Hydronephrosis is literally "water inside the kidneys." Typically there is some kind of obstruction, such as a kidney stone or a compression on the bladder from a tumor or injury. Hydronephrosis may be bilateral, affecting both kidneys, or unilateral, affecting just one. Pregnant women sometimes develop the bilateral form of the disease.
When urine cannot flow out of the kidney, the kidneys cannot perform their vital function of keeping electrolytes in balance in the bloodstream. The build up of fluid tends to dilute sodium, and when this happens, cells all over the body "power down" and lose their ability to absorb oxygen and nutrients. The sodium imbalance is sometimes fatal, but even when there is still enough flow of urine to keep electrolytes in balance, reduced "wash" through the bladder and lower urinary tract allow bacteria to grow and cause infections.
If you are experiencing severe pain, or if you are experiencing the symptoms of the electrolyte imbalance known as hyponatremia (nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, loss of concentration, headache, fatigue, and/or seizures) see a doctor right away. But if you have gradual onset of symptoms, try these natural methods while you are waiting to see your doctor:
- Avoid natural diuretics. If it makes you go to the bathroom, you don't want to take it, since the additional urine will put stress on your kidneys. This means eliminating coffee, tea, and soft drinks containing caffeine. Decaf is OK in moderation, but see below.
- Forget about the "8 glasses of water per day for health" rule. You actually do need 5 cups (1200 ml) of fluids per day, but not necessarily water. Your doctor may instruct you to drink even less.
- Avoid vegetables that are natural diuretics, such as asparagus, artichokes, garlic, green beans, leeks, onions, and pumpkin.
If you have been diagnosed with hydronephrosis, chances are that you have been fitted with a catheter to relieve urine. It is absolutely essential to avoid infections. Here are some things you can do that help:
- Make one of your five cups of fluid a day cranberry or blueberry juice. If you can't drink it "straight," then use an artificial sweetener. Sugar feeds the bacteria that the juice is trying to flush away.
- Take a probiotic supplement or eat yogurt with live cultures every day, especially if you are on antibiotics (and you probably are). These may not have a direct effect on the urinary tract, but they help prevent bacterial overgrowth in organs nearby.
- Ask you doctor about catheters with valves instead of bags. It may be possible to fit you with a catheter that does not have to drain to a bag attached to your leg.
- Acupuncture may help you deal with the discomfort of a catheter, but Chinese herbal teas are not likely to be a good idea. Anything that "relieves toxicity" is likely to put stress on the kidney.
- Acupressure can help you relieve the feeling fullness caused by hydronephrosis. Press gently on the sides of your lower leg, about a hand's width above your ankles. Gentle pressure here relieves pressure on the bladder. This simple self-help maneurver does some of the same things as a medical procedure called percutaneous posterior tibial nerve stimulation, but as soon as you stop performing the acupressure, the effects stop, unlike the medical procedure.
Just remember that all of these suggestons help relieve symptoms. They don't cure the disease. You will still need medical treatment, but you can live a lot more comfortably while you are waiting for it to work.
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