Going through the trauma of having a kidney stone can be worse than the pain some associate with childbirth. Once someone has a stone, there is a 50% chance of having another stone within seven years.
Kidney stones occur when chemical become concentrated enough to start formation of crystals. As the crystals grow, they can become stones. Large enough stones can become impacted at various points in the urinary tract, which can cause pain as the urinary system becomes blocked.
Most stones occur when calcium combines with one of two substances: oxalate or phosphorous. Stones can also form from uric acid, which forms as the body metabolizes protein.
Steps to avoid kidney stones:
- Drink plenty of water: Drinking extra water dilutes the substances in urine that lead to stones. It may help to include some citrus beverages, like lemonade and orange juice. The citrate in these beverages helps block stone formation. How much? Try to drink 6-8 8 ounce cups. (8 ounces = a cup. A can of soda holds 12 ounces.)
- Calcium is helpful: A mistake is to avoid calcium due to the fact that most stones are made of calcium. Getting little calcium in your diet can cause oxalate levels to rise and cause kidney stones. Supplementing Vitamin D for stones is usually unnecessary. Take 1,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium per day, along with 800 to 1,000 IU of vitamin D to help the body absorb the calcium.
- Reduce salt: Taking high amounts of salt causes increased calcium to leach into your urine. So a low-sodium diet is recommended for stone-formers. Current guidelines suggest limiting total daily sodium intake to 2,300 mg. If sodium has contributed to kidney stones in the past, try to reduce your daily intake to 1,500 mg. This will also be good for your blood pressure and heart.
- Limit animal protein: Eating too much animal protein, such as red meat, poultry, eggs, and seafood, boosts the level of uric acid and could lead to kidney stones. A high-protein diet also reduces levels of citrate, the chemical in urine that helps prevent stones from forming. Limit your daily meat intake to a size no larger than a small hamburger patty.
- Avoid stone-forming foods: Beets, chocolate, spinach, rhubarb, tea, and most nuts are rich in oxalate, and colas are rich in phosphate, both of which create stones.
For more on kidney stones, go to our kidney stone page.