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8 Natural Remedies to Prevent Kidney Stones

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8 Natural Remedies to Prevent Kidney Stones

By Hrefna Palsdottir

Kidney stones are a common health problem for many people.

Passing these stones can be incredibly painful. And, unfortunately, people who have experienced kidney stones are more likely to get them again (1).

However, there are a few things you can do to reduce this risk. This article explains what kidney stones are and outlines eight dietary ways to fight them.

What Are Kidney Stones?

Also known as renal stones or nephrolithiasis, kidney stones are composed of hard, solid waste materials that build up in the kidneys and form crystals.

Four main types exist, but about 80 percent of all stones are calcium oxalate stones. Less common forms include struvite, uric acid and cysteine (2, 3).

While smaller stones are usually not a problem, larger stones may cause a blockage in part of the urinary system as they leave the body.

This can lead to severe pain, vomiting and bleeding.

Kidney stones are a common health problem. In fact, about 12 percent of U.S. men and 5 percent of U.S. women will develop a kidney stone during their lifetime (3).

What's more, if you get a kidney stone once, studies suggest you are up to 50 percent more likely to form another stone within 5–10 years (4, 5, 6).

Below are 8 natural ways you can reduce the risk of forming another kidney stone.

Bottom Line: Kidney stones are firm lumps formed from crystallized waste products in the kidneys. They are a common health problem and passing large stones can be very painful.

1. Stay Hydrated

When it comes to kidney stone prevention, drinking plenty of fluids is generally recommended.

Fluids increase the volume and dilute the stone-forming substances in urine, which makes them less likely to crystallize (3).

However, not all fluids are equal for this purpose. For example, a high intake of water is linked to a lower risk of kidney stone formation (7, 8).

Beverages like coffee, tea, beer, wine and orange juice have also been associated with a lower risk (9, 10, 11).

On the other hand, consuming a lot of soda may contribute to kidney stone formation. This is true for both sugar-sweetened and artificially sweetened sodas (9).

Sugar-sweetened soft drinks contain fructose, which is known to increase the excretion of calcium, oxalate and uric acid. These are important factors for kidney stone risk (12, 13).

Some studies have also linked a high intake of sugar-sweetened and artificially sweetened cola to an increased risk of kidney stones, due to the phosphoric acid content (14, 15).

Bottom Line: Staying hydrated is important for preventing kidney stones. Yet some beverages may decrease the risk, while others may increase it.

2. Increase Your Citric Acid Intake

Citric acid is an organic acid found in many fruits and vegetables, particularly citrus fruits. Lemons and limes are especially rich in this plant compound (16).

Citric acid may help prevent calcium oxalate kidney stones in two ways (17):

1. Prevents stone formation: It can bind with calcium in the urine, thus reducing the risk of new stone formation (18, 19).

2. Prevents stone enlargement: It binds with existing calcium oxalate crystals, preventing them from getting larger. It can help you pass these crystals before they turn into larger stones (16, 19).

An easy way to consume more citric acid is to eat more citrus fruits, such as grapefruit, oranges, lemons or limes.

You can also try adding some lime or lemon juice to your water.

Bottom Line: Citric acid is a plant compound that may help prevent kidney stones from forming. Citrus fruits are great dietary sources.

3. Limit Foods High in Oxalates

Oxalate (oxalic acid) is an anti-nutrient found in many plant foods, including leafy greens, fruits, vegetables and cocoa (20).

However, your body also produces it in considerable amounts.

A high oxalate intake may increase oxalate excretion in urine, which can be problematic for people who tend to form calcium oxalate stones (21).

Oxalate can bind calcium and other minerals and form crystals, which can lead to stone formation (21).

However, foods high in oxalate also tend to be very healthy, so a strict low-oxalate diet is no longer recommended for all stone-forming individuals.

Nowadays, a low-oxalate diet is only suggested for patients who have hyperoxaluria, a condition characterized by high levels of oxalate in the urine (17).

Before changing your diet, consult your doctor or dietitian and get tested to find out whether you will benefit from limiting high-oxalate foods.

Bottom Line: Foods high in oxalate can be problematic for some people. However, seek advice from a health professional before limiting these foods, as it's not necessary for all stone-forming people.

4. Don't Take High Doses of Vitamin C

Studies indicate that vitamin C (ascorbic acid) supplements are associated with a higher risk of getting kidney stones (22, 23, 24).

A high intake of supplemental vitamin C may increase the excretion of oxalate in the urine, as some vitamin C can be converted into oxalate within the body (25, 26).

One study among middle-aged and older Swedish men found that vitamin C supplement takers may be twice as likely to develop kidney stones as those who don't take supplements (23)

However, note that vitamin C from food sources, such as lemons, is not associated with an increased stone risk (27).

Bottom Line: There is some evidence that taking high doses of vitamin C supplements may increase the risk of calcium oxalate kidney stones in men.

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A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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