This week Jill answers a listener question about preventing kidney stones after a nephrectomy.
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.
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Jeff Sarris: Welcome back to the Kidney Stone Diet podcast, a 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. Do you know what I was just thinking about? I love going to thrift stores. I love them and I’ve always loved them. It’s like a treasure hunt, right? And there’s always candles on in my house–I was going to tell you one story, but now let me tell you what happened the other night. This is not a cute story. Okay, so my son had homecoming–one minute I’m burping him, now he’s having a homecoming. I don’t even know how that happened, but there you go. Anyway, so I was up a little later waiting for him to come home. So he came home and we chatted for a little. He went to bed and I went to bed. Now, I always have candles as my regular people know, my patients and my little friends on Facebook and stuff; they know that I always have a candle on, but I always shut them off before I go to bed.
Anyway, I was tired. I fell asleep with a candle on. The candle was almost out, okay, but it was a bigger candle in a big glass jar, so it wasn’t going to burn nothin’ up. It started smoking because it was at the very end so it had that black puff of smoke. Anyway, the fire alarm went off. The smoke alarm is right above my head and you know in cartoons when a cat hears something and it goes like that? It was like 20-30 minutes right after I went to bed, so I was getting really into my sleep. That alarm scared the living heck out of me. So, my girls upstairs were like “what the hell is going on?” I’m like screaming, “girls, girls! Get a ladder!” These apartments are small, but the roof is high, so they’re like “we have a four-step step stool.” I’m like “well, that’s great. We need a 25-step step stool because I can’t reach the smoke alarm.”
So, it’s one o’clock in the morning. They’re running downstairs, so all this drama going on. I’m getting towels, going like this, and I’m like “what the hell? Why is it going off?” They’re like, “It smells like a candle in here, Jill.” I said “what?!” They said “it smells like a candle in here.” I said “oh, sweet baby Jesus. I left the candle going.” They took their ladder, they looked at me disgusted, and they left and went back upstairs. I said “sorry girls!” That was that. But, Jeff, it scared the heck out of me because I didn’t know what it was because I was asleep, right?
So, anyway, I love going to the thrift store and finding all these old time votive candles, like dark ones, yellow, you know my brown kind of candle glass thing. It makes me so happy. You can get like a whole bag for 52 cents. Nothing makes me happier than that. Do you like candles?
Jeff Sarris: I don’t use them actually. Just it’s because of that that mental component of the soot and everything in the air. I always have that little hesitation towards that. I just always have. And having Alpha, our cat, too, I’m always just very, very cautious with everything with him. Because like my first cat, we had him for like a year–this, again, not a great story–we had him for a year from a kitten to a year old and he actually passed from like just a freak–it was actually kidney failure, now that I say it out loud I didn’t even think about that. But it came down to him getting into something he shouldn’t have gotten into and then, yeah things just went immediately, over a weekend. It was just like that.
So ever since, with Alpha who is now 10 or 11 years old, I’ve just been very deliberate and cautious with things. I just never want something like that to happen again. So that was not a good time But yeah, I appreciate candles, especially the vibe that they create with the lighting and everything. It’s just so nice!
Jill Harris: Yeah, I love it. I love it. So anyway, that’s never gonna happen again. But anyway, it scared the heck out of me. Oh, and also I have to get a ladder. Although, I don’t know where I would put it. I’m gonna have to get something because I cook all the time! It went off the other night, too, because I was cooking. So, it’s an issue. I’ve gotta deal with it.
Jeff Sarris: Yeah, I wonder if you can get one that’s like half decor, but actually functional, you know. So it’s like up on the wall, but it looks kind of nice.
Jill Harris: I’m looking into that and they have expandable ones, but they’re a lot of money. You know everything when you try to do smaller, they get you! They’re like, “Oh, it’s a small place. They’re never gonna be able to find it anywhere. Hey, jack up that price 50 bucks more because it’s small!” I mean, what the heck.
Jeff Sarris: Yeah, well, should we get rolling onto the question?
Jill Harris: Yeah, how the hell do we segway into kidney stones from ladders to candles. I don’t even know what to tell you–and a cat with kidney failure! Let’s go off that!
Jeff Sarris: Yeah, there you go. So, let’s dive into this week’s question which comes from Lynn.
Listener Voicemail: Hi! My name is Lynn and I’m calling from Ottawa, Canada. I have a question about a kidney stone, actually a few kidney stones that were recently discovered in my CT scans. I live with one kidney, following a nephrectomy that I had done in March 2020 when a tumor was found. So, I have one kidney left, and now have discovered that I have these three kidney stones. So I would appreciate any, I guess, advice you have on diet going forward. I’m fairly healthy. I’ve tried to incorporate a little bit more calcium as I mainly eat vegetables, so a vegetarian diet, and slowly incorporating a little bit more protein. But yeah, any advice you would have would be very helpful. Thanks so much.
Jill Harris: So, I had actually two private clients today that had one kidney. And so, because of various reasons, whether it was cancer, whether it was they had too many procedures because of so many kidney stones, or just one kidney stone caused that much damage–listen, there’s a reason I’ve dedicated my career for over two decades to kidney stone prevention. I’m not talking about oxalate all day long. I’m not talking about a lot of other things. I listen to stories that would make your eyeballs fall out of your head. Kidney stones cause so much havoc in people’s lives. Of course, the pain, but the damage they can do to the kidneys is unbelievable.
So, I take this very seriously when someone calls. Now, she had it due to kidney cancer. So she’s had a nephrectomy, which is the removal of a kidney. She had it in March of 2020, not a good year for Lynn. I do have a lot of patients that they call me after they now have one kidney and that one kidney has stones. They don’t want those stones to get bigger, nor do they want to produce more stones because you can live with one, but you can’t live with none. So, I take this very seriously. What would we say for, Lynn? Many of my patients who’ve had a nephrectomy who only have one kidney, they’re on the Kidney Stone Diet, of course. I always tell patients who have other medical conditions, always check. So, she has one kidney. There’s not typically any special restrictions for people with one kidney, except to treat it like a beautiful prize, right?
So you do want to lower your sodium. Now, I don’t know Lynn’s other medical conditions. So because I don’t know that, I will tell her unless a doctor has told her otherwise because she has other medical conditions or other things going on, follow the Kidney Stone Diet. What is the Kidney Stone Diet? It is a set of goals. We are not telling you what you can and cannot eat. Yes, we take away spinach and almonds, but so what? Overall, though, this is a set of goals, no matter–and Lynn happens to be vegan– but no matter what lifestyle you practice, it’s a set of goals. Make your goals. Make your lifestyle fit into our goals. So that’s what’s special and unique about the Kidney Stone Diet.
Dr. Coe and I called it that just sitting around one day writing articles on his website. He has an article that he wrote specifically on the science-backed kKidney Stone Diet, meaning here’s the science. This is why we call it the Kidney Stone Diet, this is why it works. Here’s all the research to show you. We didn’t just make it up for kicks and giggles. There’s a reason that it works. When you lower your sodium to the goals that we have, when you lower your added sugar, when you get enough calcium, when you get enough fluids, when you watch your oxalate if you need to do that, when you don’t overeat meat protein, these goals will help lower your kidney stone risk. And the science is on his website. You can go to kidneystone.uchicago.edu. And I think it’s called…just Google “the science of the kidney stone diet.” We named it something like that.
Jeff Sarris: Yeah, it’s slash the kidney stone diet. I have it on the screen right now. So it’s just kidney stones.uchicago.edu/the-kidney-stone-diet.
Jill Harris: And then there’s another article where he writes the science of the kidney stone diet. So there’s a few. There’s an article that we both wrote on the Kidney Stone Diet. There’s one I just wrote, then there’s the science of the kidney stone diet, so there’s different things. Is that is though, Jeff?
Jeff Sarris: Yeah, that one goes into the source of the calcium, dissecting the diet, calcium, and sugar. Yeah, I’ll find the other one as well.
What’s the First Thing I Should Do?
Jill Harris: So, all that’s on there, because people are like, so what about this stupid diet? This is all science backed! We’re not making it up to give you a whole new diet to think about. All of this matters. So, because, Lynn, you have one kidney, you want to do your very best to follow the goals of the Kidney Stone Diet and any other goals that the doctors have for you. The first thing I would do, if you have not already done it, is to get a 24 hour urine collection done. You want to know why you’re forming stones. Please don’t let a doctor say you don’t need that. You do. And I know doctors say “well, she’s just a little nurse. What does she know?” Well, that’s why I always talk about Dr. Coe so you don’t think I’m making this up. It’s like the granddaddy of kidney stone prevention. He’s an ecologist from University of Chicago and I’ve been very lucky to learn everything I know from him. He’s done nothing more than 50 years of science and kidney stone diet stuff, and kidney stone everything!
So, anyway, you need a 24 hour urine collection. You must get that done if you have not, okay. See what your diet, your lifestyle is doing. See what kind of changes you need to make and then get the goals from the Kidney Stone Diet on our website at kidneystonediet.com. Go to the start page and you’ll see the goals in a really sweet infographic what we want patients to strive for. That does not mean we want you to be perfect because that’s impossible. But these are things that–these goals, the salt goal, the added sugar goal, the fluid goal–these are the things we want you to pay attention to every day as best you can, given the situation you got for that day, right?
So yeah, you’ve got to take care of that one little kidney. And I’ll tell you what, Lynn, many of my nephrectomy patients–people who only have one kidney–they do great! They do great! And so you have those three stones, ask the doctor “can I leave them in there doc? Do you care that they’re in there? Are they in a place where you don’t care about it because if so I’m good with that.” When patients have stones, especially patients who have one kidney and it has stones in it, it will make you even more dedicated, more disciplined because you have a very big motivating factor to keep you compliant on most days.
You want to get enough fluids. You don’t want those stones to get bigger. If they’re in a cool place in your kidney and they’re not bothering anything, you could leave the earth with those kidney stones depending upon what your doctor says, of course. But a urine collection is in order; see what diet changes you need to make. The Kidney Stone Diet is right there on my website and it has all the goals. If you need more help, you can book a private appointment with me. I never say this, but people that have a nephrectomy, they may need more special help, so you can always book an appointment with me to have all kinds of different services. And there are all different price ranges.
Jeff Sarris: And also the urine analysis for when you do the urine collection is a super valuable service!
Jill Harris: Yes! A 15-minute call, forty-nine bucks. You can’t be that, and you will get more out of that fifteen minute call for $49 then you’ve ever gotten in your life with a visit for something like that. I promise, you will.
Jeff Sarris: Yeah, and just to describe what you do, you just sort of break down the urine report itself.
Jill Harris: Yep, people get a urine collection and then I teach them: here’s your values, here’s where we want patients to be, and here are the talking points for your doctor so you can make the best out of that doctor office appointment. The reason I made this service was twofold. Number one, how many patients came to me and said, “I wish I knew all this, Jill, before I had my doctor’s office visit last week. Now, how am I going to get ahold of them.” So I’ll say write these things in the portal, but it was a waste of a copay, you know, and as a patient myself with my cancer stuff, you’re paying each time you go into those doctor’s offices, and you do want the most out of it while you’re there, right? You want to have a good conversation.
So, me as a patient, and my own patients coming to me saying, “Oh my god, I wish I knew this before I went into the doctor,” that’s why that service was made. It’s 15 minutes and I will go over your lab results so you can have them. I’m not giving you a treatment plan. I’m explaining to you where it needs to be, so you can lower your stone risk, and know how to talk to your doctor about the value so you could get on the best treatment plan for you. If you’re on a good treatment plan, you’re going to lower your stone risk. Of course you have to comply with it, but listen, just saying the words “lowering your stone risk” from a patient who’s been sick a lot in the last several years, if you can lower a risk for anything, run towards that.
I don’t care if you’re like, “well, I can’t have spinach no more. Life sucks.” It doesn’t. Being sick sucks. Being sick sucks, people. We’ve all been there, if you’re watching this, you’ve been sick, and I don’t want that for you anymore. So please get rid of the things that are bothering you. Lower your sodium. Once you do things like this–drink more water, follow the Kidney Stone Diet–you’re gonna feel so much better. You just have to trust me and trust the 1000s of patients I helped and go look at the praise on my website. It’s not because of me. It’s because people really work hard on changing their habits, incorporating the lifestyle changes, and they get better.
So, you’re not doomed. You’re not a stone maker for life. This isn’t something that you can’t reverse. Now, there’s a very small percentage who have other medical conditions. I always cover my butt ’cause there will be somebody in the comments “I have this and blah blah blah.” And there’s always people like that, okay, and that’s very valid. But for the majority of you, you can really lower your stone risk. The majority of you don’t ever have to make a stone again. This is why we do this. This is why we’re so passionate about it. So don’t let anybody tell you you’re a stone maker. This is doable, but you got to do the work, okay?
Don’t let the diet industry say “Oh, you’re weak, and you’re gonna know it all.” You ain’t gonna know nothing until you get educated and until you practice it. And guess what? You practice it for the rest of your life, just like yoga, just like anything. You’re never going to be perfect. You practice it always. You’re always trying to be better, okay? That’s what makes it fun. I look at it that way. It’s boring when you know what to do all the time. It’s fun when you get to learn. I’ve been learning about diet for 22 years. Exercise, I’m always learning new things as a personal trainer. Love it. Always. I don’t know everything and you don’t either. So take joy in the fact that you’re well enough that you get to move your body, you get to educate yourself, you do get to do all these things that make you better and keep your health at bay. That’s what this podcast is about right, Jeff?
Jeff Sarris: Absolutely, and that’s why there’s so many free resources, too, to get you started. Then the premium ones are to help you further if you run into any roadblocks or anything, and you have direct access to Jill through the course and the group setting through the consult, like you mentioned in one-on-one. We also have the Kidney Stone Diet meal plans and the meal plans are something to help showcase how much you’re able to actually eat because that is always the big question: “Oh, we take away all these things. What’s left?” So, the meal plans are inspiration and I’m actually going to throw it up on the screen right now so you can get an idea of what it looks like. With the meal plans every day, you have your breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner that Jill has created the recipes, shot the photos–amazing photos, by the way, like I really love every photo. But yeah, it’s really to showcase the real diversity that you can have in a weekly meal, or a weekly set of meals.
Jill Harris: Listen, this is food I eat. People always like “what do you eat, Jill?” This is what I eat and guess what? It’s friggin’ delicious! I’m not eatin’ lettuce all day long. As a matter of fact, I rarely eat salads. There are salads in there, but I like a variety of food, people: fruits, vegetables, meats. Some days I’m vegan, sometimes I’m not. Sometimes I’m vegetarian, sometimes I’m not. I do not discriminate against food. So, there’s something for everybody in that meal plan. None of those recipes are laborious. I have no time just like nobody else has any time, so they’re less than 30 minutes. Some of them for breakfast could be five minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes. Lots of them are way less than 30.
But the point is this, I always like to push myself and say, “How can I make this feel like I’m sitting down and eating like a queen for the day?” I’m using fresh herbs since I’m on a low salt diet, trying to make things pretty on my plate. So it’s all very attractive to me. It makes me want to eat. It makes me happy. When I’m looking at my plate, I’m not sad about my lifestyle. I’m thrilled about how I get to eat healthy foods in normal portions and that it fuels my body. What do you think, I make up this energy? You can’t make this up. I sleep well, I eat well, and I move my body because it brings me joy. If I didn’t like it, I could not do this. I could not do this. I could not bring this to you. I could not be passionate. I want to change the way you think about a healthy lifestyle. That doesn’t sound sexy, but I’m telling you, you feel so good when you nourish and move your body, how it should be that there’s nothing sexier than feeling good, people. And that’s what you want to do: feel good.
Jeff Sarris: It makes all the difference! All we got to get my fan
Jill Harris: I gotta put my fan out! I’m putting myself in crazy land, I’m getting so happy!
Jeff Sarris: No, but I think that was great! And so if you have a question, and you want to answer it on the show, the number again is 773-789-8763. Jill will answer it in a future episode because again, this is always free. This show is meant to be one more resource for you that does not require a purchase. We’re here every week, a new episode every week, we have a back catalogue now of 50+ episodes. So, lots of lots of content out here to help you along on your journey. If you do want to dive deeper, visit kidneystonediet.com. Along with the free stuff there, the weekly email and whatnot, there’s also the course. There is the meal plans that we mentioned and just, there’s so much out there that we really hope that you find the thing that helps you along this journey.
Jill Harris: Yes, that’s what we want and subscribe to the channel! People are always like, “what can I do for you, Jill? You’re so blah, blah, blah.” Subscribe to my YouTube channel! Subscribe to Jeff’s YouTube channel! Please, it helps people find us. The more people that find us, the more we can get the word out. Also, talk to each other in the comments. Please give some tips. Talk about what we just talked about here, about the Kidney Stone Diet, whatever you want to talk about! And give us a call if you want to leave a question like Jeff said. We love hearing from you guys. We really want to create a community. That’s what we want.
Jeff Sarris: That’s it for this week. We will see you next time.
Jill Harris: Thanks, Lynn! Take care now and get a urine collection!