Kidney stones can be extremely painful, and there is a rather large risk that they reoccur at a later time. What you eat means a lot and your diet is therefore an important key to prevention. It is important to get plenty of magnesium and vitamin B6, whereas you should try to avoid oxalate-rich food sources like spinach, nuts, root vegetables, food with high soy content, rhubarb, berries, and dark chocolate. All of these items contain a lot of oxalate that may contribute to the formation of kidney stones. If you take magnesium in supplement form, make sure to choose a source that the body can absorb properly. Also, drink plenty of water, according to an article in the Norwegian health magazine Vitenskap og Fornuft.
Kidney stones are hard deposits that form inside your kidneys and in the urinary tract. There are different reasons why we get them. Some people only have mild symptoms from a stone that passes through the system on its own, while others have violent pain with nausea and vomiting. If a kidney stone is lodged in the lower part of the urinary tract it may cause a frequent urge to urinate, and there is a risk of infection if the stone blocks the passage of urine. In severe cases, kidney stones cause lifelong symptoms with recurrent hospitalization and a risk of kidney failure.
Men are at greatest risk. Ten to 15 percent of all men risk kidney stones at some time during their life. In comparison, only three to five percent of women are affected by the condition. If you have had kidney stones once, there is a 50 percent risk that you will form another stone within the next 10 years.
If you have had kidney stones at a young age, your risk is even greater, which is why it is so important to prevent the problem.
How can dietary oxalate cause kidney stones?
Many people eat a lot of nuts, seeds, root vegetables, spinach, and berries because this type of food is healthy. They may even have replaced meat with soy products and the daily smoothie may be loaded with almond milk, spinach, and berries. Then there is dark chocolate which many people love. The problem is that when you overconsume these things you get too much oxalate, which is not good for you.
Oxalate is a salt or ester of oxalic acid. When oxalic acid binds to calcium, calcium oxalate is formed. Calcium oxalate crystals begin as small particles and have a tendency to increase in size and grow into larger structures or stones that can get stuck in the body, possibly resulting in unpleasant symptoms. If they become lodged in the urinary tract, they are called kidney stones. An estimated 80 percent of kidney stones consist of calcium oxalate crystals, and it is therefore believed that larger quantities of dietary oxalate may increase the risk of this potentially painful condition. The risk increases even more if there are problems with the gut flora or nutrient deficiencies.
In our gut flora, we have certain bacteria (Oxalobacter formigens) that uses oxalate as an energy source, thereby reducing the body’s oxalate uptake. However, imbalances in the gut flora such as those that follow in the wake of antibiotic treatment may eradicate the bacteria that metabolize oxalate. In that case, the uptake of oxalate in the blood increases.
We also need calcium and magnesium from the diet because both minerals are able to bind oxalate in the intestine and prevent the uptake of oxalate in the body. Calcium supplements do not appear to be as effective as dietary calcium. On the contrary. Kidney stones occur when the urine is saturated with insoluble chemical compounds that get stuck. It is also a problem if the urine is too concentrated (yellow) due to dehydration. The pH value is also important.
Simple dietary advice if you have kidney stones
When preventing and treating kidney stones, one must always try to identify the cause and try to determine what the kidney stones are made of. The majority of kidney stones consist of calcium oxalate so it is important to avoid foods like spinach, rhubarb, chard, root vegetables (red beets, sweet potato, parsnips), peanuts, nuts, almonds, soy and soy products, berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries), and dark chocolate. All these foods increase the body’s oxalate uptake, which means more oxalate is excreted via the urine.
You can consume moderate amounts of the listed foods from time to time, as it is difficult to predict how little or much it takes before you tend to form kidney stones. Generally speaking, make sure to eat a healthy, balanced diet and to drink plenty of fluid. The normal daily requirement is 30 ml. for every kilo of body weight. If you weigh 70 kilos, you need to drink around 2.1 liters of fluid per day.
Always balance your intake of magnesium and calcium
Magnesium controls the distribution of calcium in the body so that 99 percent of the calcium is directed to teeth and bones, whereas the calcium concentration in soft tissues like kidneys and blood vessels must be very limited at all times. Lack of magnesium can disrupt the body’s calcium distribution with an increased risk of kidney stones that consist of calcium oxalate. Always make sure to have the right balance between calcium and magnesium. If you take a calcium supplement, you should always combine it with magnesium.
Supplements of magnesium and vitamin B6
Several studies have shown that magnesium supplements combined with vitamin B6 can drastically reduce the formation of calcium oxalate stones. The reason why the combination is important is that vitamin B6 enhances the effect of magnesium, which is involved in over 300 different enzyme processes.
You can take 200 mg of magnesium 1-3 times per day and combine it with 50-100 mg of vitamin B6. Magnesium supplements must contain magnesium forms that are easily absorbed in the blood and cells. Magnesium oxide is not a good source. It is primarily used as a laxative because it affects the intestines directly.
Iver Mysterrud og Johnny Laupsa-Borge. Oksalat – lite kjent årsak til sykdom. Helsemagasinet Vitenskap og Fornuft. Nr. 6, 2020
Hrefna Palsdottir. 8 Natural Remedies to Fight Kidney Stones at Home. Helathline.com 2019
Harvard Health Publishing Staff. 5 steps for preventing kidney stones. Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School 2013
Eric N Tailor et al. Dietary factors and the risk of incident kidney stones in men: new insight after 14 years of follow-up. Am Soc Nephrol 2004
Gerry K. Schwalfenberg and Stephen J. Genuis. The Importance of Magnesium in Clinical Healthcare. Scientifica (Carro) 2017
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