Kidney stones, also known as nephrolithiasis, are small, hard mineral deposits that form inside of the kidneys. The stones are comprised of mineral and acid salts.
The 4 Different Types of Kidney Stones
Calcium Stones: A calcium stone consists of calcium oxalate, but can sometimes consist of calcium phosphate or maleate.
Uric Acid Stones: Crystallization and the formation of uric acid stones occur most often when urine pH is too low.
Struvite: When a person has a bacterial infection such as a urinary tract infection, normally acidic urine becomes more alkaline
Cystine Stones: Cystinuria causes the natural substance of “cystine” to leak into your urine. When there is too much cystine in the urine, stones will form.
4 Ways to Prevent Kidney Stones
1. Eat a Healthy Diet
Eating a healthy diet is crucial for all aspects of our health, not just kidney stones. Eating a healthy diet with whole foods will also help you maintain a normal weight, which is important for preventing kidney stones as well. Studies show that people who struggle with obesity are more likely to get kidney stones at some point in their life. Eating a healthy diet involves getting plenty of dark green leafy vegetables, plant-based protein from legumes and nuts, and getting healthy fats from oils and seeds. Cut down on your salt intake as part of your healthy diet as well—salt can increase calcium in your urine, and can make you more susceptible to have kidney stones. To get the full benefits of a healthy diet, reduce your added sugar intake as much as possible, as sugar could make you more likely to get kidney stones.
2. Drink Plenty of Water
Staying hydrated is important at all ages, and whether or not you’ve had kidney stones, staying hydrated can help you prevent them. Drinking water helps to keep your body in balance. This includes everything from hormones to vitamins and minerals, including salt. Drinking enough water (at least eight to ten glasses a day) will help to dilute the minerals and deposits in your kidneys that could cause kidney stones. For added benefits, add lemon, lime, or orange slices to your water. This will not only give your water a subtle tropical taste, but it will also help prevent kidney stones. Citrus fruits high in citrate like these help block stone formation. Just don’t add any sugar with the fruits!
3. Get Enough Calcium
Some people have the misconception that because some kidney stones are formed from calcium oxalate, if they reduce their calcium intake, they will be less likely to get kidney stones. This is not true, and reducing your intake of calcium can actually increase your risk for kidney stones. This is because too little calcium can raise your oxalate levels and therefore raise your risk of kidney stones. Try to get the calcium you need from food as much as possible, as some calcium supplements can increase the likelihood of getting kidney stones. Foods high in calcium include collard greens, spinach, kale, arugula, turnip greens, and broccoli. If you enjoy dairy, you can get calcium from milk, yogurt, and cheese in addition to vegetables.
4. Cut Down on Animal Products
Animal protein can be very taxing on our bodies. Animal products high in protein include meat, eggs, and even seafood. These products can increase the production of uric acid in the body and could lead to kidney stones. Too much protein in your diet also reduces citrate (found in the lemons, limes, and oranges), which helps to inhibit stone formation. There are plenty of plant-based protein options out there, including beans, nuts, and grains such as quinoa. If you do include meat in your diet, keep your portion about the size of the palm of your hand. Minimizing your consumption of animal products will also help cut down your risk of heart disease, which is the number one cause of death in the United States.
Treatment for Kidney Stones
Self Treating Kidney Stones – In many cases, kidney stones are usually passed through the urine after a few days. During this waiting phase, your doctor can administer painkillers to help you with the pain. Other than painkillers, you may need anti-emetic medication. This is a type of medication which fights sickness related symptoms like vomiting and nausea.
Ureterorenoscopy for Kidney Stones – There are cases when the kidney stone may get stuck in the ureter. During such times, the best option available for you is an ureterorenoscopy. Retrograde intrarenal surgery as this procedure is also called involves passing a long thin urethroscope via the urethra and into the bladder
Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy& Kidney Stones – This is another common procedure that works well in scenarios where ureterorenoscopy may not be possible such as in patients who are obese.
Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy This is the most common treatment option for large kidney stones. During this procedure, x-rays or ultrasound is used to pinpoint the location of the stone before a special machine that sends shock waves is used on the area to break the stone into smaller pieces.
Surgery for Kidney Stones – Sometimes, it is best to opt for surgery in order to remove large kidney stones. Other than being used for very large stones, open surgery is recommended for cases where abnormal anatomy is detected.