What Causes Kidney Stones?

iStock_000080471251_Large-500x333If you ever had kidney stones, chances are you remember the painful experience well. Each year in the U.S., about a million cases are diagnosed at doctors’ offices and about 300,000 cases in emergency rooms.

Kidney stones are solid pieces of material that form in the kidneys when the urine becomes highly concentrated. A small stone my pass on its own, maybe even without you knowing. A larger stone may get stuck along the way. Both can cause blood in the urine and severe pain that is usually felt in the back or lower abdomen. Larger stones may require procedures to break them into smaller, passable sizes, or completely remove them.

Some people are more prone to kidney stones than others. If you have had a stone in the past, you are more likely to develop future stones. Family history also plays a role.  If you are one of these people, it’s important to watch what you eat, and drink plenty of water to avoid build-up of substances that cause stones. Prevention is key in stopping reoccurrences. Of those who had more than one kidney stone in their lives, about 15 percent didn’t take their prescribed prevention medications and 41 percent did not follow the nutritional advice of their doctor.

It’s important to keep in mind that there are different types of kidney stones that will come with different dietary recommendations. After your doctor analyzes the stone, he or she will let you know what changes to make in your diet. For example, people who form calcium oxalate stones – a common type of kidney stone – may be urged to moderate their consumption of foods like nuts, seeds, chocolate and tea or to consume oxalate and calcium-rich foods together. This helps the two substances bind together before they reach the kidneys, making the body less likely to form stones.  But the best way to prevent most types of stones is to drink plenty of water. Aim for 60-64 ounces per day, and more if you are sweating. How do you know if you are getting enough water? Your urine should be pale yellow to clear. Anything darker means you should, drink more water.

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