Every year, more than 500,000 people rush to the emergency room for kidney stone pain or related problems. Kidney stones are more prevalent in men and those with a family history, but even if those risk factors don’t apply to you, you still have a 10% chance of developing a kidney stone during your lifetime.
Here, our board-certified urologists at Arizona Urology in Phoenix, Goodyear, Glendale, and Gilbert, Arizona, share their top five lifestyle tips that you can implement to help prevent kidney stones. But first, we explain what kidney stones are and how to determine if you have one.
What are kidney stones?
If you have an excess of certain minerals or chemicals in your urine, you can develop a hard mass called a kidney stone. Stones vary in size and shape and can float into your urinary tract and cause tremendous pain. Depending on the stone-forming mineral and chemical composition in your urine, you may have one of these four main types:
- Uric acid: often linked to a high intake of shellfish and red meat
- Calcium oxalate: unused calcium from your bones can build up in your urine
- Struvite: usually develop in conjunction with a urinary tract infection
- Cystine: when you have too much cystine in your urine; these types of stones are rare
Whether your kidney stone is as small as a single grain or sand, the size of a pencil eraser, or as large as a walnut or golf ball, it generally produces some telltale symptoms.
Symptoms of kidney stones
Kidney stone symptoms are usually sudden and severe and include:
- Pain in your side
- Cloudy urine
- Blood in your urine
- Foul odor in your urine
- Pain in your lower back
- Pain in your stomach
- Difficulty urinating
- Persistent urge to urinate
Other common symptoms include nausea and vomiting.
Top five tips for kidney stone prevention
While you can’t always control the formation of kidney stones, there are some well-known ways you can reduce your risk.
1. Eat less animal protein
High-protein diets can increase your uric acid levels and with it your chances of developing a kidney stone. Aim for a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables to offset too much animal protein like beef, pork, poultry, eggs, and shellfish.
2. Reduce your intake of oxalate-rich foods
Oxalate is a common compound found in many plants, but it’s also a component of the most common kidney stones. If you’re sensitive to oxalates and eat a high-oxalate diet, you may be setting yourself up for future problems with kidney stones. To reduce your risk, limit your consumption of foods high in oxalates, such as beets, beet greens, spinach, peanuts, and sweet potatoes.
3. Stay hydrated
Stones form when minerals, chemicals, and salts join together and crystalize. By drinking plenty of water, you dilute those substances and minimize the risk that they will clump together and form a stone. Our doctors recommend that you drink at least eight glasses of pure water every day.
4. Choose low-sodium foods
Calcium kidney stones are linked to a high-salt diet because the salt makes it difficult to clear the calcium from your urine. To lower your urine calcium, don’t consume these foods:
- Canned soups
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- Processed foods
We advise our patients to experiment with salt-free seasonings and herbs for flavor and to keep their salt intake between 1,500 mg and 2,300 mg per day.
5. Keep your weight in check
If you’re overweight or obese, it puts excess pressure on your kidneys and can contribute to stone formation. Talk to our team if you need resources and support to help you lose weight.
Our specialists work closely with you to treat kidney stones, alleviate related pain, and help you prevent stones from forming in the future. To learn more about treatment options, call the Arizona Urology location nearest to you.