How to Prevent Kidney Stones

In yesterday’s articles we discussed how the kidneys function. Today, we are going to continue that conversation by discussing kidney stones, how they occur, the symptoms associated to them, and how they can be treated.

Kidney Stones
Kidney Stones

Kidney stones form as a result of your urine containing (and being unable to dilute) crystal-forming substances such as calcium, oxalate and uric acid. In addition, your urine may also lack the substances that prevent these crystals from forming, which then creates an ideal environment for kidney stones to develop. While kidney stones do not have one definitive cause, there are several factors that can increase your risk of developing kidney stones. These risk factors include having a family history of kidney stones, dehydration, having an unhealthy diet, obesity, digestive disorders and other medical conditions such as metabolic disorders, which can increase the concentration of calcium or oxalate found in urine.

An individual suffering from kidney stones usually presents with severe pain in the back that can spread to the abdomen, nausea and vomiting, painful urination, and urine that is cloudy and/or has a foul odor. It is also not unusual for pain to fluctuate in intensity.

There are three different types of kidney stones:

1. Calcium Stones
Calcium oxalate is a naturally occurring substance that is found in certain foods such as fruits and vegetables, nuts and chocolate. Your liver also produces oxalate.

2. Struvite Stones
These kinds of kidney stones are formed as a result of an infection, such as a UTI (urinary tract infection). Struvite stones can grow rapidly and become large. These stones sometimes come on with little warning and have very few symptoms.

3. Uric Acid Stones
Uric acid stones can form in individuals who are not drinking enough fluids or are losing too much fluid, in individuals who have diets that are high in protein, as well as individuals diagnosed with gout. There are also generic factors that may increase the risk of uric acid stones.

Ali Ghahary
Dr. Ali Ghahary practices at Brentwood Medical Clinic in Burnaby, BC. Click here for clinic directions and contact information.

For individuals prone to developing kidney stones, Vancouver physician Dr. Ali Ghahary suggests controlling the intake of foods that are high in calcium and oxalate such as beets, chocolate, tea, coffee, cola, nuts, strawberries, and spinach.

For prevention of kidney stones, HealthLink BC also recommends drinking 10 to 12 cups of water per day and eating foods that come from plant-based protein sources such as dried lentils, peas, beans and tofu. You should also limit packaged foods and replace salt with things like herbs, lemon or lime zest/juice, garlic and ginger – and absolutely avoid alcohol! You should also use caution when taking calcium supplements as they can also lead to an increased risk of kidney stones.

While kidney stones are usually passed through urination (something that can cause severe discomfort), depending on the size and location of the stones you may require a procedure known as ESWL (Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy). This procedure uses sound wave vibrations to break the stones into tiny fragments, making them easier to pass in your urine. If this is unsuccessful, surgery may then be required.

If you would like more information on kidney stones, you can connect with Dr. Ali Ghahary on social media platforms such as Twitter  at, and Linkedin.

For any questions you have about kidney stones, or if you suspect you may have kidney stones, Dr. Ali Ghahary is available to see walk-in patients every Monday and Wednesday from 2 PM to 8 PM, Fridays from 12 PM to 4 PM, and Sundays from 1 PM to 6 PM. Hours are dependent on patient volume, so make sure you take a look at the clinic’s walk-in schedule and contact them to ensure they are still accepting patients on the day you choose to attend.



Endometriosis is a painful condition that affects up to 10% of Canadian women, and is the result of tissue that would normally line the inside of the uterus instead growing outside of the uterus.

Screen Shot 2016-08-09 at 10.37.55 AMThe most common complaint Dr. Ali Ghahary hears from those with endometriosis is pelvic pain, usually associated with the menstrual cycle. While it is not uncommon for women to experience pain and cramping during their period, those with endometriosis tend to have pain that is worse than usual. Other common symptoms of endometriosis include excessive bleeding, painful urination, pain during or after intercourse, fatigue, bloating and nausea. Complications from endometriosis include infertility, with up to one-third of women with endometriosis having difficulty getting pregnant, as well as seeing an increased number of women being diagnosed with ovarian cancer as opposed to those who do not have endometriosis.

While the exact cause of endometriosis is not known, theories have suggested that it may be the result of blood containing endometrial cells breaking into the pelvic cavity rather than out of the body. It has also been speculated that surgical procedures such as C-sections may also cause endometriosis. The risk of developing endometriosis increases if you’ve never given birth, have a history of chronic pelvic infections, have relatives with endometriosis (mother/sister/aunt), or have been diagnosed with other uterine abnormalities.

Endometriosis is often mistaken for other medical conditions that can also cause pelvic pain such as PID (Pelvic Inflammatory Disease) and IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), thus complicating the diagnosis. Pelvic exams, ultrasounds and laparoscopies are the common tests performed to diagnose endometriosis.

Pain control is imperative for those with endometriosis, as it can be quite a debilitating condition depending on the severity of the symptoms. Over-the-counter pain medications such as NSAIDs are always tried as the first option of treatment, as well as other home-remedies such as heating pads and warm baths; this will help to reduce cramps and calm the pelvic muscles. Hormone therapy such as birth control is also used to reduce the length of the menstrual cycle, which should suppress the pain associated with endometriosis. A complete hysterectomy may be performed, but usually only as a last resort and when all other avenues have been exhausted.

Bacterial Infections vs. Viral Infections

It is not unusual for Dr. Ali Ghahary’s patients to present with symptoms such as runny nose, itchy or watery eyes, headache, sore throats, nasal congestion and a cough from time to time. These symptoms are all manifestations of the common cold, otherwise known as infectious rhinitis, which is viral related and caused by the spreading of microorganisms (commonly referred to as germs.) In Canada, the common cold is responsible for as many as 40% of work absences and 30% of school absences. While these tiny microorganisms are invisible to the human eye, they exist all around us. They can live in water, dirt, counter tops, the skin and intestines, as well as certain warmer or colder climates.

Virus related germs are commonly spread via bodily fluids (mucus, pus, stool), respiratory secretions (coughing, sneezing), or touching a contaminated surface. Some common viral infections include, as mentioned before, infectious rhinitis, in addition to influenza – a highly contagious virus that attacks the respiratory system, and Hepatitis A – a disease of the liver causing fever, nausea and cramps, and is usually brought on by the ingestion of contaminated food or water.

While bacterial germs and infections can have similar symptoms to viral infections, they are considered to be much more complex. Bacterial germs can be caused by foods (under-cooked meats, unwashed fruits and vegetables – resulting in something known as E.coli), insect or animal bites, blood transfusions, and even sexual contact. Other common bacterial diseases include strep throat and staph infection. Such bacterial diseases are commonly treated with antibiotics.

hands-311366_960_720There are some simple yet important steps you can take to fight off germs:

  • Washing your hands is crucial, and you should do so using soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. It is worth noting that, if necessary, antibacterial soap should be avoided. There have been no studies showing it to be better than regular soap, and it may in fact breed stronger and more resistant bugs.
  • Make sure your vaccinations as well as your children’s vaccinations are up to date. Vaccines play an important role in protecting against common diseases.
  • Have good nutrition and take supplements. A healthy diet is important for your overall health. Make sure that you avoid eating any meat that is raw or under-cooked, and thoroughly wash utensils. Vitamin C and zinc also support in fighting off the common cold and flu viruses, and garlic, ginger root and cinnamon also serve as great immune boosting properties.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) vs. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

stomach-1051854_960_720Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) are two common disorders of the digestive system. These disorders affect as many as 5 million Canadians, with approximately 120,000 individuals in Canada being diagnosed with IBS every year. In fact, Canada has one of the highest rates of IBS diagnoses in the world today. While the symptoms of IBS and IBD are very similar, it is important to understand that the two are not the same condition and they have contrasting treatment regimens.

Unlike IBD, IBS is considered to be the lesser evil of the two. Perhaps the biggest difference between the two is the fact that while IBD is an indicator for other gastro-related illnesses and causes the intestines to become inflamed, IBS does not. IBS can, however, cause profuse discomfort and anguish, with symptoms such as persistent abdominal pain, diarrhea and constipation – oftentimes alternating. These symptoms can range from being mild to severe, and they can disturb one’s self-image, ability to work, and overall quality of life. Individuals with IBS generally do not show any signs of any severe disease when examined, so a diagnosis is almost always dependent on the symptoms presented by the patient to their physician. Common complaints and symptoms of IBS that Dr. Ali Ghahary sees in patients include bloating, gassiness, nausea, and the inability to move the bowels despite urgency. IBS can be caused by certain medications, dietary changes, hormonal changes and stress. Treatment includes antidiarrheal medications, fiber supplements, and stress relief.

IBD, on the other hand, affects 1 in every 150 Canadians, and can be a direct cause of severe gastrointestinal diseases known as Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease – both of which are accompanied by inflammation of the bowel. Symptoms of IBD include weight loss, chronic diarrhea, abdominal pain and bloating. In severe cases, low-grade fevers and bloody stools may also be present. These are red flags that should not be ignored. IBD is diagnosed with blood tests, stool tests, CT scans or endoscopes, and is commonly treated with several types of medications: Aminosalicylates (to help control inflammation), Antibiotics (to help those who may develop an infection known as C. Difficile), Corticosteroids (to treat sudden onset of IBD-related flare-ups), Immunomodulators (to quiet the immune system and reduce inflammation), and biologic therapies (to block proteins that may produce inflammation.)