Friday, June 03, 2005

Skipping stones

Q: I just spent my weekend in agony at the emergency room passing a kidney stone. It was my first one, and I'm determined to make it my last. Can you give me any dietary or nutritional advice that will help me avoid taking drugs, while also avoiding getting another kidney stone? A: There are plenty of effective strategies to prevent further stones. Although you didn't specify in your message, I suspect you had the most common form of kidney stone -- calcium oxalate. If so, consider taking magnesium and vitamin B6 supplements. Vitamin B6 will cut down on the production of oxalate, and magnesium will make it more soluble. I generally recommend 200 milligrams of each, twice daily. While toxicity from these supplements is unlikely, you should watch out for diarrhea from the magnesium, or any tingling of the feet and hands from the B6 -- these are signs that the dose is too high and should be cut back. There are also some diet and lifestyle changes you may want to make. Drink plenty of water, since dehydration can contribute to stone formation. Cut back on sugar, salt, and animal protein, all of which are stone causers. Also, be mindful of the oxalate content of the foods you eat. Beans, coca, parsley, rhubarb, spinach, and black tea are all high in oxalates and should probably be on your restricted list. Finally, you might want to find a nutritionally oriented doctor who can monitor and follow up with your progress. If you need a list of such physicians in your area, you can contact the American College for Advancement in Medicine (949-583-7666; www.acam.org).

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