Kidney Stones: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
by Dr. Surya Bhagwati on Jun 08, 2020
Kidney stone disease is something that urologists deal with most frequently, with the condition affecting an estimated 12% of all people worldwide. Medically described as renal lithiasis or nephrolithiasis, kidney stones are hard deposits that form within the kidneys. This crystallization of minerals and salts to form stones occurs when urine is highly concentrated. Calcium, oxalate, and uric acid are the main stone-forming substances. Although they mainly originate in the kidneys, they can also develop in any part of the urinary tract including the ureters, bladder, and urethra.
The condition is regarded as unthreatening in its early stages and may not even cause any discomfort in some patients. If not dealt appropriately however, kidney stones will eventually cause painful symptoms and may also increase the risk of complications. Natural kidney stone treatments in Ayurved are highly effective for the condition, but it helps to understand the causes and symptoms before proceeding with treatment.
Causes of Kidney Stones
Kidney stones can affect any of us, but they are more common in men and there are certain factors that increase your risk. These kidney stone risk factors include:
- Inadequate intake of water or frequent dehydration
- Diet with high protein, sugar, or sodium intake
- Excess body weight or obesity
- Family history or past history of kidney stones
- Hyperparathyroid, cystic kidney disease, or inflammatory bowel disorders that increase calcium absorption
- Surgical procedures like gastric bypass or intestinal surgery
- Use of pharmaceutical medications like diuretics, calcium-based antacids, and antiseizure drugs
Ayurved identifies similar risk factors, but adds greater insight to the underlying causes. Described as ashmari in classic Ayurvedic texts, kidney stone formation is linked to dosha imbalances. Ayurved also identifies four specific types of kidney stones, depending on the dosha imbalance involved. This is why ashmari is described as tridosha janya.
Kidney Stone Symptoms
In the case of small kidney stones, patients may not experience any symptoms and these stones may even be passed without discomfort. If the stones grow larger or move through the urinary tract however, painful symptoms start to appear. These include:
- Burning sensation or sharp pain during urination
- Pain towards one side of the back, abdomen, or the groins in men
- Passage of blood or discolored urine
- Nausea, vomiting, fever, and chills in some cases
- Increased frequency of urination but reduced urine output
Once again, Ayurvedic texts provide us with identical symptoms, but they also offer dosha based interpretations. In other words, depending on the specific symptoms or combination of symptoms involved, an Ayurvedic physician can identify the dosha involved and the type of kidney stone. Not only is each individual unique with his own dosha balance or prakriti, but the symptoms presented are also recognized as unique. This information can then guide the administration of highly personalized treatment.
Kidney Stone Treatment in Ayurved
The most important aspect of Ayurvedic kidney stone removal would involve personalized care to address the underlying dosha imbalance and the buildup of ama. This requires the attention and diagnosis of a skilled Ayurvedic physician. Once this has been done, your physician will provide you with the required therapy such as panchakarma detoxification and purifications therapies and herbal medications, as well as diet and lifestyle recommendations. All of these treatments are highly personalized, aiming not just to eliminate the kidney stones, but to also correct any dosha imbalance.
Generalized treatment guidelines involving diet emphasize increased fluid intake. Good hydration is necessary to reduce the risk of stone formation and to flush out any existing kidney stones. For this purpose, lukewarm water is most effective. Caffeinated and carbonated drinks, as well as packaged juices and colas should be avoided completely as they are loaded with sugar and can also increase dehydration, exacerbating kidney stone disease. Aside from water, coconut water and buttermilk are good for hydration, but their efficacy could vary depending on the type of kidney stones.
As is standard practice in Ayurvedic diets, your focus should be on whole and fresh foods, while all processed and refine food intake should be severely limited or avoided. One of the reasons for this recommendation is their high salt and sugar content, so avoid adding too much salt and sugar to meals too. While fruits and vegetables can be varied and should only be customized based on dosha considerations, certain leafy veggies like spinach should be limited. Additionally, meats and dairy foods like paneer should be restricted.
Ayurved’s focus on holistic healing has long recognized the healing value of foods. So, beyond generalized diet recommendations, some foods are regarded as particularly helpful for kidney stone relief. Lemons and fresh lemon juice is said to help ease kidney stone removal and reduce the risk of stone formation. This is now recognized as logical, especially when dealing with calcium stones, as citrate can help break them up. Pomegranate juice is also recommended because of its astringent qualities and high antioxidant value. These properties can restrict stone formation and help control pH levels of urine.
Ayurvedic Medicine for Kidney Stones
Once again, personalized prescriptions will be most effective at controlling the underlying dosha imbalance. However, herbal medication is also central to the Ayurvedic treatment of kidney stones, with every ayurvedic medicine for kidney stone containing herbs like prajmoda, varuna, guduchi, gokhru, and punarnava. These herbs are highly valued for their antiurolithiatic and nephroprotective effects. Herbs with such properties can basically prevent or treat kidney stones and also protect against kidney damage. Some, like gokhru are effective for specific types of kidney stones – gokhru lowers phosphate levels, while others like prajmoda can increase urine flow and regulate pH levels. Punarnava is however the most highly valued of all these herbs for kidney stone disease, prominently featuring in the Sushruta Samhita. This is also the primary ingredient in Dr. Vaidya’s Punarnava medicine for kidney disease.
If you are at risk of kidney stones or suffer from the problem, Ayurvedic medicine should be your first resort. Ayurvedic treatment is non-invasive and non-threatening as it is wholly natural and free of any risk of side effects. Keeping in mind the serious nature of kidney stone disease however, you should seek help from a qualified Ayurvedic doctor if the problem persists.
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