Kidney stones are more common in the summer
The kidneys’ job is to filter and clean our blood. They need to be well hydrated to do that!
That’s why summer heat and dehydration are big risk factors for developing kidney stones.
Related post: 10 tips to prevent heat exhaustion
What are other common risk factors?
- Age (more common as we get older)
- Gender (more common in men)
- Genetics (if close family members have had kidney stones, take more care!)
- Diet (diets high in salt or animal proteins)
What causes kidney stones?
Under certain conditions, minerals and other filtered products can clump together in the kidneys and form little stones. These stones can be smooth or jagged, large or small. They might pass easily and unnoticed in the urine, or they might become lodged somewhere in the urinary tract, which is extremely painful.
Kidney stones are expensive, too!
According to the National Kidney Foundation:
Each year, more than half a million people go to emergency rooms for kidney stone problems. It is estimated that one in ten people will have a kidney stone at some time in their lives.
That adds up to a lot of health care dollars.
Steps to prevent kidney stones
We can’t do much about our age or genetics, but we can all follow these tips to prevent kidney stones.
- Drink more fluids to avoid becoming dehydrated. Lemon water (1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice in 1 cup water) is best for preventing kidney stones because lemon juice is full of citric acid, or citrate. Citrate helps prevent kidney stones from forming. Bottled lemon juice instead of fresh works, too, but artificial lemon drinks and lemonade with a high sugar content aren’t helpful.
- Get enough calcium in your diet; aim for around 1,000 mg/day. Eat a variety of calcium-rich foods, such as dairy products, fortified orange juice, seeds, nuts, canned sardines, dried figs, tofu, dark green and dark yellow vegetables. Avoid calcium supplements, if you can, because these can actually cause kidney stones.
- Aim for a low-salt diet. Current guidelines suggest keeping your salt intake to about 2,300 mg/day, or about 1 teaspoon. There’s also good evidence that a low-salt diet is best for overall health.
- Eat animal proteins in moderation. Protein from animal sources, such as meat and eggs, creates uric acid, a major component of some kidney stones. Plant proteins are okay.
- Eat kidney-stone-forming foods in moderation. Oxalate combined with calcium forms the most common kidney stones. Oxalate-rich foods include chocolate, beets, rhubarb, peanuts, and spinach. Cooking helps lower the amount of oxalate in spinach.
If you’ve already had a kidney stone, you will have to be much more mindful of drinking enough fluids and watching what you eat.
The rest of us can make a few simple modifications to our diets—changes that are healthy, anyway—and hope for the best!
Image by RJHall (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons