I wanted to start this section with my view on vitamins and minerals and my plans to live to 120 years of age. But instead I was drawn to another topic: kidney stones. It turns out that I had my first one a few weeks back, just to discover that the one that passed -- a 2mm calcium oxalate one -- has company: two more remain, one in the right kidney and one in the left, 2.5 and 6 mm (now I forget which one is where, but it doesn't matter).
So, what would a scientist with interest in nutrition would do? Read about how kidney stones are formed, what to eat and what not to eat and how to avoid them.
I'm still collecting my findings and my thoughts on this, but the most important things to know at this point are:
- Hydration is the most important mechanism to avoid stones. Water and lemonade are the best. Avoid cranberry juice and black tea.
- Do not avoid calcium, but don't supplement either. Calcium oxalate stones are a combination of calcium and oxalate (a component found in plants). Reducing calcium intake is bad for one's health in general and it is not likely to reduce stone formation (the body has a lot of calcium stored in bones and teeth). So, do not avoid calcium. In fact, I'm currently reading about adding more calcium to my diet. More on this later. However, taking calcium supplements may be unnecessary or even bad. The jury is still out on this one, which seems contradictory, but I believe it has to do with the various types of calcium supplements (carbonate, citrate, malate, phosphate, etc). More on this later too.
- Avoid high-oxalate intake. If avoiding calcium is not the solution, then avoiding extra oxalate is the only other possibility. Turns out that current research supports this. The bad news is that oxalate is present in a heck of a lot of yummy vegetables, nuts and fruits. Since these are essential to good health, one should not avoid all vegetables, nuts and fruits, but instead limit consumption of those with very high oxalate amounts. From an initial cursory look it seems that spinach, rhubarb and almonds are the top offenders, followed by chocolate, aspargus and black tea. Everywhere I look shows a slightly different list, but some items appear on all lists, such as chocolate, all nuts and spinach. More investigation is needed.
That's it for my initial investigation.
About 80% of stone avoidance can be gotten with proper water intake -- 2 liters a day or more.
I've actually setup my cell phone to page me every hour of every day, to remind me to take a sip of water. It's harder than it seems, but the theory is that once one gets adjusted to higher water intake, the body will respond better and the urges to use the restroom will slowly decrease and craving water early (before one is even mild dehydrated) will become second nature.
I hope the literature is right. So far, it's annoying to drink so much water. But I'm starting to get used to the idea.
I'll soon write more about my other findings about kidney stones and how to avoid them.
For now, salute! Time for another glass of H2O.