Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Different Kind of Stoner: Kidney Stones Are Voodoo Curses or Punishment from Angry Gods





If you are one of the lucky ones like me, you've joined the club of stoners. No, I don't mean anything as pleasant as sitting around with your buddies, playing video games, passing around the bong. 

Passing the bong would be far preferable to passing stones through your ureter, around in your bladder, down through your urethra and out from your ding dong, or lady hole. 

Unless you've passed a kidney stone, you won't know what I'm talking about. Seeing one can give you a small inkling of what we're tinkling. But not an understanding of the pain. They come in different shapes and sizes. Some are smooth and long, some have painful, sharp barbs, seemingly designed for torture. 


Different stones are made out of different stuff too. Mine happen to be calcium oxalate stones, nice and hard and sometimes sharp. "Passing" these little suckers is just marvelous.  

That is, if you're lucky. Passing stones is painful indeed, some have compared it to pregnancy. This isn't just men trying to horn in on the baby birthing game. This comparison has been made by a number of women. But passing stones is the easy way. It's when the stone fails to pass that the problem is really, extra, super bad. 

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For kidney stone victims, comparing the size of the stone you've dealt with is like comparing scars might be for old war veterans. When you talk to another sufferer you usually get into how many and what cc, etc. One of mine was 16mm and took thousands of blasts with the laser beam. The laser beam, by the way, travels the wrong way on what is supposed to be a one way street, right up the pee hole. 

Luckily I was born at a time when I could sleep through this life saving procedure. I'm not comparing it to open heart surgery. But if I had experienced the size of kidney stone, lodged in the way that it was, and I had happened to go through this in the 1800's, or say, now in some third world country, I would be dead. 

Well, I might have survived, due to the fact that the stone blocking the right kidney might have worked itself out. And we can live with only one. But the left kidney was completely blocked. And that sucker wasn't moving. 

Stones have been with us for as long as we've been. One line in the Hippocratic oath actually reads "I will not cut the stone, but leave that affair entirely to the surgeons." Though in ancient times, it should be noted, surgeons were not quite the success story they are today. More often than not a hole was cut, the stone was pulled out, and the patient left to die from bleeding or infection, the surgeon well on his way to another town.   

The great thing is, noone really knows for sure what causes them, or how to prevent them. "Drink lots of water!" That's the most consistent suggestion. There are hints. There are clues. But nothing concrete is certain, except the fact that if you've had one, you're very likely to have another, and, sad to say...just more of them. People offer advice. I was told to stop my dairy intake, don't drink tea, green, or black. Or I should drink green tea, but not black. But coffee is good for them, flushes them out. But coffee is bad for them, causes them. Alcohol hurts/helps flush them out. Beer is good (this one I actually believe to be totally true)

Luckily, I found an excellent urologist. He was very honest, caring, forthright and knowledgeable. He discussed his thoughts about causes and dietary change and was very flexible in his approach, realizing that it is highly likely that each person has his/her own issue, his/her own nuanced relationship with causal elements.  He referred me to the Cochrane Database.  The bottom line is that there has just not been enough study into the prevention of kidney stones. Not enough, that is, that has been adequately adherent to blind study protocols. However, there is significant anecdotal evidence for drinking plenty of water, and some study evidence to that effect. The Cochrane Database lays out the available data in a way that allows one to read into, or out of, study conclusions based on methodology and qualitative results. So check it out and draw your own conclusions. I'm still working on mine.

It is commonly accepted that adding citrus fruit juice to your diet can reduce the formation of stones, and, also noted, that cranberry juice is only effective in treating infections, and benefits or potential harm from cranberry juice regarding stone formation is unclear. 

As for my knowledge and intent, I'm not linking you to any miracle cure here, or targeting your pocketbook. The Cochrane Database is free, go check it out. I'm just telling you what I know. Because no human should go into a kidney stone event without knowing something about it/them.  

There is a substantial amount of mineral content in the water supply where I live. I am ordering a distiller, and will update if there is significant change. As it stands now, my last bout with non-passing stones was three months ago. Yesterday, I dropped one out about the size of an eraser head. Them ain't good numbers. My plan is to work closely with my urologist to catch them before they become lodged to the point of requiring laser surgery.  

Lithotripsy is the method by which stones are broken up using sonic waves. It is a miracle of science (which means someone invented it)If the stones can be broken up using lithotripsy the procedure is non-invasive, effective and relatively painless. 

By the way, I'm a firm believer in the power of alternative and preventive medicine. I make my own kefir, culture my own kraut, drink apple cider vinegar every day (which does seem to help somewhat with prevention/passing of stones), but firmly believe if you have symptoms of stones, use modern, Western medicine. It can be amazing.   

If you suffer from stones, think of it like a trip to the spa, only kind of in reverse. The pain avoided by an occasional visit to a urologist is well worth it. Bring your own cucumbers and just relax. But go see your doc. Waiting is not the way to go.      

   

      

 

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