Low vs. High Calcium Diets:
Which Helps Rid You of Kidney Stones?
Kidney Stones. If you’ve ever passed a large stone, you’d know. Some people have even likened the pain to childbirth. If you haven’t had any stones, consider yourself lucky! So, what can you do to help rid reoccurring stones or maybe even stop one from happening? Read on.
There are different types of kidney stones, but because about 8 out of 10 cases are calcium derived, I’m limiting this post to this type of stone. Calcium kidney stones, as the name implies, is formed from calcium – calcium oxalate to be exact. I’m telling you the exact type of calcium compound because it’ll play a part further on down in this post.
Calcium. Some people think that because a kidney stone consists of calcium that they should decrease their intake of calcium. The logic is that the less calcium there is in your body, the less chance that calcium stones will form. Don’t believe it. Consuming too little calcium will increase your chances of getting kidney stones. Here’s why.
Remember how I mentioned that kidney stones are made of calcium oxalate? If not, then you probably skipped ahead. Go back and read the second paragraph above; don’t worry, it’s short. It’s ultimately about the amounts of calcium and oxalate (also called oxalic acid) found in the foods you eat; too little of one or too much of the other can cause a calcium oxalate stone to form in the wrong place.
Calcium binds to oxalate (in a process called chelation) and forms calcium oxalate. The less calcium that is consumed, the less calcium is available in your body to bind to any oxalate you may have eaten. This is where the confusion often lies. Even though kidney stones are comprised of calcium oxalate, you want calcium to bind to the oxalate in your gut. If this didn’t happen, there would be more free unbound oxalate in your body.
This free unbound oxalate will pass easily into your bloodstream. And now that it’s in your bloodstream, it will have to pass through your kidneys to be excreted out in the urine. Therein lies the problem. In urine, calcium and oxalate have a much higher tendency to bind and form a stone (a process called precipitation). The only way this newly formed stone is now getting out of your body is through your small urethra, or in layman terms, the pee pee tube….OUCH! Childbirth revisited.
Now, what if much more calcium was consumed, especially in combination with an oxalate food? Glad you asked. The calcium would bind to the oxalate in the gut. This newly formed calcium oxalate compound is not absorbable and will not enter the bloodstream. It stays in the gut, which is exactly where you want it to be. It is excreted out in the stool and you’ll be none the wiser that it ever left your body.
So, now that you’re armed with this (hopefully) new knowledge, what should you do to help rid yourself of future kidney stones?
- Consume your calcium! Ideally you want about 1,200 mg of calcium per day. This is the general recommended daily amount and not some exaggerated number.
- Watch your intake of high oxalate foods. Don’t know which foods are high in oxalates? Check out this link of high oxalate foods. A word of warning though: chocolate is one of the foods high in oxalate. Hey, I never said it’s easy.
- If you do consume a high oxalate food (such as that nice piece of chocolate), consume some calcium along with it so it will be more likely to bind in your gut and not your kidneys.
Is there anything I missed. If so, let me know.