Avoiding kidney stones

Ever had a kidney stone? Ever seen someone with one? It hurts – a lot. Here's how to avoid having to deal with one.

We won't even worry you with the odds, because the chances of winning the national lottery are around 1 in 30 million, while your chances of being struck by lightning twice in your life are around 1 in 15 million. That doesn't mean much to the faithful folk who buy lottery tickets.

It's the same with kidney stones: even if your chances were slim, you wouldn't want to get one.

The fact is, your chances of getting one aren't that slim. If you're between 20 and 40, lead an active lifestyle in the summer heat – at work or play – you might end up with one.

As you know, your kidneys are where your pee is made. Mineral deposits can build up in the kidneys and form hard lumps. At any given time one can start drifting down your urethra like a small and painfully spiky iceberg. Eventually it'll pop out, by which time you and your todger may be begging for mercy. It's painful and avoidable, and here's how to avoid the pain.

Know thine enemy: Kidney stones are sharp little lumps of mineral. They only form when there's not enough liquid in the kidneys to wash them out, so your first step is to:

  • Drink plenty of water. Beer and soft drinks don't count, because they can dehydrate you. Stick to good ol' haich-two-oh.
  • Lose the salt. It elevates your blood pressure and does other bad things anyway, so reduce the amount of salt in your diet. Also watch out for the salt lurking in things like pickles and cured meats. Why's this a problem? The sodium makes your kidneys retain calcium, where they start crystallising.
  • Veg out. Limiting your intake of animal protein drastically reduces your chances of developing kidney stones. One study found that male vegetarians in the UK had half the incidence of kidney stones that their carnivorous cousins had. Hey, maybe that's what killed the dinosaurs. How does it work? Eating meat increases the amount of uric acid going into your kidneys and if the acid isn't expelled it can form kidney stones.
  • Scarf a banana. Or an orange, nectarine, naartjie, potato or other fresh produce. All these items are rich in potassium, which helps prevent the formation of kidney stones.
  • Slug some yoghurt. Dairy products contain calcium, which binds to the minerals that comprise kidney stones. Then you drink a beer and a big class or water and go to the loo, and away the stones go. Easy as that. If you're lactose- intolerant or don't like dairy, chewing a couple of calcium tablets works just as well.

(William Smook)

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