Diet, Excercise, Lifestyle Changes & Kidney Stones?  How “Getting Healthy” Caused Kidney Problems…

For most of my life, I’ve been on a diet.  Working as a clothing and car model, my weight had to be 135 and under for print ads.  Many of the years spent in front of a camera were spent sipping Diet Coke or smoking Marlboro 100’s while nibbling on celery and staying away from dairy products.  I retired from modeling at 42 years old and went on to pursue my “part time gig” of sales, brand promotions and over the course of 10 years, had 4 surgeries for complications of edemitriosis, a benign lump in my left breast and a full thyroidectomy due to thyroid cancer.  

Seven years ago, I decided to leave the sales industry after struggling through life after my thyroidectomy and start Texas Twins Events with my family offering low cost services and religious ceremonies and start finally doing something that I would love because life is short and I wanted to spend time with my family.

I’m an identical twin and ironically, all of the health problems I’ve had have ne we happened to my twin.  No recurrent urinary tract infections, no thyroid issues, no lumps in her breast and no endemitriosis or full hysterectomy either.  

Since we were so heavy as teens that we were often called Humpty and Dumpty,  by the time we were 17, we were determined to starve ourselves into being skinny and spent most of our lives on a roller coaster of diet fads.  In fact, we have tried so many different variations of dieting over our lifetimes that there are very few that we haven’t tried.  

From the oatmeal diet to the watermelon diet to the meat and cheese only diet- we also “threw in” the miracle diet products “guaranteed to make you thin!” The truth is that starving ourselves one week and indulging in treats the next wasn’t the best way to control our weight.  These “diet tricks” would keep us thin for over 20 years but we didn’t know that yo-yo dieting could cause health issues at the time.

Our family has a history of high blood pressure, obesity, heart attacks and strokes so “getting healthy” in our fifties was a different path entirely from what we had put ourselves through prior to gaining weight in menopause.  It creeps up slowly for middle aged women too.  The first year it’s 5 lbs then 10 and before you know it, 40-50 lbs have made you depressed and miserable enough to drastically change your lifestyle and get healthy.  No middle aged woman wants to be obese!  Without dramatic lifestyle changes in your 40’s and 50’s, the majority of women will gain weight due to menopause, thyroid disease and a host of other issues. 

My twin sister and I went in a yearlong weight loss journey and did something we had never tried before by joining a gym.  Sure the skinny folks gave us the wide eyed look when we marched into Planet Fitness and probably wondered where we had found our homemade (thrown together) gym clothes but, we weren’t there for them or to impress anyone because we were there to get fit!  Did we have lots of laughs? You bet we did because my sister is hilarious.

Fit people run from fat people at gyms everyday as if they might “catch” a weight problem simply by being close to someone overweight.  I find the cliques at gyms interesting because many of them are at the gym several hours a day.  Don’t these people go to work?  Maybe all of the mirrors installed specifically for these folks that love their bodies?  My twin sister quickly decided that “we fit in like a hamburger at Chik Fil A!”

Our first few months at Planet Fitness did get results when we both lost 20 lbs but then we hit a plateau.  We watched everything we ate and stayed healthy on protein drinks, protein bars, almonds, walnuts and spinach salads with steel cut oatmeal and flax seeds or gallons of unsweet tea with lemon because we were determined to lose the weight and stay on our high protein low carb diet as a TwinTeam.

Since we couldn’t lose more weight no matter what we did—we wound up at a 6 week Bootcamp class in Haltom City, Camp Transformation.  If you don’t lose weight at one of these camps, something is wrong with you!  We were exhausted but continued to go to Planet Fitness in the morning and Camp Transformation at night.  Juggling our client schedules for Texas Twins Events, Texas Twins Treasures and The Pawning Planners for the 6 weeks we spent at Camp Transformation wasn’t easy but we were committed.  Best of all–we finally hit our goal after Bootcamp and would work hard not to gain any weight back. 

Over the course of our yearlong journey, I continued to struggle with kidney infections, back pain and had no idea why.  My PCP couldn’t explain it and I would spend half of the year on antibiotics to “fix the problem.”  The truth was that my unexplained kidney issues and enzyme levels in my liver were due to my “healthy lifestyle.”  Ironic isn’t it? 

When I don’t understand something- I educate myself to find out more.  Shrugs from hospital doctors regarding my “unexplained kidney stones” just didn’t cut it for me.  I knew there was a reason that my twin didn’t have them and I did because we are together nearly everyday and eat the same foods together everyday.  Something was wrong with me but it wasn’t happening to Cindy.  Coincidentally, I have low blood pressure but Cindy has high blood pressure. 

Apparently, my healthy morning coffee with a sprinkle of cinnamon and dash of tumeric to “keep me healthy” were causing me problems.  The first problem was Chinese cinnamon (cheap cinnamon) which is toxic to your liver.  I had heard how healthy cinnamon was for you and, fell for it.  Who knew there were different kinds of cinnamon and that one was healthy while the other wasn’t? 

Secondly, tumeric is oxalate rich and like tea–a strong contributor to kidney stones.  Shocking right?  Guess what?  Protein drinks, chocolate, almonds, peanut butter and all those “healthy” items that I was eating were sending me back and forth to the emergency room!

Spinach is also very high in oxalate and I was eating it 2-5 times a week at lunch or dinner.  My doctors couldn’t tell me what the problem was but if you’ve ever had a kidney stone, I’m encouraging you to educate yourself and find out why.  Saying goodbye to my sugar free hot chocolate this holiday season won’t be easy but it will be worth it if I can manage to keep from passing yet another kidney stone I can promise you.

A few of you may be wondering “what are oxalates?”  Oxalates combine with calcium and iron to form crystals.  In most people, these crystals are passed from the body in urine.  For some people, these crystals grow into kidney stones.  A low-oxalate diet may reduce the risk of certain types of kidney stones.  

My blood is apparently “more acidic” than my twin sisters is and also forces me to sit in my dentists chair far longer to get my teeth cleaned.  My aunt believes that taking baking soda e education will “make my body more ph balanced” but, baking soda contains high amounts of salt and im going to research further before jumping on the “baking soda bandwagon.” 

As I rework my “healthy diet” and try to keep my weight loss in tact, it quickly becomes apparent to me that there are so many opinions on the internet that it’s no wonder consumers think “cinnamon is healthy, tumeric is healthy, high protein diets are healthy, protein drinks are wonderful”  and all the other junk that we are led to believe.  Nearly everyday we all hear that so and so is good for us but–everything you hear isn’t true.  Many athletes and fitness fanatics have kidney stones and obviously, they aren’t forming kidney stones from eating junk food.

The truth is that even my twin managed to keep from getting kidney stones although I drink 5 times more water everyday than she does so don’t fall for the “drink water to prevent kidney stones” jargon either.  Instead–change your diet and educate yourself on oxalate and kidney stones by finding a low oxalate diet that works for you.

Change is difficult for all of us but last month after three visits to the hospital, I knew I had a plane to catch to Los Angeles and within 6 hours of leaving the emergency room, I managed to tolerate the pain and discomfort of a kidney infection (after passing the stone) and honor my obligations in California.  I’ve never called in sick in my life and am too old to start now but I’m going to make changes to my diet so kidney stones never happen again.

My sister had thought that driving long distances across Texas to officiate Prison Weddings was contributing to my kidney stones and infections but I drink water whenever I’m driving or flying and stop frequently.  We do spend a lot of time driving or flying and when you drink as much water as I do, you have to take a few bathroom breaks. 

Two months ago while driving to a back to back Prison wedding with a bride at 10am and the second bride at 10:30 in Venus, Texas, I knew there was a problem when I ran to the bathroom and saw blood in my urine.  I struggled through my commitments that day and managed to make it back to my urgent care center in time to get some Tramadol but believe me when I tell you that kidney stones can wreak havoc on your schedule.  Having a kidney stone move can make a superhero lean over wincing in agony.

I’m thankful my twin sister hasn’t ever had them and pray she never does but doctors need to be honest with patients and give them accurate information in order for them to change their eating habits and avoid future hospital visits…oxalate causes kidney stones and a low oxalate diet could prevent you from suffering through the agony and pain of ever having them if you follow a few guidelines.