Stone free

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An estimated three percent of Vietnam's population, or 2.5 million people, complained of stones in their urinary tracts last year, and the proportion is climbing.

The painful and potentially dangerous condition afflicts mostly people aged 40 to 50 years old and can be caused by a hereditary deformity, bacterial infection or poor eating and exercise habits.

Dr. Vu Thi Thu says the stones are formed by crystal accumulation in urine and can be found in the kidney, bladder or urethra. For obvious reasons, they block the flow of urine so the pain can be excruciating as the force of the dammed urine tries to push the stone along a very narrow passage.

They can even wreck the kidneys and turn healthy people into invalids for life.

The most common symptoms of the disease are pain when urinating, acidic urine often tinged with blood, with chills, nausea, vomiting and fever if the urinary tract is infected.

A stone forms silently until it gets to a certain size that suddenly brings agonizing pain in the back, groin, bladder or urethra. A spasm of pain often occurs after strenuous exercise that causes the stone to move into the narrow urethra and block it. If the condition is not treated promptly, the kidneys stop functioning properly, causing blood pressure to rise and, in extreme cases, death.

Urologists say that people recovering from surgery should be especially careful and not consume too much calcium, phosphate or oxalate in their food as these can create stones. They should urinate as soon as they feel the urge, and drink two liters of water a day in order to discharge more than 1.5 liters of urine. If urinating is hard and sharp, they should drink corn silk or plantain water. Regular medical check-ups are a must to determine the risk of getting stones. If stones are found, prompt treatment is essential.

Also in the food department, Dr. Bui Manh Ha warns that eating lots of soy beans can be risky as they are rich in oxalates and calcium, which bond and crystallize to form kidney stones.

He says the correct diet for treating a stone depends on what type it is.

If it's a calcium stone, the patient should limit calcium intake to less than 600mg per day, eat more fruit and vegetables for their fiber, and not drink hard or mineralized water.

Someone with an oxalate stone should avoid asparagus, string beans, beets, lettuce, okra, grapes, plums, sweet potatoes and tea, and go easy on sour foods and Vitamin C tablets.

Uric acid stones come from purin transformation and are an occasional complication of gout. The best treatment is to eat less protein.

Herbalist Vu Quoc Trung offers the following remedies for stones in the urinary tract:

- A good treatment for a stone less than 10mm across is pineapple and phèn chua (alum) as the acid in pineapple combines with alum to increase pH and help dissolve stones. Pierce a peeled pineapple and put 0.3g of alum in the hole. Place the fruit in a pot, pour in some water, put on the lid and cook until the pineapple is squishy. Turn off the stove and remove the pot. Eat the pineapple and drink the water. Do this for seven days.

- Another good treatment for urinary tract stones can be made from the seeds of ripe chuối há»™t or chuối chát (pip banana). Leave the seeds out to dry, then pound them into powder. Put seven coffee spoons of the powdered seeds in a pot, add two liters of water, and simmer over a low flame until the water is reduced to 1.4 liters. Drink the beverage instead of tea every day for two to three months.

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