Andrew Siegel MD July 25, 2015
The Northeast USA has recently experienced oppressively hot weather –sizzling, steaming, scorching, sultry hot. This extreme weather has the same significance to urologist as a frigid and icy winter to an orthopedist–a harbinger of busier office hours. Ice drives patients with fractures in to see their bone specialists, but heat drives patients with kidney stones in to see their urologists. Summer is the “high season” for kidney stones, often brought on by dehydration from the stifling heat. The hotter the temperature, the greater the prevalence of kidney stones. To help prevent this very common and extremely painful condition, it is important to stay well hydrated by drinking lots of fluids. A sign of good hydration is dilute-appearing urine, which looks more like lemonade as opposed to apple cider, or for the beer drinkers, light American beer versus a rich, dark European brew. Lemons, being citrus fruits, contain citrate in high concentration, a well-known inhibitor of kidney stones.
I’m puzzled why the word “lemon”—representing such a lovely fruit—is often used with negative connotations, referring to a poorly functioning car or a challenging situation that can be overcome, turning “lemon into lemonade.” I suppose it’s because of its natural tartness. But au contraire, the lemon is a citrus superstar that is appealing to all of the senses…to the eyes with its vibrant sunshine color and oval shape, to the nose with its distinctive citrus aroma and to the sense of touch with its firm, textured outer peel and juicy, segmented inner flesh and to the sense of taste, with its unique tart and acidic flavor.
Lemons are low calorie nutritional powerhouses. In addition to citrate, lemons contain fiber, potassium, copper, calcium, flavonoids, B vitamins, folate and other phytochemicals. Lemons are packed with Vitamin C, a formidable anti-oxidant that helps slow oxidative damage that occurs via the accumulation of byproducts of metabolism and damage from environmental toxins. This accumulation is called reactive oxygen species (also known as free radicals) and contributes to diseases, aging and ultimately death.
Squeeze one-quarter or one-half of a fresh lemon into water or seltzer on the rocks for a refreshing, extremely low-calorie, delicious drink that is so much better for you than sweetened beverages such as sodas, fruit juices and sports drinks. This serves as a powerful tonic for preventing kidney stones. Urologists often prescribe medications containing citrate to help prevent stones, but why not try the natural, first-line approach at ramping up levels of citrate before trying the pharmaceutical approach?
In addition to being an awesome fruit that is great squeezed into a drink, lemon juice is wonderful on fish, in chicken dishes and in salad dressings. Lemons are often used as an ingredient for aromatherapy and in cleansing products as well. If you have ever visited Italy, particularly the Amalfi Coast region, you probably recall an abundance of citrus groves and a lemon-based liqueur called Limoncello available everywhere.
Bottom Line: If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, then a lemon a day keeps the urologist away!
Wishing you the best of health,
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