Ask the Doctor: Bladder Stone Prevention and Treatment
I’d very much appreciate it if you could address the issue of bladder stones (not kidney stones, not gallstones).
I’d like your take on what causes them to occur; what foods/drinks to avoid; what natural remedies are best to reduce and/or eliminate them.
Similarly, re: BPH and high PSA reading – 8.4. Many thanks in advance and keep up your great work. Howard F.
Bladder stones are basically hard masses (the size of tiny pebbles) that form from minerals that crystallize inside the bladder, mostly in men over the age of 50. They usually start to form just as men begin to have problems completely emptying their bladders. This allows for the urine to become more concentrated and, in time, stones start to develop.
If the urinary bladder is completely drained, minerals do not have enough time to form into stones. Most of the smaller bladder stones usually pass without treatment but occasionally they require medications or surgery. Left untreated, bladder stones can result in infections and possible blood loss or urinary tract blockages.
Infections can cause bladder stones as well as the presence of any foreign materials in the bladder. Prostate gland enlargement (Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy or BPH) can cause bladder stones in men because it can interfere with urinary flow preventing the bladder from emptying completely. Damaged nerves to the bladder (a.k.a. neurogenic bladder) from a stroke, spinal cord injury, or other health problem can also prevent the bladder from emptying completely.
Bladder inflammation caused by radiation damage or infection can also lead to bladder stones. Medical devices such as urinary catheters may cause bladder stones. In women, some contraceptive devices or a urinary stent could be the cause. Finally, some kidney stones formed in a completely different way could travel down the ureters and end up in the bladder. If not expelled they can grow into bladder stones.
Prevention & Treatment
Early diagnosis and treatment of BPH could reduce the risk of developing bladder stones. A medical doctor could diagnose BPH through a rectal exam or ultrasound test.
Drink more water to help dilute the concentration of minerals that could form bladder stones. Most adults with normal cardiovascular systems and kidney function should be able to drink at least 2 liters of pure water every day. If a person tends to sweat more than the average, or is exposed to higher summer-like temperatures, make sure theydrink even more than the 2 liters daily.
Practice what’s called “double voiding.” This means that you try urinating 10 – 20 seconds after the first attempt. This can help more fully empty the bladder. Men with enlarged prostates can more completely empty their bladders by sitting down to urinate. Combining this with double voiding can help prevent bladder stones.
Horsetail, dandelion leaf, corn silk and goldenseal are herbs with mild diuretic properties that can make urination somewhat easier. Experiment with dosages and use as teas whenever possible. Men with prostate problems will also often benefit from herbs such as stinging nettle and saw palmetto. Beta sitosterol is the active ingredient of herbs such as saw palmetto and can help prevent prostate enlargement. A variety of combination prostate health formulas are available from your local health food store.
If you supplement with vitamin D, make sure it’s combined with vitamin K2. Take at least 120 mcg of K2 with each 1000 IU of vitamin D3. This prevents calcium from being deposited in soft tissues like the kidneys or bladder. Do not take any calcium supplements.
As far as diet is concerned, avoid foods high in sugar and low in fiber. Try to follow a Mediterranean diet as much as possible, and avoid caffeine and alcohol that tends to dehydrate the bladder. Better still, plant-based diets are naturally lower in sodium and higher in water concentration, making them more likely to prevent bladder stones. Plant-based diets tend to make the body more alkaline – making it easier to pass stones. So try using plant burgers instead of the regular meat ones. They are also higher in both potassium and magnesium, two minerals important in balancing higher calcium concentrations that can lead to bladder stone formation.
Lemon and apple cider vinegar are acidic to start with, but in the body they become alkaline-forming and make stone passage easier. Avoid un-sprouted or refined grains as they tend to work as stone formers. Avoid foods high in oxalic acid (oxalates) as this can stimulate more stone formation. High oxalate foods include spinach, rhubarb, tomatoes, collards, eggplant, beets, celery, summer squash, grapefruit/grapefruit juice, sweet potatoes, peanuts, almonds, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, parsley and cocoa.
Avoid calcium supplements but not vitamin C. It is untrue that vitamin C causes stones. In fact, vitamin C may actually help dissolve them by pushing uric acid out of the body in those suffering from high levels causing gout and stones in various parts of the body.
These same principles will help any man with an enlarged prostate. In cases where the PSA reading is high, doctors will have to rule out prostate cancer which is something that requires somewhat of a different approach.