Have you ever wondered why some people (maybe even you?) seem to get kidney stones all of the time, whereas other people you know have never experienced the level of pain typically associated with this condition? While not an absolute, there are a few factors that can increase your risk of developing kidney stones, some of which you may seem quite difficult to believe.
Drinking the “recommended” 8 glasses a day
Kidney stones can be caused by low urine output. Thus, if you don’t make it a regular habit to replace the fluids your body loses during the course of the day, then you’re also increasing the likelihood that stones will develop.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine reports that most people get 80 percent of their water intake from drinking and the remaining 20 percent from food. Further, men should try to consume 125 ounces of water a day (15-16 glasses) and women should aim for 91 ounces (11-12 glasses), much more than the typical 8 glasses most of us think we need.
To increase your water intake to these new and higher levels, always have a glass or bottle by your side. Also, make it a point to consume a couple of glasses when you first wake up, at your meals, and sporadically throughout the day. You may find that you spend more time in the bathroom at the beginning of this change in your habits, but your body will adjust.
Your diet (hint: it’s not your calcium intake)
While most people think that calcium is the main culprit behind kidney stone development, research suggests the opposite in that “restricting dietary calcium…may increase kidney stone risk.” The reason is because high calcium levels in your urine don’t necessarily come from eating too many calcium-rich foods. Instead, they come from the way your body handles this mineral.
The dietary substance that can actually have one of the biggest impacts on kidney stone development is salt. If you take in too much salt, your body has a more difficult time absorbing the calcium from your urine into your blood. The end result is a stone. Thus, lowering your salt intake can lower your risk of kidney stones.
With 80 percent of all stones being a mixture of calcium and oxalate, it’s also important to be mindful of how many oxalate-rich foods you normally eat. Some of the highest oxalate foods include spinach, bran flakes, and rhubarb. Also on the list are beets, beans, nuts and nut butters, berries, coffee, and soda. Eating less of these may help.
Surprisingly, cranberries are also high in oxalate, yet research has found that these little red berries decrease oxalate excretion while increasing the amount of citrate your body releases, creating a therapeutic effect.
Your bathroom habits
If you’re prone to chronic bouts of diarrhea, which is often the case in bowel-related conditions like Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, then you may have more stones than someone who has more consistent bathroom stools due to losing more bodily fluids. In fact, U.S. News & World Report indicates that stones are the “most common kidney problem” associated with Crohn’s, and that calcium oxalate stones and uric acid stones being the biggest offenders.
Keeping these types of conditions under control can help reduce your bouts with diarrhea, thus reducing your chances of stones. Likewise, try to avoid any type of food substance that typically sends you to the bathroom while also replacing your fluids as much as you can when you’re sick and prone to more bowel issues.
Carrying too much excess weight
More often than not, we’re warned that carrying extra weight can put us at greater risk of heart attacks and strokes, or developing heart disease and diabetes. However, obesity can also increase the risk that kidney stones will form.
Some researchers indicate that the connection between being overweight and kidney stones lies in the makeup of the person’s urine. For instance, one study published in Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation involved 2,132 patients, 833 of whom were at their ideal weight, 863 who were overweight, and 436 who were obese. Researchers found that the obese participants had a “significantly higher incidence of uric acid stones,” which they concluded was likely due to having higher amounts of uric acid and sodium and a lower pH in their blood.
This makes losing your extra weight important to also lowering your risk. Eat right, exercise, and make being healthier a priority, and your kidneys will likely reward you with no more stones. (However, it’s been revealed that having gastric bypass surgery to lose weight can actually contribute to stones, so keep this in mind if you intend to take this route.)
Your other necessary medications
In some cases, the taking of certain medications can raise your risk of developing stones. Therefore, if this is a concern for you, talk to your doctor before filling your scripts to see if the development of stones is a possible unintended consequence of what you have been prescribed.
If it is, ask about alternative medications that can provide the same type of relief without this negative side effect. And if no other alternatives are available, at a minimum, ask your doctor for recommendations for reducing your risk while taking the medications.
A parent or sibling who has stones
Research has also found that “family history of kidney stones substantially increases the risk of stone formation.” However, before you just give up and surrender yourself to a life of kidney stones simply because one of your parents or siblings gets them, remember that this risk factor is not an absolute. In other words, not every person with a family history of stones gets them too.
All this means is that you need to take extra care to help reduce the likelihood that the family’s stone tradition will continue with you. Tend to the other risk factors and live a lifestyle that promotes healthy kidney function and this condition may just skip right past you.