The Fundamentals

The kidneys are a pair of purplish-brown organs situated at the back of the abdominal cavity, lateral to the spinal column. The kidneys form urine from blood plasma. They are the major regulators of the water, electrolyte, and acid-base content of the blood and, indirectly, all body fluids. Kidney stones are an abnormal concretion usually composed of crystalline urinary salts held together by viscid organic matter. In the kidney, these stones can block urine flow. If the ureter is blocked by the stone, there is sudden, severe, and paroxysmal renal colic with chills, fever, hematuria, and frequency of urination. The prognosis is serious if left untreated. Pain relief is a priority, and relaxing the smooth muscles will help in passing the stone and relieving pain. If the stone is preventing urine flow or continues to grow and causes infection, surgery may be indicated, or the stone may be disintegrated ultrasonically.

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NIDDK: Kidney Stones
Kidney Stones
s many as 10 percent of American men and 5 percent of American women have a kidney stone at least once in their lifetime. Usually composed of calcium, or crystalline urinary salts, stones form in the kidneys when amounts of water, calcium oxylate, uric acid, and phosphate normally in the kidneys become imbalanced. When the urine pH is abnormal or the kidneys' normal protective mechanisms are overwhelmed, stones may also form.
Some other factors that can contribute to the formation of kidney stones include dehydration, cout or Cushing's disease, chemotherapy for the treatment of cancer, or using certain drugs, such as thyroid medications, vitamin D supplements, or antacids. Once the stones have crystallized and begin to move through the urinary passageway, the pain can be excruciating in the area below the ribs and sometimes radiating into the lower abdomen. The pain may also be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, lack of appetite, and fever. If a stone completely blocks off the flow of urine, infection can form and, if left untreated, can lead to permanent kidney damage. A medical evaluation to rule out obstruction and to find the cause of the stones is necessary. Pain medication and surgery may be recommended. There are many herbs that are helpful in alleviating the pain of kidney stones when there is no obstruction or infection. They are also helpful for those who have a tendency toward recurrence.
Antispasmodic herbs are useful in relaxing the ureter. Valerian Root is particularly helpful as it is an antispasmodic and strongly sedative. It may be useful in relaxing the ureter enough to allow a small stone to pass. Scullcap and Wild Yam, both antispasmodics, are also helpful, but Wild Yam is not a sedative. If you need to stay awake, Wild Yam is the herb you should take. Many herbs that help prevent recurring kidney stones contain compounds called anthraquinones which bind with calcium in the urinary tract and prevent it from crystallizing into a stone. These very often act as laxatives. Yellow Dock is traditionally used as a blood purifier, and contains anthraquinones. If diarrhea is experienced while taking Yellow Dock, you may choose to decrease the dose. If the stones are caused by an excess of uric acid, Juniper berry may be helpful as studies have shown it decreases the amount of uric acid in the body.
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