Finding a way to prevent kidney stones is a concern for many people. Affecting about 10% of the population (around 19% of men and nine percent of women), kidney stones are extremely painful, and once they hit, you don’t have a lot of options for relief.
What Are Kidney Stones?
Kidney stones are solid deposits of minerals that form in the kidney or elsewhere in the urinary tract and are excreted through the tract. Although the exact cause of the stones is unknown, doctors have identified certain risk factors. For example, they more commonly affect men after age 30 and are strongly associated with dehydration.
Knowing how to prevent kidney stones can help save you a lot of pain and trouble.
Tips to Prevent Kidney Stones Naturally
Thankfully, it is rather easy to prevent kidney stones naturally. By making proactive decisions regarding your lifestyle, you can greatly reduce your chances of experiencing a kidney stone. In fact, you’ll likely notice that the preventative measures mentioned in this section ring true for a number of conditions.
If you’re already living a healthy and balanced lifestyle, there’s a good chance you can prevent kidney stones.
Dehydration is one of the biggest risk factors for kidney stones. When you stay hydrated, there is more fluid being processed in the kidneys and excreted through urine, so there is a reduced chance of minerals clumping together.
The best way to gauge hydration is not by thirst, but by the color of your urine. If you’re well hydrated, urine will be clear or a faint yellow. Dehydration is marked by darker yellow or brown urine.
You can maintain hydration by drinking eight to 12 glasses of water per day, eating fruits and vegetables, and making sure you drink more fluids if you’re active or outdoors in the heat.
Eat Less Salt
Sodium intake also affects your risk of developing kidney stones. Sodium not only becomes a direct component of the kidney stone, but it also plays a role in fluid retention. Fluid retention leads to dehydration, so too much salt can be a double-edged sword.
Limit your salt intake by avoiding processed foods and trying to stay under the 2,300-mg daily recommendation. Foods that majorly contribute to overall salt intake and should therefore be limited include:
- Deli meats/smoked meats/processed meats
- Packaged and prepared meals
- Canned soups
- Potato chips/salty snacks
- Ready-to-eat/quick noodles and side dishes
Keep Weight in Check
Being overweight can also play a role in your susceptibility to kidney stones. Excess weight puts added stress on the kidneys; as a result, finding healthy and sustainable ways to lose weight is one of the best ways to prevent kidney stones. Avoid crash diets and adopt a well-rounded, nutritious diet.
Some studies suggest vitamin C supplementation can cause kidney stones, particularly among men who take high doses of the supplements. If you’re vitamin C deficient, try boosting your levels with foods instead.
Prevention Diet for Kidney Stones
We’ve noted certain sodium-rich foods that may increase the risk of kidney stones. Foods high in compounds such as calcium oxalate, sugar, and acid can contribute to the formation of kidney stones as well. Alcohol and caffeine can also play a part in their development.
On the other hand, there are foods and compounds that can help prevent kidney stones.
Because kidney stones can result from a number of different minerals, a specific diet may be required for treatment. These styles of eating can also be used as a preventative measures.
You can only find out what kind of kidney stone you have through a doctor’s analysis. But if your diet is high in a particular type of food and you’ve got prevention in mind, try adopting a preventative eating style.
If your kidney stone is a result of calcium oxalate buildup, or you eat a lot of the following, avoiding these high-calcium oxalate foods can help:
- Nuts and nut products
- Peanuts (a legume, not a nut)
- Wheat bran
- Grapefruit and cranberry juices
For these types of stones, it’s also recommended to reduce sodium intake and limit the intake of animal protein products like:
- Fish and shellfish
- Milk, cheese, and other dairy
Although these products should be limited, eating protein is still necessary. Replace some of your animal proteins with plant sources like beans and peas.
In addition, you will want to boost your intake of high-calcium foods. Finding alternatives to dairy is recommended, so picking fortified cereals and juices, veggies, and beans is best.
If your kidney stone is a calcium phosphate stone, it’s recommended to reduce sodium, limit animal protein, and get enough calcium.
Kidney stones can also be a result of uric acid buildup, so again, limiting animal protein—particularly shellfish—can help.
Cysteine stones are generally attributed to dehydration and not drinking enough water. Increasing your water intake is the best way to treat or prevent these stones with dietary changes.
Ultimately, making sure you’re eating a well-balanced diet and staying adequately hydrated should be the best methods for preventing kidney stones naturally.
What Causes Kidney Stones
There are a few suspected causes of kidney stones, and the prevention and treatment methods outlined above offer some insight into what they are.
Kidney stones come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and can be caused by various factors. Factors range from family history to medications, but some are also affected by lifestyle. A poor diet, excess weight, and not drinking enough water can all play a role.
Because you can control lifestyle factors, they are the best place to start for preventing kidney stones. Some of the main causes include:
- Not enough water: Water dilutes the minerals in your body so that they are less likely to turn into stones.
- Consuming too much calcium oxalate: These two minerals commonly stick together to form kidney stones. Thus, along with drinking plenty of water, avoiding the foods mentioned above can also help prevent kidney stones.
- Too much salt
- Too much animal protein: This is high in uric acid, which can contribute to kidney stone formation.
- Gut problems: Conditions like the inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs) Crohn’s and colitis can contribute to kidney stone formation. Bowel problems can lead to diarrhea, which draws from your water supply to dilute minerals.
- Obesity: Obese people are far more likely to have kidney stones than their non-obese conterparts.
- Type 2 diabetes: This condition can make urine more acidic, which can contribute to stones.
- Gout: A type of arthritis, gout causes uric acid to build up in the blood and crystallize in the joints and kidneys. These types of stones are typically very large and painful.
- Parathyroidism: When too much hormone is pumped out by the parathyroid glands, the blood levels of calcium rise.
- Renal tubular acidosis: This kidney problem causes too much acid to build up in the body, increasing the risk of kidney stones to form.
- Diuretic medication
- Certain antibiotics
- HIV/AIDS medications
Drink Water and Eat a Healthy Diet to Help Prevent Kidney Stones Naturally
Although there are no guarantees, eating a healthy and well-balanced diet, in addition to drinking plenty of water, can help prevent kidney stones. Limiting your intake of salt, processed food, alcohol, and caffeine can all go a long way toward helping you avoid the pain and discomfort of passing a kidney stone.
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