Kidney stones are a painful experience; just ask anyone who's ever been unfortunate enough to deal with them. These stones form when crystals of calcium and other materials in the urine come together to create a small, stone-like mass. Sometimes, the stones are relatively small and pass through the body without any symptoms. Larger stones, however, can cause severe pain and even damage the urinary tract.
Fortunately, there are some proven ways to reduce the risk and prevent kidney stones from forming in the first place or coming back again.
One of the most important things you can do to prevent kidney stones is to stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of fluids helps to regularly flush out your kidneys and urinary tract. Those flushes prevent minerals and other substances from sticking together and forming stones.
Experts generally recommend drinking about 3 liters of fluid a day or six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water. If you live or work in a hot or dry climate, or if you exercise regularly, you may need to drink more.
A diet that is high in fruits and vegetables can help prevent kidney stones from forming. These foods are often rich in potassium, which decreases the amount of calcium in the urine. They also contain other compounds that can help to prevent the formation of stones. Aim to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
Increasing your fruit and vegetable intake has other positive effects too. They can help lower your blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease or stroke, and keep your blood sugar in check.
Too much salt in your diet can lead to an increase of calcium in the urine, which can contribute to the formation of kidney stones. Try to limit your salt intake to less than 2,300 milligrams per day, which is the recommended daily limit for most adults.
Cutting back on your sodium intake can be hard. Many of our favorite processed and packaged foods contain large amounts of salt. Try cooking your own meals using fresh ingredients and seasoning with herbs and spices instead of salt. One simple tip is to stop putting extra salt on your food with the salt shaker—chances are there's enough in there already.
People who are overweight or those with obesity are known to have a higher chance of developing kidney stones. Reducing excess fat will help lower the risk.
If fat loss is the right choice for you, consult with a doctor or nutrition professional about the healthiest ways to go about it. A lot of the popular modern diets marketed online can fail or, in the worst cases, be dangerous to health.
Regular exercise can help prevent kidney stones from forming. Exercise helps keep your weight in check and can also improve your overall health, both of which will reduce your risk of developing stones. Most adults should aim to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
Regular exercise will do more than help prevent kidney stones. It's common medical knowledge that those who engage in regular physical activity have stronger cardiovascular and muscular systems too.
Drinking too much soda and other sugary drinks can increase the risk of kidney stones. This is because these drinks contain high amounts of sugar and phosphoric acid, which can contribute to the formation of stones. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 36 grams of sugar per day for men, and 25 grams for women. For reference, one regular-sized can of Coke contains 32 grams of added sugar.
Instead, try drinking water or other low-sugar beverages like tea or sparkling water. Consider coffee instead of sugary caffeine-filled drinks.
Reducing your alcohol consumption can also help prevent kidney stones. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it can lead to dehydration and increase the risk of kidney stone formation. In addition, some alcoholic beverages, like beer and wine, contain high levels of purines, which can break down into uric acid and contribute to the formation of uric acid stones.
Most recommendations cite that adults limit consumption to one or two alcoholic drinks per day. Many doctors are now recommending that not drinking alcohol at all is the best option for those with health concerns. Stick with water; it's truly the best option for the body.
While too much calcium can contribute to the formation of kidney stones, it's still important to get enough of it in your diet. Calcium helps to bind with oxalate in the digestive tract, preventing it from being absorbed into the bloodstream and excreted in the urine. That, in turn, helps prevent kidney stones.
Most adults need roughly 1000 to 1,200 milligrams of calcium per day. Some great ways to get more calcium into your diet are to stock up on dairy products, leafy greens, and fortified foods like seeds, nuts, beans, or lentils. Calcium supplements are also available for those who struggle to get enough.
If you have a history of kidney stones, or if you are at an increased risk of developing kidney stones, your doctor may recommend medications. Medications like thiazide diuretics can help to reduce the amount of calcium in the urine, while a xanthine oxidase inhibitor can help to prevent the formation of uric acid stones.
Since every person has a unique medical situation, the potential side effects of any medication should be discussed with a doctor prior to taking it.
A handful of underlying medical conditions increase the chance of kidney stones. Any person with Crohn's disease, gastric bypass, inflammatory bowel disorder, primary hypertension, renal tubular acidosis, cystinuria, obesity, gout, or diabetes is at higher risk.
Managing these conditions properly, with the help of a doctor, can go a long way to preventing kidney stones. Anyone dealing with underlying medical conditions of any kind should make sure to schedule regular check-ups with a doctor. Catching a kidney stone while it's still small and manageable is much better than waiting for it to seriously damage your body and cause considerable pain.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.