Follow three easy steps to prevent the development of kidney stones.
A main job of the kidneys is to clean the body’s blood, filtering toxins and wastes to maintain a balance of water, salt, potassium and other minerals. In the process, the kidneys create urine, allowing the excess minerals and chemicals to leave the body as waste. When wastes are very concentrated relative to the amount of liquid in the urine, crystals can begin to form the building blocks for kidney stones.
Over a lifetime, 13 percent of men and 7 percent of women will experience a kidney stone. The good news is preventing kidney stones largely rests in your hands and diet (before wastes reach the kidneys in the first place). The National Kidney Foundation offers three simple steps to prevent kidney stones.
1. Stay hydrated
The best way to prevent kidney stones is to drink enough water to cause you to urinate frequently. Monitor the color, or “concentration,” of your urine and aim for clear. Dark yellow urine could signal dehydration. When dehydrated, the kidneys try to conserve fluids and don’t produce as much urine. This can cause kidney stones, as stone-causing minerals bind and settle in the kidneys and urinary tract. Hydration is extremely important when exercising or sweating.
The more you sweat, the less you urinate. Limit the use of sports drinks and other sugary beverages, which can contribute to forming stones. In general, when drinks contain chemicals, these chemicals get filtered out of the body by the kidneys. As the chemicals are concentrated in the urine, crystals form.
2. DASH toward a healthy diet
Adopting a healthy diet promotes overall health and prevents kidney stones. Consider the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, which is high in fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts; moderate in low-fat dairy products; and low in animal proteins, refined grains, sweets and salt. I recommend the DASH diet for most people, as it helps promote weight loss and lower blood pressure. In some studies, DASH has been shown to prevent kidney stone formation. Salt also promotes kidney stones, so limit daily intake to less than 2,000mg of sodium.
3. Stick to a treatment plan
After a kidney stone, consult with your primary care physician to create an individual treatment plan that manages fluid intake, diet and sometimes medication. It may seem easier to just take a pill to fix a medical problem, but consider lifestyle changes that will make a bigger impact. With kidney stones, history tends to repeat itself. The five-year recurrence rate for kidney stones is between 35 and 50 percent without treatment.
For more information about preventing kidney stones, and the signs and symptoms, visit the National Kidney Foundation online at kidney.org. To speak with a trained professional call the NKF Cares toll-free patient hotline at 1.855.653.2273 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leslie Spry, M.D., FACP, FNKF is a National Kidney Foundation spokesperson. He practices consultative nephrology and is the medical director of the Dialysis Center of Lincoln in Lincoln, Neb., where he participates in research and innovative projects for the benefit of dialysis patients. Dr. Spry received his medical degree from the University of Nebraska and his nephrology training at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo. Dr. Spry is also a regular contributor to The Huffington Post and an active member of the National Kidney Foundation’s Public Policy Committee.