Diet and Kidney Stones – What You Need to Know
One in 10 people will deal with kidney stones at some point in their lives. For some people, these stones are genetic and quite difficult to prevent. For others, kidney stones come as a result of poor eating habits. The good news is that once you learn more about the connection between diet and kidney stones, you can make better choices that can decrease your risk in the future.
Staying Hydrated is Key
The number one link between diet and kidney stones is improper hydration. Your body needs fluids to process minerals like calcium that can inevitably become kidney stones, so if you are not getting enough, you are increasing your risk. If you do not drink much water, slowly increase your intake a little each day until you are consuming between eight and 10 eight-ounce glasses a day. If your urine is clear or very pale yellow, you are well hydrated. If your urine is darker than this, you should drink more water.
Salt and Calcium Kidney Stones
Calcium kidney stones are fairly common, especially in men. Fortunately, there’s a way for you to break the link between diet and kidney stones that form from calcium. The best way to do this is to consume less salt. Add less salt to foods you cook at home, look for low sodium products when shopping, and try your best to avoid buying and consuming processed foods. If you eat out often, be conscious of the amount of salt used in certain foods. Most restaurants – even fast food restaurants – will provide you with sodium content if you request it.
Another important tip involves trying to take your daily calcium from your food rather than from supplements. There’s evidence to suggest that your body cannot absorb calcium supplements as readily as calcium found naturally within food. Good options include milk, cheese, and yogurt. Spending a little more time outdoors each day to get your daily dose of Vitamin D is also important; this enhances your body’s ability to process the calcium you consume and helps to break the link between your diet and kidney stones.
Oxalate in your Diet and Kidney Stones
For years now, doctors have recommended controlling oxalate intake to reduce the risk of kidney stones. Oxalate itself is found naturally in many foods, and in some people, especially those who do not stay well-hydrates, the oxalate can form crystals that lodge in the kidneys and become stones. Typically, urine contains chemicals that break down oxalate and allow it to pass through the urinary system without issue. However, when people are not well-hydrated, or when their bodies simply contain less of those chemicals, the oxalate crystals can continue to grow larger and stones can form.
An oxalate-controlled diet may benefit you if you have had oxalate kidney stones in the past. Some of the foods containing the highest concentration of oxalate are nuts, rhubarb, spinach, bran, potato chips, French fries, and others. Your doctor should be able to provide you with a list of foods to avoid or limit as much as possible in your diet to prevent the formation of kidney stones.
The goal is not to simply avoid oxalate altogether since this is virtually impossible. The goal when it comes to managing your diet and kidney stones is to stay hydrated, take your calcium from food sources instead of supplements, and consume fewer oxalate-rich foods.