The Link Between Kidney Stones and Your Diet

Kidney stones send millions of people to the emergency room each year. The lifetime risk of kidney stones is higher in men than women, but there has been an overall increase of cases across the board over the years.

While there are many factors that contribute to kidney stones, they’re usually within your control. Eating the right diet is one of the most reliable ways to prevent kidney stones.

Kidney stones can be painful, but an experienced and caring medical team can help you manage them and prevent future incidents. Drs. Craig Herman, Steven Kester and the staff at Urology Center of Florida have been helping patients like you in Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach, and Greater South Florida for years. 

What causes kidney stones?

Though your urine normally contains some solid waste materials, there’s usually enough liquid to dilute them, so you can pass them easily. However, if your urine contains too high a proportion of crystal-forming materials, like minerals and salts they may clump together and form kidney stones.

Calcium stones are the most common of kidney stones, but there are also struvite, uric acid and cystine stones. This results in the painful, burning sensation that often signals you have a kidney stone. It can also mean darker, cloudy, or foul smelling urine, pain in the lower abdomen and groin, and nausea and vomiting.

Many factors can contribute to getting kidney stones, including dehydration, family history, obesity, medical conditions (urinary tract infection, cystinuria, renal tubular acidosis), overuse of various supplements and medications (vitamin C, laxatives, calcium-based antacids, medications for depression and migraines), and diet. 

What foods are linked to kidney stones?

Certain foods, when eaten in excess, can cause various kinds of kidney stones. Your diet may contribute to kidney stone formation if it dehydrates you, promotes the growth of crystal-forming materials, or both.

Note that not all foods linked to kidney stones are unhealthy, or necessary to avoid altogether. While it’s essential to eat a balanced, nutritious diet, you may need more complex, specific guidance from your doctor to prevent kidney stones while getting the nourishment you need.

Trouble foods for different kidney stones include:

Calcium stones

The most common form of kidney stone is composed of calcium oxalate, and is linked to foods high in oxalates, salt, animal protein, and vitamin C. These include spinach, rhubarb, almonds, cashews, baked potatoes with skin, beets, cocoa powder, okra, pork, eggs, beef, and fish.

In addition to calcium oxalate stones, there are calcium phosphorus stones, which are caused by a diet high in phosphates, found in dairy products, eggs, seafood, and processed foods.

Uric acid stones

This type of stone forms when your urine has too much uric acid. This can be caused by diets high in red meat, poultry, shellfish, sugary drinks, and alcohol. In addition to creating more uric acid, these foods can also deprive your body of citrates, which it needs to prevent kidney stones.

An excess of uric acid may also cause gout, a painful inflammatory joint condition.

Cystine stones

Unlike the other types of kidney stones, cystine stones are an inherited condition, and has less of a connection to your dietary habits. However, if you’re already prone to cystine stones, salty foods, packaged meats, and other processed foods can make matters worse. Dehydration can also help to cause this type of kidney stone if it runs in your family.

How can you treat them?

Minor stones can be treated with pain relievers, medication and some lifestyle changes. Over the counter medications like ibuprofen (Advil®) and naproxen sodium (Aleve®) can relieve pain, while alpha blockers can be prescribed to relax your muscles to help pass the kidney stone. Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water is a very effective way of diluting urine and helping to prevent stones from forming. Reducing foods rich in oxalates, sodium, and animal proteins will also help avoid more kidney stones in the future. Though it’s healthy to get calcium from the food you eat, consult with your doctor when taking calcium supplements, as they can increase your risk of kidney stones.

In the case of larger stones, sound wave treatments that break up larger stones can be used, along with a ureteroscope (a thin lighted tube inserted in the urethra) for removing stones or surgery in severe cases.

Basic steps to avoiding kidney stones include being more careful about dietary habits and staying hydrated. These are things you can do everyday to stay healthy. If you are dealing with symptoms of kidney stones and need help, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with Drs. Herman, Kester and Urology Center of Florida for relief today.

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