Written by ASIAMED CONNECT & APOLLO HOSPITALS
What Causes Kidney Stones?
A kidney stone is the result of a super-saturation of minerals and acid salts in your urine, such as calcium and uric acid, which then crystallize and form solid masses. This can happen if you don’t drink enough fluids, and if your urine is highly acidic or highly alkaline. Certain drugs can also increase the likelihood of your developing kidney stones, such as Lasix (furosemide), Topomax (topiramate) etc.
Most kidney stones contain mineral crystals of various types, with calcium as the key ingredient. However, usually one type of mineral crystal predominates, and determining the type helps you identify the underlying cause. The most common type is calcium oxalate stones, comprising about 75 percent of all cases. Oxalate is found in some fruits and vegetables.
Reducing calcium in your diet altogether does not help if you are diagnosed with kidney stones. This is because, normally, the calcium in your diet binds to the oxalate, and helps you excrete it in other ways than through your urine.
The number one risk factor for kidney stones is not staying hydrated enough, as it prevents your urine from dissolving minerals and acid salts. Other risk factors that elevate your chances of developing kidney stones include high blood pressure and digestive problems. Once you have had one kidney stone, your chance of recurrence is about 70 to 80 percent, and the younger you are when you have your first stone, the greater your risk of recurrence.
Signs and Symptoms of Kidney Stones
Most likely you’ll never know you have a stone until it moves into your ureter (the tube connecting your kidney to your bladder). At that point, common symptoms include:
*Pain in your side and back, below your ribs
*Episodes of pain lasting 20 to 60 minutes, of varying intensity
*Pain “waves” radiating from your side and back, to your lower abdomen and groin
* Bloody, cloudy or foul-smelling urine
* Pain with urination
*Nausea and vomiting
* “Urgency” (persistent urge to urinate)
*Fever and chills (indicates an infection is also present)
To diagnose a kidney stone you can collect the kidney stone and have it analyzed for a definitive answer, or you can do a 24-hour urine test. This is a useful strategy to ascertain any imbalances in your urine that contribute and predispose you to develop stones.
Prevention and maintenance through a healthy diet
There are a number of strategies you can use to treat this condition. If you suffer mainly from calcium oxalate stones, you’ll want to minimize the amount of oxalates in your body. Two foods in particular contribute to creating oxalates namely soy, and beer. Other foods that contain high levels of oxalate that you’ll want to avoid include:
A diet high in sugar can also harm as sugar interferes with calcium and magnesium absorption. Diets high in processed salt are also bad as salt increases the amount of calcium and oxalate in your urine. Processed foods have notoriously high salt content and should therefore be avoided as much as possible.
Naturally, eating fresh, whole foods according to your nutritional type is the best way to ensure you’re eating what your body needs for optimal performance, regardless of what health conditions you seek to avoid or improve.
Prevent and Treat Kidney Stones with Plain Water
Probably the single most effective way to prevent and treat kidney stones is to make sure you’re drinking enough water. One of the ways you’ll know if you’re drinking enough is to look at the color of your urine. Ideally, you’ll want your urine to be a light yellow. If it’s dark yellow or even orange, it may be a clue that you’re not drinking enough.
Remember to increase your water intake whenever you increase your activity, and during summer months when you’re likely to sweat more. Also know that once you’re thirsty it’s usually too late. Thirst is usually a sign of dehydration.
Consuming fizzy drinks does not count as staying hydrated. It is bad for your kidney’s health as it contains minerals in disproportionate amounts.
Intervention and treatment
Kidney stones can range in size from a grain of sand to a golf ball. If you do get a large kidney stone, naturally you will not be able to pass it without some type of intervention.
In the past they had to do surgery to physically remove these larger stones, but now there are some more advanced options such as extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy. This treatment entails being submerged in a tub of water where sound waves traveling through the liquid shatter the stones. They then pass as gravel through your urine in a few days or weeks.
Lastly, exercise is a very important aspect of kidney stone prevention. If you live a sedentary lifestyle, you definitely raise your risk of developing stones, so implementing a regular exercise regimen can be helpful. Seek medical help if you suspect you have kidney stones.