An estimated more than half a million people go to emergency rooms for kidney stone problems, and according to the National Kidney Foundation, one in 10 people will have a kidney stone at some point in their life.

A kidney stone is a rock-like object made from chemicals (calcium, oxalate, urate, cystine, xanthine and phosphate) in the urine. When there is too much waste and not enough liquid, crystals begin to form, attracting other elements and joining together to form a solid.

This solid mass continues to grow unless it is passed by the body in the urine. This “stone” can stay in the kidney or move to the urinary track and then into the ureter. When the stone or stones remain, they cause a back-up of urine which causes intense pain.

Prevention of kidney stones may include a combination of lifestyle changes and medications. You could reduce your risk of kidney stones if you adopt the following recommendations into your daily life.

Drink water throughout the day. For people with a history of kidney stones, doctors usually recommend passing about 2.6 quarts (2.5 liters) of urine a day. Your doctor may ask that you measure your urine output to make sure that you’re drinking enough water.

Eat fewer oxalate-rich foods. If you tend to form calcium oxalate stones, your doctor may recommend restricting foods rich in oxalates. These include rhubarb, beets, okra, spinach, Swiss chard, sweet potatoes, nuts, tea, chocolate and soy products.

Choose a diet low in salt and animal protein. Reduce the amount of salt you eat and choose non-animal protein sources, such as legumes. Consider using a salt substitute.

Continue eating calcium-rich foods, but use caution with calcium supplements. Calcium in food doesn’t have an effect on your risk of kidney stones. Continue eating calcium-rich foods unless your doctor advises otherwise. Ask your doctor before taking calcium supplements, as these have been linked to increased risk of kidney stones.

You may reduce the risk by taking supplements with meals. Diets low in calcium can increase kidney stone formation in some people.

Carey Stites is a certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor and a Registered Dietitian with a master’s degree in nutrition. Carey is currently the Registered Dietitian working with Wellstone in Harker Heights. Contact her at carey.stites@smchh.org.

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