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What Doctors Don't Tell You © (Volume 11, Issue 6)
Q-My mother, aged 85, has one or two kidney stones lodged in one kidney. She has been to see a urologist, who advised her that lithotripsy is not suitable in her case due to the size of the stones and possibly their position.

The stones do not cause her any pain or hardly any other effects except perhaps one. It is suspected that the stones may be involved in her need to go to the toilet frequently, including several times at night. This affects her sleep and, consequently, her energy levels. She has slight urinary incontinence and has to wear pads every day. This problem seems to affect her life considerably as her days have to be planned around access to the toilet wherever she goes.

I recently read about Quebra pedra and understand that it has been found to have the ability to dissolve stones. My only worry is whether this could cause more problems in an 85 year old. Could stone fragments block her ureters and are there likely to be any other potential problems? Does your panel have any experience of using herbs like this and how long would it take? What is the best dosage in this case?

My mother is basically in very good health apart from the above and takes reasonable care over her diet as well as takes supplements of magnesium and B6 along with a range of other nutrients. I'm wondering whether it is worth trying this herb or something similar, or simply leaving well enough alone.

While she has tried pelvic floor exercises, I'm afraid she doesn't do them regularly, despite reminders from me. TS, Croydon, Surrey....

A-Kidney stones are deposited in the kidneys or the ureter and range in size from a tiny grain of sand to a golf ball. These stones consist mainly of calcium, where lime salts form around some small mass of mucus or other tissue fragment.

Most kidney stones form through an overly acidic diet, usually due to too much protein (both animal and plant) or sugar (Prac Eur Dial Transpl Assoc, 1983; 20: 411-6; Br J Urol, 1991; 67: 230-6; Br J Urol, 1986; 58: 353-7). Kidney stone patients tend to have a lower intake of fibre in their diet as well as low levels of vitamin B1 (Urol Res, 1986; 14: 75-82.

But it's also associated with taking medicines like stomach powders for stomach upsets or ulcers and even soft tap water. Studies have shown that areas high in stone formation usually have soft water (fewer minerals in the water) and areas low in stone formation have hard water.

This doesn't necessarily mean water that contains more calcium. In one study comparing soft and hard waters, calcium content was the same (J Urol, 1982; 128: 422-5). It may be that low levels of other minerals cause more calcium to be excreted into the kidneys. Indeed, a high intake of carbohydrate and fat, and a low intake of calcium does increase stone formation (Br J Urol, 1995; 76: 692-6).

There's also evidence of stones caused by chronic heavy metal poisoning, particularly from the mercury in dental fillings. In one study of cadavers at autopsy, far more mercury was found to have accumulated in the kidneys of patients with amalgam fillings than in those without metal fillings (Swedish Dent J, 1987; 11: 179-87). But too high levels of lead and also cadmium can also lead to stones (Br J Urol, 1982; 54: 584-9; Toxicology, 1992; 73: 127-46), so it's good to rule them out too.

Finally, people can develop kidney stones by not drinking enough fluids (less than two litres per day). This is because when urinary output is reduced, the minerals in urine that make up stones are more concentrated (Freed D, ed, Health Hazards of Milk, London: Bailliere Tindal, 1984).

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What Doctors Don't Tell You What Doctors Don’t Tell You is one of the few publications in the world that can justifiably claim to solve people's health problems - and even save lives. Our monthly newsletter gives you the facts you won't......more
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