Are Green Veggies Dangerous?
I really feel for Americans who are trying to eat healthy. Let’s take a good friend of mine who recently developed a painful kidney stone, not her first. After a “lovely” trip to the ER where she came home with painkillers and anti-inflammatories (she dislikes taking drugs and typically avoids them at all costs), she tried to get educated about her condition.
As an intelligent woman, she wanted to get to the “root cause” of WHY she was continuing to develop these painful kidney stones. The ER doctor couldn’t answer that question.
She doesn’t smoke, she is not remotely overweight, she drinks almost no alcohol and is, on the face of it, healthy. But is she? Can she be “perfectly” healthy when her body continues to make kidney stones? Obviously the answer is “no” and she realizes it. In the hospital they ran a blood test and found her “healthy”…
What a predicament. Her internet research revealed that kidney stones can come from eating a lot of meat, something she had been doing more so during the past 6 months. Yet the internet also spoke of the dangers of food containing oxalates, something found in spinach and nuts and seeds and green tea – some foods she had recently tried to increase to improve her health!
The dilemma is obvious: What’s a person to do when the meat, vegetables, nuts, seeds, etc ALL can potentially cause the problem she’s so desperate to avoid? Stop eating? She considered, briefly, radically limiting her diet to something that wasn’t at all healthy. But can you blame her? Kidney stones are VERY painful and wishing to avoid such pain could cause you to feel a bit desperate.
Let’s look at some facts about what truly causes kidney stones and whether those spinach smoothies are good or bad.
As long as you don’t suffer from the following diseases, everything I’m about to say is valid. These diseases are: hypercalciuria type II and hyperoxaluria (primary and enteric). If you haven’t been diagnosed with either of them, then read on.
The good news is that there is no evidence that consuming green smoothies with spinach puts you at any increased risk for developing kidney stones. In fact, quite the contrary is the truth. While oxalates can definitely cause kidney stones, the vast majority of oxalates found within the human body (on the order of 80 to 90%) are produced from within the liver as a function of carbohydrate metabolism. In other words it’s not the high-oxalate foods you need to avoid, but rather the foods that CAUSE you to produce oxalates within the liver that prove problematic.
The conditions required to precipitate out oxalates to form calcium-oxalate stones are quite specific and have no correlation to ingestion of spinach, other greens, nuts or seeds.
Steps to Take to Reduce Risk of Forming Kidney Stones:
- Dehydration – too many Americans consume insufficient water. My friend admitted to falling into this category; she simply did not consume enough water. Water puts things into solution and insufficient water pulls things out of solution. Hydration is a big part of avoiding kidney stones. Consume ½ your body weight in ounces of clean water each day.
- Acidity – the pH of the urine is determined by your diet. When you are too acidic you are more likely to form stones. What creates acidic urine? The consumption of refined carbohydrates and animal protein. What creates alkaline urine? Consumption of vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds that are rich in natural sources of calcium, magnesium and potassium. In fact the one comment made by the hospital of my friend’s blood tests was that she was low in potassium. And no, that doesn’t mean you should just eat a lot of bananas!
- Probiotics – I mentioned two conditions earlier and it is worth noting that even with either of those present, taking probiotics for two months reduced the saturation of the urine to such a degree that stone formation was reduced 25%. Therefore in the presence of these conditions, ¼ cup of spinach, or its equivalent is still allowed daily, and adding a probiotic adds a protective buffer.
- Listen to the experts… the REAL experts – the British Association of Urological Surgeons published, in concert with the international medical community across all specialties, the following: “Dietary advice to increase the consumption of fiber and reduce the consumption of sugar, refined carbohydrates and animal protein produced a significant reduction in the urinary excretion of calcium, oxalate and uric acid.”
- Vitamin D and K – Make sure you are not taking vitamin D without also including vitamin K. This is crucial for anyone at risk of heart disease, kidney stones or any calcium deposition in organs or tissues, such as arthritis, bone spurs and more. Click here to read the blog that explains this important association. [p.s. This is what was actually wrong with this patient. It wasn’t oxalate consumption, but rather self administering vitamin D such that it created an elevated level, while neglecting vitamin K.]
How do you best follow this advice? Simply eat a plant based diet rich in vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and avoid animal protein, sugar and refined grains.
The best part of this data is that is does more than reduce your risk of kidney stones. It makes sense, doesn’t it, that what’s healthy for one part of your body would be healthy for ALL of your body? It certainly wouldn’t make sense that something that kept your kidneys happy would hurt your heart, your brain or some other organ. Well the good news is that it doesn’t work that way. The advice of avoiding animal protein, added sugar and refined carbohydrates, while staying hydrated and eating plenty of vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds and beans, is advice that will also lessen your risk of cancer, obesity, heart disease, diabetes and autoimmune disease!
If you have questions or need specific help improving a condition that you suffer with, you are always free to contact me to schedule a FREE phone consultation – call 408-733-0400. We specialize in root cause medicine.
I look forward to hearing from you!
Dr Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN, Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner
Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center
Author of “The Gluten Effect”