We’ve all heard of kidney stones and how painful they can be. What you might not know is just how common they are. They affect roughly 4-8% of Australians at some point in their life, and if you have suffered from them once, there is an even greater chance that they will occur again within 5 years (around 50%). They are also more common in men, affecting roughly 1 in 10 Australian males while affecting only about 1 in 35 women.
Kidney stones are hard, solid crystals of various sizes formed from the salts in urine. They can cause excruciating pain and infection, and blockages may result in kidney damage or failure and other complications in the urinary tract.
Some kidney stones are quite small and will pass on their own accord, but larger stones may require surgery if they are too big to pass. If there is a blockage from a stone and an infection, then surgery is also needed. You can read about kidney stones here.
While they are quite common, there are some things you can do to help avoid kidney stones naturally. Many of these are easy to remember and implement into your daily routine. Let’s take a look!
One of the key factors for urinary health is hydration. Drinking plenty of water every day can help stave off several urinary conditions, such as urinary tract infections and kidney stones. In fact, drinking the recommended amount of water each day is the best ways to help avoid kidney stones forming.
If you do not consume enough water, you will not urinate as frequently. And lower urine output means what you do pass will be more concentrated, and therefore less inclined to dissolve the salts in the urine that cause kidney stones.
Drinking plenty of water essentially flushes the urinary system of toxins, so it’s important to drink at least eight glasses a day. If you engage in strenuous activity that causes you to sweat a lot be sure to increase your water intake to replenish what you have lost.
Another way you can help reduce the risk of kidney stones forming is to restrict your sodium intake. The most common type of kidney stone is those formed from calcium combined with oxalate. And a high-sodium diet is often the reason behind them.
Too much salt in the urine can prevent calcium from being absorbed into the bloodstream. Instead, the calcium stays in the urine, which may form into calcium-oxalate stones.
Eating less salt means lower urine calcium and a lower risk of kidney stones, so try to reduce sodium intake where possible: eat less processed foods, canned goods, lunch meats, and condiments and dressings.
On the other hand, a diet high in calcium decreases the risk of kidney stones, contrary to popular belief. A diet low in calcium can cause oxalate levels to rise and cause kidney stones, so be sure to include plenty of calcium-rich foods, such as low-fat yoghurt, kale, broccoli, bok choy, low-fat milk, and almonds.
As you may have guessed, oxalate is one of the main culprits behind kidney stones. Oxalate binds to calcium in the urine, forming kidney stones, so cutting it out of your diet where possible is a great way to reduce the risk of them forming.
Foods rich in oxalates include tea, spinach, beets, chocolate, chips (and french fries), bran, rhubarb, and sweet potatoes.
Oxalate is a by-product of vitamin C metabolism, so limiting its amount in your diet is another way to reduce the risk of calcium-oxalate stones forming. Some studies suggest that this is only the case with vitamin C supplements, so if you are taking these, try keeping your daily intake under 500mg.
Aside from calcium-oxalate kidney stones, another common type is uric acid stones, caused by too much acid in the urine.
Foods that are high in animal protein can increase the risk of uric acid kidney stones, so watching your intake is important. These include red meat, shellfish, poultry, and pork. Opting to consume a plant-based diet is a great way to decrease your urine acidity. Sugar-sweetened food and drinks also contribute to acidic urine, as does alcohol. Limiting these can also help.
Dr Arianayagam is an expert in treating stones in the urinary tract. He is happy to help anyone with kidney stones urgently as he is aware of how much pain stones can cause.
Please call Dr Arianayagam’s office on 1300 307 990, and his staff will be able to assist. A direct admission can be arranged and surgery planned for as quickly as needed. A CT scan is usually quite helpful as well.
If it is out of normal business hours, you can also present to Norwest Hospital Emergency and ask to be treated by Dr Arianayagam. You can also directly call Macquarie University Hospital and ask for him to be contacted as well.
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