Probiotics have been found to be quite useful for preventing many illnesses and various conditions that afflict people. Recently, probiotics have been found to useful in reducing or preventing another painful condition: kidney stones. Between 240,000 and 720,000 Americans experience painful kidney stones every year. The pain of having a stone has been compared to that of childbirth. Since stones occur four times more often in men than in women, those unfortunate men experiencing kidney stones can now commiserate with mothers for comparable levels of pain.
The exact reasons for kidney stone formation are not known, but it is believed that the problem is related to dehydration and a high rate of calcium excretion. People develop kidney stones when the small bowel absorbs too much calcium, or their diet is too high in calcium or another mineral, or there are intestinal problems, or perhaps a urinary tract infection occurs. It may, however, be an inherited disorder. The stones grow slowly over several months or years and are made up of hard deposits of various minerals including calcium, uric acid, and oxalate. Approximately 80 percent of all kidney stones are made of the compound calcium oxalate which builds up in the kidneys in small, hard lumps.
Kidney stones can also move into other parts of the urinary tract, causing intense pain, infection and even kidney failure. Kidney stones have a tendency to recur, meaning that a single person can suffer from them many times. In about 85% of cases, kidney stones are small enough to pass during urination. Passing usually occurs within 72 hours of the first symptoms.
If the stone doesn’t pass, or if you have severe pain, bleeding, fever, nausea, or can’t urinate, then immediate medical attention is required. The stone may be shattered with shock waves and the smaller pieces can pass with much less pain. In other cases, surgery may be required. Pain medication will help while the stone is moving through your system. But after it passes, you may need other drugs or other options so that you don’t form stones again. These other options can include nutritional changes such as reducing on oxalate-containing foods, including spinach, rhubarb, beets, nuts, chocolate, coffee, black tea, wheat bran, strawberries, and beans. Other options include adding certain supplements that can include cranberry extracts or green tea. But another approach is to include probiotics as a daily supplement.
There is growing evidence in scientific literature supporting the use of probiotics to help reduce kidney stone formation. People who naturally carry a probiotic bacteria called Oxalobacter formigenes are 70 percent less likely to develop kidney stones than people whose dietary tracts lack that bacteria. This probiotic is believed to prevent kidney stone formation by breaking down or degrading calcium oxalate in the intestinal tract before it can move into the kidneys. Other studies havedemonstrated that probiotic supplements containing lactic acid bacteria that included Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillusbrevis, Streptococcus thermophilus, and Bifidobacteria infantis can reduceurinary oxalate excretion by 24-40%. This helps prevent kidney stone formation. Some probiotic products on the market that contain some of these species of probiotics include Accuflora Pro-Biotic-Acidophilus from Northwest Natural and Align Digestive Care from Proctor and Gamble. The exact mechanism by which these probiotic bacteria might reduce kidney stones remains unclear and more research is required to fully determine this mechanism. However, these findings are of great importance and point towards the use of probiotics as a less painful way to reduce or prevent kidney stone formation.
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