Kidney stones are hard mineral deposits that form in your kidneys. They can be large or small, often causing severe pain as they move through your urinary system and out of your body.
Kidney stones are common, affecting about one in 10 adults. Anyone can get them, but your risk of kidney stones varies depending on factors like genetics, preexisting digestive conditions, and your lifestyle.
Unfortunately, if you’ve had kidney stones before, you’re more likely to get them again in the future. About 50% of people with kidney stones get another within seven years — but that doesn’t mean suffering with kidney stones is inevitable.
Eric Seaman, MD and our team specialize in kidney stone care. You can’t completely prevent this painful medical problem, but there’s a lot you can do to lower your risk. Here are our best tips to reduce your risk of kidney stones.
Drink plenty of water
Staying hydrated can help you avoid painful kidney stones. When you drink plenty of water throughout the day, you pass urine more frequently. Water also dilutes your urine, which helps prevent mineral buildup that causes kidney stones.
Most adults should drink eight glasses of water every day. If you’re participating in vigorous activity or you’re sweating a lot, you should drink more water than usual to replace what you lose when you sweat.
Stick to water for the most part, but feel free to enjoy other healthy beverages in moderation. Citrus juices may also help prevent kidney stone formation, because these fruits contain citrate that could help balance urine’s pH level and prevent kidney stones.
Watch your diet
Certain foods and nutrients are linked to kidney stone formation. For example, protein is an essential nutrient, but animal proteins contain acids that could increase your risk of kidney stones. Consider limiting foods like beef, poultry, pork, and fish to help prevent stones.
Sodium, which is in salt, increases the calcium level in your urine. If urinary calcium levels get too high, stones can develop. You can lower your risk of stones by monitoring your sodium intake, reading food labels carefully, and eating a low-sodium diet.
It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s also important to get enough dietary calcium, so dairy products are your friend. Try not to go overboard on your intake sugary foods, as too much may increase your risk of kidney stones.
Oxalate is a natural acid that’s found in many foods, but it also interacts with calcium in your urine to form kidney stones. Foods like chocolate, beets, spinach, peanuts, and soy products have high levels of oxalate and should be enjoyed in moderation if you’re at risk for kidney stones.
Strive for a healthy body weight
Carrying extra weight could put you at increased risk for kidney stones, particularly if you have a larger waist circumference. Taking steps to reach a healthy body weight could lower your risk of kidney stones and offers other health benefits too. If you’re overweight or obese, losing weight lowers your risk of Type 2 diabetes, which is also a risk factor for recurrent kidney stones.
Dr. Seaman can offer personalized tips for losing weight, including healthy eating education. Many weight-loss diets focus on protein, but eating too much protein could cause kidney stones. Instead, balance protein with fruit, vegetables, healthy fats, dairy, and whole grains.
Ask about your medications
Both prescription and over-the-counter medications could affect your risk of kidney stones. Common medications like decongestants, diuretics, and steroids may cause kidney stones, and the likelihood of getting a kidney stone increases the longer you take the medication.
If you think your medication could be causing kidney stones, talk to your health care team. Never stop taking a prescription medication without having your doctor’s approval first.
Dr. Seaman and our team can review your medication history to help you determine if medication is influencing kidney stones. On the other hand, if you consistently get the same type of kidney stone, preventive medication could regulate mineral levels in your urine to help prevent stone formation.
While there’s no way to guarantee you’ll never have another kidney stone, there’s a lot you can do to protect your health. Learn more about preventing stones in a consultation with Dr. Seaman. Contact us online or call our office in Millburn, New Jersey, at 973-259-6695.