Kidney stones can be caused by many different factors. However, the most common cause of kidney stones, especially in men, is too much calcium in the urine combined with insufficient water intake to flush out the calcium. Other causes include dehydration, obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, gout, certain prescription medications, drinking too much alcohol or coffee, or eating food with too much salt or sugar (which can raise blood pressure). Infections (such as urinary tract infections) and family history might also be important in some people. Overeating fructose correlates with an increased risk of developing a kidney stone.
What is a Kidney Stone?
A kidney stone (renal lithiasis) is a solid material made mostly of calcium or other minerals that can form in your kidneys. The most common symptoms are intense pain in your lower back and side (flank), often accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Kidney stones vary from as small as a grain of sand to more extensive than a golf ball. Most people with small stones never even know they have them—they pass out in urine without any symptoms!
How to Prevent Kidney Stones?
The best way to prevent kidney stones is to stay hydrated. You should be drinking 2 liters (about 8 cups) per day, but some people need more if they often exercise or live in a hot climate. Drinking water can also help you absorb enough calcium and cut down on sugar consumption. Soda, energy drinks, sports drinks, coffee, and tea don't count towards your daily fluid intake because they all contain caffeine and sugar.
Diet and Kidney Stones
You may be curious about how to remove them naturally. The answer is simple: cut back on your sodium intake. Sodium (salt) is known to increase blood volume and therefore is one of the leading contributing factors in stone formation. This doesn't mean salt should be avoided at all costs; it just means that too much salt can cause problems, especially if you're genetically disposed toward developing kidney stones. You can still season foods with salt, but do so sparingly and seek out low-sodium alternatives when possible—turmeric or herbs like parsley, basil, or rosemary will all help flavor your food without adding unnecessary sodium to your diet. Some other dietary ways to fight them include increasing your citric acid intake, limiting foods high in oxalates, not taking high doses of vitamin C, getting enough calcium, increasing your magnesium intake, and eating less animal protein.
Exercise and Kidney Stones
Exercise helps prevent some cases of kidney stones. If you have had a kidney stone before, you might want to take extra care when it comes to your exercise routine. Weight-bearing activities such as walking, jogging, and running can help strengthen bones and muscles and burn excess calories to lower your risk for obesity, another risk factor for forming a stone. A 2009 study published in Urology found that aerobic exercise also reduced blood pressure in people with elevated blood pressure. This might reduce your risk for developing nephrolithiasis — although more research is needed to verify these results.
If you want to prevent or manage your kidney stone risk, follow a healthy lifestyle by maintaining a healthy weight, drinking plenty of water, cutting back on sugar and salt, and getting regular exercise. Talk to your doctor about how certain medications or supplements might affect your risk as well. Stay tuned for more information about wellness and health topics here at Amazing Life Singapore. Thank you all for reading, and see you next time!
In this video by TED-Ed, Arash Shadman covers details about the causes of kidney stones: