Staying hydrated, finding the calcium sweet spot, and skipping the added salt may just sound like generalized healthy habits, but more than just healthy habits, these are the top measures in preventing kidney stones. Many people do not know that kidney stones can affect just about anyone, but not everybody knows where these ‘stones’ come from. Stones are hard deposits made of minerals and salts that form inside your kidneys, and can, in turn, impact any part of your urinary tract. Therefore, the pain associated with kidney stones comes from passing them through your system. There are many reasons why deposits form, including improper calcium intake to dehydration. And, although there is usually no permanent damage caused by passing stones, some situations may require surgery.
Peter Jones, MD, urologist at Portneuf Medical Center, treats kidney stones. Dr. Jones recognizes, first-hand, the positive lifestyle behaviors that can be a part of prevention. Having his own personal experiences with kidney stones and in an effort to spare others from the painful experience, Dr. Jones has outlined the top three prevention tips.
Drinking water throughout the day is beneficial for nearly every system in the body and it is key in preventing kidney stones.
“The good news is that the vast majority of kidney stone prevention is proper hydration,” said Dr. Jones. “It’s estimated that 80% of kidney stones form because people at some point got dehydrated. It’s not that they are always dehydrated, it’s that there was a period of time where they did not drink enough that, in turn, caused stones to begin to form.”
Dehydration can cause urine to become too concentrated which results in the formation of stones.
“Once the stone forms, that’s it, you are going to have to deal with it,” Dr. Jones said.
Tip: Dr. Jones dispels the myth that you can only choose water to stay hydrated.
“I tell my patients that I care less what they drink and more that they are drinking. I’ll always take water first, but if it’s going to be a diet pop, do it. Just get fluids in to flush the kidneys. That is the big goal – staying on top of hydration. Drink plenty and drink regularly.”
Find the Calcium Sweet Spot
Calcium is used throughout our bodies; our nervous system, muscles, heart and bones. However, our system only need a certain level of calcium to perform optimally. If this level is deficient or exceeded, it can result in multiple health issues. Calcium levels play a significant role in kidney function as well.
“Get enough, but not too much,” Dr. Jones said. “It is recommended that you get it from food. The body handles calcium from food a lot better than if it is from a supplement.”
In addition, Dr. Jones recommends three servings of dairy a day. Listed below are some options to work into your diet to make sure you are getting the proper amount of calcium:
- Ricotta (park-skim)
- Yogurt (plain; low fat)
- Milk (skim; low fat; whole)
- Mozzarella (park skim)
- Kale (frozen)
- Figs (dried)
- Collard Greens (frozen)
- Fortified orange juice and almond milk
- Tofu (With calcium)
Skip the added salt
Salt is a miracle mineral. It can preserve food, support life and improve the taste of nearly any dish. However, excess sodium intake increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and kidney disease. The Western diet contains a higher percentage of sodium than most other parts of the world, making controlling intake a necessary, conscience habit.
“Too much salt in the diet will lead to too much calcium in urine. People are then more likely to form kidney stones,” said Dr. Jones. “The vast majority of salt intake comes from sources people don’t necessarily think about. Processed food – if it comes in a box, a bag, a can – it probably has too much sodium."
He recommends that people keep food simple.
“There are plenty of people out there making stones. I don’t need anymore,” said Dr. Jones.
These preventive measures will help keep you from seeing an urologist any time soon. However, Dr. Jones understands that just investing in preventative measures is not always enough.
“If people start to make multiple stones, then we can really drill down and find out why they are making stones,” Dr. Jones said. “We are able to take a more personalized approach and help you find out what you need to do specifically.”
Our team of specialists at Portneuf Medical Group Urology is dedicated to providing the most comprehensive and advanced urologic care in Eastern Idaho. Call 208-239-2770 to schedule your appointment today.
Peter Jones, MD completed his urology training at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire and has lived in Pocatello since 2012.