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Twenty easy ways to eliminate kidney stones.

iF, UNLIKE 12 percent of American men, you've never passed a kidney stone — trust us, you don't want to go there.

They begin as concentrations of salts, minerals, and other substances in the urine, and range in size from a grain of sand to a golf ball. Calcium stones, generated by calcium and oxalate buildup in the kidneys, make up three-fourths of all cases. Other types include struvite stones (from urinary tract infections), uric acid stones (indicating too much acid in the urine, often the result of a diet high in animal protein), and the rare and usually hereditary cystine stones.

Small stones often pass on their own through the urine, albeit with some discomfort. The trick is to drink plenty of water — as much as 3.5 quarts a day if you are at risk. Trigger-point injections, similar to acupuncture, may ease the process, according to the International Journal of Urology.

Large stones, however, can get stuck along the urinary tract and hurt like heck. Surgery is sometimes required to remove them, or your doctor can use shock-wave therapy to break up stones into smaller pieces, which then pass normally.

To stop kidney stones before they start, stay hydrated. This flushes away substances that form stones and deters urinary infections. Work your way up to half your weight in ounces daily, says Edward Group III, N.D., C.C.N., founder and clinical director of the Global Healing Center online health store. For example, a 150-pound man should drink 75 ounces (about nine glasses) of water. If you have a history of stones, Group suggests drinking up to 3.5 quarts (about 14 glasses) daily.

Some juices offer protection. One-half cup of pure lemon juice every day can raise citrate levels in the urine, which may protect against calcium stones, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. And a German study found that blackcurrant juice might prevent uric acid stones.

On the other hand, grapefruit juice may increase your risk. And while cranberry juice fights urinary tract infections, which can cause struvite stones, an investigation in the Journal of Urology found that it might boost your chances of developing calcium stones.

If you're prone to calcium stones, don't reduce your intake of calcium-rich foods (but stop taking calcium carbonate supplements). Instead, cut back on foods high in oxalates, such as asparagus, berries, chocolate, coffee, tea, wheat bran, and cooked spinach. In addition, a low-salt diet will keep sodium from adding more calcium to your urine. Reduce portions of meat and fish to protect against uric acid stones, and boost your fiber intake. And while you're rethinking your diet, take a walk: Inactivity can cause your bones to release extra calcium.

Magnesium and vitamin B6 deficiencies have been linked to kidney stones. Magnesium supplements may decrease the size of an existing stone as well as prevent future ones, says Group, while extra vitamin B6 taken with magnesium helps reduce oxalate production. Check with your doctor.

Horsetail, goldenrod, and dandelion leaf help ward off kidney stones by increasing urine volume. Herbal teas also promote better kidney health and lessen stone formation, says herbalist Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa, D.N.C., R.H. He recommends a daily cup of stinging nettles tea (steep 1 teaspoon of finely chopped dried herb in a cup of boiling water) or celery seed tea (1 tablespoon per pint of boiling water). Finally, the Chinese herbal patent formula Shen Jie Pai Shi Wan is often used to dissolve or prevent kidney stones.

STAVING OFF STONES
the HOT list
water lemon juice blackcurrant juice low-salt diet fiber exercise magnesium vitamin B6 horsetail goldenrod dandelion leaf stinging nettles tea celery seed tea shen jie pai shi wan

the NOT list
calcium carbonate oxalates animal protein sodium grapefruit juice cranberry juice

PHOTO (COLOR): PUCKER UP: A little lemon every day helps prevent kidney stones.

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By Matthew Solan

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