This week, Jill answers a listener question about maintaining weight while also reducing sugar intake with the Kidney Stone Diet.
Have a question? Leave us a voicemail at (773) 789-8763.
Stop Kidney Stones Once and For All
- Kidney Stone Prevention Course
- Kidney Stone Diet Meal Plans
- 24 Hour Urine Collection Analysis
- Private Coaching
Kidney Stone Diet Resources
Find more episodes of the Kidney Stone Diet Podcast here.
Who is Jill Harris?
Jill is a nurse and health coach that specializes in educating patients on kidney stone prevention. For more than 20 years she’s helped patients understand that kidney stones can be prevented with the right treatment plan. It’s one thing to be told to lower oxalate or drink more water, but HOW do you do it? That’s where she comes in. Through the educational resources at kidneystonediet.com, stone formers can learn everything they need to know to significantly lower new stone risk.
Who is Jeff Sarris?
Jeff’s co-founder of SPYR, a branding agency based out of Chicago, where he and his business partner Dave help awesome people like Jill create online platforms that make an impact. He’s also a certified health coach, Executive Producer of the Netflix documentary Minimalism, and host of the Starting Now podcast.
Love this episode? There’s more!
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 Jill Harris, your kidney stone prevention nurse. Jeff, you see that thing in the back of your head? That beautiful moonlight thing?
Jeff Sarris: Yeah, right here?
Jill Harris: Is that going to be, like, an orange glow if that were to be the only light in your room?
Jeff Sarris: So it does have the nice orange, or even a blue, light on it? But it isn’t super bright and I actually don’t know how much longer that’ll stay going because like, I didn’t charge it today. But it’s a wireless kind of thing that I just turn on. I like it, though.
Jill Harris: I like glows in the background. I don’t want a light. I love a good room with ambience. And I know people are on Spotify and Apple tunes or whatever the hell it is like, “Well, that’s all great, but we can’t see nothing!” But I do love like an ambience, just the glow warm. I love that. It makes me so happy.
Jeff Sarris: Yeah, for sure. Yeah. And I feel like my spot here is all right. I do have the squat rack right here. It’s my gym/office and everything, so I know it’s not perfectly aesthetically pleasing, but, at the same time, I wanted to balance it a little bit. It’s a space that I spent a lot of time in. And anyone who watched the early episodes, the ones where the camera was off to the side or over my shoulder, I would actually be sitting just right here, just directly to my left, I just would move everything over. But this just works out better. This is a more efficient way to produce these. Because editing with multicam– multiple cameras–takes a lot of time, so yeah, we just moved over to this and I don’t know I’m happy with it, ike where it’s at.
Jill Harris: Well, I’m happy with it, too. Not that anyone gives a damn what I think about how you live, but I’m just saying it goes with the whole vibe. That rack is very industrial, so you would not know that that’s a piece of exercise equipment.
Jeff Sarris: Yeah, I was actually looking at it last episode wondering if you could tell that that’s what it is. So, I bought it off of Craigslist a handful of years ago. Super cheap, but it’s a full squat rack with a pull up bar in the middle and it’s really nice. Yeah, and it was so cheap, but it’s like beat-up and rusty. I’ve been meaning to strip it down and paint it. So maybe one day it’ll be it’ll look like new back there just because I don’t know, I like doing stuff like that taking it and making it look better, but it’s not a priority. So we’ll see.
Jill Harris: And the vibe is rockin’ so I’m all about it! And also I’d like to bring up for people that can’t see, it was Dolly Parton’s 76 birthday this week and so I got myself a little rock and roll Dolly Parton tee.
Jeff Sarris: Yeah, I love it!
Jill Harris: You know why I love her? It’s because–she’s just, she’s fun, and she’s smart, and she’s just kind. You’ve never heard a bad thing about Dolly Parton and, obviously, she’s been around a long time. She’s like, to me, the Mr. Rogers of the country western scene, so I just, I really enjoy her. I’ve even read some of the books that she’s written. And I just appreciate her philosophy in life and she just seems to be joyful to me. So, I just love her. And, my God, the songs that woman has written, like she’s a savant with it. And if you listen to some of her music, it’s not the “Nine-to-Five” kind of stuff all of it. A lot of it is very–it’s dark, actually, her early music. So, anyway, I was just doin’t a little ode to my Dolly. I love her so much.
Jeff Sarris: I like it! And to anyone who’s just listening, we do have the YouTube version of the show. So, if you just look up Kidney Stone Diet podcast, or go to kidneystonediet.com/podcast, you can find a link to all the episodes or the channel and subscribe. Give it a thumbs up if you enjoy these shows because it really helps out.
Jill Harris: Yeah, please do me a favor and Jeff a favor if you want to–I’m gonna hold you guys ransom. If you want to see Jeff’s cat on this show ever again, you better press that subscribe button. What is it to you? Just click it! Boop, like that! That’s it. Well, we get more subscribers and YouTube will be like, “Oh, they have more subscribers. Let’s put them first.” So they get good information out to people not junk.
Jeff Sarris: That’s what’s so important. And it’s hard to rank, like ranking is is a thing. If it’s on social media on Google, whatever it is, it’s hard to get the really good information to the top. Like we work hard at it, we have good rankings, but it doesn’t mean that we have like a stronghold on being able to help people find these answers. And it’s not finding the products. It’s not buying the product. It’s finding just the correct answers.
Jill Harris: Right. We want the right answers. People are sick and they need to have the right answers so they get less confused and they’re able to take care of themselves better. The end.
Jeff Sarris: So with that, I think we’ll dive into this episode and oh, yeah, and along the lines of my cat, Alpha, he was laying on the chair in the sun in the other room, I grabbed him brought him in here, and he’s like, “uh uh. I want to go back to the sun,” and he took off. So, hopefully, I will get him. I’m really not trying to just dangle this carrot every episode. It feels like this is some big ploy, that eventually we’ll have like, we’ll have cat merch, so now you can buy my cat on your shirt. No, none of that. This is just like, I don’t want to bother him, but at the same time, hopefully we can get him in here.
Jill Harris: I don’t know, Jeff. Maybe it just becomes, like, he’s the Stanley of Will and Grace that you never see. Or the Charlie of Charlie’s Angels that you never see. Maybe Alpha becomes that.
Jeff Sarris: That would be really funny. I apologize in advance everyone if you’re waiting, but, yeah, we’ll see what happens.
Jill Harris: It’s a cat! It’s a cat, so you don’t know if he’s gonna appear or not.
Jeff Sarris: So, if you have a question, the number is 773-789-8763. We have a few more that we’ll be getting to in future episodes, but we wanted to touch on an FAQ of sorts. This is one that like the way it’s phrased, I think might actually be a little misleading, but there’s sort of a deeper question there. The question being is milk bad for kidney stones?
Jill Harris: Is milk bad for kidney stones? Let me put on my mittens.
Jeff Sarris: Why do you have mittens?!
Jill Harris: I don’t know. I just have mittens and it’s been a really long day.
Jeff Sarris: I gotta say, you do look cozy with those. Just chin on your mittens, just hanging out.
Jill Harris: Okay, so why is milk bad for kidney stones?
Jeff Sarris: Yeah, is milk bad for kidney stones?
Jill Harris: Oh, is milk bad for kidney stones? N-ope. Nope. N-ope. Nope. So there’s always people in the background that are gonna say, “Dairy will kill you. Nobody drinks, you know–mother’s milk ever since–” All this stuff. So, listen, if you want to use dairy to get your calcium, that’s wonderful. So that’s just a side note.
Jeff Sarris: I love that you’re wearing those mittens. It’s just cracking me up. We’re gonna have to make this a thing, too!
Jill Harris: You never know what I’m gonna bring into the mix, so it’s mittens today! It could be ear muffs the next episode. So, well, it’s very cold here in Chicago and I have neuropathy. So my hands when–I’m right by my front door because there’s this much space. So everything’s by my front door. So there’s a draft right here and so my hands are tingling right now, so the mittens do feel cozy. Okay, is milk bad for kidney stones? Is that right? Okay, so milk. Milk is not bad for kidney stones. If you are a non-dairy person, you don’t have to listen to me at all, but it’s not bad for kidney stones. That’s the question. Whether you want to use dairy or not to get your calcium needs met is up to you. So, if you want to do it non-dairy, God bless. If you want to use dairy to get calcium, God bless.
We welcome all, all sorts of calcium, except pills, okay? So really the bigger picture here is I can only imagine that somebody was asking because of this. “Well, Jill, I was told when I first got a stone in 1976, never have calcium. So, I gave up all my milk products. I stopped. I really made sure. The doctor said the stone was calcium, so I got rid of all my calcium. Now, I went to the doctor and probably somebody Googling that is probably like okay, so now I went to the doctor, and they said to have calcium. So let me ask Dr. Google: is calcium okay? For Kidney Stones, right?” Is milk okay for kidney stones? So again, what doctors used–I’m not ragging on doctors. I’m just saying what was used to be thought, the guys got up from 1942, if somebody has a calcium-based stone, get rid of all calcium.
What Happens to Our Bodies if We Don’t Get Enough Calcium?
So people listened to their doctor. Their stones got worse. How could this be? Well, if we don’t have enough calcium, we cannot rid our bodies of the excess oxalate we eat and/or our body produces because oxalate is a byproduct of general metabolism, meaning our body will make some as well. So, the only way to get rid of that excess oxalate is to make sure you’re getting enough calcium in your diet through food or beverage, so that it can connect with oxalate–calcium connects with oxalate in your intestines and leaves through the stool. So, patients that were told back in the day to stop having any kind of calcium, food or drinks, got more stones because they had more oxalate in their system then.
Also, this puts us at risk for bone disease. So the calcium–Dr. Coe always says this, wherever you see a stone clinic, a bone clinic will be close by. The two go hand-in-hand because people are not getting enough calcium. Or, which is a whole other video. I have about 2,014 videos inside my heart, just so you know, shere’s a lot in here I can do. So yeah, because nutrition and learning lifestyle changes is complicated and that’s why you’re watching this. This is complicated. So when people come here, “I feel so dumb. I don’t know–” How would you know? Where are they teaching this? That would be nowhere, so, of course, it’s very complicated.
So, it’s important to get enough calcium, whether you get it through dairy, or non-dairy sources. There’s some nice articles on my website, at kidneystonediet.com on the blog, they will say here’s some you know, vegetarian sources, non-dairy sources of calcium. So whatever way you choose to get it, whatever suits your medical conditions, whatever suits your ethics and your philosophy, do it that way, okay? So, is milk okay for kidney stones? It absolutely is. Get up to your needs met, not over, no one needs too much and, yeah, it’s perfectly fine for kidney stone prevention. A lot of people use milk to get their protein needs met, to get their calcium needs met. Absolutely.
Jeff Sarris: Yeah, I think that’s so important to note because that whole calcium versus calcium oxalate stone question. Like, you just think that, “I have too much calcium, too much milk. That’s why I have a stone.” Like that was the thing that really just sort of blew my mind when we first started talking like way before the show. I was certain that that was the issue. The issue was too much calcium in my kidney would cause a kidney stone, so I need to be careful with that. But, yeah, knowing that that’s, sort of, honestly the antithesis of what we need to focus on, it’s interesting.
Do Calcium-Only Kidney Stones Exist?
Jill Harris: Yes, it is very interesting and it’s very counterintuitive because the other deal is this: a doctor may just say, “You have a calcium stone.” And so patients say, “No, my doctor said I have a calcium stone,” and I will say, “I heard you, but they just didn’t explain the whole stone.” There’s no such thing as just a calcium stone. Calcium has to be bound with either oxalate or phosphate. So, your stone can be calcium oxalate, calcium phosphate, uric acid, a combination strew bite, which is a more rare or rarer stone, but those are stones that now have bacteria in them. sepsis, dangerous, those stones are terrible cysteine stones very rare. So there’s a whole bunch of different stones.
But anytime your doctor says you have a calcium stone, it is bound with another mineral. It’s bound with something else, they’re just not getting you the whole thing. And so it’s very easy to extrapolate out that my doctor said I have a calcium stone and now you’re telling me to have more calcium? This makes no sense whatsoever. Or, when I look at a urine collection, the patient says, “You’re telling me I need more calcium!” Look at all the calcium! The lab report says you have way too much calcium in your urine, so why would I want to put more in there? Well, in many cases, genetics come into play and this is why one needs a 24-hour urine collection.
It’s not just about getting rid of spinach, people. Again, this is complicated. So there’s many different factors–and this is why the Kidney Stone Diet is a set of goals, many different goals, not just one thing to help you reduce your risk. So the question is always posed me on a daily basis: “Jill, I don’t get this. You and the doctor both are telling me to get my calcium needs met, but I don’t understand. Please tell me why he’s telling me that and now you’re telling me that when I have too much in my urine.” And this sometimes can be–most of the time it’s from eating too much salt, added sugar, or meat protein and/or there’s genetics in your family and there’s something called idiopathic hypercalciuria. What the hell is that?
Idiopathic means we’ve ruled everything else out. Hyper is too much. Cal, calcium. Urea, urine. So, we don’t know why else, there’s too much calcium in their urine and the the idiopathic part means we’ve ruled everything else out. We’ve ruled diet, we’ve ruled parathyroid, we’ve ruled other stuff out. We have no other reason. It must be genetics. And when you do a family history, sure enough Bobby had them, Cousin Susu, Booboo has them, my dad had them, everybody had them. So there’s idiopathic hypercalciuria. Again, another video. So why are we telling people who have too much calcium in their urine now to get enough calcium? Because, in many cases, this is coming from your bone.
Whether you’re eating too much salt, added sugar, and it’s being pulled from your bone, just think it’s taken out of your bone and dumped in your urine. So now you have too much and those other crystals, like oxalate and phosphate, they’re like, “Oh, hell yeah, lotsa calcium comin’ down and this is the party! Let’s go find her! Have a party.” That’s when you can form stones. The problem is, they gotta fix that. Your urologist or your nephrologist may have to put you on a medication to fix that. If you have calcium coming from your bones, it’s an added risk for more stones. It’s an added risk for osteoporosis. So, darn right, you need more calcium. You’re losing it from your skeleton.
You’ve gotta get some. So, that’s why. That’s why and it makes perfect sense that people don’t understand that, but that’s why. So there’s other things going on in their genes that is causing calcium and/or their diet, causing calcium to be taken away from their bones, and dumping it into the urine. So they’re losing calcium and I know it sounds counterintuitive that you’ve gotta eat calcium–why should I–but you’re losing it. So, you definitely need to get calcium by food or drink.
Jeff Sarris: Yeah, and now you said the idiopathic hypercalciuria? Is that how you say it?
Jill Harris: Idiopathic hypercalciuria means too much calcium in the urine and we’ve ruled every other reason out why. So now it just becomes an idiopathic problem, we really don’t know why we’re probably going to blame this on genetics, considering the family history, but everything else has been ruled out. And this is what we’re left with.
Jeff Sarris: And now, obviously, that could be a whole topic on its own, but does the Kidney Stone Diet and the approach tend to help in that scenario?
Jill Harris: A hundred percent. So, the diet will always help, right? The diet–and you were gonna say, “Well, yeah, you’re selling the diet!” I’m not selling the diet. I’m telling you what helps. So, but what I’m saying also is so a patient comes to me, they’re on a higher sodium diet. Their calcium is super high. So they come to me because the doctor has sent them to me to work on diet. Sometimes the calcium is so high, I will tell the patient “Look, we’re going to work on diet because that’s where you always need to go first.” But you still may need a pill to help because this is going to be probably more genetics as well. “So, Jill, I won’t go on your stupid diet. If this is genetic, I’m gonna need all the salt I want. What’s the difference?”
Because if you lower your sodium, you’re still going to lower the amount of calcium you’re leaking out of your bone. It may not be enough to halt everything, but the diet will work enough to get you on a lower dose of the medication you’re going to have to go on. And, by the way–as I’m pointing with my mittens–by the way, those pills are less effective, unless you pay attention to sodium. So those pills that are helping keep calcium in your bone, they ain’t gonna work as well if you’re still eating a buttload of sodium. So, I’ll tell my patients, they’re like, “Well forget you. I’ll just find a pill.” I’m like, “Nah, I’ll still get my way.” Because the pill doesn’t work as well and then you start going up and up and up on a dose. You don’t want that because, as we all know, one pill, begets another pill begets another pill.
So you take a pill, all of a sudden now this value is low because that pill that’s helped with this has now lowered this. Two more pills, three more pills, four more pills. Please, as we get older, our pill box gets more and more full. You start with, in your 40s, you start with little baby pillbox it could fit like this. Now, next thing you know you have a whole suitcase for your friggin pillbox because it’s a lot bigger. Let’s not do that, ladies and gentlemen, shall we? Let’s not do that, please. So you start with diet always first. Always. It’s a must. You don’t get rid of the diet part of it, but some of you will definitely need to take medication to help lower your urine calcium. And then they do fine.
Jeff Sarris: Yeah, and that’s sort of where the the course and your group calls and things can come in and help people sort of know to understand what they’re looking at, starting with the urine collection, the urine analysis and breaking that down. But yeah, you can find all the services and things at kidneystonediet.com. All the the free blog posts, the email newsletter, and I think this is actually a good spot to wrap because that really covers sort of a hidden question because the hidden question is calcium. Like, is milk bad for me for kidney stones? It’s almost less about the dairy, but more like, “Hey, calcium stones, why would I get more calcium?”
And it’s scary to think that it’s being pulled from our bones, like our bones are losing calcium. It is so wild. If you have a question, whether about calcium, oxalate, whatever it is, the number is 773-789-8763, and we will feature you on a future episode. We want to thank you, as always, for joining us. For taking your time, giving us time in your day, to watch the show, and to share, and give a little thumbs up on YouTube and everything. All those little things mean a lot, all the comments, so we’re so grateful just for everything that you guys are doing. So, thank you so much!
Jill Harris: Yeah, thank you! I love answering the comments, people. If you have questions, just use the comments. Thank you!
Jeff Sarris: Sweet! We’ll see you next time!
Thank you for the great video! When you have time can you please, please, please do a podcast on idiopathic hypercalciuria? I have this plus osteopenia. I’ve read Dr. Coe’s article twice but I still have questions about when to take meds. I’ve tried twice but was taken off of them due to side effects. My nephrologist said I’m basically fine yet I don’t want to do the wrong thing for my bones (and stones!) Thanks Jill!
Jill Harris, LPN, CHC
I cannot speak to your meds. That is between you are your docs!