Living in the Stone Belt

There is an area in the southern United States that extends from Washington, DC to Louisiana that is known as ‘The Stone Belt’.  I first learned about it a few years ago after being diagnosed with gall stones, though it is primarily related to kidney stones.

Scientists disagree as to the cause of its prevalence here but the dehydrating effects of high humidity tops most lists.  We also have a lot of minerals in our water, especially calcium which is another contributing factor.  And lets not forget sweet southern iced tea and the colas we slurp down.  But although sugar is on some lists of possible causes, it isn’t particularly high on all.

Caffeine is also a culprit and is present in our morning coffee, the afore-mentioned tea and cola, and our favorite dessert – chocolate.  The calcium in dairy is another problem.  And we consume our fair share of cheese, yogurt, milk and even the occasional ice cream.

Whatever the cause, it has hit home at my house.  Yesterday, after my husband had a sudden attack of severe pain in his kidneys that would last for several minutes before subsiding and then return every time he went to the bathroom, we ended up seeking medical attention.

Diagnosis: kidney stones.

We shouldn’t have been surprised.  And a stone can be as small as a grain of sand and still cause immense pain.  Ouch!

The best case scenario is that he’ll pass it on his own.  Next involves a few medical procedures ranging from bursting with sound waves to digging out physically – which sounds horrible.

So, he’s consuming LOTS of fluids – mostly bottled water – and waiting for the stone to pass.  We’ve been told he may not know when it does.  Others say he will definitely know when and if it passes.

Any tips?  Have you or someone you love experienced a kidney stone?  If so, what did you – or they – do?


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  1. Oh no! I do hope your husband is more comfortable soon. I did not know about the “Stone Belt.”

    I have a little chain of 8 beads on the refrigerator. They are attached to a ribbon and you simply move a bead up or down to remember to count your water consumption. A friend gave it to me to remind us to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day. Many days I ignore it, but you remind me it would be good to use it on a regular basis.

  2. I also have never heard of the “stone belt” although I am told I live in the goiter belt (no sea salt = no iodine, hence iodized salt) those are mostly stories of years gone by. I’m sorry for the pain you poor husband will have to go through and for you for having to watch him go through it. Hope it’s over soon. Apple juice is supposed to help break down the calcium.

  3. I hope you husband is feeling better by now. It is very painful. I see patient’s with it and friends who had it and it’s one of the worst pain there is. Depending on the size and shape of the stones, some may be passed easily while others need to be treated by a urologist. During acute attack, I.V. fluids really help and as long as kidney functions are normal, anti-inflammatories like toradol for pain and if that fails, a stronger pain medication is needed. If it’s obstructed, a stent is likely. This is mainly what I see in the E.R. as a nurse but each doctor have their way of managing it. At home, it’s still hydration, empty regularly, no caffeine, cranberry juice if with UTI, and yes, pain meds and anti-nausea. I wish you both the best.

    1. Wow, such good advice. I did get him some cranberry juice and he is doing well between attacks. Still trying to pass it on his own. I really appreciate this thoughtful comment and I know he will as well. Thanks.

  4. I’ve luckily never experienced this myself, but I’ve seen strong-as-nails men rolling on the floor in agony caused by the danged things. I know of no other remedies than the ones you’ve mentioned. Sometimes flushing with lots of liquids works. But if it doesn’t I do know someone who had the sonar treatment which seemed to work. I think it still involved a bit more pain as the now smaller bits passed.

    I’ve never heard of the Stone Belt either. I would think the high humidity would decrease the likelihood of developing calcification. So, does increased calcium in the water supply translate into less bone density loss as people age?

    Good luck to your poor husband.

    1. The humidity here is rough. It make you sweat profusely – which I suppose adds to dehydration and the higher risk of the minerals calcifying. I haven’t thought about the bone density issue. It would be nice if that is the trade off for having all of the stones.

  5. I’ve never had that but I’ve seen plenty of people that have including my brother. It’s ridiculously painful. I hope it’s small and doesn’t hurt him to much.

  6. I’ve never heard of the Stone Belt, but I’m living proof that it exists: in the form of gall stones. Thankfully, that problem was rectified for me in 1996! Sure hope your hubby can pass that stone with minimal difficulty and will be feeling better soon!

    1. At the office today, one after another recounted their ‘stone’ stories. And the age that it occurs seems to be getting younger and younger. Wow. Glad the gall stones are a thing of the past for both of us.

  7. Ouch. My sympathy for your poor husband! The good news is that the new sonar tech for breaking up kidney stones supposedly works very well and is not invasive to the body. If his body can’t be rid of it on his own, the new tech will do the trick. I believe it is an outpatient procedure as well. Hang in there…both of you!

  8. I remember a friend of mine passing gall stones. I didn’t envy her the experience.

    I chime with Rangewriter: The intake of calcium being encouraged to counteract the loss of bone density as the body ages. The irony of it, don’t you think?

    Fact is that nutrition is a minefield. What’s good for one condition is contraindicated for another.

    Yes, Renee, I know my bedside manner is atrocious. Instead of giving you comfort and bearing your husband some grapes and a bunch of flower to make him better I am now reminiscing about Paracelsus: “The dose makes the poison.”


    1. Ursula, you never fail to say the right thing – no atrocious bedside manner here. I remember my grandmother taking various meds and the cure for one problem always aggravated another. I suppose it is true here as well.

  9. I’ve not heard of the Stone Belt, but I’ve heard of a lot of people having them. Feel bad for your husband, I’ve heard they are very uncomfortable. Praying it will pass quickly without any further treatment.

  10. Oh, my gosh. Of course I’ve never heard of the Stone Belt, but if that is for real, that’s extraordinary & needs to be looked into. I don’t know what happens with kidney stones except that you must have them removed. I don’t know of after effects. I hope truly your husband is okay after getting done what needs to be done.

    There’s too much in the water! I mean, at least with vitamin tablets you can control your intake, but with water – you must drink it as you must.

    Best of luck.

  11. Nope, have never heard of the Stone Belt. Sure hope your Hubby is out of the woods soon and with minimal discomfort. Surely there’s a pie or something yummy in it for him? Sympathy baking?

  12. I’ve never heard of “The Stone Belt” either. Cranberry juice (pure cranberry juice not the “cocktail” kind), water and sympathy are all I can offer.

  13. I worked in the ER through college and I remember the patients with kidney stones being in so much pain. Hope your husband is able to pass the stone very soon. Sounds like you are taking good care of him!

  14. Oh damn and double damn! I’ve heard the kidney stone thing is like childbirth and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. (Actually, I no longer have “worst enemies” but only “former friends”.) I’m so sorry he is going through this and hope it resolves quickly. The thing is though, he needs to increase his water intake all the time, not just when this sort of thing comes up! Best wishes for him and for you being his nurse.

  15. Oh, ouchie! Had a roommate in college that had one – it is painful.
    Cranberry juice and water…one thing about bottled water: you can count how many you’ve had each day.
    Never heard the humidity idea – dehydration, though, is a problem as we age. (Would suspect the minerals in water, calcium, and carbonated drinks as major causes.)
    The new treatments (according to elderly in-law’s experience) using sound waves was quite effective and not painful. Surgery is mostly tiny incisions now (kid’s a surgeon) so trauma to body is less, recovery much much faster. Both can be done as outpatient now.
    Hope the darn thing just gets on out quickly!

  16. I’ve also never heard of the Stone Belt.
    My goodness from all the comments and advice above it sounds really painful. I hope you’re husband manages to get rid of the nasty thing soon.

  17. I never heard this, didn’t know there was a greater prevalence of stones in that region of the country. Very interesting! Sorry your husband is getting first hand experience of this. I hope by now he’s feeling better! One of my friends here says she is a gravel pit..apparently some people produce stones on a regular basis. I hope that’s not true for your husband! ~ Sheila

  18. I have heard kidney stones are incredibly painful. I really feel for your husband. I hope he feels much, much better soon.

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