One in ten Americans will have kidney stones at some point in their lives. In many cases, these can be prevented, sparing you from the sharp internal pain that accompanies the passage of stones from the kidneys to the bladder. Gulf Coast Urology specializes in the treatment of kidney stones, and they can help you when stones are too large to pass naturally.
Urine contains water with dissolved waste matter, processed by the kidneys. Under normal conditions, urine passes from the kidneys to the bladder for release when you urinate. Waste matter remains suspended in the urine. When these waste particles become concentrated, they form crystals in your kidneys, the start of problematic kidney stones.
There are six waste chemicals that crystallize to form kidney stones. Calcium oxalate stones are the most common type, though you may also develop stones of calcium phosphate or uric acid.
Less common types of stones can occur too. Struvite kidney stones (made of magnesium ammonium phosphate and calcium carbon-apatite) develop in people who suffer from frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs). Another type of stone starts with an inherited condition that leads to high levels of the amino acid cystine, which crystallizes to create stones.
Not all kidney stones can be prevented, but there are steps you can take to reduce your risk.
The amount of water you drink to offset loss by perspiration and urination changes with activity levels and season. Even the amount of time you spend in air conditioned spaces could affect how much water you need.
The simplest way to tell if you’re consuming enough water is by watching the color of your urine. It’s the color of lemonade when you’re adequately hydrated. When it’s the color of apple juice or darker, you’re approaching dehydration.
Generally, most people need between 8 and 12 cups of fluids daily. Caffeinated beverages and alcoholic drinks have a diuretic effect, making you urinate more often, so you may need more water to offset this effect.
Depending on the type of stone your body forms, you can alter your food consumption to minimize the accumulation of substances that crystallize into kidney stones.
Limit calcium oxalate stones by reducing your intake of oxalate-rich foods. These include peanuts, spinach, beets, Swiss chard, sweet potatoes, and chocolate, along with beverages like beer, black tea, and coffee.
Don’t be misled by the word “calcium” though. You don't need to alter dietary calcium consumption. Reducing calcium in your diet increases your chances of developing calcium oxalate stones. Eating calcium-rich foods, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese, at the same time as oxalate-rich foods binds the oxalate, lowering your risk of calcium oxalate stones.
The same holds true for calcium phosphate stones. Maintain your typical calcium-rich foods while limiting animal protein. Substitute meat with beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds for alternative protein sources.
Purines are the culprits behind uric acid stones. These form naturally in your body and are also found in certain foods. Preventing these stones means limiting high-purine foods such as red meat, organ meats, shellfish, sardines, and anchovies.
Reducing alcohol intakes and foods sweetened with high fructose corn syrup can also spike uric acid levels in your blood.
Acetohydroxamic acid (AHA) stops bacteria from making ammonia, which causes struvite stones to grow. You might also need to take antibiotics after a stone is removed to prevent future UTIs.
To learn more about kidney stones, your risks, and the best prevention methods, book a consultation with the nearest office of Gulf Coast Urology. You can schedule an appointment online or by calling directly. Avoid the pain and disruption of a kidney stone attack by taking action now.