What you should know to avoid kidney stones

Stones, or urinary tract calculi, don’t usually cause symptoms as long as they stay in the kidney. But if they migrate down into the ureter, the tiny tube that connects the kidneys to the bladder, trouble begins. As the stones try to wiggle their way down the narrow passageway, spasms of pain result; and the bigger the stone the worse.

male and female athletes drinking bottled water

Just because we are in the midst of a viral pandemic, doesn’t make other conditions less important. Especially if you have that condition.

Most people don’t worry much about kidney stones -until you have one. And once you have one, and get over it, you tend to forget about it. At least until the next time, which happens to at least 30% of those affected.

Big rocks on a grassy slope
Stones, but not renal calculi
What are kidney stones?

Stones, or urinary tract calculi, don’t usually cause symptoms as long as they stay in the kidney. But if they migrate down into the ureter, the tiny tube that connects the kidneys to the bladder, trouble begins. As the stones try to wiggle their way down the narrow passageway, spasms of pain result; and the bigger the stone the worse.

kidneys and urinary system graphic
The urinary tract- kidney, ureters and bladder

Fortunately, most stones less than 10 mm, or about 3/8 of an inch, eventually pass into the bladder and out the body through the urethra. Some get stuck and must be removed. Occasionally, large stones can block the kidney, leading to infection. But , once you have had a stone, you want to prevent another.

What causes kidney stones?

We know what substances cause most stones- chemicals that normally pass through the urine but  sometimes build up, harden and form into tiny rock -like structures called calculi. 95% of stones contain calcium, while the other 5% are made of uric acid a few other minerals.

5 tips to keep away kidney stones-watercresswords.com
Steps to stopping kidney stones

These steps can lessen the risk of new stones in people who have already had one. We don’t know if it applies to people who have never had any stones. Check with your doctor to see if any of these are right for you.

Drink enough water to produce 2-2.5 quarts/liters of urine every day.

A high fluid, preferably water, intake can prevent build up of these stone causing chemicals. At least 2 quarts/liters daily is recommended, more if one does heavy physical activity , sports, or lives in a hot climate.

Limit the amount of sodium, salt, in the diet.

Since the majority of stones contain calcium, it might make sense to limit calcium. But the kidneys spend more time filtering sodium; so with less sodium, more calcium can  be flushed away and so it’s not making stones.  Here are 5 tips to reduce salt intake from WebMD.

Limit intake of oxalate rich foods.

Oxalate, combined with calcium, is another chemical found in kidney stones. It comes from eating rhubarb, spinach, tea, nuts and cocoa.

Although watercress and other greens contain oxalate, it’s probably not necessary to avoid them entirely; they also are a good source of calcium which attaches to the oxalate, removing both from the body. Moderate amounts with adequate fluid intake should be safe, unless your doctor tells your otherwise.

Limit intake of certain animal proteins.

High purine foods can cause the less common uric acid stones. To prevent uric acid stones, cut down on high-purine foods such as red meat, organ meats, beer/alcoholic beverages, meat-based gravies, sardines, anchovies and shellfish.

a basket filled with fruits and vegetables
a LIGHTSTOCK.COM image, an affiliate link for stock photos and other media
Eat a whole foods, plant based diet.

  • Follow a healthy diet plan that has mostly vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products.
  • Limit sugar-sweetened foods and drinks, especially those that have high fructose corn syrup.
  • Limit alcohol because it can increase uric acid levels in the blood and avoid short term diets for the same reason.
  • Drink beverages with lime and lemon juice.

This information is current as of the publication date; it is general medical information that helps a doctors and patients make decisions about what is right for them. Medical recommendations and practice changes as we learn new things. If you deal with any of these issues , please discuss with your doctor before taking any action.

Get expert advice about kidney stones at these links.

Eating tips from the National Kidney Foundation

Watch a brief video about kidney stones from MedlinePlus  here.

Print a PDF handout at this link-  Preventing Kidney Stones -from the American Academy of Family Physicians

Doe and Faun White-tailed deer drinking at a farm pond in Stanly Co., NC on Aug. 19, 2000.
Doe and Faun White-tailed deer drinking at a farm pond in Stanly Co., NC on Aug. 19, 2000. copyright Daniel E. Wray

I don’t know if deer get kidney stones, but if so, they are doing the right thing. I like this photo which is also from the LIGHTSTOCK.COM collection.

exploring the HEART of health

Thank you for joining me to explore the HEART of health. I hope you’ve learned something new about kidney stones; I hope you never have one! Please contact me about topics you want to read about.

Thanks for following this blog. If you’re visiting, I would love for you to start following Watercress Words : use the form to get an email notification of new posts. Don’t worry, you won’t get anything else from me. I also want you to find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest , Instagram, and LinkedIn .

                              Dr. Aletha 

Author: Aletha Cress Oglesby, M.D.

I am a family physician who explores the HEART of HEALTH in my work, recreation, and through writing. On my blog, Watercress Words, I inform and inspire us in healthy living. I believe we can turn our health challenges into healthy opportunities. When we do, we can then share the HEART of health with our families, communities, and the world. Come explore and share with me.

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