Kidney stones affect hundreds of millions of people of all ages worldwide. According to the National Kidney Foundation, 1 in 3 Americans are at-risk for kidney disease. Due to our ever-changing world, this number is predicted to drastically increase over time. This is why prevention is imperative. By making very simple tweaks to your everyday routine -- from diet to lifestyle changes -- your risk of getting kidney stones can drop dramatically.
Kidney Stones Overview
"Kidney stones are hard deposits made of minerals and salts that form inside your kidneys." The Mayo Clinic says these deposits can affect any part of a person's urinary tract (kidneys, bladder, etc.). They form when urine becomes concentrated, which allows minerals to more easily crystallize and bond with other substances. Kidney stones causes include everything from diet to body weight, medical conditions to taking certain supplements & medications.
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
Seek immediate medical attention if you are experiencing any of these signs/symptoms. If left untreated, serious complications could arise.
But most people don't know about kidney stones until they're affected. By taking steps before this happens, you can decrease your chances and hopefully never experience the pain associated with having a kidney stone.
Diet ChangesKidney 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. Excess amounts of 1000 mg/day lead to increased oxalate levels in the body.
- 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.
Medical treatments are often reserved for those who have a family history of serious kidney issues, there are other medical conditions, or you are currently dealing with kidney stones. Please consult your general/specialist doctor. Such treatments may include:
- Medications to reduce stone formation
- Procedures to remove stones
- Surgery to correct underlying conditions
Preventing Kidney Stones
By making simple changes to your everyday life, you can significantly reduce the likelihood you will ever deal with kidney stones. If you or someone you know has ever experienced them, you know how painful they can be! And the injuries associated with kidney stones can have lasting ramifications and lead to other more serious medical issues. It's important to do what you can to mitigate these risks, and these changes to lifestyle and diet can help get you there!