You don’t want to be among the one in 10 Americans who develop a kidney stone in their lifetime. Kidney stones are hard deposits of minerals that can cause excruciating pain as they travel through your urinary system and out of your body.
If you’ve already had a kidney stone, you definitely want to prevent a future one. However, without preventive steps, you have a 50% increased risk of another kidney stone. The expert urologists at Comprehensive Urology in Los Angeles diagnose and treat conditions that impact the urinary tract. Our team can work with you to prevent kidney stones, and the pain that comes with them.
The kinds of minerals you don’t want
You may yearn after valuable minerals, like diamonds and gold. Kidney stones are made of minerals, too. When crystal-forming substances such as calcium, oxalate, or uric acid become concentrated and supersaturated in your urine, they clump together and form a hard mass. If you think of a large kidney stone in your small ureters and urethras, you can imagine why you don’t want them there.
Normally, substances in your urine, such as citrate, magnesium, and pyrophosphate, prevent crystal-forming substances from becoming too concentrated. Kidney stones develop when there is an imbalance of stone-promoting and stone-inhibiting substances in your urine.
Kidney stones can be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball. Because the kidneys are solid organs, even the smallest stones can cause intense pain.
If you’ve had a kidney stone, there are steps you can take to reduce the chances of having another one. We recommend these five tips to keep kidney stones at bay:
1. Drink more (water)
Kidney stones are more likely to form when waste products accumulate. Drinking water flushes waste products away.
Staying well-hydrated keeps your urine diluted and helps prevent substances from clumping together to form crystals. When you’re properly hydrated, your urine should appear pale yellow. Dark urine is a good indicator that you need to drink more water.
To keep your urinary tract healthy, drink 12 or more glasses of water a day — and even more, if it’s hot outside or you’re exercising. You should also focus on consuming water while cutting out sports drinks and sugary sodas. Limited amounts of coffee and tea can help prevent stones, too.
2. Eat more (variety)
Eating large quantities of animal proteins and oxalate-rich items, such as beets, okra, and rhubarb significantly increases the presence of crystal-forming substances in your urine. It’s crucial you consume a varied, balanced diet that ensures you get the nutrients you need to combat kidney stones. A good bet is adding more fruits and vegetables, but verify with your doctor.
3. Don’t shake the salt
If you’re like most Americans, you’re consuming too much sodium. A high-sodium diet increases the calcium in your urine, promoting the formation of kidney stones. It’s best to limit your sodium intake to 2,300 mg per day. Your doctor may set a lower target if you have other risk factors such as high blood pressure.
Packaged and processed foods tend to contain excess salt. Focus on eating fresh, whole foods to reduce the amount of salt in your diet.
4. Throw off the pounds
If you carry excess weight, you’re stressing just about every system in your body. People who are overweight or obese are more likely to develop kidney stones.
Obesity is thought to alter the acid balance in your kidneys, leading to higher levels of uric acid, which promotes stone formation. If you’re overweight, make a commitment to work with your doctor to get your weight into a healthy range.
5. Be prudent with calcium
The most common type of kidney stone comes from calcium combining with oxalate in your urine. However, not eating enough foods high in calcium can actually increase your risk of getting kidney stones. Continue eating a well-balanced diet with calcium-rich foods, but talk with your doctor before taking any calcium supplements.