Kidney stones are hard deposits of minerals and salts that form inside your kidneys or urinary tract. Stones form when the urine becomes concentrated, causing minerals to crystallize and stick together. These stones may stay in your kidneys or travel out of your body through the urinary tract. When a stone moves through a ureter, it generally causes severe pain and other symptoms (read more about causes and symptoms).
How to prevent kidney stones?
Preventing kidney stones means avoiding the conditions that support their formation. A combination of diet and lifestyle changes, as well as some medicines, may help reduce your risk. Here are a few things a person can do to help prevent kidney stones:
Drink plenty of water
One of the primary risk factors for kidney stones is not drinking enough water. If you don’t drink enough water, your urine output will be low. Also, loss of water through sweating, due to exercise or warmer climate, also leads to less urine production. Low urine production means your urine is more concentrated and less likely to dissolve urine salts that cause stones. Therefore, one of the best measures you can take to avoid kidney stones is to drink plenty of water, leading you to urinate more. An easy way to know if you are drinking enough water is to check the color of your urine. Ideally, urine should appear very light yellow.
It may also help to consume some citrus drinks, like lemonade and orange juice. The citrate in these drinks helps prevent stone formation.
Eat calcium-rich foods
The most common type of kidney stone is the calcium oxalate stone, causing many people to believe they should avoid eating calcium. A diet low in calcium may actually increase your risk of developing kidney stones. Calcium binds with oxalate (from foods) in the stomach and intestines before it moves to the kidneys, making it less likely to form stones. A low-calcium diet can therefore cause oxalate levels to rise and increase the risk of kidney stones. To prevent this, take the right amount of calcium suitable for your age. Moreover, obtain calcium from foods, and not calcium supplements, as some studies have found these to increase your risk of stones.
Limit oxalate-rich foods
Some kidney stones are made of oxalate, a natural compound found in foods, that combines with calcium in the urine to form kidney stones. Limiting oxalate-rich foods is generally only recommended for those at a high risk of kidney stones or those with high oxalate levels. Foods rich in oxalates include:
- Sweet potatoes
- Soy products
- Wheat Bran
Consuming calcium with oxalate-rich foods at the same time, causes oxalate and calcium to bind together in the digestive tract before reaching the kidneys, reducing the risk of kidney stones formation.
Reduce salt intake
A high-salt diet raises your risk of calcium kidney stones. Eating less salt helps keep urine calcium levels low. The lower the urine calcium, the lower the risk of developing kidney stones. To reduce your salt intake, read food labels carefully. Foods high in sodium include most processed foods, and foods containing sodium nitrate, monosodium glutamate, sodium bicarbonate etc.
Limit animal protein
Overeating animal protein, such as red meat, poultry, eggs, and seafood, increases the level of uric acid in the urine. Highly acidic urine increases the risk of kidney stones. Moreover, a high-protein diet also decreases levels of citrate, the chemical in urine that helps stop stones from forming. Intake of fewer animal-based protein and eating more fruits and vegetables will assist reduce urine acidity and reduce the chance for stone formation.
Maintain a healthy body weight
Obesity and weight gain increase the risk of kidney stone formation. Having a higher BMI or waist size is also associated with a higher risk of kidney stones. Researchers think that there may be a relation between fat tissue, insulin resistance, and urine composition. People with larger body sizes may excrete more calcium and uric acid, which increases the risk of stone formation. Try to achieve and maintain a healthy weight, with proper diet and exercise.
Also reduce your sugar intake, and avoid carbonated and sweetened drinks. Medications can also control the amount of minerals and salts in your urine and may help people who suffer from certain kinds of stones. There is no guarantee these prevention methods will work, but they may certainly help reduce your risk.