Kidney stones are mineral deposits forming inside kidneys, known to cause excruciating pain when passing through urinary tract. They are quite common, affecting up to 12% of the United States population. For those who have already struggled with kidney stones, the risk of another one forming in the next ten years is higher by approximately 50%.
Kidney stones and how to prevent them
The chance of a kidney stone forming is also higher for people whose relatives have suffered from this condition and those who are overweight. The statistics may sound frightening. Indeed, many people would do everything in their power to avoid the condition in question, especially those for who the risk is higher than it is for an average person.
How to prevent kidney stones?
There is no simple answer. There isn’t any certain way of making sure we won’t ever have to suffer from them. There are, however, small, everyday things we can do to lower the risk. One of those is to stay well-hydrated. Thanks to this we can lower our urine output, which means that the urine will be more concentrated, which may prevent urine salt dissolving and reduce the risk of kidney stones forming. For an average person, eight glasses of water per day should be enough to stay properly hydrated.
People who often lose water by sweating (those who maintain an active lifestyle, physical workers) or those who have a history of cysteine stones, should drink even more than the amount mentioned above. Another thing we should consume more is citrate, found in fruits such as lemon or orange, as well as juices and other things made from them. Since the most common type of kidney stone is oxalate stone, eating meals rich in calcium would be a right decision for a person trying to avoid kidney stones forming inside them.
Calcium reduces the risk of this specific type of kidney stone appearing. Products rich in calcium are for example low-fat milk, low-fat cheese and low-fat yoghurt. It is worth noting that calcium should be delivered with food and not supplements, as those may increase the risk of kidney stones forming. If there is no other way and calcium supplements have to be taken, they should be taken with a meal in order to decrease the risk. Another advice is to avoid sodium. Urine that has too much salt in it prevents calcium from being reabsorbed to the blood, leading to high urine calcium and increasing the risk of kidney stones appearing.
Herbs can be a more healthy alternative to salt. The products that we should avoid are for example: canned soups and vegetables, chips, crackers, condiments or lunch meat. Another group of products to avoid are those with much oxalate inside them. This could be for example chocolate, spinach, sweet potatoes, coffee, soy products, peanuts, wheat bran, rhubarb and beets. We should also consume just a minimal amount of animal protein, since they increase urine acid, which leads to forming of the kidney stones. Examples of foods that cause kidney stones by increasing urine acid are beef, poultry, fish and pork.
Kidney stones can also be created by vitamin C, especially for men. It is important to limit alcoholic intake and excessive caffeine consumption. Another thing to limit are sugary drinks, especially those containing high-fructose corn syrup. If we have a kidney stones formed inside us, it will be felt very soon. The symptoms may include fever and chills, blood in urine, which also becomes cloudy and gains an odd, very unpleasant smell. The most feared symptom is intense pain in the lower back, which may cause nausea or vomiting, as well as stomach pain that cannot improve with gas medication.
If we have these symptoms, it’s important to immediately go to the doctor. In most cases, they will require taking medication to make the urine less acidic and to decrease the pain. When the stone is small, we will usually be allowed to go home and wait for it to pass. When it is big or there is a risk of it getting stuck, a surgery will be required. Surgery might also be needed to deal with the infection caused by kidney stones.