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Causes of Kidney Stones

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There are many potential causes of kidney stone formation. In general they are the result of a super concentration of chemicals in the urine that results in crystals being formed. This may be brought on by one or more of the following:

  • a family genetic predisposition to form stones;
  • an excess of calcium or certain other minerals in the diet (sometimes due to local geographic water or soil conditions);
  • intake of excess uric acid, certain medications, Vitamin C, or Vitamin D;
  • a diet of fruits and vegetables high in oxalate (a by product of metabolism);
  • long term dehydration (possibly due to inadequate intake of fluids) and its resulting concentration of urine;
  • urinary infection;
  • living in an area where high temperatures cause sweating and loss of fluids; or
  • possibly, just leading a sedentary (low physical activity) lifestyle.

The function of the kidneys is to eliminate byproducts of metabolism. (The kidney's parts and workings are explained in detail and illustrated by the NIH at The Kidneys and How They Work.) This means they are constantly collecting the major ingredients for kidney stones - including calcium, oxalate, and uric acid. Ideally these minerals are kept in suspension until they are passed out of the body. Too much metabolic byproducts in insufficient fluid (urine) makes a person prone to kidney stone formation.

The over concentration of metabolic byproducts in the urine can cause these minerals to move out of suspension and crystallize. These small crystals that precipitate out of the super saturated urine will usually pass on out through the urinary tract, but they may begin to clump together. Any existing crystal makes it easier for other crystals to form. If they stay in the kidney very long, the crystals gradually grow larger and larger until they become a kidney stone so large that it cannot pass comfortably through the urinary tract such as the 5mm stone pictured shown below.

Photograph courtesy of R J Hall

Several underlying metabolic disorders may be the root cause of excessive calcium and oxalate forming stones in the kidney. Often doctors overlook the basic cause because of the attention of the sufferer being on the immediate cause of the pain leading the physician to be primarily concerned with immediate pain relief and the extraction or dissolution of the kidney stone causing the problem. The potential root causes include, but are not limited to the following:

  1. A re-absorption of the calcium from the bones back into the blood system which the kidneys then filter out (resorptive hypercalciuria or hyperparathyroidism).
  2. The intestines absorb too much calcium from the diet (absorptive hypercalciuria).
  3. The kidneys filter out calcium from the blood but do not allow the reaborption of the calcium back into the blood as it should while it is still in the tubule of the kidney (renal hypercalciuria).
  4. Several forms of bowel disease (ulcurative colitis, regional enteritis, etc.) which can contribute to high levels of urinary oxalate excretion.
  5. Excess dietary intake of oxalate from foods such as green leafy vegatables. (See list of high oxalate foods later in this article.)
  6. High levels of uric acid in the urine can act as a breeding ground for calcium oxalate stones.
  7. Or, in a reverse manner, the lack of certain stone formation inhibitors normally found in the urine may not be present in sufficient quantities and thereby allow the formation of stones. One such ingredient is citrate (which this author is deficient in); another is magnesium. Recent government studies inicate that upwards of 68% of Americans are deficient in magnesium.
  8. Infection stones are indicators of the underlying infection in the urinary tract.

Continue reading by exploring my review of the most effective home remedies to relieve pain, pass a kidney stone, and prevent stones from coming back.

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Latest update October 2, 2018