Kidney Stones Overview
Signs of kidney stones include:
- Sharp, severe pain below the ribs in the side and back
- Radiating pain to the groin and lower abdomen
- Pain that fluctuates in intensity and comes in waves
- Pain or a burning sensation when urinating
- Colored (pink, red or brown), cloudy or foul-smelling urine
- A continual need to urinate, especially more often and/or in small amounts
- Nausea and vomiting
- Fever and chills
Kidney stones treatment can vary person to person, but there are some dietary changes you can make to help:
- Eat foods that are rich in calcium. This includes such foods as dairy (cow, goat and sheep), plant-based milks (almond, soy and rice), cheese, yogurt, edamame, and leafy greens. The recommended daily intake varies on gender and age, but Harvard recommends at least 1000 mg/day.
- On the flip side, however, decrease sodium intake as this can exponentially increase the amount of calcium in your urine. Try to limit intake to 2300 mg/day, according to the FDA.
- Limit animal protein intake, like meat, eggs, and seafood. These products boost levels of uric acid and decrease levels of citrate, both of which independently (let alone combined) increases the risk of kidney stones.
- Avoid oxalate-heavy foods. Beets, chocolate, spinach, rhubarb, tea, and most nuts all contain high levels of oxalates and can increase the chances of kidney stones.
- Consume foods that are high in citrate, such as oranges, lemons and limes. The citric acid in these foods have been shown in studies to prevent kidney stones.
- It's important, however, to avoid high dose Vitamin C supplements. 75 mg/day is recommended for women, and 90 mg/day is recommended for men according to the National Institutes of Health.
- Drink plenty of fluids (roughly 2-3 quarts/day) to ensure urine is less concentrated. It's okay to gradually increase little by little, as going from 1 to 3 per day can be a lot for your body to handle.
- While water is always best, fluids like milk, coffee, unsweetened carbonated water, sugar-free lemonade and diet citrus drinks are also okay.
- Avoid regular sodas, energy drinks, alcohol, as well as fruit or vegetable juices (they contain a lot of sugar, and juicing strips out the fiber and other health benefits).
- Regular exercise can help manage your weight, as obesity has direct correlations to kidney stone formation. It can even help prevent existing stones from growing larger by moving them along naturally (often times without feeling any symptoms).
- Quit smoking, as many studies show it not only has a direct link to an increase in kidney stones, it can lead to renal injury and other urological conditions.
- Manage your stress levels, as stress can lead to high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and other conditions that can affect many organs, including the kidneys.
- Be sure to get enough sleep! The National Sleep Foundation has concluded that sleep duration impacts the risk of developing kidney stones.
- Medications to reduce stone formation
- Procedures to remove stones
- Surgery to correct underlying conditions