From Occurrence to Ayurvedic Treatment of Renal Calculi Or Kidney Stones
Kidney stones also called renal calculi and urolithiasis, have become a painfully common occurrence, especially in adults. Ayurveda terms kidney stones as Asmari or Mutrãsmarior Sarkkara, which can be translated as hard materials or stones formed in the urinary system. These stones are pebble-like solids containing salts and minerals that originate from concentrated urine in the kidneys. Although termed kidney stones, this condition can affect any part of your urinary system – your kidneys, urinary tract, or even urinary bladder.
Many studies indicate that adults have about 10% chance of being affected by kidney stones, with men having a higher propensity for developing complications than women. However, over the recent years, this condition has also become increasingly common among the infants-to-teenagers age group. A family history of kidney stones, dietary habits, geographical location, ethnicity, obesity, and even underlying diseases increase the risk of developing kidney stones.
These renal stones vary largely in terms of size, colour, shape, location, and composition. While some may be less than an inch in size, larger stones (called staghorn calculi) occur in case of a kidney infection. Smaller stones of about a quarter an inch pass across the entire urinary tract without any pain and are easily removed from the body. However, the larger stones get stuck in the kidney, the urinary tract, or the bladder. This causes severe pain and blood in the urine (haematuria).
The Ayurvedic treatment of Renal Calculi Or Kidney Stones includes a holistic patient- and condition-specific approach based on the type of, extent of, and complications from kidney stones. The treatment definitely involves making lifestyle changes to enable healthy functioning of the kidneys, along with safe and non-surgical medications and protocols for kidney stone removal.
Let’s then take a deeper look into kidney stones and what you need to do when you suspect this condition. We’ll first start with how the urinary system functions.
The Basic Structure of the Urinary System
The urinary system includes a pair of kidneys, a pair of ureters, a urinary bladder, and urethra. The urinary system’s main responsibility is to eliminate waste in liquid form (called urine) from the body. During this elimination process, the urinary system ensures that it maintains the water and mineral balance completely.
The first step of the elimination process within the urinary system starts from the kidneys. Two terms are commonly used to describe the kidney – “renal” and “nephro-” – both the terms refer to the kidney. The pair of bean-shaped kidneys are present beside the vertebral column – one on each side. The kidneys in males are
medulla includes a million tiny coiled tubes called nephrons – the basic functional unit within the kidneys. It is the nephrons that create urine in minute amounts, which flow through tiny ducts called collecting ducts, leading to the renal papilla. The renal papilla, in turn, is attached to a tube called the minor calyx that combines to create a major calyx. All the calices form the renal pelvis, which connects to the ureter.
One of the primary waste products eliminated by the kidneys is urea, which is produced when protein-rich foods (e.g., fish, meat, beans, yogurt, etc.) are digested and assimilated in the body. Urea travels through the blood to reach the kidneys, where it is filtered, reabsorbed, and secreted into the ureters. This urea is eliminated from the urethra along with other waste and, of course, water. As a result of the extensive secretion and reabsorption of chemicals called ions within the kidneys, these organs are essential for producing erythropoietin (required for managing the creation of red blood cells), conserving fluids, controlling blood pressure, and maintaining the acid-base balance of the entire body.
Once formed in the kidney, the urine is carried by the ureter to the urinary bladder, where it is stored temporarily before being voided through the urethral opening.
The Functional Importance of the Urinary System
Kidneys – produces urine
Kidneys play a critical role in excreting metabolic waste products from blood in the form of urine. In this process, they also help in purifying the blood and in maintaining the balance of sodium, calcium, and potassium ions in the body.
Healthy kidneys help filter almost 200 litres of blood and eliminate about 1.5 litres of urine each day. Urine contains many waste products including urea, uric acid, creatinine, urobilinogen, electrolytes, ammonia, and water.
Each of the primary filtering elements of the kidneys, the nephrons, contains tiny balls of blood capillaries called the glomerulus that lead to a long-winding tubule called the renal tubule. The nephrons ensure that the blood reaching the kidneys is filtered across the glomerulus and the renal tubules help reabsorb precious nutrients from the filtrate and secrete all the waste products into the filtered urine.
Ureters – transfers urine
The narrow pair of ureters transfers the urine formed in the kidneys into the urinary bladder. The ureter walls play an important role in pushing the urine down to the bladder, preventing it from flowing backward and causing infections in the kidneys.
Urinary bladder – stores urine
The urinary bladder is a triangular bag that is attached firmly in place by ligaments that connect with organs in the lower abdomen area. As the bladder gets filled with urine, its walls relax and the bladder expands in size to increase its storage capacity. In contrast, when the bladder empties during urination, the walls contract and force the urine out through the urethra until the bladder is empty.
Urethra – excretes urine
The urethra is a small duct that eliminates all the urine coming out of the bladder by relaxing the muscles of the urethral sphincter.
Thus, a healthy urinary system functions as a team to form, transport, and excrete urine from the human body. But when this balance is affected, kidney stones are formed and they have a tendency to block different sections of the urinary system, leading to severe pain and potential health complications.
What Causes Kidney Stones?
According to Ayurvedic principles, Renal Calculi Or Kidney Stones causes (or nidãna) can be mainly categorized into poor or unwholesome food habits (from reduced intake of water to excessive junk food), suppressing natural urges, hereditary factors, and an exceedingly sedentary and unhealthy lifestyle. Let’s look at some of the triggers: Diet excessively heavy in animal-source protein, such as beef and other red meat
● Diet excessively heavy in animal-source protein, such as beef and other red meat high intake of calcium supplements and food rich in Vitamin C
● High intake of calcium supplements and food rich in Vitamin including excess of specific types of green vegetables such as spinach in the diet
● Including excess of specific types of green vegetables such as spinach in the diet
● Vegetables and certain legumes like cauliflower, brinjal, potato, and green gram
● Excess intake of milk, butter, and related food products low intake of a water on a regular basis, which leads to dehydration
● Low intake of a water on a regular basis, which leads to dehydration
● Living in tropical areas or leading a strenuous lifestyle that requires a lot of water intake
● People who have undergone weight loss surgery could also develop kidney stones easily
● In addition, a familial tendency of developing kidney stones also increases the risk for this condition. Certain health conditions can also trigger kidney stones – renal tubular acidosis, and hyperparathyroidism are a few examples.
Thus, in general, all triggers that reduce urine volume or increase the insoluble mineral or other metabolite concentration of urine increase the tendency of developing kidney stones.
What Are the Different Types of Kidney Stones?
Kidney stones are mainly classified based on their chemical compositions. There are four types of kidney stones: Calcium stones
● Calcium stones
● Uric acid stones
● Struvite stones
● Cystine stones
Calcium stones are the most common among kidney stones and are primarily of two types: calcium oxalate and calcium phosphate. Calcium oxalate stones are formed from excessive dietary sources of calcium and through the breakdown of vitamin C. Calcium oxalate is also synthesized in small amounts by the liver. The intake of certain medications such as topiramate and acetazolamide leads to deposits of Calcium phosphate stones. Alkaline urine pH also produces calcium oxalate stones.
Uric acid stones
Uric acid stones are also common and are formed from excessive deposits of uric acid, one of the major waste products and end products of protein metabolism. An acidic and concentrated urine along with a low volume of urine increases the risk factors for uric acid stones. Other conditions that predispose people to developing uric acid stones include irritable bowel syndrome that causes extensive diarrhoea, diabetes, gout, obesity, and poor dietary habits (e.g., reduced intake of fruits and vegetables, high intake of animal proteins, and high salt). Low water intake also increases the chances of a uric acid formation.
Struvite stones are crystalline in nature and are composed of magnesium ammonium phosphate. Although not common as uric acid or calcium stones, struvite stones are indicative of serious infectious conditions and, hence, are also called infection stones. Chronic urinary tract infections from Staphylococcus, Klebsiella, Pseudomonas, and other such disease-causing microorganisms increase the pH of urine and hence the chances of developing struvite stones. In addition, patients who are on urinary catheters for an extended period of time or those with poor bladder-emptying capacities are also in the high-risk zone.
Cystine stones are rare in occurrence and are caused by rare genetic conditions that lead to extremely high cystine levels in the blood. This leads to cystinuria – a high concentration of cystine secreted into urine. But since cysteine is insoluble, it precipitates anywhere across the urinary system to form stones.
How Are Kidney Stones Classified in Ayurveda?
Ayurveda categorizes kidney stones into four types based on the aetiology, symptoms, and prognosis of the condition:
● Pitta asmari
● Vata asmariSukra
● Sukra asmari
What Are the Symptoms of Kidney Stones?
In many cases, kidney stones do not produce any symptoms at all. In these cases, the kidney stones are small and after forming in the kidney, they travel through the ureter and finally leave the body from the urethra. These instances of passing kidney are often eventless.
But when the size of the stones is large, they have a tendency to get trapped in the kidney (nephrolithiasis), ureters (ureterolithiasis), or the bladder (bladder stones), causing the following common signs of kidney stones:
● Severe kidney stone pain or cramps in the abdominal areas (especially, sides, lower back, and lower abdomen) and groin, which gives temporary relief when the person lies on his or her back.
● Blood in urine
● Frequent tendency to urinate, with or without a burning sensation
● Nausea loss of appetite
● Loss of appetite
● In case of ureterolithiasis, there is also a possibility of the urine passage getting completely blocked and the kidneys swelling, leading to severe pain – a condition termed hydronephrosis.
In addition to the symptoms, an X-ray and ultrasonography can confirm the diagnosis of kidney stones.
Ayurveda describes the symptoms of kidney stones based on its classification.
These kidney stones are dirty white phosphate stones that accumulate rapidly to form large stones but their smooth and soft texture makes them break apart easily. Sleshma asmari is characterized by a sharp and pricking pain and a stinging cold sensation in the bladder area of the body. They also lead to a sense of heaviness and dysuria.
Pitta asmari are brownish yellow and moderately hard uric acid stones. These smooth, multiple stones cause a warm, sucking sensation of pain in the bladder area. It also causes a burning sensation while passing urine.
Vata asmari is stones that are rough, hard, and single with a spiky surface. These stones are the most painful and the most strenuous symptoms can be faced by the patient. These include a cramping pain in the perineal zone of the body, difficulty in sitting, and complications in passing urine and stool.
Ayurvedic and Natural Herbal Treatment Approaches for Kidney Stones
Ayurveda focuses not only on natural medications but also on making healthy changes to the patient’s overall diet and lifestyle. The aim is to completely eliminate the stones and prevent their recurrence.
The first step is to alter the biochemical property of urine to remove the kidney stones. This is achieved by improving both the quality and the amount of fluids consumed, focusing on a balanced diet, and consuming a carefully selected combination of poly-herbal formulations.
Each group of herbal formulations has unique lithotriptic (stone dissolving), diuretic (increasing the production of urine), nephroprotective (protecting kidneys), anti-spasmodic (reducing spasms), anti-inflammatory (pain relieving), and anti-bacterial properties.
These unique formulations completely break down the kidney stones and painlessly eliminate them from the body through urine.
Dietary control and lifestyle changes
A considerable increase in fluid intake and restriction of salt in food are two essential steps to prevent stone formation, especially calcium stones. Animal proteins; vegetables including spinach, brinjal, cauliflower, and beetroot; over-ripe fruits; lemon; pickles; chocolates; tea; alcoholic beverages; and many other such food items are eliminated from day-to-day food to ensure recurrence of stones.
When Should You Visit an Ayurvedic Doctor and Start Following Their Treatment Regimens?
Since stones smaller than 4 mm in size with no or minimal symptoms do not cause any complications, you do not have to follow any specific treatment for kidney stone removal. But kidney stone treatment under the expert guidance of an Ayurvedic physician is essential in the following cases:Larger kidney stones
● Larger kidney stones familial history of kidney stones
● A familial history of kidney stones
● Infections and conditions such as diabetes that could lead to kidney stones
● Multiple stones
● Painful kidney stones
● Stones that do not pass out of the system within a reasonable period
What Are the Advantages of Following an Ayurvedic Treatment Regimen?
Ayurvedic treatment of kidney stones focuses entirely on natural, dietary, and lifestyle-changing approaches. Hence, these treatments deliver on completely eliminating and preventing recurrence of the condition.
Moreover, with zero need for any invasive surgical procedure such as open laparoscopy, shock wave lithotripsy, percutaneous nephrolithotomy, or ureteroscopy, you can avoid the expenses and complications of surgery and hospital admissions.
Ayurvedic treatment focuses on a complete 360-degree approach of treatment, timely intervention, and prevention, which is especially precious when the person has family members with the condition.
In addition, this treatment also helps in the management of diabetic nephropathy, gallstones, urinary tract infections, and other chronic kidney diseases.
What Can You Expect from Your Ayurvedic Physician in Terms of Diagnosis and Treatment?
Your Ayurvedic physicians would first collect your complete and detailed medical history, including food habits, lifestyle, stress levels, existing health conditions, previous occurrence, familial history, etc. They will also assess your symptoms in detail.
The next step includes carrying out some diagnostic assessments. They would order for routine urine examinations, ultrasonography, blood tests, and X-ray. They will confirm their diagnosis based on the results of these tests and their medical examination.
The confirmed diagnosis also gives them a clear idea about the specific nature, composition, size, and complications of the kidney stones that you are suffering from. Hence they will prepare a specific treatment recommendation that will exactly suit your requirements.
This treatment regimen will include internal herbal medications, herbal food supplements that protect the urinary system, detoxification procedures, dietary charts, and lifestyle recommendations. The physicians strictly monitor your progress across the various stages of the treatment regimen so you are cured completely.
Even after being cured, you will be meeting your physicians to continue your prevention regimens through medications and a healthy approach to leading day-to-day life.
Kidney stones are becoming one of the most common and, unfortunately, an often-ignored condition that completely disturbs the quality of life. A by-product of today’s lifestyle and food habits, kidney stones are often found only when the symptoms become visible. The excruciating pain, the overall discomfort and the gross metabolite and mineral imbalance these cause make this condition truly crippling. But the solution to this problem is completely manageable. All you need is an experienced Ayurvedic physician who completely understands your condition and the type of kidney stones you are suffering from. A healthy mix of herbal medications, diet, and lifestyle changes will completely eliminate the menace of kidney stones.
Choose the Ayurvedic path for a safe and complete cleansing of your urinary system to annihilate the complications of kidney stones.