Does Cannabis Cause Kidney Stones or Help Relieve Symptoms?

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We want to start off by kindly reminding you that your talented Guest Advisors at LIV are not to be confused with scientists, researchers, doctors, and, in this case, nephrologists. We are total nerds when it comes to cannabis and how to give you the best guidance possible. This article uses comprehensive studies and factual data to answer the question: does cannabis cause kidney stones or help relieve symptoms?

What leads to the formation of kidney stones?

The main function of the kidneys is to remove waste from our blood. Minerals and salts like urea, uric acid, and creatinine are filtered through the kidney and excreted during urination. Kidney stones, also known as renal calculi, are formed when too many of these minerals and salts fuse together and crystallize into hard stones. 

Your clear path to forming kidney stones is commonly caused by:

  • Dehydration: not drinking enough fluids leads to concentrated urine and makes it much easier for these stones to form. This can also lead to an unwanted accumulation of uric acid, making your urine highly acidic. 
  • Diet: a very common factor in your health. If you consume foods that are high in sodium, oxalate, and animal proteins, you’re increasing the chances of kidney stones forming. 
  • Family history: yeah, kidney stones are one of those things that you can thank mom, dad, grandma or grandpa for. 
  • Certain medical conditions: people who have conditions like hyperparathyroidism, urinary tract infections, and metabolic disorders have an increased risk of forming kidney stones.

Certain medications: antacids that contain calcium and certain diuretics tend to influence and contribute to kidney stone formation.

Does Cannabis Cause Kidney Stones or Help Relieve Symptoms?

Here are a few important things to know about kidney stones:

  • Men account for 60% of all kidney stone cases. This is mostly due to having lower levels of citrate, a hormone that prevents kidney stones from forming. The amount of estrogen produced in women helps to increase the levels of citrate. 
  • Although kidney stones can occur at any age, the peak occurrence is between the ages of 20 and 50. 
  • For those who have already experienced kidney stones, there is a 50% chance it will recur within 5 to 10 years. 

One thing we can all 100% agree on is the fact that kidney stones and the process of passing them can be excruciatingly painful. 

Symptoms of chronic kidney disease

As for the symptoms of chronic kidney disease, they can vary depending on the stage of the disease. In the early stages, there may be no noticeable symptoms. But, as the disease progresses, symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Swelling in the legs, ankles, or feet
  • Changes in urine frequency and volume
  • Blood in the urine
  • High blood pressure
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle cramps
  • Itching
  • Difficulty concentrating

This list of symptoms looks eerily similar to the indications for medical marijuana approval, don’t they?

Traditional treatments for kidney stones

Traditional treatments for kidney stones have varied across cultures and historical periods, but they generally aim to manage the pain, ease stone passage, and prevent new stones from forming. Some common traditional approaches

Hydration: sure does make sense due to the fact that dehydration is a huge factor that contributes to forming kidney stones. Drinking a healthy amount of fluids, especially water, helps to flush those crystallized stones in the kidneys. Aim for at least 2-3 liters per day. 

We get it, not everyone is totally on board with drinking only water, so we found you some natural options to spice up your water intake. 

Dietary adjustments: limit sodium and animal protein, and avoid oxalate-rich foods like nuts, spinach, and wheat bran. Instead, eat calcium-rich foods, and consider a low-sugar diet and lemon or lime juice.

Allopathic severe pain relief

Obviously, pain relief is the first treatment you are looking for. There are many over-the-counter pain relievers, like Ibuprofen, that can at least help alleviate some of the pain. However, in modern medicine (allopathic medicine), severe pain relief for kidney stones typically involves the use of medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), opioids, or a combination of both. These medications are prescribed to manage the intense pain associated with kidney stones. NSAIDs help reduce inflammation and relieve pain, while opioids are potent pain relievers that may be prescribed for severe pain that is not adequately controlled by NSAIDs alone. Cue the next slide, “Opioid Epidemic”. Just kidding, but we are all rooting for cannabis to minimize and completely demolish the opioid problem we are dealing with.

How cannabis interacts with the kidneys

Alright, now we are getting to the good stuff! First, it is SUPER crucial for you to know that research is still progressing rapidly to fully understand the pharmacokinetics of cannabis
What we do know for certain is that cannabis contains hundreds of active compounds. Two of the most researched compounds being THC and CBD, which interact with our body’s own endocannabinoid system. There is research that emphasizes the possible healing properties of cannabis in kidney conditions, including its ability to interact with the cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 present in our kidney tissues.

The controversies of cannabis use and kidney health

It is starting to come down to the fact that the positive and negative effects of cannabis use have different outcomes from person to person. You’ve probably seen it in movies or have witnessed it firsthand during a puff-puff-pass session with a group of friends, and one of your buddies is totally freaking out, man. Things like tolerance, strain, and a person’s genetics are all typical factors that influence the way we experience the effects of cannabis.

While your buddy is experiencing panic, you may be experiencing euphoria at the same time. Take this a little bit further with the side effects of cannabis, and you might understand why there is controversy. For example, getting the munchies and the dreaded cottonmouth. Not sure if your munchies make you crave a healthy salad, but for some of us, chips, fast-food, and grub that is salty is true satisfaction. But, for healthy kidneys, eating a lot of salty foods isn’t a great idea. Then, your cottonmouth which is a scream of dehydration in your body, is also a huge no-no for your kidney health. 

Smoking vs edibles

Using the little amount of research done to compare the effects of cannabis on your kidneys and the cause of kidney stones, cannabis edibles are still a gray area. It is known that cannabis edible gummies can contain ingredients or additives like sugar and artificial sweeteners, which have potentially negative effects on your kidneys. 
When it comes to smoking cannabis, compared to other methods of consumption, you have a stronger dehydrating effect. What does seem to be a consistent finding in research comparing cannabis and kidney stones is the increased risk of kidney stones in people who heavily consume cannabis.

Cannabis’s potential in treating kidney stones

What we are really trying to get to the bottom of is finding out if cannabinoids help with kidney stones. While it’s made pretty clear that there is a lot more research needed to determine a factual answer, there is a good amount of research on cannabis and kidney stone relief. 

Many studies have confirmed the possible anti-inflammatory properties found in cannabinoids. This is a major benefit for reducing inflammation caused by kidney stones. Another benefit cannabinoids bring to relieving the pain caused by kidney stones is its natural muscle relaxant effects. Want one more major benefit? Cannabinoids are powerful when it comes to eliminating nausea, which is a very common thing when you’re passing kidney stones.  

Cases of Medical Cannabis Use Amongst Kidney Patients

We can thank the Canadian House of Commons and Senate for providing the funds and necessities to nephrologists in order to conduct recent case studies. You can read more about the survey done on Therapeutic Cannabis Use in Kidney Disease, the results are pretty promising.  

Here in the great US of A, cannabis and its byproducts are still used to help with symptoms and side effects of diseases. Doctors and nephrologists have different opinions on how well it works based on the lack of scientific studies. Government rules make it difficult to do the research needed to understand the medical benefits of cannabis. The goal is to find a way to use it in treating diseases and managing symptoms based on solid knowledge.

If you want to dive deeper into the cases and studies that are most up-to-date, this Kidney Medicine Journal article is an awesome resource to start with. 

It is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional for a comprehensive evaluation of your specific medical history and condition. They will be able to provide personalized advice and guidance based on your individual circumstances. Remember, evidence-based medicine and professional medical guidance are essential for understanding and managing kidney stones, infections, diseases, and failure effectively.

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