Many people talk many things about kidney stones like if you eat a particular diet on a regular basis, you may develop kidney stones; if you don’t drink adequate water you may end up getting kidney stones; if you take diet rich in animal proteins you may develop kidney stones, and so on – let us find out what sort of reality is there in such claims.
What are kidney stones and how are they formed?
Your body has a very special mechanism of converting food into energy and excreting wastes through kidneys. As usual, waste products (chemical compounds) make their way into the blood stream and are carried to the kidneys and excreted as urine. However, sometimes high concentration of calcium, phosphorus, oxalate, uric acid can form crystals that eventually end up as kidney stones. All kidney stones are not same: some stones are calcium stones (calcium oxalate, and calcium phosphate) which are more common. Uric acid stones are formed due to accumulation of high concentrations of uric acid in urine. Sometimes kidney infections may cause the formation of stones – Struvite stones. Stones may also be formed due to genetic cause: cystine stones. There are several reasons and factors including genes, body weight, environmental factors, diet and fluid intake, which may make an individual susceptible to kidney stones formation.
What are the causes of Kidney Stones?
High calcium, oxalate and phosphorus in urine may result in calcium oxalate and calcium phosphate crystals. Some substances found in animal food including purines – a substance found in animal protein particularly in fish, meat and shellfish may increase uric acid in urine and form uric acid crystals. In a genetic disorder that prompts cystine to leak through the kidneys into urine- crystals accumulate and form stones. Though stone formation depends on many factors, in many people, some natural chemicals prevent stone formation in the kidneys.
How does diet Prompt Kidney Stone formation?
Sodium from salt makes the kidneys excrete more calcium, which in turn combines with oxalate and phosphorus in urine to form calcium oxalate and calcium phosphate crystals. Purines present in meat, liver, eggs and fish breakdown into uric acid and form crystals. Animal protein augments the risk of kidney stones by increasing the excretion of calcium and reducing the excretion of citrate into the urine. Citrate prevents kidney stones, but the acid in animal protein reduces the citrate in urine. Calcium in food is actually good as it binds to oxalate and prevent it from entering the blood and urinary tract. Those who are prone to calcium oxalate stones formation must include 800 mg of calcium in their diet to prevent kidney stone formation and to maintain bone strength. Calcium supplements may increase the risk of calcium oxalate stones if they are not taken with food. Though some oxalate is made in the body, certain food may increase it levels in the urine. Oxalate in association with calcium forms oxalate stones.
How to prevent Kidney Stones?
Sometimes special Kidney stone diet helps prevent stones from forming and sometimes medications along with diet are recommended to help prevent kidney stones. However, in general, you can prevent stones from forming by adopting the following dietary adjustments:
Reduce salt (sodium) intake – the best bet is to avoid fast foods – pizzas, burgers, wafers, potato chips, processed meats; snacks, canned vegetables, soups, sauces, ketchups, cracked biscuits, pickles; salted nuts, baking soda, baking powder. If you are a meat eater, then reduce its consumption to about 6 ounces per day. In addition, it is better to check food labels to know the hidden ingredients. If you are susceptible to calcium stones or uric acid stones, then reduce sodium intake, avoid animal proteins (meat, fish, eggs), avoid foods rich in oxalate (nuts, spinach, rhubarb and wheat bran, soybean crackers, Okra, chocolate, Black Indian tea, sweet potatoes). Add spices, herb, garlic and lemon juice in cooking instead of salt to enhance the taste and flavor of your food. Use only half the amount of salt recommended in a recipe. Do not keep salt shaker on the dining table. Don’t add salt to vegetable and fruit salads and dressings.
What are the foods to prevent kidney stones?
Prefer low-fat milk, cheese and yogurt with low sodium. Choose fresh, frozen or canned food items without added salts or of reduced salt variety. Select unsalted nuts or seeds. Buy fresh, (plain) frozen or canned vegetables without added salt. Rinse canned vegetables to eliminate some of the added salt. Some drugs contain high amounts of sodium. Look for it.
Please note that not all dietary recommendations benefit all types of stone formers.
Drinking enough fluid is the most important thing a person can do to prevent kidney stones. However, the amount of water a person drinks largely depends on the weather conditions and personal activity level; for instant, people who do exercise may need more fluids to replace lost fluids in the body. Healthcare providers recommend that a person drink 2 to 3 liters of fluid a day to produce at least 2 liters of urine a day. If the volume of urine produced is too low, the person can be advised to increase fluid intake. People with cystine stones may need to drink even more. Though water is best, other fluids may also help prevent kidney stones, such as citrus drinks. Some studies suggest citrus drinks like lemonade and orange juice protect against kidney stones because they contain citrate, which stops crystals from growing into stones.
If you show the symptoms of kidney stones, your physician recommends certain blood and urine tests to find the type of stone you may form or have, if detected. Blood and urine can also be tested for unusual levels of chemicals such as calcium, oxalate, and sodium to help determine what type of kidney stone you have or may develop. If stones are detected through tests – they are removed using a scope that passes through the urethra into the bladder or ureter, and then sent for lab analysis. You will be recommended to follow a special diet based on the nature of your stones.