When you're in pain from kidney stones, it's tempting to go for something that seems like a quick cure. First, learn how to separate truth from quackery.

Like snake oil salesmen of yore, there are people selling “miracle cures” for kidney stones. Learn how to distinguish help from hype. Photo: Shutterstock

Coping with the aches and pains of any medical condition, but especially kidney stones, can be a real struggle. Some days, the pain may be so overwhelming that you become desperate for an immediate solution, and in that state of mind you may be willing to try anything. That’s completely understandable, but how do you distinguish between the hype and the helpful? After all, some truly useful medical therapies do come from outside mainstream medicine.

How can you decipher truth from quackery in your search for kidney stone pain relief? The FDA offers some tip-offs to help you identify rip-offs when it comes to medical products. Here are some signs that should make you suspicious of any potential cures:

One product does it all

Be suspicious of products that claim to cure a wide range of diseases. A New York firm claimed its products marketed as dietary supplements could treat or cure senile dementia, brain atrophy, atherosclerosis, kidney dysfunction, gangrene, depression, osteoarthritis, dysuria, and lung, cervical, and prostate cancer. In October of 2012, at the FDA’s request, U.S. marshals seized those products.

Personal testimonials

Success stories such as “It cured my diabetes,” or “My tumors are gone” are easy to make up and are not a substitute for scientific evidence.

Quick fixes

Few diseases or conditions can be treated quickly, even with legitimate products. Beware of language such as “Lose 30 pounds in 30 days,” or “eliminates skin cancer in days.”

“All natural”

Some plants found in nature (such as poisonous mushrooms) can kill when consumed. Moreover, the FDA has found numerous products promoted as “all natural” contain hidden and dangerously high doses of prescription drug ingredients or even untested active artificial ingredients.

“Miracle cure”

Alarms should go off when you see this claim or others like it such as “new discovery,” “scientific breakthrough,” or “secret ingredient.” If a real cure for a serious disease were discovered, it would be widely reported through the media and prescribed by health professional—not buried in print ads, TV infomercials, unsolicited emails, or on websites.

Conspiracy theories

Claims like “the pharmaceutical industry and the government are working together to hide information about a miracle cure” are always untrue and unfounded. These statements are used to distract consumers from the obvious, common-sense questions about the so-called miracle cure.

If you’ve already fallen for one of these deceptive cures, don’t feel foolish. Many smart, educated consumers are lured into buying these products because of suggestive wording. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration estimates that more than 40 million Americans use a fraudulent health product each year.

Keeping track of what’s helpful and what’s hype is tricky. One thing to remember is that the FDA approval is not the only criterion to go by. All the FDA approval means is that the substance has been tested in a laboratory. Of course, your doctor should be your main go-to when deciding what medications and products to use.

You can get informed and start the conversation with your doctor about legitimate ways to treat and prevent kidney stones by picking up a copy of my book, Even Urologists Get Kidney Stones. It’s available in paperback and Kindle format on Amazon, and in paperback and Nook format on Barnes & Noble.