A kidney stone is formed when too much of crystal forming substances like calcium, oxalate and uric acid, accumulate in the urine and the body is not hydrated well enough to dissolve them. These substances then tend to harden and become stones. Most stones will pass on their own without any treatment but sometimes, they may require to be broken into smaller pieces through a clinical procedure. Diabetics, obese, males and people above the age of 40 are the at-risk groups.
Symptoms of stone in the kidney are quite intense. The most noticeable is a sudden sharp stabbing pain in the back, belly or side. The location of the pain changes along with the movement of the stone along the urinary tract. Even a tiny stone can cause terrible pain. When the stone reaches the mouth of the bladder, you might experience pain or burning during urination, and frequent need to urinate, similar to a urinary tract infection. Blood in the urine is another symptom. Sometimes the blood cells could be too small to be seen without a microscope but urine tests will show them up. Cloudy or smelly urine also signify concentrated urine and a possible stone in the kidney.
Once you have had one kidney stone, you are 50% more likely to get another within ten years. But a combination of medication, diet and lifestyle changes could help reduce this risk.
Easy ways to prevent kidney stones
Stay hydrated – this is the best and easiest way to prevent kidney stones. When you drink more water, your urine will get diluted and this will reduce concentration and hardening of substances in the urine. Lemonade and orange juice are good supplements to water as they contain citrate which can prevent stone formation. But have them sugar-free as sugar is one of the factors that can cause stones to get formed. If you exercise or sweat a lot, ensure you drink that much more water.
Eat more calcium-rich foods – although calcium is one of the substances that form stones, eating low calcium diet will increase your risk for kidney stones and also for osteoporosis. Low-fat milk, low-fat cheese, and low-fat yogurt are all good calcium-rich food options. In case you are on calcium supplements avoid having them on empty stomachs.
Eat less sodium – a high salt diet will increase your risk for kidney stones. Excess salt in the urine prevents calcium from getting reabsorbed into your blood. Processed and canned foods contain high-level salt and should be avoided. Read the labels carefully before buying any item from supermarkets. Fresh herbs can be used instead of salt to add taste to your food.
Eat fewer oxalate-rich foods – oxalate binds with calcium in the urine to form stones so reduce oxalate-rich foods in your diet. Some foods that are high in oxalate are wheat bran, soy, peanuts, chocolate, spinach and coffee.
Eat less animal protein – animal protein is acidic and can increase the acidic content of your urine, making the environment congenial for stone formation. Limit eating fish, pork, poultry and beef.
Avoid vitamin C supplements – studies have shown that high doses of Vitamin C supplements doubled the risk of forming kidney stones in men, but food rich in this vitamin did not do so.
Medication – some medicines increase the risk of kidney formation. So if you have a family history of kidney stones or feel you belong to the high-risk group, talk to your doctor, who might prescribe you some medicine to reduce the possibility of stone formation in your kidneys based on your other parameters.
Kidney stones are common and there is no sure-shot way to prevent them from happening. However staying hydrated and following the simple tips detailed above can surely help reduce your risk for stone formation.