One of the most excruciating pains to bedevil mankind and the medical profession ever since the dawn of history is caused by kidney stones. The torture of passing a kidney stone was aptly described by one victim as "passing broken bottles, old razor blades, molten lead and sulphuric acid garnished with bits of rusty barbed wire." Stones have been found in the kidneys of Egyptian mummies, and it is apparent that man has suffered with this affliction at least 4,000 years, while doctors have been able to be of little or no help.
We will now discuss the effect of magnesium on kidney stones. We will first quote from Health Bulletin (June 13, 1964) published by the Rodale Press: "Magnesium oxide 'looks very promising' as a preventive of kidney stones," Dr. H. E. Sauberlich of the Army's Fitzsimons General Hospital in Denver told Health Bulletin this week. He said that results he has been getting with a 250 milligram tablet made from the same material used to manufacture fire bricks could spark a revaluation of the present methods of treating kidney stones.
"The new therapy is simply taking one capsule daily. Assisted by three researchers from the University of Colorado Medical School, Dr. Sauberlich prescribed this capsule for a group of volunteer patients who had histories of passing kidney stones. After only a very short time on these pills, he pointed out, the patients had no more stones. That happened with each of the patients he has followed up for as long as two years, Sauberlich added. No side effects have been encountered.
"The odd part about the new therapy, which is strictly experimental and not conclusive, is that none of the researchers understands why or how magnesium prevents kidney stone formation. The only clue they have to go on is that a patient with this disorder 'for some unknown reason requires more magnesium than normal amounts.' Tracking down the reason and devising a test to discover those individuals who have this unusual requirement is the next step, Sauberlich said.
"A possible hint to the way the Denver researchers will attack the problem came when Dr. Sauberlich was asked whether a dietary deficiency was implicated in the kidney disorder. Although he stated that at present no such association exists, he was quick to point out that 'magnesium as a dietary requirement has not been adequately studied.'"
Further information on the above research was given in The Medical Tribune (June 3, 1964), which said, regarding Dr. Sauberlich's work:
"'Therapy consisted of a single tablet of 420 mg. of magnesium oxide, which provided 250 mg. of magnesium, daily. Longest period of treatment to date is two years, and none of the 14 have passed urinary tract calculi while undergoing treatment,' Dr. Sauberlich said.
"He detailed two phases of the magnesium therapy after other methods had failed. A 34-year-old man had passed a calculus about every other week for 11 years, but passed none while receiving therapy for six months. When the therapy was temporarily withdrawn, he began passing calculi within two weeks. Since returning to therapy he has been asymptomatic [without symptoms] for a year.
"A 38-year-old man had a 10-year history of weekly kidney stones. Magnesium therapy stopped this for 12 months, at the end of which the patient decided on his own to discontinue treatment. Calculi recurred within two weeks, and Dr. Sauberlich observed that he gladly resumed therapy, also on his own. He has been asymptomatic again for three months.
There was a recent medical article on the subject of oxalic acid present in many foods, in which appeared the statement that approximately two-thirds of the kidney stones in English people contain calcium oxalate. In another medical article, we now find that kidney stones come usually where there is a deficiency of magnesium. In the first-mentioned article, it was also stated that vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) could reduce the oxalic acid in the body.
Vitamin B6 will be found in brewer's yeast tablets, wheat germ, and desiccated liver tablets. Therefore, if a person observes care in his diet to see that the oxalate-containing foods are low, and that he is getting enough magnesium and vitamin B6, the chances are he can forget all about kidney stones.
Let us look into the second-mentioned article which appeared in Nutrition Reviews (October, 1961). It says that as far back as 1931 it was known that kidney stones could result if there were a deficiency of magnesium. In The Lancet (2, 174, 1932), W. Cramer found kidney stones in rats that were on a low magnesium diet. These rats were normal except for the kidneys.
G. Hammarsten (Lunds Universitets Arrskrit, N. F. 32, 12, 1937) produced kidney stones in rats fed a diet low in magnesium. Then when there was an addition of magnesium to their diet, it prevented the occurrence of kidney stones. These researchers also found that "high levels of magnesium appear to have a sparing effect for very low levels of vitamin B6," which means that magnesium acts as a protector of the vitamin B6 supply in the body.
Finally, there is news of a new study which shows that kidney stones are most likely a deficiency disease that can be corrected with proper diet. Nutritional correction is the means that has been found, at last, to brighten the outlook of the victims of this agonizing disease, from which no race or geographic area has ever been entirely free.
In the study conducted at the Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, reported by Stanley N. Gershoff and Edwin L. Prien (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, May, 1967), patients suffering recurring kidney stones have been relieved of this condition without resorting to surgery when maintained on oral supplements of both magnesium and vitamin B6.
This latest news of cures achieved by the team of researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health throws the spotlight on vitamin B6 as perhaps the "unknown factor" which, when in short supply, increases the body's needs for magnesium.
Because a B6 deficiency in laboratory rats resulted in a marked increase in urinary oxalate, the precursor to kidney stones, Harvard researchers Stanley N. Gershoff and Edwin L. Prien undertook an investigation of the effects of daily oral administration of both magnesium and B6 on patients with histories of recurring kidney stones. Their results can only be described as remarkable.
Male and female adult patients who had had two or more kidney stones in the two years prior to the study were used for this investigation reported in The American journal of Clinical Nutrition. Patients were asked to take two tablets, each containing 100 mg. of pyridoxine, daily. This treatment did not produce looseness of the bowels except in an occasional patient. All patients were told to avoid milk as a beverage but were allowed the use of milk or cream in all other foods. Intakes of cheese and other high calcium foods were restricted. They were asked to drink two quarts of water per day.
Thirty-six patients have been maintained in this study for at least five years. There was no recurrence of kidney stones in nine. Two patients produced one stone each in their fourth year in the program. Another passed several over the Christmas holiday in his first year when he stopped taking the pill, one in the second year, and one in the fourth. This patient had passed 11 in the year before therapy and over 300 in the 14 years prior to entering the program. A fourth patient, a very busy executive, passed one or two small stones every year for three years, none since. A fifth patient, with two existing small stones when the treatment was started, showed no increase in their size for 2 1/2 years, failed to come in for checkups after this period, and stopped taking the drugs six months later. A year and a half later, one of the stones had grown considerably and caused symptoms requiring surgery. Only one patient showed no improvement and continued to make stones.
While researchers Gershoff and Prien recognize that a much larger series of cases over a long period of time will be necessary to determine the efficacy of this regimen, they are encouraged by the results obtained so far. Of 36 patients maintained on the program for five years or more, 30 have shown no recurrence or decreased recurrence of stone formation.
This study, it seems to us, has deep significance for everyone--not only for those who are suffering the agonies of kidney stones, but also for those who would avoid them.
If you are not careful about your nutrition, are not getting natural supplements, and have been trying to slim down by following one of the popular reducing diets, you could be shortchanging your body of that vitally essential catalyst, vitamin B6.
This vitamin is essential for the synthesis of proteins. It serves as a key link in the metabolism of amino acids and fatty acids. Lack of B6 has been shown to cause a variety of metabolic difficulties because of inability to use proteins properly. One of these metabolic disturbances results in a marked increase in urinary oxalate, the precursor to kidney stones. Vitamin B6 deficiency can also lead to weakness, irritability, nervousness, skin and hair problems, muscle malfunction, and abdominal pain. Prolonged deficiency in the rhesus monkey produces arteriosclerosis, anemia, cirrhosis of the liver, and dental caries. Cancer tissue has a very low level of vitamin B6 and uses amino acids differently from normal tissues.
Women who take oral contraceptives are apparently being robbed of B6, according to a recent study reported in a weekly journal of science published in England. Oral contraceptive tablets contain synthetic estrogen and progesterone, and their action is very similar to that of hormone secretions during a natural pregnancy. They create a false pregnancy in which ovulation is prevented. Recently it has been learned that one of their effects is to inhibit the activity of enzymes containing B6. Dr. David P. Rose of Sheffield, England, expresses his concern in Nature (April 9, 1966) that oral contraceptives might have the same effect as pregnancy on enzymes containing pyridoxine, thus exposing another large group of women to B6 deficiency. It is already known that pregnancy often leads to deficiency of this vitamin. A study reported at the Fifth International Congress on Nutrition reported in Obstetric Research advised greatly increased consumption of B6 for pregnant women. The average pregnant woman now gets about 0.5 to 1.5 mg. daily instead of the 15 to 20 mg. she needs. It would seem from Dr. Rose's study that women on "The Pill" would have the same requirements.
Because B6 is sadly lacking in processed foods and is destroyed by heat, it is easy to incur a deficiency. Pyridoxine does not exist in natural form apart from the other B vitamins, all of which play an important role in your body's remarkable assembly line. Any preparation, therefore, that is sold just as pyridoxine would have to be synthetic. Get your pyridoxine along with other B vitamins in fresh raw fruits and vegetables (not cooked), and from liver, heart, wheat germ, peanuts, egg yolk, legumes, and especially brewer's yeast which is your richest source of pyridoxine. While B6 is not lost in quick cooking to any great extent, much of it may dissolve and be thrown away in the water in which foods are slowly cooked. Roasting or stewing of meat can result in great losses. Decreases in vitamin B6 in sterilized liquid milk products not only occur during pasteurization but continue at a rapid rate for as long as seven days.
So, if you have been on a reducing diet, guard against any B6 deficiency you may have induced by increasing your intake either through natural foods or supplements of yeast and desiccated liver--another rich source of all the B vitamins.
Magnesium, the vital mineral in this partnership that is proving so effective in preventing the formation of kidney stones, is indispensable for a proper regulation of calcium metabolism. When animals deficient in vitamin B6 were given high levels of magnesium, they continued to show oxalic acid in the urine but they no longer converted this acid into kidney stones. Magnesium, then, by improving the body's utilization of calcium, has the effect of a solvent-preventing the caking and crusting, like lime in your teakettle, of unassimilated calcium.
In addition to the prevention of kidney stones there is evidence that magnesium can prevent gallstones. Our medical dictionary says that the gallstone is a concretion formed in the bladder or the biliary ducts, composed, in varying amounts, of cholesterol, bilirubin, and other elements found in bile. The biliary ducts are in the liver. In this case also, magnesium is a specific preventive factor in the formation of gall- or liver stones. For one thing, in a previous chapter, we showed that magnesium has the effect of reducing the amount of cholesterol in the bloodstream.
The matter is mentioned in a communication to the French Academy of Medicine (June 23, 1931) by Pierre Delbet, M.D., reproduced in his book Politique Préventif du Cancer. He says that when the diet is rich in magnesium it immediately shows up in the bile. In this manner the quantity of the magnesium m the bile can be actually doubled. This was confirmed by Bretau. Dr. Delbet also mentions clinical work by Drs. Godard and Palios, which showed that such increase in magnesium can have a favorable influence on gallstones.
Dr. Delbet studied human bile in the laboratory and found that the addition of magnesium drove out practically all the cholesterol, and he noted that the addition of magnesium added a pigmentation to the bile, gave it a deeper coloring. Its effect on the bile was to make the cholesterol in it more soluble.
Dr. Delbet then adds that, "It is a clear result of experiments ... on the action of magnesium chloride on the elements that make up calculi [stones] that the addition of a food ration of magnesium in the form of halogenated salts has the power to reduce chance of biliary calculus formation.
"This conclusion is confirmed by facts. I know a great number of people who take delbiase regularly. None of them has vesicular trouble. That's probably not very convincing. You can't prove that those who take delbiase would have had biliary calculus if they bad not taken it. On the other hand, quite a few patients have biliary calculus without being magnesium deficient." In other words, there are other causes of gallstones than a magnesium deficiency.
However, says Delbet, "cases of the gall bladder being healed by the regular use of halogenated magnesium salts are numerous."
Delbet gives an interesting account of a doctor who used magnesium in connection with difficulties he had with the bile:
"The clinical facts have, for the most part, been observed by chance. My followers take much magnesium chloride. They are enthusiasts propagandizing for it. Others adopt it, partly, perhaps, because it often produces systemic excitation. Among those who take it for its tonic action, several are afflicted with various ailments which disappear, and they report from time to time successes I did not expect, acting on ailments that are out of my province. Thus I am led to discuss matters of which I do not know a great deal.
"About the preparation of the sick for operations, I have reported the action of magnesium chloride on the digestive tract.
"Laborde states that it has a strong action on the secretion of bile. I have no experience on this point, but I have confirmed with de Wades that, introduced into the duodenum, it leads to evacuation of the tube. By this mechanism it can render service in infections of the biliary duct. One of our associates has sent me his own observation which seems interesting to me, He had repeated attacks of inflammation of the gall bladder and the biliary ducts With fevers up to 39.6º, chronic intestinal troubles (diarrhea, distention, painful spasms after eating). In spite of a strict regime and treatment by physical agents on the liver and abdomen (diathermy and infra-red light), he showed no improvement. He put himself on delbiase in a dosage of 2 tablets (1 gr. 20) a day, stopping all other medication. Here are the results: it is he who has recounted them. "No more liver attacks, no more epigastric pains; intestinal troubles improved. After several weeks the stools became normal, as they had not been for five months. In two months, a weight gain of 10 kilograms. Transformation of the appearance, appetite normal, digestion easy, in spite of a return to hard work. The possibility, without the least sensation of fatigue, of taking up once more my habitual occupations."
So we pause and look back on what we have been reading. It sounds too good to be true--magnesium seems to be good for anything that ails you.
Therefore why don't we hear much about it? The newspapers sing the praises of the wonder drugs in headlines, but the action of this miracle mineral is ignored. One wonders about the honesty of medicine. There have been hundreds of researches on magnesium. Is there a specific reason why it is being ignored?
This page was first uploaded to The Magnesium Web Site on January 3, 2001