You may have heard the stories: Kidney stones have been described as some of the worst pain imaginable. The good news is that by making a few healthy choices, you can take steps to avoid them altogether.
What Are Kidney Stones?
There are four main types of kidney stones:
- Calcium stones can be caused by lack of dietary calcium (most common type) or excess of calcium in the urine
- Uric acid stones can form if you eat lots of fish, shellfish and meat (especially organ meats), all of which can cause excess uric acid
- Struvite stones can form after a urinary tract infection (develop suddenly and grow fast)
- Cystine stones result from an inherited condition that causes excess cysteine (an amino acid) that can also develop into stones (very rare)
How Do I Know If I Have Kidney Stones?
Anyone with these symptoms should seek care right away:
- Extreme pain in back or side
- Blood in the urine
- A burning feeling when urinating
- Bad-smelling or cloudy-looking urine
- Fever and chills
It’s also important to understand that if you’ve had kidney stones before, you’re more likely to have them again.
Complications of kidney stones include urinary tract infection and loss of kidney function. See your doctor or call 911 if you’re in severe pain.
How to Avoid Kidney Stones
While there are no guarantees, a healthy lifestyle can go a long way in helping you stave off kidney stones. Here are some suggestions:
Drink Plenty of Water
You should drink plenty of water each day and produce 1.5 to 2.5 liters of urine each day. This keeps your urine less concentrated and reduces your risk for kidney stones.
Get Enough Calcium from Food
Having just the right amount of calcium can be tricky: Having too much or too little in your urine is problematic since either can cause crystals to form.
Check Your Medications
Some prescription or over-the-counter medications can cause kidney stones. Your doctor can help you weigh the health benefits of these medications against the risk of developing stones.
Limit the Animal Protein You Eat
- Fish and shellfish
- Organ meats
- Red meat
Manage or Reduce Your Salt Intake
Too much sodium in your diet, especially if you have high blood pressure, can lead to the development of kidney stones.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Being overweight increases your risk for kidney stones. If you have any questions about managing your diet, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian.
Stay Informed and Talk to Your Doctor
“Though kidney stones are common, you can take steps to avoid them,” said Hak Lee, MD, of AdventHealth Medical Group Urology at Calhoun. “Living a healthy lifestyle can not only help with reducing you risk for kidney stones, but it’s also extremely beneficial for your overall wellbeing.”
Talk to your primary care provider about any risk factors you may have and how you can stay healthy at every age.