Kidney stones are apparently just about one of the most painful things in the whole world.
These evil little rocks develop when certain chemicals in urine form crystals that stick together and grow into stones ranging in size from a grain of sand to a golf ball.
A golf ball. Ohmigod.
Most of them form in the kidneys. Very small stones can apparently pass through the urinary system without causing problems.
Larger ones, however, when travelling from the kidney through the ureter to the bladder, can cause severe pain called renal colic. I'll bet.
The good news?
In most cases they're quite easy to avoid by simply drinking lots of water.
A quick Web search reveals some products that make grand proclamations, claiming to dissolve, flush and prevent the nasty formations.
Possible? Probably not.
What the experts say
"People who are stone formers should avoid high-oxalate foods like sorrel, raw spinach, beet greens, chocolate, rhubarb and nuts. Lower on the list are Swiss chard and black tea. Drink lots and lots of water . All your vitamins and minerals should come in citrate form . Calcium is good in citrate form. Herbs for dissolving the stones are Collinsonia canadensis and Eupatorium purpureum . These take weeks to months to work. Also, use any good diuretic, like wild carrot seed or uva ursi , or an aquaretic like goldenrod . The best pain reliever is Piper methysticum , which anaesthetizes the urethra. Drink a tea or take a tincture.-
JOHN REDDEN , herbalist, Toronto
"Stones tend to form in acid urine, so you need to alkalize. There is a protocol whereby you can measure your morning urine. It should be within a certain range. Eat alkaline foods [broccoli, lettuce, tofu] and minimize intake of acidic foods [corn, beef, wheat]. Get regular exercise . Minimize stress . Calcium citrate is beneficial, as is magnesium . Dairy is not the best source of calcium. Phytates are considered beneficial, like grains and legumes ."
Zorana Rose , naturopath, Toronto
"Ultimately, you can almost always avoid making a stone if you keep yourself well-enough hydrated. We talk about a 'stone belt' of people in the southeast [U.S.]. People sweat and drink ice tea, which contains oxalate. People who have stomach problems have a high incidence of stones because they're popping Tums and Rolaids, which have a very high calcium content. Another at-risk group is women who supplement with calcium. Ten per cent of stones are uric acid stones and have nothing to do with calcium or oxalate. Stones under 7 or 8 millimetres will pass, but the process won't be painless. Bigger stones are more likely to lodge. If the stone is up in the kidney, extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) is the state of the art. If it has already dropped into the ureter, then we might recommend a more invasive procedure."
DAVID KAUFMAN , assistant professor of clinical urology, Columbia University, New York
"From a preventative point of view, reduce protein, fat and alcohol, watch out for refined carbohydrates and increase fibre . Blood sugar regulation is important because sugar tends to increase the amount of calcium in the urine. Another factor may be a latent or chronic infection. Magnesium seems to be really good in combination with B6 at preventing recurrences. Some herbal laxatives like senna or aloe in very low doses, lower than what would cause a laxative effect, can help prevent formation. Khella helps with pain and inflammation. Marshmallow and horsetail are soothing and help ease the passage. In severe cases I would use belladonna in homeopathic doses."
MITCHELL ZEIFMAN , naturopath, Toronto