By Jacqueline L. Scheier, D.O.
When you eat, your body uses food for energy and tissue repair. After your body uses what it needs from food, waste in the bloodstream is carried to your kidneys and excreted as urine. However, when some substances in urine become highly concentrated, such as calcium, oxalate and phosphorus, they can bond together and kidney stones can form.
Kidney stones can affect any part of your urinary tract and can be quite painful to pass. If a kidney stone is too large or become lodged in the urinary tract, they could potentially cause complications or require surgery.
Here’s what you can do to prevent kidney stones and the discomfort they cause.
1. Drink Plenty of Water
Making sure you drink water throughout the day is one of the best measures you can take to prevent kidney stones. Drinking plenty of water dilutes the substances in your urine that lead to kidney stones. If you have a history of kidney stones, strive to drink enough water and other fluids to pass about 2.5 liters of urine each day – that’s roughly eight 8-ounce cups or 64 ounces daily.
If you exercise frequently or it’s hot and dry outside, or if you take diuretics or water pills, you may need to drink even more water throughout the day to replace the fluids lost while sweating.
If your urine is light and clear, you’re likely drinking enough water. You can also drink some citrus beverages like orange juice throughout the day – the citrate in them helps block stone formation.
2. Get Essential Calcium
Calcium is essential to your bone health, but diets low in calcium can increase the risk of stone formation in some people. That’s because getting too little calcium in your diet can cause your oxalate levels to rise.
Calcium from food doesn’t increase your risk of forming calcium-oxalate stones – in the digestive tract, calcium binds to oxalate from food and prevents it from entering the blood and urinary tract where it can form into stones.
Some studies however, have linked calcium supplements to an increased risk of kidney stones, so check with your doctor before starting a calcium supplement.
3. Limit The Animal Protein You Eat
Eating too much meat and animal protein, such as eggs and seafood, can increase your level of uric acid, which can result in kidney stones. Additionally, a high-protein diet reduces your levels of citrate. If you’re prone to kidney stones, you should limit your daily meat consumption to a portion that’s no bigger than a deck of cards.
4. Reduce Your Sodium Intake
A diet high in sodium can lead to kidney stones because it causes kidneys to excrete more calcium into the urine. High concentrations of calcium in urine combine with oxalate and phosphorus to form stones.
Everyone is advised to limit their total daily sodium intake to 2,300 milligrams. But, if you’re prone to stones and sodium has contributed to them in the past, reduce your intake to 1,500 milligrams – it will be great for your heart and blood pressure too.
5. Avoid Stone-forming Foods
Certain foods are rich in oxalates, including beets, spinach, sweet potatoes, nuts, tea, chocolate, soy products, Swiss chard and rhubarb. And some food and drinks are rich in phosphorus, especially soda. If you’re prone to form stones, you may want to restrict these foods from your diet or only eat them in small amounts.
About the Author
Specializing in family medicine, Dr. Scheier strives to work with patients in obtaining their short-term and long-term health goals. She works to gain their trust through open and honest conversation in assisting them to achieve these goals.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Scheier, please call 484-446-3660.