Beer does not treat kidney stones as is commonly believed. Dr. R. Vijaykumar.

Most people believe that beer helps in reducing kidney stones. It was found in a survey that drinking excess beer can increase the chances of kidney stones as it increases oxalate and urate content in the urine, which promotes stones formation.

When you drink beer or any alcohol, you have an urge to urinate more than normal. This is because the fluid increases the volume of urine and if you have a stone of 4-8 mm size, it can get flushed. Any other fluid, say water, if drunk in such quantity, can also do the same.

A large number of patients suffering from chronic kidney stones drink beer in excess as they believe it treats their ailment. But people suffering from kidney stones should avoid intake of beer because if consumed for a longer period, it can increase the level of acids in urine resulting in the formation of kidney stones. It may also provoke gastro esophageal reflux and cause heartburn as it contains powerful stimulants of gastric acid secretion. Thus, the concept that beer can help you get rid of kidney stones is a wrong postulate.

Drinking enough water to pass 2 to 2.5 litres of urine daily is quite helpful for treating kidney stones. One must also take a diet low in protein, nitrogen and sodium. Intake of orange juice, lemon water, horse gram and pineapple is beneficial for such patients. Drinking a glass of lemon water every day can keep kidney stones away. Lemon is a rich source of vitamin C and increases the level of citrate in urine, which prevents stone formation.

All ages

Kidney stones is a urological problem that is increasing among all age groups. Most patients with stones are between 25 and 45 years of age. Men are affected three times more than women; children may also be affected. Another 25 per cent have a family history of stone disease. Climate, temperature and humidity are important factors that contribute to urinary stones.

The most common type of stone contains calcium in combination with either oxalate or phosphate. These chemicals are part of a person's normal diet and make up important parts of the body, such as bones and muscles. There are varied forms of kidney stones such as Calcium oxalate stones, calcium phosphate, Uric acid (urate), struvite (magnesium, ammonium and phosphate) and cystine.

What you eat counts

The basic cause of kidney stones occurrence is unknown, but incorrect food habits, sedentary lifestyle and inadequate fluid intake are to be blamed. Other conditions such as urinary tract infection, gout (overload of uric acid), arthritis, hypercalciuria (increased calcium levels in urine), enlarged prostate and thyroid disorder are also known to cause urinary stones.

So in order to treat kidney stones, one should take food rich in potassium and calcium; should avoid or restrict sodium and protein intake. Even sugar and artificial sweeteners should be avoided because they hinder the body's ability to absorb magnesium which helps make calcium soluble to the body. Besides this they should drink 14 cups or 2.5 to 3 litres of fluids everyday and even more live in a hot, dry climate.

The writer is a Chennai-based Urologist.

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Sunday MagazineJune 28, 2012