Passing a large kidney stone can be a painful experience and one you want to avoid in the future. While the risk for developing kidney stones is about 11% in men and 9% in women, the more problematic statistic is this — kidney stones recur within 5-7 years in about half of those who’ve had one.
To help you better understand why you may be prone to kidney stones and the steps you can take to prevent them, Dr. Robert Cornell and our team want to focus on this important subject in this month’s blog post.
What exactly is a kidney stone?
Your kidneys are two small organs on either side of your lower back that filter your blood and send the waste out through your urine, ultimately controlling the levels of many substances, including sodium, potassium, and calcium, in your blood.
As a result of this filtration process, your urine contains dissolved minerals and salts. When there are too many of these waste products and not enough liquid to help them easily flush through, crystals can develop. In some cases, these stones remain in your kidneys and don’t pose any problems.
If the stone attempts to move, however, it can be large enough that it’s not easily passed through your lower urinary tract, namely your ureter, which can lead to a painful blockage.
Most kidney stones (80%) are made up of calcium, while the balance are made up of uric acid (5-10%), magnesium ammonium phosphate (10%), and cystine (less than 1%).
How to prevent kidney stones from recurring
In order to prevent kidney stones from recurring, it’s important to understand the most common causes of the problem. These causes include:
- Not drinking enough water
- Weight-loss surgery
- Eating too much salt or sugar (especially fructose)
- Too much or too little exercise
In less common cases, recurring kidney stones are related to frequent upper urinary tract infections or a family history of cystine kidney stones.
Now that we have an idea about what can place you more at risk for kidney stones, you can take some steps to mitigate your risks.
For example, drinking enough water is critical for helping your kidneys to more easily filter and expel waste. To determine the right amount of water, you should take a look at the color of your urine — the darker your urine, the more waste there is. Instead, you want your urine to be a very light yellow or even clear.
Another great step is to avoid foods with high amounts of sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and salt. Replacing salty and sweet snacks with fruits and vegetables is a great step since these healthier foods make your urine less acidic.
You may also need to avoid large amounts of animal protein, which leads to more acidic urine.
The best way to find out which dietary changes you should make is to have us analyze your urine and your stones, at which point we can design a plan that will help keep kidney stones at bay.
If you want to learn more about avoiding recurring kidney stones, please contact our office in Houston, Texas, to set up an appointment.