According to official statistics, nearly 7% of women and 13% of men in the United States will deal with kidney stones at some point in their lives. In case you’ve suffered from this problem then you definitely don’t want to experience it again.
Kidney stones result in very intense pain that in some cases rushes people to hospital. Even though the vast majority of kidney stones go through this area without leaving any permanent damage, in case you don’t implement certain changes in your lifestyle, you can expect their re-occurrence in the next 5 years.
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Kidney Stones Explained
Kidney stones are actually buildups of minerals, usually oxalate and calcium, that get stuck in the urinary tract. Typically, substances found in the urine inhibit the formation of these crystals.
There are people who form stones when the urine has a significant amount of substances that support the formation of crystals, like uric acid and/or calcium, much more than the fluid that can break them down. In case the stone is big enough to lead to blockage, patients experience intense, sharp pain.
This pain can occur in different locations and have different intensity because stones tend to move around this area.
Some other typical signs of kidney stones include:
- Painful urination
- Intense and sharp pain in the back and side, especially below the ribs
- Pain that goes all the way down to the groin and lower abdomen
- Vomiting and nausea
- Constant urge to urinate
- Chills and fever in case of infection
- Urinating more than ordinary
- Red, brown or pink urine
- Cloudy or bad-smelling urine
- Pain that cones gradually and changes its intensity
- Urinating very small amounts of urine frequently
13 Uncommon Kidney Stone Risk Factors
Obviously, there are some reasons that make certain categories of people more prone to experiencing kidney stones compared to the others. The following is a list of 13 uncommon kidney stone risk factors, created by TIME.
1. Calcium deficiency
The vast majority of kidney stones are made mostly of calcium, so it is quite logical to think that taking too much of this mineral can lead to problems. However, nothing can be further from the truth. Individuals who are not taking enough calcium have greater risk of developing kidney stones compared to those who take more calcium.
Scientific studies have shown that calcium connects with the natural chemical known as oxalate in the digestive tract which ultimately leads to prevention of oxalates’ penetration in the bloodstream and urinary tract.
It is good to point out that only calcium that comes from food is good for us.
2. Eating too much leafy greens
Leafy greens are packed with oxalates and this is especially true when it comes to spinach. As already mentioned, these natural chemicals interact with calcium and they are usually flushed out with the help of the urinary tract, but in case their levels are increased they can buildup in the urine and lead to formation of kidney stones.
These vegetable are some of the healthiest foods that we can find, but in case you are suffering from kidney stones it might be a good idea to stay away from leafy greens with high level of oxalates and try some others like kale.
3. Consumption of too much processed salt
Salt, especially natural unprocessed salt, has been labeled as a main cause of many serious diseases. The fact is that increased sodium intake can lead to rise in the level of calcium we flush out through our kidneys, which can lead to the formation of kidney stones. Of course, using a sprinkle of unprocessed, natural salt to your meals from time to time is not a problem, but try to stay away from processed foods that are packed with processed salt.
4. Taking only small amounts of citrus and vegetables
Citrus fruits are packed with citrate, a specific compound that can lower the chances of developing kidney stones. By adding only a squirt of lime or lemon to a glass of water you will lower the chance of dealing with this problem. Experts advise increase of the amount of these fruits and all vegetables too.
A scientific study conducted not while ago has shown that people who usually didn’t consume these foods in large quantities could actually lower the level of chemicals that lead to kidney stones in case they increase their intake for 30 days. Taking more veggies means taking sufficient amount of magnesium which has proven to be very useful.
Magnesium is very important when it comes to body’s ability to absorb calcium and in case you take excessive amounts of calcium without taking suitable amount of magnesium, this extra calcium can turn toxic and lead to various health issues including kidney stones.
5. Drinking too much ice tea
Black tea contains large amount of oxalate which means that drinking too much of this tea can lead to greater chances of developing kidney stones. A couple of months ago, the reputed New England Journal of Medicine published a story about a 55-year-old man who practiced drinking of 16 8-ounce glasses of ice tea on a daily basis. After some time, he had to visit the hospital due to kidney failure and doctors have found out that he has very high amounts of calcium-oxalate crystals in the urine.
6. Soda consumption
Drinking soda on a regular basis has been linked to kidney stones because it contains phosphorus acid which acidifies the urine which supports formation of stones. A scientific study conducted by scientists from South Africa has shown that taking soda creates favorable conditions in the urine for the creation of kidney stones.
The sugar, even fructose found in soda is also causing problems. Practicing a diet that is packed with sugar can create a fertile ground for kidney stones because sugar has negative effects on the mineral connections in the body and interrupts its ability to absorb magnesium and calcium in a proper way.
Eating unhealthy sugars and drinking soda is one of the main reasons why even young children are developing kidney stones, something that was very uncommon in the past. In addition, sugar can actually increase the size of kidneys and lead to pathological changes in them, including the development of kidney stones.
One scientific study has confirmed that patients suffering from kidney stones who have removed soda from their diet have lowered the risk of developing kidney stones again for 15%.
7. Your Parents
In case you have family members who are suffering from kidney stones, you are at greater risk of developing stones.
8. IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease)
In case you are dealing with IBD, especially with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, there is a greater chance of formation of kidney stones. The main reason for that is that these diseases and disorders often lead to diarrhea which makes people dehydrated. Dehydration is a major risk factor for the formation of kidney stones.
9. Recurrent UTIs (Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections)
Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections are often a symptom of kidney stones because kidney stones can block the proper flow of urine which results in UTIs. In case you often have problems with UTIs and you don’t know what the cause is, you must get examined for kidney stones.
10. Taking too much laxatives
Abuse of laxatives causes problems in the body’s efforts to absorb and use nutrients and ultimately results in electrolyte imbalance which increases the chances of developing kidney stones. Overuse of laxatives can also result in dehydration.
11. Using migraine medicines
The medicine designed for cases of migraine known as topiramate leads to increased pH levels in the urinary tract. When the level of pH is higher than normal, the possibility of formation of kidney stones is much higher.
When it comes to dieting, women who have taken more than 2200 calories on a daily basis have increased the chances of developing kidney stones for 42% and obesity increased this risk additionally. It is believed that unbalanced weight can result in changes in the urinary tract that lead to formation of kidney stones. For example, modified urinary pH levels in individuals who are suffering from obesity may create more negative effects from the uric acid.
Finally, we should not forget that although obesity leads to increased chances of kidney stones occurrence, surgeries that modify the digestive tract can increase the chances even more. After this surgery is finished, the levels of oxalate in the body increase.
What is the Prevalent Risk Factor for Kidney Stones?
The prevalent risk factor for kidney stones is insufficient water intake. In case you are not drinking enough water, the urine will contain high concentrations of substances that cause these stones. The American College of Physicians or ACP has recently published guidelines that have confirmed that one of the most convenient and effective method of preventing kidney stones is to consume more water.
The National Kidney Foundation says that urine contains many different dissolved wastes. However, when there is high concentration of wastes in small amounts of urine, we can expect formation of crystals. These crystals draw more elements that join together to form a solid formation that grows in case it’s not flushed out with the help of the urine. In most cases, drinking the recommended amount of water cleanses all the wastes and chemicals and prevents kidney stone formation.
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The aforementioned ACP guidelines advise people who have once experienced the unpleasant phenomenon known as kidney stones to improve fluid intake so they can create a minimum of two liters of urine each day which will lower the chances of recurrence by 50%. The best way to consume fluids is to take them all day long. They highly recommend water and mineral water. A scientific research has shown that patients suffering from kidney stones who have increased hydration following these recommendations had a 10% recurrence rate and those who didn’t had 27% recurrence rate.
In addition, people dealing with hypertension may also have increased chances of developing kidney stones. It is still unclear whether kidney stones are result of high blood pressure or cause.
Furthermore, the NKF (National Kidney Foundation) advises drinking at least 12 glasses of water each day. The best way to check whether you are drinking enough water is to take a close look at the color of the urine – the urine should be pale, light yellow. Every individual has different requirements when it comes to water intake that depends on their body and activity level, but if your urine is light yellow then everything is probably fine.
Keep in mind that you should increase the intake of water when you intensify your activity and when the weather is hot. In case you are using multivitamins or supplements with B vitamin, especially B2, the color of the urine will be extremely bright and you will now know whether you are taking enough water.
Kidney Stones may lead to frequent ER visits
According to some statistics, about one million Americans go to the emergency rooms every year because of the problems caused by kidney stones. A scientific study has confirmed that about 15% of them will probably get back there for the same issue after a while. In case you are dealing with a sharp pain and you don’t know the cause, it is always a good idea to visit the hospital even though the majority of kidney stones don’t need invasive treatment. Very small stones may go through the kidneys with only minor symptoms and drinking more water may support this activity.
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When there are large stones present and they are not able to go through without assistance and cause some severe signs and symptoms, you will need a conventional treatment. In some cases, sound waves can be very helpful and in others doctors use scopes to find the location of kidney stones and then break them in small pieces. There are also cases in which surgery is the most adequate solution, but these cases are very rare.
Of course, the prevention of this problem is the best idea, so make sure that you are taking enough fluids. Practicing a healthy diet that includes high amount of veggies and staying away from soda is also a good idea. In addition, lower the intake of foods rich in fructose like soda and processed foods. The National Kidney Foundation recommends taking care of the level of fructose all the time.
They say that taking high amounts of fructose has been associated with the increased risk of formation of kidney stones. Fructose is usually found in corn syrup and table sugar. In some people, fructose turns into oxalate.
In the end, make sure that you are involved in physical activity. Even low-intensity exercise can lower the risk. A scientific study that included more than 80.000 postmenopausal women has shown that women who exercised regularly had about 30% lower chances of developing kidney stones. Even low-intensity exercise was helpful. So, even walking for about three hours per week, one hour of normal jogging or 4-5 hours of light gardening are beneficial.