3 easy ways to prevent kidney stones

Published On: Oct 14 2013 07:05:37 AM EDT
Updated On: Oct 14 2013 06:45:00 AM EDT
DURHAM, North Carolina -

More than a million people are sent to the hospital each year from kidney stones and once you’ve had one, your chances of getting them again are about 75 percent. However, there are some easy dietary changes you can do to avoid them.

You won’t catch Wajiha Khan without a bottle of water, not after experiencing what she calls the worst pain of her life.

“It’s just one of those things. You just want someone to rip it out of you,” Khan said.

“It” turned out to be three kidney stones the size of a pen tip.

Dr. Michael Lipkin, an Assistant Professor of Urology at Duke University Medical Center, says one in ten people will get a kidney stone, a hard mass formed from crystals that separate from your urine.

His top three tips for preventing these stones, is to first drink up. 

“I don't care what you drink, just drink a lot,” said Lipkin.

That means at least three liters a day, water is best. His second tip is to stock up on lemons.

“Lemon has something called citrate, and citrate is an inhibitor of stone formation,” Lipkin said.

You can put them in your water or make your own lemonade. Limes and oranges also contain citrate and so do some lemon-lime sodas, like sprite or 7-up. However, the best soda to fight stones is diet orange soda.

“Diet orange soda contributed the most citrate to the urine,” Lipkin explained.

Finally, watch out for sodium. It increases calcium in your urine and can lead to stones. Also, it’s not just what you’re salting. The top unknown culprits are bread and cheese.

“In fact, a slice of pizza has about a thousand milligrams of sodium, which is about 50 percent of your USDA daily allotment,” Lipkin said.

So, check your labels and drink up. That’s what Wajiha does.

“I don’t want another one and wouldn’t wish it on anybody,” Wajiha said.

Lipkin also recommends cutting down on nuts if you’re prone to stones. Nuts are rich in oxalate, which can cause stones to form. If you do eat nuts, drink a glass of milk with them. The calcium in the milk will bind the oxalate and help prevent your body from absorbing it.

Additional Information:

Chances are you or someone you know has had a kidney stone at some point in their life.  They are very common, affecting about one in ten people throughout their lifetime.  Kidney stones are small, hard deposits, that form inside the kidneys.  Because urine excretes waste, it is comprised of numerous wastes and chemicals (like calcium, urate, oxalate, cysteine, phosphate, and xanthine).  Whenever the urine is too concentrated, crystals will begin to form.  Then, the crystals can join together and form a larger stone-like solid.  Kidney stones have many different causes and they can affect any part of the urinary tract.  (Source: www.mayoclinic.com)

RISK FACTORS & SYMPTOMS:  Stones form for many reasons.  Risk factors can include:  not drinking enough liquids, family history of kidney stones, high or low intake of certain foods, abnormal urine system, and metabolic problems.  If you do develop a stone, you could have one or more of these symptoms: nausea and vomiting, urge to pass urine often, blood in the urine, trouble passing urine, back pain that moves to the groin, and sharp pain in the back that comes and goes.  (Source: www.mayoclinic.com)

TYPES OF STONES:  There are more than 50 types of kidney stones, but the most common includes:

  • Calcium Oxalate is the most common type of stone.  It’s found in 70 percent of cases.  These stones vary in shape and size. 
  • Uric Acid is found in about ten percent of all cases.  A high amount of uric acid in the urine can lead to these types of stones.  Those who have gout are at an increased risk for this type of stone and they are hard to identify on standard x-rays. 
  • Struvite is found in about nine percent of all stones.  They are made of magnesium and ammonium phosphate.  Infections in the urinary system can cause this type of stone.
  • Calcium Phosphate makes up about nine percent of stones. 
  • Cystine can be found in two percent of all stones, which is a by-product of the amino acid, cysteine.  People who form these stones have a genetic trait that causes a high cysteine level in the urine.  They look like brown sugar. (Source: www.uwhealth.org/healthfacts)

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