Smorgasbord Health Column – Eating plan for healthy #kidneys and urinary tract


To finish off the posts from last week on the kidneys and urinary tract, here is an example of an eating plan that may help you recover from an infection or other health issue effecting this system.  I find useful as part of my two gentle detoxes each year to follow a similar eating plan, and it gives the whole body a boost, but specifically major organs such as the liver, which work tirelessly to keep us healthy without a break.

If you have read the posts on the kidneys & urinary tract, you will be aware of the physical precautions that you can take to avoid infection and now we need to look at some of the foods that you can eat daily to help protect you from both these conditions.

First and foremost you need to ensure that you are taking in sufficient fluids. These are essential for flushing the toxins through the system such as bacteria and ensuring that chemicals do not crystallize and form kidney stones.

It is very important that you drink little and often throughout the day to ensure a steady flow of fluids, and less stress on the organs that have to deal with it. The recommendation for kidney stone sufferers is actually more than my recommended 2 litres, nearer three.

There are certain foods that will help prevent bacterial growth and reduce the risk of stones but there are also foods that you need to avoid if you are prone to both these conditions.

Research has shown that a diet that is very high in animal protein and fat can cause a chemical imbalance that can encourage the formation of stones. Include  lean proteins such as turkey and fish in moderate quantities. Also, sugar, coffee and alcohol in excess all damage the kidneys so these should be in moderation.

A glass of wine per evening is always better than bingeing once a week.

Drinking Green Tea would be better for you than drinking lots of coffee. The antioxidants in the tea will also help with damage to both kidneys and the rest of the urinary tract.

Cranberry juice (sugar free) has been shown to contain properties that inhibit the adhesion of bacteria to the soft tissues inside the urinary tract as do blueberries that can be added to a fruit salad.

A deficiency in potassium can lead to kidney problems. Potassium helps maintain the body’s correct water balance. Eating bananas and spinach, avocado, dried apricots, potatoes, pumpkinseeds and lots of fruit will boost your levels.

It is important to reduce the amount of salt in your diet as this increases the chances of kidney damage and high blood pressure. Excess salt causes dehydration, which in turn can cause both kidney problems and stones.

I have covered calcium in previous posts, and how it can be a very volatile mineral if it is not counterbalanced with another like magnesium. So it is important to take calcium in moderation combined with high magnesium foods like whole grains such as brown rice and spinach and salmon and seeds.

Tap water and calcium

Check to see if the tap water in your area is particularly high in calcium. If your kettle is furring up then the chances are that it is. I have also mentioned sodium levels in mineral water. Check to see if the water you are buying is high in this mineral as it will affect your blood pressure and choose one with less.

There is some argument that you should take foods out of the diet if they have a high oxalic content. This is found for example in spinach. However, if you have a balanced healthy diet that has moderate amounts of all food groups, you should find that, like your other major organs, the kidney’s health would be either protected or improved following an episode of kidney stones.

It is really important that you do not eat industrially processed foods during the weeks that you are following his programme. Apart from plain cereals such as porridge oats and you can just about get away with shredded wheat. Check labels for added salt and sugar.

vegetablesExample of an eating plan for healthy kidneys & urinary tract


  • Glass of water or cup of hot water with the juice of half a lemon.
  • Drink at least 6 throughout the day if you are drinking cranberry juice and green tea as well.
  • 8 oz. glass of cranberry juice
  • Shredded wheat or porridge oats sprinkled with blueberries.
  • Slice of wholegrain toast with butter and local organic honey or savoury with pureed tomatoes.
  • Cup of Green tea.

Morning snack

  • Cup of black or green tea.
  • 2 rye crispbread with mashed banana or sliced cucumber
  • Glass of water


  • Brown rice risotto with chopped onions, mushrooms, garlic, peppers and olive oil.
  • Spinach and tomato salad.
  • Green Tea

Afternoon snack

  • Mix of pumpkin-seeds and dried apricots.
  • Glass of water


  • Glass of cranberry juice for another 12 hour protection.
  • Avocado and orange salad.
  • Salmon or turkey fillet – grilled.
  • New potatoes
  • Broccoli and carrots.
  • Glass of wine
  • Glass of water


  • Fresh fruit salad made from favourite fruits and sprinkle of blueberries and chopped banana.
  • or
  • Handful of walnuts or pumpkin-seeds.
  • Cup of green tea.

I hope you have found this useful and if you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me

A little bit about me nutritionally.

A little about me from a nutritional perspective. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago. I qualified as a nutritional therapist and practiced in Ireland and the UK as well as being a consultant for radio. My first centre was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Here are my health books including a men’s health manual and my anti-aging book.

All available in Ebook from

And Amazon UK:

Comprehensive guide to the body, and the major organs and the nutrients needed to be healthy 360 pages, A4:

Thank you for dropping today and I hope you have found useful.. Thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Health Column -The Kidneys and Urinary Tract -Bacterial and Interstitial cystitis

The Kidneys and Urinary Tract -Bacterial and Interstitial cystitis

Over the last few posts I have focused on our kidneys and the urinary tract. Apart from kidney stones, cystitis is one of the most common conditions both men and women experience related to this system in the body.

Many people are misdiagnosed with the wrong type of cystitis and this has a direct effect on their treatment and recovery. Bacterial cystitis and Interstitial cystitis are easily confused so it is important to understand the differences and seek the correct medical diagnosis.

What Is Bacterial Cystitis?

Bacterial cystitis is an inflammation of the bladder caused by an infection that has developed either from external sources or within the urine itself.

It can affect both men and women, although it is more common in women due to the proximity of the urethra to the external reproductive organs. Bacteria can be introduced in a number of ways and also be the by-product of certain processes within the body.

  • Poor hygiene is one of the main causes and in women it is always important to wipe front to back so that bacteria in faecal matter does not enter the vagina or the urinary tract.
  • An enlarged prostate in men, or enlarged womb due to pregnancy or fibroids in women, can put pressure on the bladder, preventing it from emptying completely. The bottom of the bladder bulges down below the level of the opening of the urethra and urine collects in these pockets. It is a warm and moist environment, which is perfect for bacterial growth, which in turn leads to infection.
  • Kidney or bladder stones can also prevent the bladder from emptying completely.
  • Birth defects in the urinary system can cause a physical abnormality that prevents the bladder from emptying completely.
  • During sexual intercourse bacteria can enter the urinary system in both men and women. Sexually transmitted diseases such as Chlamydia produce similar symptoms to cystitis especially among sexually active young men and women and are often ignored. This will lead to increased bacterial infections of the urinary tract.
  • Chemicals in bath or personal hygiene products can result in irritations and inflammation that leads to bacterial infection.
  • Repeated use of catheters may result in damage to the urinary tract allowing bacteria to flourish.
  • One result of our fixation about not sitting down in public toilets is that women are not completely emptying their bladders in the crouched position. This prevents all the urine from leaving the bladder and can result in an infection.
  • Hormonal changes in women in middle age can result in frequent bacterial infections.
  • The urine of a diabetic tends to contain a great deal of sugar, which again provides a perfect environment for bacterial growth. It can also cause poor bladder function allowing urine to accumulate providing a breeding ground for germs.
  • Candida Albicans sufferers also tend to have elevated yeast and sugar levels and are prone to frequent attacks of bacterial cystitis. Because antibiotics are prescribed for this type of cystitis it becomes a vicious cycle increasing the level of attacks as any good bacteria as well as the harmful type are killed off and the body becomes more and more unprotected.

The effects of bacterial cystitis

This is one of the most painful and debilitating urinary tract infections and effects many areas of a sufferer’s life.

The pain and frequency of urination make it impossible to sleep, work effectively or carry on a sexual relationship. The body and the mind becomes tired and stressed and within a very short time it has an incredibly debilitating effect on the whole body.

The impact of urinary tract infections on the elderly.

It is quite common for elderly men and women to suffer from urinary tract infections, and I have had experience of the misery this can cause with my own mother. This is especially likely if at some point they have had to use catheters either in hospital or permanently due to urinary tract damage or inefficiency.

The symptoms of a urinary tract infection are very similar to those associated with the early onset of dementia. Confusion, rambling, forgetfulness and the inability to voice the symptoms accurately. Since a UTI is very common I would always advise that if you notice that an elderly person is showing these symptoms that you take them to the doctor with a urine sample and ask for it to be tested for an infection.

That is usually done at the surgery as a dip stick test which indicates the presence of bacteria but it is not specific which results in a prescription for a broad spectrum anti-biotic or one that is not targeted at a particular bacteria. So if an infection is indicated request that the sample be sent off to the laboratory for the bacteria to be identified and then specific antibiotics to be prescribed.

The natural approach

Apart from making sure that you do not introduce bacteria into your urinary system when you go to the toilet you should also make sure that you wash your hands regularly to prevent cross contamination from other bacterial sources. Tight and restrictive underwear can also promote a breeding ground for bacteria that can pass into the urinary tract so change regularly and for women wearing a pad that can be changed several times per day can help reduce this risk.

It is important that everyone has a healthy diet to prevent illnesses but this is particularly important for anyone suffering from bacterial cystitis. You need plenty of antioxidants, in fresh fruit and vegetables, to boost your immune system and to prevent free radical damage to the cells in the urinary tract that might lead to infection. Take regular exercise as this too will help to build your immune system.

It is vitally important that you drink plenty of fluids to flush out your system– frequently taking harmful toxins out of the body in the urine.

Water is excellent but drinking cranberry juice can also be very effective. I briefly covered the benefits of cranberries in the last post and it does help prevent bacteria from attaching themselves to the soft tissue in the bladder and causing an infection. Buy the reduced sugar varieties or make your own from fresh cranberries.

Reduce the sugar in your diet dramatically so that you are not creating the perfect environment for bacteria in the first place. Change over to using savoury toppings for toast for example or use a fresh banana. Avoid all processed foods such as canned sauces, bakery products and baked beans that tend to have very high sugar contents.

If it is an emergency then you may find that taking some bicarbonate of soda in some warm water will help reduce the acidity in the urine and the more severe symptoms of the attack.

You can buy over the counter cystitis treatments and they are effective for the short term and usually contain an alkaline agent similar to bicarbonate of soda and cranberry.

Go to the doctor if the symptoms persist for more than 24-hours, as it is important that the bacterial infection in the bladder does not travel to the kidneys and cause a more serious problem.

What is interstitial cystitis?

Interstitial cystitis is a chronic condition affecting the walls of the bladder. It is not caused by bacteria and does not therefore respond to antibiotics. Although this type of cystitis more commonly affects women, men too can also develop the problem.

There is no specific set of symptoms for interstitial cystitis, which is why it can be hard to diagnose, but it certainly has some very devastating effects on a sufferer’s life.

In severe cases a sufferer will need to go to the toilet up to 60 times in a day. The urgency of the need to urinate is usually accompanied by severe pain in the abdominal, urethra or vaginal areas. This is reflected in similar pain when a sufferer attempts sexual intercourse. The only time there is mild relief is when the bladder is being emptied which is of course the opposite to bacterial cystitis.

This constant need to urinate means that going out of the house has to be planned meticulously, to ensure that there are bathrooms available. Sleep is completely disrupted, as is work, and it is virtually impossible to conduct a social life. Usually severe sufferers end up housebound, depressed, extremely fatigued and isolated. Since there is no medical treatment people tend to adopt a more and more restrictive diet in the belief that certain foods may cause the problem. Their general health then deteriorates over a period of time and they become prone to other infections and illnesses.

There are some theories as to the cause of interstitial cystitis including referred pain from muscle spasms that are reflected in the bladder or urethra. Also there is a strong link to yeast infection, as opposed to bacterial infection, which would make sense, as sufferers of both types of cystitis are likely to be suffering from Candida Albicans.

There would also, therefore, logically be a link to intolerances or allergies to certain foods. This is where not only would I advise a natural, sugar free diet for both kinds of cystitis but would also recommend that foods be rotated every four or five days to prevent a build-up of the allergens. The body can usually cope with moderate amounts of toxins and eliminate them effectively but if you are eating a particular food every day the body cannot manage to do so.

The body needs to be strong to fight infections but in some severe cases it may be that the sufferer needs to undertake a closely supervised elimination diet. This would mean starting with the basics including plenty of fluids, fresh fruit and vegetables and brown rice for a period of time to determine if the symptoms improve. If they do then other foods can be introduced slowly, over a period of weeks, to see if any culprits emerge as the cause of the problem.

You may find that doctors are unsympathetic to interstitial cystitis. If antibiotics won’t fix it then it can sometimes be labelled psychosomatic and you do need to insist on seeing an urologist and determine if there is a physical cause for your symptoms. At the same time, ensure that you are doing everything you can to improve diet and lifestyle to eliminate other reasons for the condition.

©sallycronin Just Food For Health 1998 – 2018

Next week I will post a healthy eating programme for the kidneys and the urinary tract but in the meantime I would suggest that you take a good look at all the food you have eaten in the last week and estimate how much sugar you have in your diet that may be causing you to suffer health issues.

Thank you for popping in and if you would like to ask a question privately then please drop me a note on

A little bit about me nutritionally.

A little about me from a nutritional perspective. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago. I qualified as a nutritional therapist and practiced in Ireland and the UK as well as being a consultant for radio. My first centre was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Here are my health books including a men’s health manual and my anti-aging book.

All available in Ebook from

And Amazon UK:

Comprehensive guide to the body, and the major organs and the nutrients needed to be healthy 360 pages, A4:

The Medicine Woman’s Treasure chest – Hawthorn, May, Whitethorn

medicine woman

The botanical name of the Hawthorn is Crataegus monogyna and is sometimes known as May or Whitethorn. It is a shrub that can grow up to five feet tall in hedgerows and sunny woodland areas. The shrub is in fact found all over the world in Western Asia, North America and North Africa. It has berries called haws, which are a dark red in colour and are used to flavour jelly and wine and also can be candied as a sweet.

There are some mystical stories surrounding the hawthorn and it was once regarded as a magical connection to fairies. It was commonly used in pagan festivals as a symbol of fertility and there are quite a few superstitions attached to its use. Part of this may be due to the fact that it was likely to have been used for the crown of thorns that Jesus wore on the cross and since that day it is supposedly unlucky to bring into the house before the 1st of May.

It can apparently ward off evil spirits and certainly in medieval times young women thought that it would ward off spots and skin problems using it as a tonic. It does have a certain aroma that either offends or delights and was at some stage considered to either carry the plague or act as an aphrodisiac.

The leaves and flowers are used primarily for medicinal use and for centuries it has traditionally been used for heart problems, although it has also been used to treat sore throats and kidney problems too.

Like most plants, herbs contain nutrients and in this case the Bioflavonoids and Proanthocyanidins in hawthorn are thought to be the probable reason for its medicinal properties.

Bioflavonoids are vital for their ability to increase the strength of the capillaries (blood vessels) and to regulate their permeability and the body’s blood pressure. They also help prevent haemorrhages and ruptures in the capillaries and connective tissues as well as acting as being a powerful antioxidant and preventing the oxidative damage to cholesterol which can lead to atherosclerosis.

Proanthocyanidins are powerful antioxidants, which protect against environmental pollutants and free radicals. The free radical scavenging effects of Proanthocyanidins have been found to be greater than those of Vitamin E and Vitamin C. Proanthocyanidins also stabilise collagen, (which is the base of bone on to which calcium is deposited), critical proteins in connective tissue, blood vessels and muscle and therefore are essential for preventing circulatory disorders.

The use of the herb is also thought to increase blood flow, therefore decreasing blood pressure and providing a better blood supply to major organs. In addition it is said to decrease heart rate, which would lead to less stress on the muscle.

There have been tests carried out on patients with elevated LDL (lousy cholesterol) levels in their total blood cholesterol. After about a month of treatment with hawthorn there was a significant decrease in total levels and levels of the LDL and the equally harmful triglycerides.

It has also be used with patients who were suffering from congestive heart failure who appeared to respond after a number of weeks with lowered blood pressure, heart rates and their stamina levels.

Apart from lowering cholesterol and decreasing blood pressure the herb is used therapeutically for viral conditions. Tests in the laboratory indicate that it might even have some effect on the HIV virus but this has not yet been proven in humans. There is no doubt that the Bioflavonoids in hawthorn will work in the same manner as those in any plant and are a powerful antioxidant. It might be useful for angina sufferers and to help prevent atherosclerosis.

Use of Hawthorn
You will find hawthorn tincture, capsules and teas in health food shops and as with any alternative therapy you should take care when self prescribing. The herb is often used as part of a complex with other similar herbs such as garlic and passion-flower and with Vitamin E. This provides a powerful mix to help with heart and artery problems.

As with a lot of herbal remedies it should not be used if you are pregnant and with its particular action might interact with certain cardiac medicines particular those containing digitalis, beta-blockers prescribed for high blood pressure and drugs used to block potassium. If you are taking any medication then do consult your doctor before taking this herb.

You can find the other Medicine Woman’s Treasure Chest in the Health Directory.

©sallycronin Just Food For Health 2007

Thanks for dropping by and as always welcome your feedback.

Health Bite of the Day – The Kidneys – Kidney Stones – described as the most excrutiating pain known to man!

What are kidney stones?

Kidney stones are varied in shape and size and form when certain chemicals in the urine crystalise and stick together. Some can grow to the size of a golf ball and others remain absolutely minute and pass through the urinary tract quite easily.

If the stones get too large to pass through they block the opening to the urinary tract or else they try to pass through and cause intense irritation in the lining of the tract.

Some people never even know that they have kidney stones, when the stones are very small, but usually there are some very obvious symptoms.

Who is likely to get kidney stones?

Anyone can get kidney stones, but some people are more likely to develop them than others. Typically, a person with a kidney stone is a man 20 to 60 years old. Although 4 out of 5 sufferers are men, women can also develop the condition.

Often, there is a family history of the condition. Chronic dehydration (lack of body water) can lead to kidney stones. Very hot weather, heavy sweating, or too little fluid intake contributes to the formation of stones. For example, people who work outdoors in hot weather and who do not drink sufficient fluids are in a higher risk category.

There is evidence to suggest that a diet very high in animal proteins and fat can contribute to the formation of stones and kidney problems in general, which is why the Atkins diet is not healthy, in my opinion, for long periods of time, if done at all.

People who lead particularly sedentary lifestyles may be more prone to getting stones than someone more active.

Are there different types of kidney stones?

There are two main types of stone, Oxalate and Uric Acid. Calcium oxalate and phosphate stones are made up of a hard crystal compound. These stones have become more common in recent years with about 70% to 80% of all kidney stones currently made up of calcium oxalate and phosphate. The problem is too much calcium in the urine. This can be caused by diet, a metabolic disorder that causes build up, or taking certain drugs such as diuretics, antacids and steroids.

There is also a substance called Purine that is in meat, fish and poultry – I have mentioned Purine before in reference to arthritis. But it really should only be a concern if you are eating very large amounts of food containing it.

Uric Acid stones are rarer and are caused when the body breaks down certain foods – especially in a diet very high in animal protein – and produces too much uric acid. Gout sufferers – again covered in relation to arthritis – are more prone to getting this type of stone. These are also a common problem with animals; particular dogs that have a high protein diet and are prone to kidney disease and stones.

What would someone notice if they have this problem?

With the larger stones that are trying to force themselves through very narrow openings there is severe pain with nausea, and vomiting; burning and a frequent urge to urinate; fever, chills, and weakness; cloudy or very strong smelling urine; blood in the urine; and a blocked flow of urine. Serious infections can result from a blockage.

It is very important that if you start to suffer any of these problems even in a minor way such as a pain across your lower back then you must go and see your doctor immediately.

Take a look at a calcium oxalate dihydrate stone, and you can see why they are painful to pass!

 What sort of treatment will a doctor or hospital provide?

That will vary according to the severity of the problem but usually a patient will have an ultrasound to identify where the stones are and how large they are. Luckily, most are small enough to pass through the urinary tract on their own and so lots of water is drunk to flush out the system. Sometimes medication will be prescribed, especially if there is an infection, which is not uncommon. Obviously pain killers too. They commonly use shock waves (sound waves) to break up the larger stones these days. All of this in non-invasive, which is great as surgery can be avoided.

The most important thing you can do to prevent stones forming again is to change your lifestyle and of course take a very long, hard, look at your diet.

There is a special “Healthy Eating Plan for the Kidneys” which will show you how to help prevent both kidney stones and urinary tract infections and I will post that after the next blog.

For the previous Kidney blog and a directory by subject here is the link.