Whether you’ve had kidney stones or you’ve witnessed a loved one go through the unpleasant experience, your goal is focused squarely on prevention. Unfortunately, about 10% of people in the United States will experience kidney stones during the course of their lives, making it a fairly common issue.
While kidney stones can’t always be avoided, there are some very effective steps you can take toward that goal. In this month’s blog post, board-certified urologist Dr. Robert Cornell presents three recommendations to help prevent kidney stones.
1. Hydrate, and then hydrate some more
Under normal circumstances, your kidneys act as filters that eliminate waste from your body. If there’s a high waste-to-liquid ratio in your urine, however, the excess waste can crystalize and form different types of kidney stones, including calcium oxalate, uric acid, struvite, and cystine stones.
No matter what type of stone, the best way to avoid the problem is to correct the ratio of liquid to waste in your urine by drinking plenty of fluids. Getting the right amount of fluids (water is best) in your body prevents waste in your kidneys from building up.
A great way to see whether you’re getting enough water is to check the color of your urine — the darker the urine, the more waste there is. We want your urine to appear very light yellow, which indicates that the waste is well-diluted.
2. Mind your diet
Many people think that since calcium oxalate stones account for 80% of kidney stones, they need to cut down on dietary calcium. Not so! Higher urinary calcium is more related to how your body processes calcium instead of your calcium intake. The way to reduce the amount of calcium in your urine is by cutting back on salt, because too much dietary sodium can raise urinary calcium levels.
For kidney stone prevention, it’s actually important to get enough calcium from your diet, because if your calcium intake is too low, your oxalate levels may increase. Get your calcium from foods, like milk, yogurt, and cheese, not from supplements. Taking calcium supplements may actually contribute to kidney stone formation. If your kidney stones were calcium oxalate stones, we may suggest cutting back on dietary oxalates.
Another dietary tip is to lower your intake of animal proteins, such as meat, chicken, and eggs, because protein creates more uric acid in your kidneys, which can lead to uric acid stones.
If you’re prone to kidney stones, enjoy citrus fruits and their juices often. Oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit contain citric acid, which helps block the formation of kidney stones.
3. Address obesity
The health risks that are associated with having obesity are many and include kidney stones. While researchers haven’t identified the exact cause and effect behind the link, they believe the metabolic changes that occur with obesity may change the levels of acid in your urine.
While the link may not be clear, the connection is and studies have demonstrated that body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, and overall weight are linked to an increased risk in developing kidney stones.
We understand that obesity is a difficult condition to address, and we’re happy to point you in the right direction for some excellent weight-loss resources. Not only will losing weight help lower your risk for kidney stones, it will improve just about every other area of your health.
In the long run, addressing factors that place you more at risk for kidney stones is a great step toward preventing this painful condition.
For a kidney stone prevention plan that’s better tailored to your unique concerns, please contact our office in Houston, Texas, to set up an appointment.