Reducing the Risk of Kidney Stones

Did you know that more people develop kidney stones when the weather gets warm than at any other time of the year? It’s a fact. And the primary reason is lack of proper hydration.

As the temperature rises, we sweat more. Without proper hydration, the body’s fluids become more concentrated with dietary minerals, which can form into stones. Kidney stones vary in size and shape and there are different types. Most stones occur when calcium combines with one of two substances: oxalate or phosphorous. Stones can also develop from uric acid, which forms as the body metabolizes protein.

A stone may stay in the kidney or travel down the urinary tract (ureter). A small stone may pass on its own, causing little or no pain. A larger stone may get stuck along the urinary tract. A stone that gets stuck can block the flow of urine, causing severe pain, increased risk of infection, obstruction, or bleeding.

Anyone can develop kidney stones. Based on some estimates, one in ten people will have a kidney stone at some time in their lives. And if you’ve had a kidney stone once, you’re at an increased risk for another one. Kidney stones have also become more common in recent decades particularly among individuals not previously considered high-risk including women and children. But there are steps you can take to avoid them.

Drink plenty of water: Drinking extra water dilutes the substances in urine that lead to stones. Try to drink enough fluids to pass two liters of urine a day, which is roughly eight standard 8-ounce cups. If you exercise or sweat a lot, or if you have a history of stones, you’ll need more fluids. You can tell whether you’re hydrated by looking at the color of your urine—it should be clear or pale yellow. If it’s dark, you need to drink more. Also, it may help to drink citrus beverages, like lemonade and orange juice. The citrate in these beverages helps prevent stone formation. Get the calcium you need: Consuming too little calcium can cause oxalate levels to rise and cause kidney stones. Talk with your doctor about how much calcium you should eat to help prevent getting calcium oxalate stones. Ideally, obtain calcium from foods, since some studies have linked taking calcium supplements to kidney stones. Low-fat milk, low-fat cheese, and low-fat yogurt are all good options. If you must take vitamins or supplements, it is best to take these with a meal and not on an empty stomach.

Reduce your sodium intake. A high-salt diet increases your risk of calcium kidney stones. Too much salt in the urine prevents calcium from being reabsorbed from the urine to the blood. This causes high urine calcium, which may lead to kidney stones. Current guidelines suggest limiting total daily sodium intake to 2,300 mg. If sodium has contributed to kidney stones in the past, try to reduce your daily intake to 1,500 mg. This will also be good for your blood pressure and heart.

Limit animal protein. Eating too much animal protein, such as red meat, poultry, eggs, and seafood, boosts uric acid levels and could lead to kidney stones. A high-protein diet also reduces levels of citrate, the chemical in urine that helps prevent stones from forming. If you’re prone to stones, limit your daily meat intake to a quantity that is no bigger than a pack of playing cards. This is also a heart-healthy portion.

Avoid certain foods and beverages: Beets, chocolate, spinach, rhubarb, tea, and most nuts are rich in oxalate, and colas are rich in phosphate, both of which can contribute to kidney stones.  If you suffer from stones, your doctor may advise you to avoid them or consume them in smaller amounts. For everyone else, particular foods and drinks are unlikely to trigger kidney stones.

If you are suffering with kidney stones, or think you may be, make an appointment with your urologist right away. Whether you have questions or concerns about kidney stones or any other urological problem, the experienced specialists at Anne Arundel Urology have the answers you need. Contact us. Our expertise can make a big difference in getting you the right diagnosis and the right treatment, when you need it.

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