How do you get kidney stones? :know and prevent

picture of a doctor at a kidney disease clinic

Kidney stones are a very common condition. It is a solid substance formed by the chemical substances in the urine. People between the ages of 30-50 have more chance to get kidney stones. Kidney stones increase the risk of developing Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) in the future. Once you get kidney stones, the risk of recurrence within 50-7 years is 50% higher. There fore people who are at risk should take precautions to prevent kidney stones.

Does everyone get kidney stones? 

Yes, anyone can get kidney stones. But some people are at risk of getting it. Men have a higher chance of getting kidney stones than women. Also, non-Hispanic white people have more chances to get these than other ethnicities.

Why do you get kidney stones?

Various impurities dissolve in the urine and are excreted from the body. Therefore, there must be enough water to dissolve the waste. If there is not enough water, then waste may be deposited around the urinary system in the form of granules. After that, these granules combine with other materials to form larger solids. Then they are transported and deposited in the urinary tract. The larger solids are known as kidney stones.

Several factors contribute to this.

1. Urinary stones in a previous case

2. Family history of urinary stones

3. Not drinking enough water

4. Excessive consumption of animal protein

5. Excessive consumption of foods high in sodium/salt and sugar

6. Overweight or obesity

7. Presence of gastrointestinal diseases

8. Certain types of drugs

Can vitamin C cause kidney stones? 

Research has shown that taking a high dose of vitamin C increases the chance of getting kidney diseases in men. That’s why it is said, too much is too bad for anything.  Some people take vitamin C supplements. These supplements have an amount of vitamin C that is 10 times more than the daily requirement.

Up to date research evidence does not support the claims that extra vitamin C is beneficial for preventing colds, supercharge the immune system, detoxify the body, protect the heart, fight cancer, and more.

What foods cause kidney stones? 

Some foods are known as stone-forming foods. They are beets, chocolate, spinach, rhubarb, tea, and most nuts. These foods are rich in oxalate and can contribute to kidney stones. Hence you need to avoid these foods if you are at risk of developing kidney stones.

Does milk cause kidney stones?

There is much research evidence indicating that taking calcium-rich foods such as milk and other dairy products does not increase the chance of getting kidney stones. Instead, eating more calcium-rich foods can help you prevent kidney stones.

This is because calcium can bind with oxalate in the intestine. Therefore it can decrease the number of oxalates that go to our bloodstream and the kidney. So oxalate has less chance to bind with calcium in the urine. This can lead to the prevention of kidney stones.

Coffee and kidney stones

Coffee is the ultimate beverage that we all love. It is rich in caffeine. Caffein can be beneficial in preventing kidney stones. However, there should be more strong research evidence base to prove these claims.  

Types of kidney stones

1. Calcium Oxalate Stones

These are the types of stones that are most commonly seen. Reducing the amount of oxalate in the diet can reduce the risk of these types of stones.

2. Uric acid stones

These stones are common among males. As the acidity of the urine increases, the risk of developing stones of this type increases. To do this, you need to control the amount of animal protein in your diet.

3. Struvite/magnesium ammonium phosphate stones

These stones are common among women. Urinary tract infections can cause this. Slightly larger stones can cause an eruption of the urinary tract. This way you can reduce the risk of developing stones and prevent urinary tract infections.

4. Cystine ( cysteine ) stone

These stones are somewhat rare. It affects both men and women equally. Often caused by a genetic influence.

What are the first signs of kidney stones? 

Although urinary stones occur in the kidneys, they travel along the urinary tract and deposit in the associated areas, causing symptoms. Sometimes small stones can easily pass through the urinary tract, causing asymptomatic symptoms.

1. Acute pain in the back or lower back

2. Bleeding with urine

3. Vomiting and nausea

4. Feeling cold with fever

5. Abnormal odor emanating from the urine

6. Abnormal appearance of urine

7. A small amount of urine

8. Pain or inflammation when urinating

How painful are kidney stones?

Kidney stone pain is one of the most painful things in the world. Some people say that that is equal to the pain of childbirth. People who experienced this say that it is like getting stabbed with a knife.

How kidney stones are identified

1. Blood tests

2. Urine tests

3. Scans (CT scan, X-ray, IVP test)

4. Ultrasound scanning

How can I prevent kidney stones?

Risks can be avoided by making good lifestyle changes. If you have a risk factor similar to the one described above or have been treated once, under the proper guidance of a dietitian or nutritionist, this condition can be prevented from recurring. 

If you have any of the above symptoms, you should seek medical advice and treatment. Then the lifestyle should be maintained so that those conditions do not happen again.

1. Drink enough water.

If the urine is dark yellow, it is evidence that you are not drinking enough water. It is best to keep the color of the urine light yellow or colorless. Need to drink more than 2 liters of water a day. You should drink more water if you exercise or live in a hot environment.

2. Eat more vegetables and fruits.

3. Eat a diet high in salt and sugar.

4. If you are overweight or obese you should reduce the weight to the prescribed value.

Diet plans for weight loss are often high in protein. Often these are rich in animal proteins. (Meat, fish, liver, or organ meat). Therefore these diets increase the acidity of the body and stimulate the formation of urinary stones. If you are at risk for urinary stones, do not overeat animal meat. Therefore, weight loss should be done under the supervision of a qualified nutritionist/dietitian.

5. Avoid taking oxalate-rich foods

Tea, peanuts, spinach, beetroot, sweet potatoes, chocolate, peppers, soy products, and okra are all high in oxalate. Hence it is better to limit the intake of these foods.

5. Eat foods rich in calcium, including dairy products.

But be careful when taking calcium supplements. It should be done on the advice of a qualified person.

In this way, it is possible to lead a healthy life by being aware of the disease and maintaining the right lifestyle.

References:

Paleerath Peerapen, Visith Thongboonkerd, Caffeine in Kidney Stone Disease: Risk or Benefit?, Advances in Nutrition, Volume 9, Issue 4, July 2018, Pages 419–424, https://doi.org/10.1093/advances/nmy016

https://www.dairynutrition.ca/scientific-evidence/roles-on-certain-health-conditions/milk-products-and-kidney-stones

Dilini Tharaka

Dilini Tharaka

BSc. (sp.) in Food Science and Nutrition, Specializing in Applied Nutrition (Founder, Editor, and an Author)
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