Have you ever had severe pain in either side of your lower back, more vague pain or stomach ache that wont go away, bloody or cloudy, fowl smelling urine? You may have had a kidney stone. I have had a few, one of them on trail in 2020. It took me off trail for about a week or two in Bishop, CA. It was exceedingly painful, popping Ibuprofens every couple hours (turns out I should have been having Aleve, Ibuprofen is short acting while Aleve is long lasting), and trying to distract myself from the pain. Oh yeah, and constant peeing to help get the stone out. Not the best time I've had there in Bishop.
One in ten people will experience the pain of kidney stones in their lifetime. One of the most common types of stones is called Calcium Oxalate. Some people think that cutting out calcium will help, when its the opposite! Oxalates bind to calcium in your system to create kidney stones and the best way to prevent them is to drink more water and adjust your diet to a low oxalate diet. Everything has oxalates for the most part, so staying away from high oxalate foods should help keep damn stones away.
One of the biggest staples of trail foods I can think of it chocolate and peanut butter. I carried a jar of peanut butter that I actually cut up different candy bars to put in my peanut butter, filled mini tortillas with it, and had what I called, "Candy Tacos" as a boost. If I ate one of those monstrosities on the morning, I would be full for a few hours, which was super great until midmorning snack time! Definitely a high oxalate meal...
Peanuts are high in oxalates, 1 oz is 27mg and peanut butter has 13mg per 1 TBSP. The recommend 100mg of oxalates per day for a low oxalate diets, while people who are higher risk need to go as little as 50-60mg per day. Chocolate, cocoa is the problem, so white chocolate is fine, on the other hand, has oxalate content between 4mg and 65mg depending on how you have it. 5mg is in 1oz of milk chocolate candies (doesn't specify) and 65mg per cup of hot chocolate. With anything over 10mg per serving is considered not low in oxalates and hikers eating more serving than the average person, it's important to be clear how the common foods we eat on trail can affect us.
So my alternatives are white chocolate, when its available, and now I've switched from peanut butter to sun butter, made with sunflower seeds (1 cup has 12mg for the seeds)! It tastes great, slightly sweeter, but not overly sweet, but it is more expensive than peanut butter, and I'm sure it'll be difficult to find on trail outside of any big retailers such as Walmart. It's one price to pay to not go pissing rocks when you're just trying to experience the beautiful wilderness we have left in this world.
This is going to be the one of many posts about finding alternatives to the foods we love to bring with us on long backpacking trips, so don't forget to check back and see what alternatives I find so we don't have to suffer from these stupid stones while on incredible journeys!