This week, Jill answers a listener question about whether it’s safe to drink dark liquids as a kidney stone former.
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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.
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Jeff Sarris: Welcome back to the Kidney Stone Diet podcast, the show about reducing your kidney stone risk and living your best life. I stumbled over my words, but I’m your host and fellow student, Jeff Sarris.
Jill Harris: It’s because we’re drinking this.
Jeff Sarris: We’re so tipsy on the sparkling water.
Jill Harris: We’re stumblin’! And I’m Jill Harris, your kidney stone prevention nurse. We just got done shooting our 100th episode, so we’re just gonna do a few episodes here, while we’re together in-person because this probably won’t happen for another two years because we live far away. Not that far, but far enough.
Jeff Sarris: Yeah, far enough that it was a hike for you.
Jill Harris: Yeah, which I would climb mountains for you, honey, but you know, that was a pain in my ass with traffic and everything. We city folk don’t like to venture to the suburbs very much, but I would come anywhere where you asked me to come. What are we doing today?
Jeff Sarris: So, we have another voicemail. What do you say we just dive right into that?
Jill Harris: Let’s do it.
Listener Voicemail: Hi, this is Jenny and I live in Georgia and I am on a low-oxalate diet. My question is, they tell me that I cannot have dark drinks. Is that related to oxalate or is it just something, in general, for kidney stones? I kind of want to know, why not? So, thank you for your time. Goodbye!
Jill Harris: Jenny or Janie?
Jeff Sarris: I think Jenny.
What to do with Generic Advice from a Healthcare Professional
Jill Harris: Jenny, that’s a friggin’ great question. There’s a reason why it’s a great question. There’s a few things–I’m going to be a little fired up here, too. Number one, why, as healthcare professionals, are we giving such generic advice without saying why we’re giving it? This is a big deal. I teach in my Kidney Stone Prevention course, my Facebook group, here on YouTube, we, as patients, because I am also a patient with my cancer that’s in remission–so I always like to tell you guys that so you understand that I understand where you’re coming from, and why I do get fired up.
So, Jenny was given advice to, you know, stay away from dark liquids.What is that? Wine? Cola? Coffee? Broth? What is a dark liquid? It could be all of that, so it’s very generic advice. No disrespect to the doctor. Nurses give out advice like this, dieticians will give–we healthcare professionals can sometimes give out generic advice. So, we’ve got to always remember that each patient we talk to, they may not understand what we’re talking about. So it’s our responsibility to make sure we’re as clear as possible. Also, when patients do the urine analysis call with me, I will prompt them. “Here are your results. Here are specific things to talk about your doctor with.” This is very important.
They wouldn’t know to bring that up, right? And the doctor may skip over it just because there’s bigger issues. I like to say I’m like Angie Dickinson Pepper. For you guys who are my age, you’ll understand that reference. These two may not. It falls on deaf ears. That was a policewoman, Angie Dickinson Pepper. So, when I’m going over a urine analysis, I’m like Pepper. I’m undercover. I’m leaving no stone unturned, people.
Now, Jenny, the doctor probably meant, Jenny, stay away from soda. A lot of doctors will say, “Stay away from the dark colas. You can have the clear colas because there’s citrate in the 7-Up, and the Sprite, and all that.” So, they’ll say have that. I don’t love that either because there’s a lot of sugar in these things. The doctor probably told you to stay away from it, though, because there’s phosphoric acid in the sodas, there’s a lot of sugar in the sodas. So, I’m not concerned about the oxalate level. Forget about that. Why would you want to have a soda anyway? So, now, before you’re like–Jenny could be thinking “Because I like frickin’ soda, girl, that’s why.” Okay, all right, I get that you like soda.
You can have a soda here and there, but soda is truly one of the unhealthiest foods, I mean drinks, you can have because it’s just all sugar. It’s sugar and bubbles. That’s what it is. So it’s going to rot out your teeth. It’s going to raise your blood sugar level, obviously. And, in the kidney stone world, and also in the osteoporosis world, we’re very concerned about excess sugar because it will raise your urine calcium. When you have too much calcium in your urine, typically, it’s because you have just lost it from your bone and too much sugar and salt will do that. When you have calcium in your urine, for kidney stone formers, you will have an increased risk of having phosphate and oxalate connect to that calcium if you’re not peeing enough and making a little stone. So that’s why it’s important.
It’s on You, as a Patient, to Ask Your Doctor Questions
So, we as patients, in our treatment plans, whether it’s kidney stones, cancer, diabetes, whatever, when you are given a direction from your doctor, it is on you to ask, “Oh, what’s that for? What do I need to worry about? What should I do instead because I really like that? How am I going to wean off my five sodas a day–” Jenny, I don’t know how many sodas, if any, that you have, but the patient needs more than just, “Stay away from dark liquid.” I mean, there just could be so much more that you could have given and didn’t, so I’m just putting it now in our laps as patients.
But see, here’s the problem, too, when we patients go into a doctor’s office, again, we ain’t there because he wants to tell us a joke. We’re there because shit has hit the fan. Something is wrong. Now we’re losing our mind. We’re scared, we were just in pain, we just had a Cystoscopy, we just had this, this, this, and this. I just did a Facebook Live on this. I know when I went into my doctor’s office visits, and it doesn’t matter what you have, you’re just in a doctor’s office now. And even though I’m a nurse, I do kidney stones. I don’t do cancer, so I don’t know anything about it and I’m scared.
So, I don’t know, the questions to ask. I don’t know, if the doctor says something, am I even going to retain it because I’m so scared? So, you know, when you go into a doctor’s office–this could be a whole other video–but bring somebody with you. If you are anxious, you may need another pair of ears there or ask the doctor if you can tape your hoozie because, you know, I would do that, sometimes, because I just was too nervous and I couldn’t retain the information. And then when you leave the office, it’s very difficult to get ahold of a doctor again, right. So we don’t know what we don’t know. And that’s why I came up with a 15 minute-service, so you could get prompted to know how to handle that office visit and get the best best visit possible.
So, Jenny, for your kidney stones, for weight loss, for diabetes, for osteoporosis, for cardiovascular disease, it’s important not to drink soda because of the sugar content and the empty calories, not to mention the calories. It’s a couple hundred calories, right, per can? And, it’s not like you get full off that, so you’re just drinking soda all day. Again, Jenny, I don’t know if you do, and it’s unfortunate that the doctor didn’t even ask if you didn’t just told you that information. But if you do, guys, want to have a soda here and there, that’s something you enjoy, I would say, you know, have half of a can. Save the other half for later, maybe, you know, elongate it out throughout the day.
And try to cut down and if that means going to diet–”Jill says you shouldn’t have a diet soda.” Jill never said that and Jill never said that because if you’re getting off regular sugar, a regular Coke, which has a lot of calories and a lot of sugar, and you’re able to wean yourself off to a diet and have that, I don’t care. Yes, it has artificial sweeteners, but we have a video on artificial sweeteners. Go look at that one and see what I say about that. So I just care that people eat healthier, drink healthier beverages, and it will decrease your stone risk because you will be drinking a lot less sugar. Does that make sense, Jeff?
Jeff Sarris: Definitely! And you’re always, in terms of, the quantity of liquids ingested, too, you always say that, basically everything counts. So, they can have a positive impact. It’s just that you’re picking and choosing where you want to spend those liquids.
Jill Harris: Right! And, you know, with the Kidney Stone Diet, there’s a set of goals. For each of your goals–whether it’s sugar, salt, protein, whatever meat, protein, fluids, calcium oxalat–we give you the goals because we know you’re grown up and you’re smart people and so we give you a bank account with all the goals and your debit card–See the problem with soda is it’s about 38 grams of sugar and one can of soda. And, for a woman, you shouldn’t have more than 25 grams of added sugar a day no matter what disease you’re battling, and a man gets 37.5 I just rounded up and give them 38.
But one can of soda? I don’t know. You could say, “Yeah, girl, that’s where I want to put my added sugar.” Okay, but that means you can’t have sugar for the rest of the day. If you want to put it there, you’re grown. And then people say, “Well, Jill says I can have soda. Henry, Jill said I could have a soda!” You didn’t hear all of it, Gladys. I said other things, too. If you’re going to have a soda and that keeps you compliant because you love that soda so much and you pay attention to everything else–my patients, they’ll say to me, “Jill, just so you know, I’m drinking five sodas a day, but I’ll get down to one, if you give me the one.”
And I’ll say, “Listen, Glad, I’ll give you that one, if you get rid of the four, and you could actually keep it if you adhere to all the other goals of the Kidney Stone Diet.’ So, again, the reason diets don’t work is because you’re giving up your very favorite food. Now, I’ll tell Gladys–in a lot more words–I’ll say, “I’m not a fan of this,” and I want to go down on my gravestone it’ll say, “Jill was not a fan of it, but she’s gonna give it to you because you’re giving her so much back.” And so my goal is for your overall health. If you eat well, and move your body, and positive thoughts, too–that all goes hand in hand–then you’re going to feel better. And if you feel better, then that’s what makes me happy, and that’s what makes Jeff happy. So, that’s what we’re here to do: promote a healthier lifestyle, in general. If one soda a day is going to keep you compliant with everything else, have it. I’m not a fan, but if it keeps you compliant, I’m all for it, right?
Jeff Sarris: Absolutely! And I know it was a while ago, but when you mentioned having someone join you at the doctor, and maybe recording it, like those are just two little things I just wanted to stick a pin in because those are things I think a lot of us wouldn’t think of. I wouldn’t think of having someone come with me as that support, but it is so stressful. It’s so valuable to have that extra set of ears. Those little resources–Like, actually, when I had my wisdom teeth out, someone, at some point, like many, many years ago, they told me that they listened to their iPod.
It was a while ago, but they were listening to music the whole time. It was one of those–as soon as they said it, I was like, “I’m gonna do that for sure.” Like, that’ll keep my mind occupied. I wasn’t going under they were just gonna do local anesthesia, but that little thing made a world of difference for my experience going through that. I think that’s hugely valuable to consider bringing someone along and I didn’t mean to rewind so much–
Jill Harris: Look, I’m not the smartest girl, I’m not the cutest girl. I’m not anything, really, but I’m very practical and I’ve been through a lot of the things I’m trying to teach everybody about. I have a lot of experience, you know. I have decades of experience being a patient, the last five years, but decades of how do you help people make changes? Also, it has to be specific for them. It can’t be a generic brochure, “Don’t drink brown soda,” or whatever the hell. “Don’t drink brown beverage.” What is that? How is that helpful? So, you have to bring common sense. I’m trying to put common sense back on our plates, right?
How do we do the things that we’re being asked to do? How do we navigate a doctor’s office visit? A lot of my services are based upon all the hell that I went through as a patient. Just to see it from the other side, instead of being the healthcare person, and being a patient has really opened my eyes to a lot of services I want to help patients with. Those services are even more important than the diet in a lot of ways, right? So you could tell somebody a set of goals for a diet, but, again, how are they going to do it based upon all the stuff that they’re bringing to the table, literally, and then how are they going to navigate their health care, their doctor office visits, and just the practical stuff.
So, bringing a friend and what keeps me interested in this work is recognizing the humanity of what we go through in a doctor’s office visit. Somebody has to go online and say, “Listen, I was really scared. I didn’t know if I was going to live and I had, at the time, a nine year old boy.” And so, you know, how many movies can I see, for Pete’s sake? I’ve had a great life, but I did not want to live long without seeing my son. That was just, you know–so I had to learn all the tricks that I give out now free on YouTube, free on Facebook, free, free, free, and help people so they can feel better when they feel their worst. So, that’s a really huge, satisfying part of my job, for sure.
Jeff Sarris: And you can find all of those resources at kidneystonediet.com. And just everything, the plethora of free resources, the premium products, the Kidney Stone Prevention course, the free Facebook group, which is booming. There’s always so much going on there. The Kidney Stone Prevention Group, I believe it’s called, but it’s linked to from the site. You can find all of that there and thanks again for your questions.
Jill Harris: Great question!
Jeff Sarris: Again, the number is 773-789-8763. If you’re out there and you have a question you want answered, or just want to call in and even give sort of some insight into your experience so far, and maybe things that have helped you when you’ve gone to see the doctor, and the conversation starter, maybe, that helped you get a better a better outcome.
Jill Harris: Absolutely! All of our information, from our community, from us, everything that we can pull together, and bring out, and talk about, and really deal with, I mean, that’s what we’re here for.
Jeff Sarris: Absolutely! Thanks again for your question. Thanks everyone for listening and we’ll see you next time!
Jill Harris: Thanks, Jenny!