Painful Kidney Stones Becomes a Growing Trend in Kids
by: Deanna Dean
When we think of childhood maladies kidney stones would probably not come to mind. Yet, the latest diagnosis making the rounds in pediatric wards across the nation is kidney stones.
About one in seven men and one in fifteen women will be diagnosed with kidney stones during their lifetime. It's a common disorder today even though kidney stones have been a problem for humans for thousands of years as evidenced by the discovery of one found in a 7,000 year old Egyptian mummy.
More than 1/2 million people will be in emergency rooms this year because of kidney stones and that number is rising, explains Gary Curhan, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. He says the reason may be the growing number of overweight Americans.
What is surprising is that kidney stones, once considered a disorder of middle age, is now showing up in children as young as five or six. A stone was found in an 8-month-old girl as reported by a pediatrician at Loyola University Medical Center near Chicago. Some hospitals have even opened pediatric kidney stone clinics.
Dr. Caleb P. Nelson, a urology instructor at Harvard Medical School who is co-director of the new kidney stone center at Children's Hospital Boston, says they now see kids every week or less compared to the 1970's and 1980's when children would come in with a stone once every few months. Baltimore's Johns Hopkins Children Center has referrals to treat kidneys stones in children every week as compared to fifteen years ago when they saw one or two children a year.
There was a recent report from China that children developed kidney stones when they drank milk tainted with melamine, a toxic chemical illegally added to milk. Infants are especially vulnerable because formula is their main source of food.
A kidney stone forms in the kidneys from substances normally found in the urine. If the crystals remain small they can pass out of the body without any discomfort, but they can have jagged surfaces and be as large as golf balls. Professor Curhans says a recurring kidney stone can cause infection and kidney damage.
Researchers have linked the formation of kidney stones to the lack of a beneficial bacteria in the lower bowel called, Oxalobacterformigenes. This friendly bacteria prevents stones by breaking down calcium oxalate in the intestinal tract before it can move to the kidneys. Dr. David G. Williams recommends regular use of a high quality probiotic supplement and/or eating sauerkeraut, yogurt, or kefir to maintain good bacterial flora.
Most of the research has been from adult studies, but experts believe it applies to children. Family history has some influence. Where you live may matter. The Southeast has been dubbed the "Stone Belt." The theory is that warm weather makes you sweat causing urine to become more concentrated. Eighty percent of stones are formed when oxalate, a byproduct of some foods, binds to calcium in the urine. Not drinking enough fluids and eating too much salt both increase the amount of calcium and oxalate in the urine.
Dr. Bruce L. Slaughenhoupt, co-director of pediatric urology and the pediatric kidney stone clinic at the University of Wisconsin says, "What we've really seen is an increase in the salt load in children's diets." Along with other experts, he mentions salty chips, French fries, processed sandwich meats, canned soups, packaged meals and even sports drinks. Dr. Pope in Nashville says, "There is no question in my mind that the problem is largely dietary and directly related to the childhood obesity epidemic."
Dr. Caleb Nelson agrees that we need to instill in our children lifelong habits of good hydration, a balanced healthy diet and avoiding processed high-salt fatty foods.
In Good Health,
Deanna Dean CNHP
New York Times, October 28, 2008, Laurie Tarkan
Nutrition Action Health Letter , Skipping Stones, David Schardt, January/February 2009
Alternative Newsletter, February 2009, Dr. David G. Williams
About the author
Deanna Dean is the Wellness Director for Your Health Coach, a company dedicated to health and wellness education.
Dee is a Wellness & Weight Loss Coach, a Certified Natural Health Professional, is pursuing an ND degree-Naturopathic Doctor, is a certified Raw Chef, certified in Dietary Guidelines from the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research, former Personal Trainer, Yoga and Fitness Studio Owner, TV and Radio Guest, Health Columnist.
Deanna develops customized programs to enhance the health of her clients, educates, and coaches dieters for safe weight loss.