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Global warming & Kidney Stones....What's the link?

Here's a side effect of global warming that few have heard before. In the latest edition of the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, researchers postulate that the incidence of kidney stones could increase by 30% in some regions of the United States by 2050. The southeastern region of the United States is currently termed the "kidney stone belt" for the higher incidence of kidney stones in the general population. The reason being that warmer weather and dehydration are risk factors for developing kidney stones - thought to be the closest experience to childbirth than a man can go through, although some women who have gone through both situations claim that passing kidney stones is more painful. It's hard to say because women tend to forget or minimize the pain of childbirth after the fact. It's nature's way of helping the human race to keep procreating!

Global warming is expected to increase temperatures in the north, leading to more cases of dehydration and decreased urine output. Middle aged men are more at risk for developing kidney stones than women and the statistics show that about 1 in 10 Canadians will develop kidney stones in their lifetime.

Causes of Kidney Stones:
  1. Calcium stones - Approximately 4 out of 5 cases of kidney stones are made of calcium and oxalate (found in fruits & veggies). However please don't decrease your intake of fruits & vegetables. Speak to a qualified health care practitioner if you are at risk of developing kidney stones and they should be able to put you on a diet low in oxalic acid. Other risk factors include excess calcium and vitamin D, certain drugs or hormones like diuretics and thyroid hormones, some kidney conditions and certain cancers.
  2. Struvite stones - Found more in women because of chronic urinary tract infections. Certain bacterial infections increase the pH of the urine making it alkaline because they increase the production of ammonia in the urine.
  3. Uric acid stones - Uric acid is most commonly associated with Gout, a condition whereby a person eats too much animal protein. Uric acid is a byproduct of protein metabolism. Other risk factors include people who have undergone chemotherapy and those with a genetic predisposition.
  4. Cystine stones - Least frequently seen as they form from individuals with a heriditary disorder that causes them to excrete large amounts of cystine (an amino acid) in the urine.

What you can do:
  • Drink plenty of fluids. The more urine you excrete, the less likely you are to make kidney stones.
  • Decrease your intake of meat proteins. Western cultures tend to eat more meat than is necessary. Remember my rule of thumb: half your plate should be veggies, a quarter grains and the remaining quarter meat. That translates to at most a 3 ounce steak. We don't need as much protein as we are lead to believe. That goes for most gym rats as well.
  • Get moving! Believe it or not, too much bed rest or living a sedentary lifestyle can increase your risk. As your activity level decreases, your bones begin to shrink as they are not put through the rigours of a hard workout or an active lifestyle. Shrinking bones leads to a release of calcium and other minerals that make up the bone.
  • If you're prone to uric acid stones or gout, cherry juice can help.
  • Of course, do your part for the environment and we will all benefit!
Yours in Health,
Dr. Ian Koo ND

"The care you want, the health you need."

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