On November 1, I awoke with sudden, excruciating pain in my lower abdomen. The kind of pain that unleashes a primal scream.
Cue Bernard Hermann’s music while Norman Bates stabs you repeatedly with a knife.
It also feels like I have to urinate every two seconds, but can’t. My mind races to what could have caused it. I drank tap water for the only time the day prior. I also went to my sister’s Halloween party and ate things I don’t normally eat.
Almonds. Do I eat too many? I workout every day. Did I overdo it?
OR is it the lengthy conversation I had with someone the night before about my disappointment at what a girl in her twenties had said at work. She said she didn’t believe in love. I fell asleep thinking how sad it is that anyone in the world would believe that. Was this psychosomatic? Did I bring it on myself with my thoughts?
Running to the restroom interrupts my self-recrimination. I shower and dress for work anyway, hoping it will eventually stop.
It gets WORSE. I call the doctor and he tells me to come in. The first question I’m asked is on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the worst pain ever, how bad is it. I answer 9. The doctor scribbles something down and disappears for what feels like days. Did he not hear me?
He returns and hands me a cup. He tells me to do the best I can. Horrified by the filthy bathroom I run to another one.
Hours waiting for results feels like days. The doc finally returns and says it’s a bladder infection –very common, not to worry.
I tell him it feels more like a kidney stone in my ureter. I point to location. Doc looks at me wondering how I even know such a term.
He reluctantly agrees to take an x-ray. I’m thinking he’s delighted to 1. prove me wrong and 2. bill me for doing it.
I recall Dad having a kidney stone. He looked like Capt. Kirk fighting a sentient reptilian humanoid when I drove him to the hospital.
But the doc returns smiling smugly to state x-ray shows nothing. He sends me home with an antibiotic and still in pain.
I return to work and my daily routine, but the pain worsens. By Nov. 7, it’s unbearable. So much so that I go to the ER.
Again, the doctor asks on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the worst pain you’ve ever felt, how bad is it?
This time, I scream like Nadia Comaneci’s judges in the ’76 Olympics. TEN! TEN! TEN! He vanishes for hours, as if I shouted ONE.
Finally, the doc returns. He’s orders a CT Scan. I’m brought into a room with GE equipment that looks like it must have cost 200K.
I begin to wonder what it will cost, as the machine propels me towards the inner tunnel stopping at my lower abdomen.
When it stops, an OZ sounding voice on a speaker says, “Hold your breath. Breathe.” 3 x’s. In. Out. 5 min. Done. More my speed.
I wait for results. Doc returns to say it’s a kidney stone lodged in my ureter–no bladder infection. I refrain from saying told you so.
Instead, I ask if I could see it, and the doctor laughs as though no one has ever asked such a dumb question.
Humor me. He says okay and I follow him to a computer screen. I see it. A tiny white speck that has me feeling like I’m giving birth to triplets.
I name them “Pebbles and Bam Bam.” The doc laughs some more.
I am fascinated by how something so tiny could feel like a jagged BOULDER shredding everything in its path.
After the CT scan diagnosis, I’m given a shot in my arm for the excruciating pain I had now been in for 7 days and nights.
I’m then handed 3 white paper funnels with a filter at bottom and told to urinate in it at home. There are different types of stones, and the only way the doctor can analyze which one you have is for you to catch it while urinating & return the specimen.
They tell me to return if it doesn’t dissolve naturally, which can take hours or up to three weeks. Three weeks?!! Good Golly. I find this graph later.
Based on it, my .3mm has almost an 80% chance of passing naturally within 12.2 days. Some say a kidney stone less than .5mm in size can dissolve naturally within 3 hours or a few days. Nice. I aimed for THAT. Mission accomplished.
Based on the stone location, which I only knew because I asked to see it, I have a 75% chance of it departing naturally.
If you are diagnosed with a kidney stone, be sure to ask your doctor: 1. How big is it? 2. Where is it located? Write it down or ask him to for you because you may be in too much pain to process the information at the time. It helps you make a best treatment option decision.
Based on the size and location of mine, I feel better determined to give natural birth to Pebbles and Bam, Bam.
The following is recommended to stay comfortable while waiting for a kidney stone to pass:
1. Prescription pain killer taken as needed or over-the-counter Ibuprofen (recommended dose from your doctor or pharmacist) or take warm baths and use a heating pad on painful areas, as needed.
2. Drink twelve 8 oz. glasses of water daily, or six 16 oz. bottles of water daily. Here’s a visual.
I ask what caused it and the doc says they don’t really know what causes kidney stones.
I need to prevent this from EVER happening again, so I wanted answers. All he advised is to drink lots of water.
I already drink tons of water! He tells me drink more. I ask a lot more questions, but get no answers.
What caused it and how can I prevent it from happening again? I put on my sleuth hat to answer my questions.
The Nancy Drew of Health will get to the bottom of it. But I find a lot of scattered and misleading information.
I find this to be true with most health information out there. It overwhelms people at a time when they are already worried.
It’s scary that the medical community, government and those reporting information don’t always have our best interests at heart.
It’s not that the information isn’t out there. It’s just all over the place, unreliable or contradictory.
For instance, I’ve always heard CRANBERRY JUICE is good for kidney stones. Not so. It can actually cause them. Very high in oxalate.
HERE’S SOME INFORMATION TO HELP YOU:
First, here’s a diagram of the Ureter inside your body. They are long thin tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder.
Muscles in the ureter wall continually tighten and relax forcing urine downward.
They are so narrow that if something the size of a tiny pearl gets lodged in there –it blocks the flow of urine causing intense pain.
1. What are kidney stones?
Kidney stones are a hard mass of crystals that form from minerals in your urine. This hard mass that can vary in size from a tiny pea to a golf ball can get stuck in the narrow tube connecting your kidneys and bladder. The pain is caused by the wall of the uretra being unable to tighten and relax as it continually does forcing urine downward. Think of the waves or splashing caused if you suddenly placed a large boulder in a flowing river. Only it’s waves of intense pain inside your body made by something that may be smaller than a grain of rice. Some can be larger with the largest and most painful being the size of a golf ball.
2. What causes kidney stones?
According to the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Wearinghouse, kidney stones are caused when the normal balance of water, salts, minerals, calcium, oxalate, phosphorous and other substances found in urine changes. Family history and not drinking enough fluid is the number one cause.
The real question is what causes the normal balance to change?
I’m a huge fan of examining what you eat first whenever you have ANY health issue. The process of elimination (or adding what may be needed) is a great way to see if there is a link. The list of foods to avoid is endless. See #5.
3. Who gets kidney stones? Anyone can get one. Men are twice as likely to get them as women.
4. How much water do I need to drink daily? Six 16 oz. or twelve 8 oz. bottles daily. Add fresh lemon whenever you can.
5. What do I need to avoid?
- Limit caffeine to 300 mg. daily, cup of tea has 80 mg. and 8 oz. coffee has 150 mg.
- Bread rolls
- black pepper
- dry beans
- black tea
- soy beans
- meat substitutes with soy
- dark leafy green vegetables
- more than 1000 mg. Vitamin C
- Cranberries (loaded with oxalates)
- swiss chard
- sweet potatoes,
- soy products
- cured meats
- sweetened drinks
- high levels of Vitamin D (lifeguards get more kidney stones out in sun more)
- salty foods
- fish liver
- food or drinks with high fructose corn syrup
- grapefruit juice
- calcium based antacids
- reduce sodium to 800 mg. daily
- animal protein (meat, fish, eggs)
- hot dogs
- canned soup and vegetable
- luncheon meats
- fast food
- processed frozen food,
- wheat bran
- diet low in carbs
- beware of hidden sodium
- too much protein
- low carbs.
- Anything high in sugar, sodium (salt) or protein
6. What foods CAN I safely eat?
- Pumpkin seeds (soak before eating)
- Think of meat, fish and poultry as garnish to your email, and not the main course. Buy all meat, fish and poultry fresh.
- Bran flakes
- Add lemon to your water (half a cup of lemon)
- Apple cider vinegar
- magnesium citrate, magnesium malate, vitamin K2 & A, B6
- Whole wheat bread
- Wheat cereal
- Oat bran
- Drink lemonade made from real lemons.
- Calcium in food form only (no supplements) and limit it daily (one yogurt). One woman said she got kidney stones from drinking milk.
- Lime, citrus fruits
One study says ONE glass of wine a day can help prevent kidney stones, so add that to the list. I’ll keep updating this list.
According to Dr. Oz:
Foods that can prevent kidney stones:
- Bottled water
Foods that can cause kidney stones:
- Black tea
- Potato chips
I’m guilty of #3. I absolutely love spinach with olive oil and garlic. There still isn’t a lot on the CAN EAT list.
7. How is a kidney stone treated? If the stone is smaller than 5mm, it will most likely pass on its own. The doctor can prescribe something to help move it along and something for the pain. If it is larger than 5mm, the most common medical procedure for treating kidney stones is known as extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL). This therapy uses high-energy shock waves to break a kidney stone into little pieces. The small pieces can then move through the urinary tract more easily. Side effects can include bleeding, bruising, or pain after the procedure. There is also another procedure where they physician can go in with a tube to break up the stone.
8. How are kidney stones diagnosed? 1. Urine 2. Blood 3. X-Ray 4. CT Scan (most reliable)
Kidney Stones: Oxalate-Controlled Diet
The Cleveland Clinic Glickman Urological & Kidney Institute, Toll Free 866-223-2273 x1234
Your doctor has ordered a diet to help you decrease the chances of forming calcium oxalate kidney stones. Oxalate is a compound that is naturally present in many foods. The following six factors increase the risk of forming calcium oxalate stones.
1. The amount of oxalate in certain foods.
Although many foods contain oxalate, only nine foods are known to increase oxalate in the urine and kidney stone formation. They are: beets, spinach, rhubarb, strawberries, nuts, chocolate, tea, wheat bran, and all dry beans (fresh, canned, or cooked), excluding lima and green beans. It is best to avoid these foods.
2. The amount of calcium in your diet.
Low amounts of calcium in your diet will increase your chances of forming calcium oxalate kidney stones. You need calcium in your diet to bind oxalate in the intestines. This helps reduce the amount of oxalate being absorbed by your body, so stones are less likely to form. Consuming a moderate amount of calcium every day (2 to 3 servings) from dairy foods or other calcium-rich foods is recommended. If you take a calcium supplement, calcium citrate is the preferred form.
3. The vitamin C content of your diet.
Oxalate is an end product of Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) metabolism. Large doses of Vitamin C may increase the amount of oxalate in your urine, increasing the risk of kidney stone formation. If you are taking a supplement, do not take more than 500 mg of Vitamin C daily.
4. The amount of fluids in your diet.
It is very important to drink plenty of liquids. Your goal should be 10-12 glasses a day. At least 5-6 glasses should be water. You may also want to consider drinking lemonade. Research suggests that lemonade may be helpful in reducing the risk of calcium oxalate stone formation.
5. The amount of protein in your diet.
Eating large amounts of protein may increase the risk of kidney stone formation. Your daily protein needs can usually be met with 2-3 servings a day, or 4 to 6 ounces.
6. The amount of sodium in your diet.
Reduce the amount of sodium in your diet to 2-3 grams per day. Limit eating processed foods such as hot dogs, deli meats, sausage, canned products, dry soup mixes, sauerkraut, pickles, and various convenience mixes.
Use the Food Guide Pyramid to plan a well-balanced diet. Carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are necessary for the proper functioning, maintenance, and repair of your body. In addition to these major nutrients, the body requires water, minerals, and vitamins for good health.
Urology Appointments: 800.223.2273 ext. 4-5600 Nephrology Appointments: 800.223.2273 ext. 4-6771
This information is provided by Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.
© Copyright 2013 Cleveland Clinic. All rights reserved.
- Kidney stones are one of the most common disorders of the urinary tract
- Each year in the U.S. people make more than one million visits to their healthcare providers, and more than 300,000 people go to the Emergency Room for kidney stone problems
- Anyone can get one
- If you have one you’re more likely to get it again within 7 years
- 12% men, 6% women
- Ages 20 to 50
- Drinking lots of water is the most recommended way to prevent them (when your urine is clear or light yellow you are drinking enough)
- Men are twice as likely as women to get kidney stones (12% of men develop them in their lifetime)
National Kidney Foundation
30 East 33rd Street
New York, NY 10016
Phone: 1–800–622–9010 or 212–889–2210
Internet: http://www.kidney.orgleaving site icon
Oxalosis and Hyperoxaluria Foundation
201 East 19th Street, Suite 12E
New York, NY 10003
Phone: 1–800–OHF–8699 (1–800–643–8699) or 212–777–0470
Internet: http://www.ohf.orgleaving site icon
Urology Care Foundation
1000 Corporate Boulevard
Linthicum, MD 21090
Phone: 1–800–828–7866 or 410–689–3700
Internet: http://www.UrologyHealth.orgleaving site icon
This is her first and hopefully her last experience with a killer kidney stone. She is the founder of NewsMD Communications and more recently, Healthy Within Network (HWN). MedCrunch is her blog. She began her professional career with an executive internship at NBC NEWS in New York City. She continued to work there for six years before helping NBC successfully launch their cable station, CNBC. She then developed several health series for them which she also senior produced and co-anchored. She wrote, produced and directed “21st Century Medicine” for Discovery Health and has worked as a media consultant/strategist for top hospitals, non-profits and Fortune 500 companies. She was awarded a Medical Reporting Scholarship from the American Medical Association, Media Recognition Award for her series, “Heart Smart” and numerous other awards for her health reporting and producing. If you have any health topic you’d like to see explored here, you can email her at email@example.com Write “Topic for MedCrunch” in Subject line.
- Kidney Stones and Treatments (echiropractor.wordpress.com)
- Myths and Facts About Green Smoothies and Your Health (onegreenplanet.org)
- Men’s Prostate and Kidney Health Promoter Iced Tea (steepedwellness.com)
- What your aching back might mean (iol.co.za)
- Canine Kidney Stones (dog-health-guide.org)
- Beverage choice and the risk of kidney stones (doctorrw.blogspot.com)
- Symptoms Of Kidney Stones with Back Pain (kidneyfailureweb.wordpress.com)
- Kidney Stone (emgil001spe.wordpress.com)
- Kidney Stones: 3 Early Signs You Have Them (thesleuthjournal.com)
- Diet versions of citrus drinks such as Sprite may reduce risk of kidney stones (michaeloye2013.wordpress.com)