfire. Trust us; it's worth it to take the official dosage recommendations seriously.
In children, finding the proper dose is a bit more complicated.
- For Tylenol, the maximum dose is 15 mg per kg every four hours.
- For Motrin, the maximum dose is 10 mg per kg every six hours.
Remember that in the United States weight is typically quantified in pounds. Therefore, it's necessary to convert a child's weight to kilograms before calculating the dose. (A simple "pounds to kilograms" search on Google should do the trick.)
Now, anti-inflammatory drugs aren't the only medications someone can take to find kidney stone pain relief...
5. Take an Alpha-Blocker
What are alpha-blockers?
Alpha-blockers are a drug class that prevents the stimulation of certain receptors in the body.
How do alpha-blockers help?
One of the reasons a kidney stone won't pass is because it is too large to fit through the ureter (tube connecting kidneys and the bladder). If the ureter relaxes, there will be a larger path through which the kidney stone can pass.
An alpha-blocker thereby helps kidney stones pass by relaxing the ureter muscles. Specifically, alpha-blockers will bind to receptors located on the smooth muscle cells in the ureter, causing them to relax. This process will cause the cells to expand, making the ureter wider.
What is a good alpha-blocker for kidney stones?
There are a few different alpha-blockers that someone might be able to take to help them with a kidney stone. One of the most common alpha-blockers for kidney stone relief is called tamsulosin, also known as Flomax.
- Typical Dosage: 0.4 mg/day
- Pregnancy: No known risks associated with taking Flomax while pregnant
- Alcohol: Do not drink while using this medication
- Side Effects: Include low blood pressure, back pain, headache, nausea, and dizziness
The following way to manage pain isn't to do something but rather to avoid something...
6. Reduce Sodium Intake
Many people need to reduce their sodium intake due to high blood pressure concerns. However, too much sodium can mean more than just blood pressure problems; it can also mean kidney problems.
How is sodium tied to kidney stones?
Sodium levels in the urine are closely tied to calcium levels. If someone eats a high-sodium diet, calcium levels in the urine rise. And when there's high levels of calcium in the urine, it can mean higher odds of calcium binding to oxalate in the kidney. The result of this union? You probably guessed it: kidney stones.
But that's not all. Research also shows that those with high blood pressure are at greater risk of kidney stones. So, in more ways than one, a diet high in sodium isn't ideal for someone suffering from kidney stones (or anyone else, really).
How can someone control their sodium levels?
One of the chief ways to control sodium levels is to stay informed.
- Limit sodium intake to around 2,300 mg per day.
- If someone is suffering from kidney stones (or has a history of developing them), this number should drop to 1,500 mg of sodium per day. (Ideally, everyone should reach this number, not just kidney-stone sufferers).
In order for people to adhere to this limit, reading the nutrition facts on food packaging is key.
Some of the most common high-sodium foods include:
- Processed meals such as burritos and pizza
- Anything that comes in a can (salt is used as a preservative)
- Smoked and cured meats
Ditch the salty, go for the sweet?
The following potential remedy for kidney stone pain is pretty sweet...
7. Use Apple Cider Vinegar
Another option for people who would like to make their kidney stones easier to pass? Apple cider vinegar.
How does apple cider vinegar help kidney stones?
This common cooking ingredient contains a substance called acetic acid, which has been shown to help kidney stones dissolve.
Let's break it down.
Acetic acid changes the pH of the liquid around the kidney stone. By changing the pH and concentration of various ions, the kidney stone is more likely dissolve, making it much easier to pass.
In addition, apple cider vinegar can also ease the pain kidney stones cause, helping people feel more comfortable. It's a two-for-one kidney stone remedy.
What ways can someone use apple cider vinegar for kidney stones?
To use apple cider vinegar to help with kidney stones:
- Add about two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to water.
- Spread out the apple cider vinegar over a long period of time.
- Limit intake to eight ounces (sixteen tablespoons) per day.
Caution: Too much of a good thing can be bad.
Excessive amounts of apple cider vinegar can decrease potassium levels, putting someone at greater risk for serious health conditions like osteoporosis. Furthermore, people should not ingest apple cider vinegar if they take:
- Digoxin (Digox)
- Diuretics like spironolactone (Aldactone)
Is this sweet method not your cup of tea? Try turning up the heatâ€”literally...
8. Try a Heating Pad
When someone is in pain, the muscles contract; this muscle contraction can occur with kidney stones. While contraction is a natural bodily response, the muscle contraction itself can add to someone's pain.
Therefore, helping muscles relax can alleviate discomfort.
How can a heating pad help?
A heating pad helps relieve pain by relaxing the muscles of the stomach, back, and side.
What's the safe way to use a heating pad?
Anyone who wants to use a heating pad to help with kidney stones needs to make sure they do so safely. Some great tips to do so include:
- Never place a heating pad directly on the surface of the skin, as this action can lead to serious burns. Instead, wrap the heating pad in a blanket or towel before placing it on/under the body.
- Avoid falling asleep while using a heating pad. If someone falls asleep, it means prolonged exposure to the heating pad, increasing the odds of burns.
- Start on the lowest heat setting and gradually increase if necessary.
While trying to fight through kidney stone pain, be sure to also do the following...
9. Reduce the Intake of Animal Protein
Protein is an important building block for numerous cells throughout the body; however, some forms of protein can actually make kidney stones worse.
What's the link between animal protein and kidney stones?
Many sources of animal protein, such as red meat and certain seafood, have high levels of purine. Now, high levels of purine can mean high concentrations of uric acid. Remember: uric acid is a common component of kidney stones.
Therefore, while protein is important for building muscles, it's important to be cautious about where the protein is coming from, especiallywhile trying to pass a kidney stone.
What are some high-purine foods (to avoid)?
High-purine food sources include:
- Organ meat
- Red meat
What foods and drinks are better for passing kidney stones?
Instead of animal protein, focus on foods and drinks that are going to help the kidney stones go away (such as low-purine foods like peanut butter and rice). These kidney stone-fighting foods and drinks include the following...
10. Drink Pomegranate Juice
Not only is pomegranate juice tasty, but it may also improve the overall function of the kidneys.
How can pomegranate juice help?
Pomegranates will not only flush out kidney stones but may also remove other toxins from the body. How? It's because this fruit contains lots of antioxidants, which will keep the body healthy and prevent future stones from developing.
Furthermore, this fruit will also make the body's urine less acidic. When the urine is less acidic, it is easier for current kidney stones to break apart.
What's the best way to use pomegranate juice to fight kidney stones?
The good news is that there isn't any limit to the amount of pomegranate juice that someone can drink: people can drink as much as they want. There is an exception to this general rule, though.
Pomegranate juice is filtered by the liver, which means that anyone who is taking medications that are processed by the liver should stay away from pomegranate juice. These medications include lots of blood pressure and cholesterol medications, such as chlorothiazide (Diuril) and rosuvastatin (Crestor).
Anyone who has concerns about possible drug interactions should speak with their doctor first.
What's most important for someone fighting kidney stone pain to know?...
Fight Kidney Stone Pain Today!
Kidney stones can be incredibly painful, making it hard for someone to move, let alone go to work or school. Therefore, it is important to take a two-pronged approach to the treatment of kidney stones.
The first prong is pain management. Take anti-inflammatory medications in safe dosages on a regular basis.
The second prong is to address the kidney stones directly. Employ methods that will both break apart existing kidney stones while also preventing new ones from forming.
What happens after kidney stones pass?
After kidney stones pass, it is critical take steps to prevent new ones from forming. That means avoiding habits and behaviors that put someone at greater risk for kidney stones, including:
- Eating a high-sodium diet
- Eating lots of animal-based proteins
- Not drinking enough water
What if kidney stones don't pass?
If kidney stones don't pass, there are other treatment options available.
- A doctor may be able to perform a lithotripsy to break apart the kidney stones, making them easier to pass.
- Furthermore, a doctor can also use a scope to remove the kidney stones directly.
A well-hydrated individual will most likely be able to pass a kidney stone in 48 hours, or 2 days. Any stone that takes longer to pass may require a trip to the doctor.