Does beer help clear kidney stones? It may, but that doesn't mean you should reach for a pint if you have kidney stones.
Dr Alka Bhasin, Senior Director of Nephrology, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Delhi, and Dr Anup Gulati, Director Urology and Kidney Transplant, Fortis Hospital, Faridabad explain.
Beer Helps Flush Kidney stones...
...But only under very specific conditions.
Let's back track a bit.
Speaking to FIT, Dr Anup Gulati, Director Urology and Kidney Transplant, Fortis Hospital, Faridabad says beer can potentially help flush out tiny kidney stones.
He says there are two reasons for this,
Because it's a liquid, and drinking about 600 ml of fluid within 15 minutes helps flush out the stone.
However, Dr Gulati says, drinking the same amount of water in that much time would also help in passing the stones.
"The goal is basically to increase the urine production. But if someone is not inclined to drink that much of water at once, beer can help if the stone is in the ureters," he adds.
The mild amount of alcohol in the beer acts as a Diuretic.
"Diuretics are substance that helps produce a lot of urine, and this in turn helps in pushing out the stones from the ureters," explains Dr Gulati.
But wait, beer may help, but only in very specific cases.
"It can only help flush out very tiny stones. Something as small as 3 mm. But, anything bigger than that will not wash away," says Dr Alka Bhasin, Senior Director of Nephrology, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Delhi.
On top of that, "It can help if the stone is in the ureters. If the stone is in the kidney, then the beer will not work," adds Dr Gulati.
'No Doctor Would Prescribe it'
"We do not encourage beer as a means of getting a diuretic response," says Dr Alka Bhasin. "Instead, we encourage people to drink more water to try and flush out the tiny stones."
This is because, while in some cases it may help wash out some stones, in other cases it'll only aggravate the condition, and "that's not a gamble worth taking," adds Dr Bhasin.
The experts we spoke to explained that there are a few reasons for this.
Beer is alcohol, and it has certain chemicals in it which can promote more stone formations.
It can cause Intra-cellular dehydration, which increases the risk of kidney stones.
It can worsen nausea, cause vomiting and gastritis, which can in turn worse dehydration.
If a patient of kidney stones overloads on liquid and diuretics, and he has a blockage because of the stones, "it can actually become plugged at a certain point. And that can aggravate the problem," says Dr Bhasin.
"No doctor would prescribe this as a serious practice. It's more something people talk about casually, and that's how the idea propagates."Dr Alka Bhasin
The bottom line is if you have kidney stones or are prone to them, you are better off avoiding drinking alcohol of any kind, including beer.
How Can You Protect Against Kidney Stones
What makes one prone to kidney stones? There are a few causes that can increase the risk of kidney stones, according to the experts FIT spoke to.
High intake of meat
Genetics, congenital conditions
High levels of calcium
Frequent contraction of Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
Not drinking enough water
Drinking lots of alcohol
Excessive use of whey protein powder
"Whey protein powder is extremely rich in protein and this breaks down as uric acid and that can lead to more stone formation."Dr Alka Bhasin, Senior Director of Nephrology, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Delhi
According to Dr Bhasin, "Once you have kidney stones, you are more prone to developing more kidney stones for the rest of your life as well."
"This is because even when the stones are cleared, they leave behind tiny crystals which then become the focal point for other stones to form," she adds.
So if you are a stone former, it makes more sense to take care to prevent future stone formations rather than risk worsening the condition with an 'ill-advised hack'.
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