The current statistics state that 12% of the men and 5% of the women in the United States will be effected by kidney stones at some point in their lifetime. Kidney stones are very rarely fatal, but they are often extremely painful and can lead to a trip to the emergency room. Looking at those statistics, it is clear that not everyone is prone to kidney stones.
The recommendations made in this article are for those people who are prone to kidney stones or kidney related issues. Since writhing in pain followed by a trip to the hospital is generally not anyone’s idea of fun, lets talk about ways you can prevent getting a kidney stone in the first place.
What Are Kidney Stones?
Kidney stones are small crystals that can form at any location in the urinary tract. Stones have been found in the kidneys, bladder, ureter and the urethra. The small crystals will become larger, or several crystals will stick together to form larger crystals. Pain happens when the stones break away from their formation location and get lodged some place along the urinary tract either fully or partially blocking the flow or urine.
As far as we know, there are four kinds of kidney stones that can form. They are:
- Calcium Stones – Calcium stones are the most common form of kidney stone to develop. These stones are composed of calcium oxalate or calcium phosphate. Calcium oxalate stones form when there is too much calcium and oxalate being excreted through the urine. Calcium phosphate stones form when the PH of the urine is too high.
- Uric Acid Stones – Uric acid is a substance that is formed when the body breaks down compounds called purines. Purines are found in meats, fish and shellfish. These purines will decrease the PH of the urine, making it consistently acidic which can lead to the formation of uric acid stones.
- Struvite Stones – Struvite stones are formed due to an infection of the kidney. The infected stones must be removed, and the kidneys must be kept infection free to prevent future formation of struvite stones.
- Cystine Stones – Cystine stones are formed due to a genetic disorder that allows cystine to leak through the kidney walls into the urine. Cystine is an amino acid that is the least soluble of all the amino acids. This means that it will crystallize in the kidneys causing stones instead of being flushed out.
How Do I Prevent Kidney Stones?
Knowing which kind of stone you have is the first step to healing and prevention. If you have a uric acid stone, reducing the amount of oxalate containing foods you consume may not solve your problem.
Struvite stones and Cystine stones develop due to an infection or a genetic mutation. Both of these types of stones will need medical attention and direction for future prevention.
The calcium oxalate, calcium phosphate and uric acid stones are the ones that can be prevented through lifestyle.
There are some general guidelines that can help with almost all kidney stones, and then there are some specific recommendations for each type as well.
General Tips For Prevention:
- Stay Hydrated – Being adequately hydrated every day is essential for the prevention of kidney stones. When you are hydrated you will literally be flushing out your kidneys on a more frequent basis, which can help to wash away crystals before they form large stones. Eating lots of water rich fruits and vegetables like watermelon, cucumber and celery can also be helpful in flushing out the kidneys.
- Maintain or achieve a healthy weight for your body – Being overweight is one of the most common risk factors for stone development. This does not mean you should go on a crash diet in an attempt to get your weight down. Just begin to alter your lifestyle in a way that supports overall health and you will reduce your risk of developing kidney stones.
- Eat a Diet High In Fruits and Vegetables – Studies have shown that the same diet that helps to prevent heart disease; one that is rich in produce, fibre and water, and low or void of vegetable oils can help to reduce the risk of kidney stone development as well.
Recommendations for Specific Kidney Stones
When you know exactly which type of stone you are prone to developing, you can use the following information to tailor your lifestyle to prevent their formation.
Calcium Oxalate Stones:
- Reduce the amount of high oxalate foods you consume: Spinach, rhubarb, Swiss chard, wheat bran and some nuts are best eaten in moderation if you are prone to producing oxalate stones.
- Consume adequate dietary calcium: You do not need to reduce the amount of calcium you consume as calcium from food does not increase your risk of forming calcium oxalate stones. It is in fact important to get enough calcium in your diet to prevent the formation of stones. Foods like broccoli, sesame seeds and almonds are all excellent options to get a boost of calcium in your diet.
- Reduce your sodium consumption: Reducing your sodium intake is a good idea when trying to prevent calcium oxalate stones. Excess sodium in the diet will cause the kidneys to excrete more calcium through the urine, increasing the chances that it will bind with oxalates to form a stone. To reduce sodium, avoid adding salt to your food. Another way to reduce sodium is to use Himalayan salt which is composed of 84 minerals, rather than just the sodium chloride found in table salt. Avoid processed meats, luncheon meats, canned foods and processed frozen foods as all of these items contain high amounts of hidden sodium. Look for the words MSG, sodium bicarbonate, disodium phosphate, sodium alginate, sodium nitrate and other secret names for sodium.
- Reduce animal protein consumption: Animal proteins can cause an increase in the excretion of calcium in the urine leading to calcium stones.
Calcium Phosphate Stones:
- Avoid Excess Sodium: The biggest thing you can do to reduce the risk of forming calcium phosphate stones is to avoid excess sodium. Follow the points made above about reducing sodium to avoid calcium oxalate stones.
- Reduce animal protein consumption: Reducing your consumption of animal proteins is also important for reducing the risk of calcium phosphate stones.
Uric Acid Stones:
- Reduce high purine animal protein consumption: Reducing animal protein consumption is the most important thing you can do to prevent uric acid stones. Animal protein foods contain compounds called purines, which break down to produce uric acid. This uric acid overly acidified the urine and over time can lead to the formation of uric acid stones. Foods highest in purines are organ meats, red meats, eggs and fish.
Recipes to Help You Pass a Kidney Stone
Warm water with lemon juice is a go-to if you’re having trouble with kidney stones. Try staying hydrated throughout the day and add extra lemon juice if you feel you’re passing a stone.
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