Kidney Stones: Blood, Pain and Protein
You wake up in the middle of the night with excruciating waves of pain racking your body. The pain starts in the back, but shoots down into your pelvis. No position is comfortable. You feel the urge to pee, and what comes out looks a bit reddish and dark, like a cola, discolored by blood. Very little comes out at a time, and with each effort to go, the pain gets worse. Finally, in agony, you get in your car and go to the hospital. A few tests of the urine and an X-ray are done and the doctor comes in to tell you that you are passing a kidney stone.
The summer months are the most common ones for this malady. Hotter temperatures mean more sweating and thus less water in the body. A review article for doctors on the management of stones lists high animal protein diets as the number two risk factor behind low fluid intake. How does animal protein cause kidney stones?
Animal protein is high in methionine, one of the sulfur-containing amino acids. Any protein is just long chains of amino acids and because of their function, animal proteins generally have more methionine than plant proteins. Because almost all of the protein you eat will be converted to sugar to burn, the sulfur remains as waste product. That sulfur is turned briefly into sulfuric acid, which as you can imagine, is not something you want to have hanging around.
To get rid of this sulfuric acid, the kidney buffers the acid with calcium and other ions from the blood stream. The blood then takes additional calcium from the food and from bone to make up for the loss. That calcium can sometimes reach such high concentrations in the urine that it solidifies in the urine collecting system and turns into a kidney stone.
If you or someone you love has suffered the severe pain of a kidney stone, you may want to consider getting rid of the animal protein in your diet. While all animal protein is high in methionine, red meats, fish, chicken and seafood are the worst. Cheese and other solid dairy products are close, as are some nuts.
So if you want to avoid the above scenario, focus your foods on lower Methionine foods that are tasty and nutritious, like potatoes, corn, sweet potatoes, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, apples, oranges and bananas. You’ll be sleeping through the night and you won’t think your urine has been replaced with Coca-cola.