Kidney stones affect millions of adults (and children) each year, and can cause some of the worst pain people experience in their lifetime. In fact, studies have shown the pain from kidney stones is equivalent to the pain people experience during childbirth. While there are various factors that cause someone to have kidney stones, dehydration is one of the most common. The importance of hydration in preventing kidney stones is pivotal to reducing your risk.
In order to stay hydrated, first you should be aware of the common symptoms of dehydration:
- Urine that is darker in color
- Drinking water but not urinating
- Muscle cramps
- Dry mouth & bad breath
- Fatigue & drowsiness
- Fever or chills
- Craving sweets
- Fast heartbeat
The Importance of Hydration in Preventing Kidney Stones
About 60-70% of your body weight is made up of water, and each body part needs water in order to function properly. When you lose an excess amount of water, dehydration sets in. Dehydration can happen for a variety of reasons, from diarrhea to vomiting, from sweating to poorly controlled diabetes, or extra losses in your urine.
When your body is dehydrated, it becomes more difficult for your kidneys to remove waste products through urine. Your urine then becomes more concentrated, which promotes the formation of kidney stone causing crystals in the urinary tract.
By staying hydrated, however, water helps your kidneys flush waste out of your body more quickly and efficiently. Hydrations can also help regulate body temperature, keep your skin healthy and hydrated, and aid in digestion.
The amount of water you should drink to prevent kidney stones varies depending on such factors as your age, sex, weight, and activity level. While a good rule of thumb is to drink at least 8-10 glasses of water a day, the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends the following daily fluid intake:
- Men - about 15.5 cups (124 fl oz)
- Women - about 11.5 cups (92 fl oz)
For people with a history of kidney stones, or who are higher risk of developing them, drinking more water may be necessary. Additionally, certain medical conditions or medications may require you to drink more or less water than the average person. It's important to consult with your physician to determine your recommended daily fluid intake.
Hydration Tips for Preventing Kidney Stones
To make sure you're staying hydrated throughout the day:
Don't wait until you're thirsty to drink. Carry a water bottle with you and take sips regularly. You can also incorporate other beverages such as herbal tea or low-sugar sports drinks and diet sodas. Avoid alcohol and sugary drinks like regular soda and fruit juices.
- Studies have shown milk is the most hydrating fluid next to water.
- Set alarms or notifications to remind you to drink frequently.
- Drink room temperature water. We all love ice cold water, especially on a hot day, but the colder the water temperature the more energy your body expends to absorb the water. Icy water also causes blood vessels to slightly shrink in your stomach, which slows hydrations and digestion.
- Make your water healthier & more fun! If plain water is boring to you, add flavor through fresh fruits or other sugar-free flavoring. You can also add natural electrolytes to balance pH levels & keep you hydrated, such as: coconut water, lime juice, pomegranate juice, grated ginger, and a pinch of sea salt or Himalayan pink salt.
Eat water-heavy foods. Certain fruits and vegetables not only contain healthy nutrients but a lot of water as well.
- Fruits - watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe, peaches and pineapples
- Vegetables - cucumbers, leafy greens, radishes, celery, zucchini and tomatoes
- Bonus - start your day with overnight oats mixed with chia seeds. Not only will it provide plenty of nutrients and keep you full longer, both soak up liquid!
- Limit time outdoors in hot weather. Stay home or go to an air conditioned shopping center, movie theater, or public library. Avoid sun exposure especially during peak times (between 10am-3pm). If you do go outside, wear sunscreen and make sure to dress appropriately with light, loose-fitting clothing in lighter colors (dark colors absorb heat).
- Warm up & cool down during exercise. Before and after working out, it's important to warm up and cool down. Doing this helps regulate body temperature, as well as reduce injuries.
- Drink water before eating anything! Drink between meals throughout the day, as well as before you snack or eat a meal. It not only creates a healthy routine, it helps us realize that sometimes we are dehydrated instead of hungry.
- Keep a bottle of water on your night stand. When you awake, drink a glass of water. Studies show people who did this (as well as drinking a glass within 2 hours of bedtime) increased their H2O intake 24 oz per day. It also helped people eat less, slow down their eating, and end up losing weight.
- Get a friend involved! When someone else is helping keep you accountable, and you them, you're more likely to stick with it. Challenge a friend to join you in drinking more water throughout the day.
Prevent Kidney Stones by Staying Hydrated
Hydration is an essential aspect of maintaining kidney health and preventing kidney stones. By drinking enough water, eating hydrating foods, and staying aware of your body's hydration needs, you can reduce your risk of developing kidney stones significantly.
If you have a history of kidney stones or are at a higher risk of developing them, be sure to consult with your healthcare provider to determine the appropriate level of hydration for your specific needs. By taking these steps, you can help prevent kidney stones and maintain overall health and well-being.