I am a 41 year old woman with a history of kidney stones. I
normally developed stones in pregnancy...my last being 1993. Six years
ago we installed a salt soft water system in our home. The unit uses rock
salt to remove the hardness from the water. This is my main source of
water intake. Four years ago I began to see an increase in stone
formation both in size and quanitity. The stones are calcium oxalate. I
am creating stones in both kidneys...endlessly. Medical conditions have
been ruled out. I watch my diet and salt intake.....but did not even
consider the rock salt that softens my water.....is there a correlation
between the water I drink and the increase of kidney stones? Any help I
Water softeners are ion exchangers, replacing the calcium and magnesium in
the water with sodium. I don't know the biochemical processes that lead to
formation of kidney stones. If salt intake is something you need to worry
about, your water softener system might be part of the problem, as it does
greatly increase the amount of sodium in your water.
In general, soft water is necessary for soap to work properly, but not so
much for health. As I mentioned, water softeners replace calcium and
magnesium with sodium. Calcium and magnesium are not especially bad for
health, and in fact are the ions that make mineral waters taste good. (In
your case, since you have a tendency to develop calcium oxalate kidney
stones, calcium might be something to be concerned about.) On the other
hand, some people are sensitive to sodium. In such cases, drinking softened
water is actually worse than drinking the incoming hard water.
In summary, I know nothing about kidney stones. Ask your doctor what the
expected effects of calcium and sodium intake are on people with a tendency
to get kidney stones, recognizing that six years ago your calcium intake
dropped and your sodium intake increased.
Richard E. Barrans Jr., Ph.D.
PG Research Foundation, Darien, Illinois
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Update: June 2012