This week, Jill answers a listener question about breaking up kidney stones.
Jeff Sarris: Welcome back to the Kidney Stone Diet podcast, the show about reducing your kidney stone risk and living your best life. I’m your host and fellow student, Jeff Sarris.
Jill Harris: And I’m Finn, your kidney stone prevention mascot!
Jeff Sarris: I love seeing him on the actual show. This is the first time he’s making an appearance! He’s always just hanging out and so quiet and keeping to himself.
Jill Harris: He’s bored to tears. He’s like, “I had to get the mom that talks about friggin’ kidney stones all day long, geeze!” That’s what he’s thinking. Something about friggin’ oxalate.
Jeff Sarris: But, yeah, he’s just so quiet. He’s not causing a ruckus, it seems like.
Jill Harris: No, but, believe me, when he wants attention, he attention barks. But he’s gotten so much better because March 1st, he’ll be one year.
Jeff Sarris: Wow. Yeah, already! Time goes so fast.
Time heals all wounds
Jill Harris: Remember how upset I was about Luke? My God, Jeff, you just think your heart is never going to ever gonna be okay whenever we lose a pet or a person. I mean, oh my God, or we break up or get a divorce, whatever we’re going through something–people are like, “Oh, Jesus, can you just get to kidney stones? Frickin’ life lessons by Jill.” But it’s true, people! Whenever you lose something, whether it’s a relationship, or it’s love, death, whatever, you just think you’re never going to heal. And then time goes by because time does heal, and then you just get better. But it’s interesting because I see Luke–many of my patients drew pictures of Luke. He’s in the background and a couple of different things. He’s all over the apartment. And I just, you know, when I get a little glimpse of him, my heart still aches and a will always, obviously.
It’s just so interesting that people and pets to me just come at points in our lives that they just needed to be there. And even if we don’t keep the same relationship, or we don’t, or our pets die, or somebody dies, whatever, I always look back on it and am like, “Damn, that person or that pet was perfect for that time.” It’s very interesting. That’s how I see it. And we either even if it was good or bad or indifferent, it doesn’t matter. Maybe you had a lesson to learn or whatever. It’s just so interesting. That’s all I have to say about that.
Jeff Sarris: Yeah, because it’s easy to look back with regret or sadness, but if we look more at the moment where we are right now, and what led us to here, and how we’re moving forward, like every little bit changes us in some way. And I’d say, mostly, if you look at it that way, it’s for the positive. You can find so many positives in all these experiences, especially when it comes to pets and family and just people in your life.
Think of diet as a long-term goal, not a short-term one
Jill Harris: Yes, I’m always like, when we’ve talked about this in the course, in our accountability groups, it’s like, you know, we’re always talking about needy things like this. And it’s just, you know, people come to me, and they want to, “Oh, this is so hard.” And I’m very honest, changing no matter what you’re trying to change, it’s a hard process. You, first, got to learn that the process that doesn’t happen overnight. Understand that it’s going to take a long time. And diet changes to make, think about six to six months to a year, people, not you know, “It’s January 1st and get these arms by March.” It’s such bullshit what’s on the internet, which are what’s on magazine. So, we’re just always sold this terrible bill of goods.
And so, think of a diet change as six months to a year, and then for the rest of your life you’re practicing it. That’s what you do, just like yoga and everything else, just whatever you practice. And so people are like, “Oh, God, it’s so boring,” or “This sucks. I want to hurry up.” But what else are we doing, right? I mean, we’re supposed to be learning, evolving, growing, not just sitting on our couch every night watching the same damn TV, Netflix, whatever. Of course, do that, too, and chill out, but we should always be learning things. I don’t get it! I’m not saying learn how to build a townhouse. I’m just saying, learn. Pay attention to yourself. Try to do things that are going to provide growth, and interest, and whatever. Otherwise, life is really long, right?
So I tell people when they’re coming to change and they want lifestyle, you know, eating and exercising and all that, I’m like, “Please, first of all know that it’s going to take a minute. You must know that so you can manage expectations and that you’re on a journey right now.” You’re going to learn all these new things, you’re going to incorporate it, you’re going to move forward, then you’re going to fall back, and then you’re going to move forward. And from each time you fall back, if you’re mindful, you’re going to learn, and then that’s where you grow, which is so friggin’ amazing. I say this a lot, but embrace failure because that means, hopefully, you’re going to learn something, and that doesn’t happen again.
So the only way we learn is if we screw something up. I don’t know. I’m just, you know, I’m turning 60 this year and I’m just really interested in all the things that I don’t know. I love listening to podcasts. I love watching YouTube, This is why we do what we do. You could put stuff out on the internet to really make people expand their mind, maybe think about the way they’re doing something and changing it up a little bit. And, again, it doesn’t happen overnight, but start percolating on ways in which to make your life better. Living your best life, that’s what we talk about here, too, besides kidney stones. Just pick a podcast. The fact that you’re here, learning, and wanting to grow and change is friggin’ amazing, right? That’s what we’re supposed to be doing and I know you agree with that.
Jeff Sarris: Oh, yeah, absolutely. And it’s easy to almost think towards the end, not the end of the line in a morbid way, but whatever we’re doing, like, “Oh, once I finish this, or once I get here.” Like, it’s great to have little signposts along the way, like, “Oh, I’d really love to have seven days in a row following the Kidney Stone Diet,” just as a very like on-topic thing. Those are great, but it’s a lot of times we get caught up in, “Oh, when I finish this, then I will feel whatever,” or “I will be satisfied because I made this much money.” It’s these things that are somewhat outside of our control and we’re also pushing our focus too far ahead. We need to make sure we’re staying here and being present. I mean experiencing your time with Finn. That is huge. That is what makes life worth living because we need to we need to be in the know. But, I guess, before we get too far down this, should we dive into this episode?
Jill Harris: No, I know, but there’s people in the comments that say they really start talking about a kidney stone at six minutes and 30 seconds. If you want to bypass this bullshit, just go there.
Jeff Sarris: Yeah, we get our philosophy in first, or what’s going on in our life, then we dive into the episode. Anyway, this week, we are going with a frequently asked question. So, normally, we take listener voicemails that number is 773-789-8763. And if you have a question, definitely give that number a call. Leave your name, question, and where you’re from, and we’ll feature you on a future episode. But, today, we are specifically answering a question: how do I break up my kidney stone? And longtime listeners know the answer to this, but it’s important to cover, so that’s why we’re going to touch on it today.
Can I break up a kidney stone?
Jill Harris: Yeah, it’s important to cover, so, yes, how do I break up my kidney stone? So the scenario is this. You wake up in pain. It’s always 3am. I don’t know why, but it is. You wind up being so sick, you go to the emergency room. The doctor says, “Here’s some morphine. Go home and pass it,” because maybe it’s small or whatever. You did imaging. So, one of the first things people–see now he’s making noise. One of the first thing–I’ll get him a bone–one of the first things people do is they will Google “How do I break up a kidney stone?” How do I get this damn thing out of me, but they first think “How do I break it up?” Especially if it’s a bigger one, they’re gonna want to break it up so they don’t have to have surgery.
Nobody’s gonna like this answer. You cannot break up a kidney stone. You cannot break it up. You’ve got to understand, people, those lasers, lots of times, can’t even break them up. They’re just that hard. Think about it. They’re like little rocks. Put a rock in some kind of solution. It’s not going to break up. It’s gonna sit there, but if you are a uric acid stone former, that composition of stone can break up if you alkalinize the urine with potassium citrate or any alkali drug. That could do it–or supplement because they’re basically supplements. Something like Moonstone, something like litholite like something like, you know, you could suck on a lemon. I wouldn’t advise it. I mean who really knows how much lemon you’d have to suck on. You’d probably use all your teeth and tooth enamel, so I wouldn’t advise that.
But you could ask the doctor, “Do you know if I make a uric acid stone?” or “Should I try potassium citrate or something like that?” But, guys, most stones are calcium oxalate, and the next most common one is calcium phosphate, and then you have your uric acid. Sometimes uric acid is a part of those other–well not with calcium phosphate–but sometimes uric acid stones can be mixed with calcium oxalate stones, but the point is, most of you have calcium oxalate stones. Up to 80% of kidney stones are calcium oxalate. You cannot break them up with any pill or potion. You cannot. There will always be people in the comments that say this: “Mine broke up. Mine broke up. I drank a beer and it just poof! Dissolved, came all out of me, all different pieces.” What can I tell you? Those people are going to believe what they believe.
So, how can I pass my stone?
Now, I’m here to tell you, and you can search any kind of scientific journal, you cannot break up kidney stone unless it’s uric acid. So you can sit there and you can argue, but any doctor is going to tell you that you cannot break them up unless they’re uric acid. This goes the other way, too. “How can I pass my stone?” “Well, Jill, my doctor told me to drink a beer. I drink a beer and my stone fell right out.” Was it the beer? Was it just that time or was it just fluids? Because beer is a fluid. So, you’re drinking a six pack of beer and the stone came out. Yes, the beer, the alcohol can dilate your ureter, so that could happen. How much? I don’t know. But I always go back to this–”I drink a Coca Cola, Jill! Coca Cola’s the magic thing. My stone just plopped in the toilet bowl.” Again, was it Coca Cola or was it fluid? If you had drank copious amounts of water, would that same thing had happened? I would say yes.
But I can’t argue against people that don’t want to listen to rationale. So whatever you say in the comments, you’re absolutely allowed to have your opinion and whatever you did that made your stone come out, I will just always push back and say, “Was it just not fluid?” So, that’s just what I know over 24 years of working with you know, experts in the field. As far as breaking up a stone, you cannot break up a kidney stone, unless it is a uric acid stone and alkalinizing your urine, which means making your urine more alkaline. It can, it’s not definite, but it can shrink your uric acid stone. It can! Then, maybe you can pass it better. Those are kind of like sandy-kind of stones.
So, yes, that can happen. But no other stone can be broken up. It is absolutely impossible. There I said it. I mean, like I said, I get so much negative feedback because people, and what they did, and then the stone passed, but I’m just always gonna say, “Was it a coincidence?” And they’re going to say, “It absolutely wasn’t.” And that’s okay! I mean, I welcome it. I’m not new at this. You know what I mean? I’ve heard this for decades. So whatever they want to say is fine, but I will always push back and say what I say.
Jeff Sarris: Yeah, absolutely. Now, some of the remedies, some of the things that are promoted, tend to be like apple cider vinegar. You mentioned lemons already and Chanca Piedra. Do those have any place in this process?
Jill Harris: No, they don’t. They absolutely don’t. We also have videos on them and there’s no science that shows–and, look, there’s some things, people, that there isn’t science yet. But those stones–calcium oxalate and calcium phosphate stones–you can’t break them up. Again, you could put a friggin’ rock in apple cider vinegar and it ain’t gonna break up. But these are common myths in the kidney stone world, just common myths. People did those things and they will, on their dying breath say, “That made my stone come out,” when it was just fluid.
That’s all I’m saying, but I embrace everyone’s opinion. I don’t agree with them and I have mine based upon science. But I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. Who knows what they’ll figure out? But I can tell you a couple patients a week tell me, “Yeah, Jill. They did the lithotripsy. That laser couldn’t break up the stone.” So, again, we think friggin’ up ACV is breaking up a kidney stone when they’re going in there with Star Wars stuff and they’re not breaking up. I don’t know, but I welcome the comments because it’ll be very colorful, to say the least.
Jeff Sarris: Like now I’m just picturing the doctor having like Star Wars music playing while they’re getting all the lasers in there. Because that really is an intense kind of procedure to then hope that taking a pill or drinking something would just do the same thing. It’s unfortunate because we want the fix. We all want the fix. You would love for those things to work.
Jill Harris: I would love to have those things to work because then I’ll find a different career because I’ve been doing this for a lont time. I could easily do something else and it would always be with diet would always be that because I love talking about lifestyle. It is what I love, but I’m just saying that would be great because look at all the kidney stone formers that wouldn’t have to–if you want to prevent new kidney stones, try the Kidney Stone Diet. It is not something I’ve made up. This is all based upon science. Go to Dr. Fred Coe, C-O-E, his website, that’s where all the science sits at kidneystone.uchicago.edu. And you can see everything I’m talking about in Jill ways is really all drenched in science and Dr. Coe’s website.
And it’s not just his science. It’s from physicians all over the world that have done research on kidney stones. Leading experts, by the way, they’re leading experts that have been published and peer-reviewed, blah, blah, blah. So, the science all sits there. I just bring it home in a way that everybody can understand because, you know, nobody wants to go through scientific journals all day long. But you can’t break up stones unless they’re uric acid stones. If you want to stop making stones, we can stop up to 80% of new stones from happening by doing diet and, sometimes, meds. Also get your 24 hour urine collections done because that’s going to tell you exactly what you need to do. That’s very important.
Now, if you just say, “I’m not doing that. I’m just going to do the Kidney Stone Diet,” you’re certainly going to lower your risk of a lot of things because you’re eating less sugar, less salt, you’re getting your fluids in, you’re getting calcium for your bones, doing all those things. That’s what I put people on when they come to me just for weight loss and they don’t have kidney stones. It’s a healthy diet. But if you want to stop making stones, you’ve got to do the work. There’s nothing here that’s magical. And I’m gonna go off a little for this. There was this video I had just seen lately. When I was going through all my cancer treatments, I can’t tell you how much stuff was sent to my email, even going through cancer and I have stage four. So you get a lot of stuff in your email, however they find out things. You’re so afraid you’re going to die when you’re first given that diagnosis. I would watch so many people that I was going through that journey other stage 4 rectal cancer patients go through that journey with me and they died.
So, each one of them would say, “Jill, you’re doing so well.” Meanwhile, I’m really sick, but I’m still alive, right? And they are now where they’re dying. They’ve been given their time, so they know. They would say things like, “What are you doing? What are you eating?” And it would make me feel bad only because why am I still here and they’re not? I don’t know. It’s why I have this horseshoe. I just think I’m super lucky. Was I eating like a superfood that kept me alive? No, I just was eating whatever I could at that point because I was so deathly ill. But let me tell you why I’m going off on this. We, as people, we as human beings, want to believe that there’s this one super food, whatever, this one special pill, this one special juice, this one special potion that’s going to cure us when we’re deathly ill, or prevent cancer, or any of these, or we have colitis, or Crohn’s, or bowel disease, or diabetes, and if we just suck on this Gogi berry, everything’s gonna disappear.
And so it preys on our hopelessness. It preys on our anxiety, and fear, and all the things. So, we take those foods and many of you did take those foods because you were fighting diabetes, and now you have a kidney stone, because you overate spinach, and almonds, and all that stuff. My point is, even though I teach nutrition for a living, there is no such thing as one food preventing cancer or any disease. Don’t fall for it. When I was going through all my cancer not knowing that I was going to live or not, I took a lot of supplements because you just do. I went through a very prominent naturopath, so it wasn’t like I went to the corner store. I went to a very PhD/MD person.
But, still, I was taking hundreds of dollars of supplements. I don’t friggin know what they did. I wound up getting off all of them way before my cancer was done because it’s so much money. And I felt like such shit with chemo and radiation and all the surgeries I went through. I don’t think they did much for me. They weren’t going to keep me alive. That was my choice. Everybody needs to do their own choice. But what I’m saying, what I experienced as a patient, was like, “If I just take this, maybe I can see grandbabies. If I take this maybe–,” you’re afraid. And I don’t care if you have stage four cancer, or you have bowel disease, or diabetes, or whatever, you’re scared once you get something. It doesn’t have to be as dramatic as stage four cancer. It’s just what I’ve had to I bring that up.
Whatever you have fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety, all the things that we get, we just want something to fix it. It’s not going to be there sometimes. My diet is not going to make you not get cancer. I could never promise that. Sometimes, we just get sick anyway. So, don’t fall for the bullshit that’s out there. And, especially, make sure you’re really listening to people that have credentials. Don’t just listen to people that are saying oxalate’s killing the world. That’s another thing all this oxalate toxicity. Is this based upon science, people? Check your sources before you stop eating healthy foods. So you see I’m going all over the place. But the bottom line is this: there is no magic cure for anything. Nothing.
There was nothing I did to keep alive. I’m just friggin’ lucky. My time wasn’t up yet. So, don’t fall for it. It was a very scary time in my life and I fell for a lot of shit. I wouldn’t do it again because we get what we get sometimes in the world and it’s just not fair, people. But doing this diet will help prevent disease. Is it a guarantee? No, there’s not one thing we’re guaranteed in life, folks. And my diet isn’t a guarantee either, but research shows that it can lessen your kidney stones. It ain’t gonna prevent cancer. I still got it. So I’m just saying, there is no quick fix. There is no magic pill, do your best. That’s all we can do.
Do your best when you’re up to it. On days where you can’t do your best, it’s okay. Just get right back to work. That’s how we roll here, but don’t believe the snake oil stuff. It really bothers me. Personally, it bothers me because of the things that, you know, I was told and I believed myself. Don’t go there. It’s a lot of money, but, of course, make your own decisions. Talk about everything with the doctor. You must talk to your doctor about all things. See if it’s right for you. These are just my opinions. All right, Jeff, I’m off my soapbox.
Jeff Sarris: Well, no, that’s very important and very heartfelt. I know everyone appreciates the insight that you have from your experience, which is different. Everyone has their own experience and the people who’ve gone through stones and everything, specifically have their own unique experience, but I think it’s so valuable to hear yours as well because you’re not only coming here from the practitioner, the nurse side. You’re coming here from the patient side. Albeit a different vertical, a different type of patient. But just like the patients you work with, you didn’t know what you didn’t know. There’s so much you didn’t know about cancer, and treatment, and what you could do so I think it’s very valuable to to have that perspective.
Jill Harris: Yeah, and when I’m talking to people on the phone, some days I’m very grateful for everything I’ve been through. I never once did go, “Why me?” I’m just like, “Okay, what do I need to do?” Like I need, I just need to follow what I need to follow and get on with it. And I’m not saying, “Look at me, I’m a frickin’ Queen Marie.” I just never felt like, “Why me?” I didn’t. I just didn’t. After I was lucky enough so far to get through this, so far, I mean my cancer’s come back. It could very well come back. You know, sure. I’m very aware of that and that’s why I focus on the things that matter the most and I throw out everything else that doesn’t. So, I love my perspective now.
And what I’m what I’m most grateful for for my cancer–and there are a lot of things I’m grateful for, honestly–is that I can bring what I learned to my patients. I can also not only sympathize with them, I truly empathize when they say, “Jill, I’m so afraid to eat. I feel so overwhelmed. I have to have these surgeries and I don’t know.” You’re overwhelmed when you’re sick, whether it’s cancer or a kidney stone, it doesn’t matter. It’s scary. And, nowadays, going into a hospital, it’s just you know, going through all of it, the medical expense, it’s so expensive to be sick, you’re off work. Oh my god, it’s so all-encompassing. Some people, myself included, I definitely have PTSD around all the things I’ve been through as far as, you know, what can I eat? Is that going to cause a bowel problem for me. I understand my patients so much, I just can’t even tell you.
So, again, often my calls are coming from my heart. Of course, from my head and all the education I know about kidney stone world, but so much of it is about my passion, because of what I’ve gone through, too. So, you know, it’s like kindred spirits talking to each other. And I know my patients feel that because they tell me it. It’s part of who I am. My illness doesn’t define me, but it’s definitely a big part of me and how I conduct business now. I’m grateful for it as crazy as that sounds. I’ve learned so much, so much from being sick. And one of the best things about–the only reason I love kidney stones is because now you’re ready to listen and change your diet.
When we’re sick, folks, you change shit real fast. That ain’t about looking adorable in a bikini anymore. It’s about, “Okay, now I’m sick and I don’t ever want to go through a kidney stone pain again. I’m ready, Jill, I’m ready!” And whether you’re paying for our services here, so you can get there faster or paying for nothing, that’s why we put all this free information out, so you are privy to it. You don’t have to make another kidney stone. Get on the diet, learn what to do, talk to your doctor, get on a good treatment plan, get a 24 hour urine collection. We’re putting it all out there for you people. Do it because being sick is no friggin’ joke and we all know that here. So, that’s my wrap for today.
Jeff Sarris: Yeah, I think that is a perfect spot to close out. So, again, kidneystonediet.com, where you can find all the resources, the course, the meal plans and everything, free and premium. The phone number, if you have a question, 773-789-8763. We’d love to feature you in the future. With that, I think we’ll wrap, so we’ll see everyone next week.
Jill Harris: Bye!