Smart-Take: Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are hard deposits made of mineral and acid salts that crystallize and stick together, often formed when the urine becomes too concentrated. The most common types of stones include: calcium (from calcium oxalate, a naturally occurring substance in foods and produced by the body); struvite (usually formed in response to an infection); uric acid (often a result of low fluid intake, high protein diets, gout, or genetic factors); and cysteine (from a hereditary disorder).

When kidney stones begin to hurt due to blockage, pain levels can ramp up rapidly. Typically, the larger the stone, the more prominent the symptoms, which—according to the National Kidney Foundation and Mayo Clinic—may include:

  • Severe pain on either side of your lower back
  • Vague or recurrent pain or stomach ache that doesn't go away
  • Pain in urination
  • Pink, red, or brown urine
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fever and chills
  • Urine that smells bad or looks cloudy
  • Urinating more often than usual, or in small amounts

Kidney stones can cause serious treatment complications—including the need for surgery—and may lead to chronic kidney disease. Unfortunately, once you have had one, the formation of kidney stones is likely to recur.

LOWER YOUR RISK

Here are some dietary and lifestyle changes that can help in the prevention of kidney stones:

  • Discuss your diet with a healthcare provider or dietician to ensure your diet is well-balanced and that you are at a healthy weight. A high BMI (body mass index) has been tied to an increase in incidence of kidney stones.
  • Consider replacing some of the animal protein you ingest with plant-based proteins like legumes. Eat more fruits and vegetables to reduce the acidity of the urine.
  • Drink enough fluid—mostly water—to keep the urine from becoming too concentrated.
  • Eliminate excess salt from your diet; look for “hidden” salt in prepared foods like soups, sauces, and processed meats.