Kidney stones occur most often between the ages of 30-45, and men are three times more likely to develop them than women are. Stones are solid or semi-solid mineral substances that form in the urinary tract. The most common type is calcium oxalate stones. (Everyone forms calcium oxalate crystals, but most people simply excrete them without forming stones.) Stone formation is a complex process, and it is not yet clearly understood why some people are prone to kidney stones.
Kidney stones become a problem when they form an obstruction, and block drainage out of the kidney. Anyone who has experienced this knows how very painful it can be, resulting in time off from work or a trip to the emergency room. Kidney stones are treatable. However, patients can gain some control over preventing them with proper medication and changes in their food and drinking habits.
Since calcium oxalate stones are the most prevalent (up to 90%), the following suggestions apply to this type, provided the patient has been properly diagnosed. Understanding each case usually involves an in-depth urine study that gives the doctor information on urine volume, urine calcium, sodium, citrate and uric acid, and other important factors. This data allows the physician to recommend appropriate prevention strategies, and track progress through follow-up studies. The doctor will help the patient improve the factors involved in stone formation, thus minimizing the likelihood of recurrence.
In general, the doctor will want information about the patient’s typical eating and drinking patterns, and how well the patient’s body processes (metabolizes) food and beverage intake. There are two particular dietary trends that may contribute to the concentration of minerals in urine: inadequate fluid intake during the day (dehydration) and too much sodium (salt) in the diet. The second is a widespread problem in today’s world of processed and fast food consumption.
Drink at least two daily liters of fluid, preferably water
to lower the saturation of minerals in urine.
Patients with recurrent stone disease may have to adjust to getting up during sleeping hours, since they may be voiding frequently during the day but increasing urine saturation overnight. What is important is the amount and frequency of urine output. It is best to avoid excess caffeine, sugared beverages, black tea, grapefruit juice and apple juice, as these seem to contribute to stone formation.
Even though the common type of stone is called “calcium oxalate,” this does NOT mean that dietary calcium is a contributor to kindey stones. Rather, adequate intake of dietary calcium is related to lower risk of kidney stones. Studies have shown that getting enough calcium but reducing sodium and animal protein helps prevent stone formation. On the other hand, cutting down on foods high in oxalates may be beneficial. The list includes chocolate, nuts, beans, rhubarb, spinach, beets and black tea.
These are general recommendations, and may not help every person who suffers from kidney stones. Never self-diagnose. Urologists specialize in urinary tract disorders, including kidney stones, and it is important to meet with a urologist who can determine the problem and the best treatment.