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Simple Lifestyle Changes Can Help Prevent Painful Kidney Stones

This season, choose to give an untraditional toast … to your kidneys, and do it by raising a glass of water. Urologists say the best way for an average person to prevent kidney stones is by staying well hydrated.

Drink More Water

The more water you drink, the more diluted your urine becomes so harmful chemicals and salts such as calcium don’t have time to crystallize and are instead removed from the body via urination.

Kidneys are small, crescent-shaped organs that filter blood and remove waste products from the body via urine. Stones develop when crystals separate from the urine and build up inside the kidney. Left untreated, they can eventually cause blockages and prevent urine from passing.

In general, people should drink enough fluids, the majority of that being water, to produce about two liters of urine per day. One should increase water intake when doing activities that may cause sweating, such as exercising or working in hot areas, to avoid dehydration.

What Causes Kidney Stones?

While doctors agree that certain foods may promote stone development, there is no one food that causes a person to get kidney stones. Proper hydration and a balanced diet are the only universal precautions physicians recommend.

People with a family history of stone disease are at an increased risk to develop kidney stones, and once you develop a stone, you are more likely to get them in the future. Chronic urinary tract infections can also make people more susceptible to developing stones.

Researchers are investigating whether specific dietary and lifestyle factors can increase a person’s risk, but so far the evidence has been inconclusive. Some of the factors are:

  • Obesity
  • Sodium intake
  • High-protein diets
  • Caffeinated and carbonated beverages

Prevention of Kidney Stones

There is no magic solution for preventing kidney stones, so the best advice is:

  • Increasing fluid intake — particularly water
  • Maintaining a balanced diet filled with nutritious grains, fruits and vegetables

People who form stones regularly or have increased risk of stone formation may require 24-hour urine collection and blood tests to identify metabolic abnormalities. The results of this test can help in recommending dietary modifications and medical therapy to decrease the risk of stone formation, but may not always be conclusive.

This article originally appeared in UC Health Line (12/11/08), a service of the Academic Health Center Public Relations Department and was adapted for use on NetWellness with permission, 2007.

For more information:

Go to the Urinary Disorders health topic.