5 Tips for Preventing Kidney Stones

Roughly 1 in 10 Americans develop a kidney stone in their lifetime, and for many people it isn’t a one-time occurrence. These hard deposits can cause excruciating pain as they travel through the urinary system and out of the body. What’s important after you have a kidney stone is preventing more in the future. Without preventive steps, half of people who have a kidney stone will develop another. Board-certified urologist and men’s health specialist Dr. Mike Hsieh, who diagnoses and treats conditions that affect the urinary tract and reproductive organs, shares five tips to prevent kidney stones. 

What are kidney stones?

Kidney stones are solid mineral deposits that form inside your kidneys. These hard deposits develop when crystal-forming substances such as calcium, oxalate, or uric acid become concentrated and supersaturated in your urine, clumping together and forming a stone.

Under normal circumstances, substances such as citrate, magnesium, and pyrophosphate prevent crystal-forming substances from becoming too concentrated. Kidney stones develop when there is an imbalance of stone-promoting and stone-inhibiting substances in the urine. 

Kidney stones can be as small as a grain of sand to as large as a golf ball. Because the kidneys are solid organs, even the smallest stones can bring intense pain. If you’ve had a kidney stone, there are steps you can’t take to reduce the chances of having another one. Dr. Hsieh recommends these five tips to keep kidney stones at bay. 

1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

Water plays an extremely important role in keeping your body and organs functioning properly. Kidney stones are more likely to form when waste products accumulate. Staying well hydrated keeps your urine diluted and helps to prevent substances from clumping together to form larger crystals. When you’re properly hydrated, your urine should appear pale yellow. Dark urine is a good indicator that you need to drink more water. 

To keep your urinary tract healthy, drink 12 or more glasses of water a day — and even more if it’s hot outside or you’re exercising. You should also focus on consuming water as opposed to sports drinks, sugary sodas, or caffeinated teas or coffee.

2. Eat a varied, nutrient-dense diet

You have a greater chance of developing kidney stones if you have high levels of crystal-forming substances in your urine. Eating large quantities of animal proteins and oxalate-rich items, such as beets, okra, and rhubarb, can significantly increase the presence of crystal-forming substances. Consuming a varied, balanced diet ensures that you get plenty of the nutrients needed to combat kidney stones 

3. Curb salt intake

If you’re like most Americans, you’re consuming too much sodium. A high-sodium diet increases the amount of calcium in your urine, promoting the formation of kidney stones. It’s best to limit your sodium intake to 2,300 mg per day. The doctor may set a lower target if you have other risk factors such as high blood pressure. Packaged and processed foods tend to contain excess salt. Focus on eating fresh, whole foods to reduce the amount of salt in your diet.

4. Manage your weight 

Carrying excess weight has a negative impact on nearly every body system. People who are overweight or obese are more likely to develop kidney stones. Obesity is thought to alter the acid balance in your kidneys, resulting in higher levels of uric acid, which promotes stone formation. If you’re overweight, make a commitment to work with your doctor to get your weight into a healthy range.

5. Be careful of calcium supplements

The most common type of kidney stone comes from calcium combining with oxalate in your urine. While this may make it seem like you should avoid eating calcium altogether, not eating enough foods high in calcium can actually increase your risk of getting kidney stones. Continue eating a well-balanced diet with calcium-rich foods, but talk with Dr. Hsieh before taking any calcium supplements.

To learn more about steps you can take to prevent kidney stones, request an appointment online or call our La Jolla, California, office at 858-216-2771. You can also send a message to Dr. Hsieh and the team here on our website.

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