Summer: when some like it hot. But an abundance of hot weather and hot dogs reminds us hydration and diet play a vital role in good health and, more specifically, preventing the formation of kidney stones. Urologists Dr. David Gentile and Dr. Erdal Erturk offer this information and advice for guarding against kidney stones, especially in warmer weather.
Kidney stones are a pain. Literally. Despite the often excruciating experience of passing a kidney stone, many who have suffered kidney stone symptoms fail to take the necessary dietary steps to prevent them and have a recurrence within five to seven years.
The most effective way to avoid forming stones in the first place is to watch what we eat and drink. Here are a few tips that may help:
- Drink up: Stay hydrated by drinking 12 to 14 8-oz cups of water every day.
- Pass (on) the salt: Too much salt can lead to excess calcium in your blood stream, which may contribute to the formation of kidney stones. Be aware of your salt intake and limit it to 1500 mg per day. (The average hot dog on a bun with mustard and catsup has 900 mg of salt.)
- Squeeze in some citrus: Citrus fruits and juices can increase citrate levels in urine, which helps stop kidney stones from forming.
- Nix the oxalates: Found in some foods, oxalates may contribute to the most common form of kidney stones. Foods to avoid, if you’re prone to oxalate stones, include rhubarb, spinach, beets, Swiss chard, wheat germ, soybean crackers, peanuts, okra, chocolate, black Indian tea, and sweet potatoes.
- Eat less meat: The breakdown of proteins in meat (animal proteins) forms uric acid, which may lead to uric acid stones.
- Be in balance: Eat a healthy diet consisting of lean meats in moderate amounts, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Even though kidney stones are primarily made of calcium, foods rich in calcium – like non-fat milk and yogurt – can actually help prevent stones from forming. Calcium in your digestive tract binds to oxalate from foods and keeps it from entering your blood, and then your urinary tract, where it can form stones. Salt, on the other hand, can cause calcium to become concentrated in urine where it combines with oxalate and phosphorus to form stones. Since calcium plays an important role in removing oxalate, and because it has other benefits such as promoting bone health, it is preferable to reduce salt intake.
Signs and symptoms
Knowing what to watch for may help you respond quickly if you develop a kidney stone. Contact your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms:
- Sudden, extreme pain, usually in the back and side (in the kidney area), or in the lower abdomen
- Blood in the urine
- Frequent urge to urinate
- Burning sensation when urinating
- Cloudy or foul-smelling urine
Stones that cause significant pain and illness can be removed safely and effectively, often using non-invasive technologies that break apart stones with concentrated sound waves or lasers.
To learn more about kidney stones, call the URMC Department of Urology at (585) 275-2838 or visit http://www.urmc.rochester.edu/urology/adult-patients/kidney-stones.cfm.
David Gentile, M.D., cares for patients in clinics in Rochester and Brockport.