If you have passed a kidney stone, it is an experience that you don’t want to repeat because it probably was the most painful episode of your life. The good news is that usually no damage is done to your body in passing the stone, but the bad news is that once you have produced a kidney stone, the more likely you will have others. It is important to find out what kind of stone you passed, so you can make lifestyle changes to help prevent recurrence. Kidney stones are a common disorder of the urinary tract affecting millions of people a year, and it is a mystery why the numbers have steadily increased in the last 30 years.
What is a Kidney Stone?
Kidney stones develop from crystals which separate from your urine to form a solid mass. Often these crystals or tiny stones pass in your urine without being noticed. In a healthy individual, the urine contains chemicals that stop the formation of these crystals. However, in some people, a chemical imbalance takes place, and stones are formed. When a stone is passed, it should be strained from the urine and analyzed for its compounds to help determine the underlying causes of why it formed.
Four Types of Kidney Stones:
- Calcium stones are the most common, occurring more often in men than in women. They often appear in early adulthood between the ages of 20-30, and recurrence is common. The calcium bonds with other substances such as oxalate, phosphate, or carbonate to form the hard mass. Diseases of the small intestine can contribute to calcium-oxalate stone formation.
- Struvite stones are caused by an infection in the urinary tract, primarily in women. Large stones can form which may block the bladder, ureter, or kidney. These stones can be in a stag-horn formation, because they fill all the space where they form in the kidney.
- Uric acid stones form mostly in men who have gout or receive chemotherapy. Uric acid is a product of protein metabolism in the body, and can result from high-protein diets. Although, certain genetic factors and disorders of blood-producing tissues can also cause these type of stones.
- Cystine stones are formed by people who have cystinuria, a disorder that runs in families where an excessive amount of certain amino acids are excreted in the urine.
♦ Drink more water. This is the most important lifestyle change to make because kidney stone formation is aided by dehydration. Doctors recommend that if you have had a stone, you should drink enough liquids to produce 2.5 quarts of urine in a 24 hour period.
♦ Drink a glass of lemonade every day which increases the levels of citrate in your urine and suppresses kidney stone formation. Use fresh or frozen concentrated lemonade, avoiding powder mixes. Also, avoid cranberry juice because of its high acid content.
♦ Eat less meat, poultry, and fish if you have acidic urine since they raise acid levels. Uric acid and cystine stones form mainly in acidic urine.
♦ Eat foods containing calcium such as dairy products. Recent studies have shown that foods high in calcium may actually help reduce kidney stone formation. This is opposite of what was previously believed. Yet, calcium supplements and antacids are still to be avoided.
♦ Increase potassium intake from dietary sources, such as bananas and lima beans, which lessens calcium stone formation.
♦ Reduce stress in your life. One study found that people who reported having stressful situations had more kidney stones. This may be due to stress hormones released into the body which also contribute to stone formation.
♦ Avoid foods containing oxalate if you form calcium-oxalate stones. Some foods containing the compound are Swiss chard, spinach, peanuts, and chocolate.
Passing a kidney stone is one of the most painful experiences known, and if it has happened to you, you want to take steps to avoid a recurrence. Fortunately, with the analysis of the type of stone passed, many lifestyle changes can lessen your chances of it happening again. Be sure to follow your doctor’s advice for your particular health situation.
written by Joy Seeman
© Hemorrhoid Information Center 2009
Coe, M.D., Frederic . (2007, October). Kidney Stones in Adults. Retrieved September 19, 2009, from National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse: http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov
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Simon, M.D., Harvey. (2009, July 27). Kidney Stones. Retrieved September 19, 2009, from About.com: http://adam.about.com