Kidney stones are small, hard deposits of minerals and salts that can form in the kidneys when urine becomes concentrated. Specific treatment beyond increasing water intake is usually not needed, but a kidney stone can be very painful to pass, as anyone who has had one can tell you. While anyone can get kidney stones, there are multiple risk factors that can potentially increase your chances of acquiring them, including:
- Family history of kidney stones.
- Being over 40 years old.
- Being male.
- High protein, high sodium and high sugar diets.
- Being obese.
- Digestive diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease or surgeries such as gastric bypass.
You can reduce your risk of getting kidney stones by:
- Drinking water throughout the day. For those with a history of kidney stones, doctors usually recommend passing approximately 2.5 litres of urine daily. In summer months you need to consume considerably more fluids to stay well-hydrated.
- Eating fewer foods containing high amounts of oxalate. Kidney stones can form due to a build up of calcium oxalate. Foods rich in oxalate include spinach, beets, rhubarb, okra, tea, chocolate and soy products.
- Limiting salt and animal protein in your diet. Reduce the amount of salt in your diet and choose non-animal protein sources such as nuts to reduce your chances of getting kidney stones.
- Watching out for stealth sources of sodium. Some energy and sports drinks contain high levels of sodium and/or caffeine. While they may quench your thirst, you may also be increasing your risk of stone formation.
- Re-hydrating often if engaged in strenuous activity if you have long-term exposure to the heat. Painters, roofers, landscapers, marathon runners and people who enjoy outdoor sports activities that last several hours at a time need to pay special attention to their water intake and watch for signs of dehydration. Health experts recommend at least 16 to 32 ounces of water per hour of heat exposure. A lack of sweat or urination, dizziness, weakness, headache, muscle cramps, nausea or vomiting are possible signs of heat-related illness or dehydration.
- Avoiding calcium supplements, but calcium-rich foods are OK. Calcium in the food you eat does not increase your risk of getting kidney stones. Keep eating calcium-rich foods unless your doctor advises you otherwise. However, calcium supplements have been linked to higher risk of kidney stones. Consult your physician before starting a calcium supplement.
A dietitian like Nastaran can help those at risk to plan meals that will reduce the chance of getting kidney stones.