Kidney stones affect millions of Americans — about 11% of men and 6% of women, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). What’s more, the incidence is increasing.
Kidney stones can be excruciatingly painful, and over time, they can cause scarring and other issues. At Adult and Pediatric Urology in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, New York, Alfred Shtainer, MD, FACS, and our team help patients manage kidney stones with treatments aimed at targeting existing stones and preventing new ones from forming. If you suffer from recurrent kidney stones, these seven tips may help.
1. Drink plenty of water
If you’re prone to kidney stones, drinking more water should be at the top of your to-do list. Water dilutes the minerals and other substances that eventually form hard, painful stones. Most people should aim for 2-3 liters of fluids per day (not counting fluids in foods).
2. Lose weight
If you’re overweight or obese, you’re also at an increased risk of developing kidney stones. Carrying extra pounds also increases your risks of diabetes and hypertension, which also raise the risk of stone formation.
Losing weight can help reduce your risk, but be careful of diet plans. Many diets, including ketogenic diets and diets focusing on protein, increase the risk of stones. Before you start any diet, make an appointment with us to make sure it’s the right choice for you.
3. Reduce your sodium intake
Too much sodium in your blood increases your risk of calcium-based stones, the most common type of kidney stones. To minimize your risk of these stones, limit your sodium intake to no more than 2,300 mg per day. For reference, that’s about one teaspoon of table salt.
4. Limit oxalate-rich foods
Oxalate is a compound found in lots of plants and plant foods, including leafy greens, nuts, tea, and chocolate. In your kidneys, oxalate can bind with calcium and form calcium oxalate kidney stones. If you’re prone to these, limiting foods high in oxalates can be a good step toward decreasing your risk in the future.
5. Add more calcium to your diet
Since calcium forms the basis for the most common kind of kidney stones, you might think limiting calcium would be a good move. But actually, the opposite is true — you want to make sure your diet includes plenty of calcium-rich foods.
That’s because calcium doesn’t just bind with oxalates in your urine — it bonds to them in your intestines, too. When calcium binds with oxalates during digestion, less oxalates are absorbed by your blood, and that means less oxalate makes it to your kidneys, reducing the risk of stone formation.
6. Cut back on animal protein
Meat, seafood, and animal products like eggs increase levels of uric acid, which in turn can increase the risk of kidney stones. It also causes levels of urinary citrate, a chemical that helps prevent stones from forming.
7. Know the risks of supplements
Lots of people take vitamins and other supplements without realizing they can be harmful depending on the dose and your risk factors. For instance, too much vitamin C or vitamin D may both increase the risk of kidney stones. If you’re prone to getting them, ask Dr. Shtainer about these and other vitamins before taking supplements.
Limit your risk of kidney stones
Bottom line: Your kidneys are complex organs that play a vital role in your health. Working closely with your urologist is the best way to make sure you’re taking steps to prevent kidney stones and the problems they can cause.
During an office visit, we review your diet and other lifestyle factors, along with your medical history, to understand why you’re prone to kidney stones. Then we recommend steps you can take, based on your risk factors.
If you suffer from painful kidney stones, we can help. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone with Dr. Shtainer and our team at Adult and Pediatric Urology today.