Kidney stones are painful and all too common. About 1 in 10 people develop kidney stones during their lifetime, says the National Kidney Foundation. Men between the ages of 30–50 have the highest risk. And once you've had a kidney stone, your chances of having another go up.
Kidney stones form when substances in the urine become highly concentrated. Calcium oxalate and calcium phosphate stones are most common. Other types include uric acid, struvite and cystine stones.
The best way to prevent kidney stones is to drink at least 12 cups of fluid a day, preferably water, says the National Kidney Foundation. These five measures may also help.
- Cut out soft drinks. Both phosphoric acid and sugar in sodas have been linked to kidney stone development.
- Get enough calcium. Too little causes oxalate levels in urine to rise, which can lead to stones. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases recommends adults get 800 mg of calcium a day from food. Taking calcium supplements is not recommended as it may increase kidney stone formation.
- Modify oxalate consumption. Some people benefit from cutting back on foods containing oxalates. However, the National Kidney Foundation says this is not wise for everyone since oxalates are in so many nutritious foods. Instead, try eating oxalate–rich foods along with those containing calcium. The two substances bind together in the stomach, which may prevent stones from forming in the kidneys. Foods high in oxalates include spinach, beets, nuts and nut butters, legumes, sweet potatoes, chocolate and wheat bran.
- Eat less animal protein. Red meat, organ meat and shellfish contain a lot of purines, which make urine more acidic and hospitable to the formation of uric stones. Cut consumption to 6 oz. or less per day.
- Reduce sodium intake. Eating too much sodium can boost the amount of calcium your body secretes in your urine, thus increasing your risk of kidney stones. Experts suggest no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium daily if you're prone to kidney stones.
Even if you've experienced kidney stones many times before, it's important to never ignore your symptoms. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease lists common symptoms of kidney stones to be on the lookout for:
- sharp pains in your back, side, lower abdomen, or groin
- pink, red, or brown blood in your urine, also called hematuria
- a constant need to urinate
- pain while urinating
- inability to urinate or can only urinate a small amount
- cloudy or bad–smelling urine
If you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately. These symptoms may indicate a kidney stone, or they could mean you have a more serious condition.