Kidney stones occur when mineral deposits crystallize in the kidneys. These painful deposits may affect people of any age, race, or gender, but there are factors that may leave a person more susceptible to developing stones. One of the most significant controllable risk factors of kidney stones is a patient’s dietary choices.
There are a number of types of kidney stones, but the most common types are made of calcium or oxalate, both of which are introduced into the body through food. A patient who has a personal or family history of oxalate stones is more likely to form future oxalate stones, so a diet lower in oxalate is often recommended for these patients. Common foods that are high in oxalate include rhubarb, okra, spinach, beets, sweet potatoes, Swiss chard, nuts, chocolate, soy, and tea. Patients with a personal or family history of calcium-based kidney stones, however, are typically not recommended to eat a low-calcium diet. Calcium is introduced into the body through food, but this source of calcium does not seem to cause problems. There is evidence, in fact, to the opposite being true – patients with low-calcium diets may be at a higher risk of developing kidney stones. Taking calcium supplements, on the other hand, may increase a patient’s likelihood of developing kidney stones. Patients with a history of kidney stones should not take calcium supplements without approval from their doctor.
Drinking plenty of water is extremely important to many facets of human health, including the prevention of kidney stones. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day prevents urine from becoming concentrated, minimizing the potential for mineral deposits crystallizing. While every body is different, it is usually recommended that patients who have had kidney stones in the past aim for about three quarts of water a day, which translates to 12 cups. Patients who live in warm climates may need to drink more water on a daily basis to make up for fluids lost through sweat.
If you suspect you have a kidney stone, schedule an appointment with your doctor. He can ensure a proper diagnosis and help you determine the best course of action for your individual needs.