Tips on How to Prevent Kidney Stones

Posted by on Nov 6, 2012 in News | 0 comments

Kidney stones (or nephrolithiasis) are hard, solid crystals found in the urinary tract and may come from various substances such as calcium, cysteine, struvite, or uric acid. These substances come from the foods that we consume. Some of these minerals are essential for our body, however when these substances are present in excess amounts, they can form crystals. Calcium oxalate is the most common type of kidney stones.

Typically, the crystals are small enough to pass through the urinary tract, which includes kidneys, ureters (narrow tubes that connect kidneys and bladder), bladder and urethra, into the urine without any symptoms. However, larger stones tend to get stuck in the ureters and obstruct urine flow. In that case, a person will have a sharp pain at the flank (side) or in the lower abdomen and he or she may experience waves of severe pain. Later, the pain may spread to the groin. You may notice that your urine is pink or red due to blood in the urine when the body tries to push out the stones from the narrow ureter. Sometimes, blood in the urine is only visible under the microscopic examination of the urine.

If you have had kidney stones or have a family history of kidney stones, you may want to modify your diet a little to prevent yourself from getting kidney stones. In this article, we will focus on how to reduce your chance of getting calcium stones. Many research studies have been conducted to see what diets and medications can help prevent recurrent calcium stones. Here are the current recommendations:

  • Drink plenty of fluid to increase urine flow (2 liters or 6-8 glasses of water a day is strongly recommended).
  • Decrease soft drink consumption and avoid grapefruit juice. Coffee and tea are ok to drink since they do not increase your risk of calcium stones.
  • Limit your daily intake of sodium (salt) to 2400 mg by reducing fast foods, canned foods and processed foods from your diet.
  • Reduce the amount of animal protein in your diet. Avoid eating organ meats.
  • Normal to high calcium from dairy products is found to prevent calcium stones. But talk to your doctor before taking calcium supplements because some studies indicated that calcium in the supplements can increase your risk of calcium stones.

You may also want to watch out for foods that are high in oxalate such as spinach, nuts, rhubarb, okra, chocolate, sweet potato, and wheat bran.

You may be given thiazide diuretic by your primary care doctor. Thiazide is also used as high blood pressure medication. Another medication called allopurinol (also used for gout prevention) is found to prevent recurrent calcium stones. In summary, the best way to prevent kidney stones, whether it is calcium stones or other types, is to drink plenty of fluids every day.

Contributed by Patricia Hsiao M.D.
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