If you have the habit of being dehydrated, then you are at risk of developing kidney stones. Kidney stones are hard deposits made of minerals and salts that form inside your kidney and travel through your urine.
These stones may not cause any permanent damage to the kidney but are an indication of low fluid level and excess consumption of some minerals.
Causes of kidney stones
There is really no defined cause of kidney stones but there are factors that increase the risks. Kidney stones are formed when your body lacks adequate fluid in your urine to dilute crystal-forming substances such as calcium, oxalate and uric acid.
Furthermore, the absence or presence of certain substances may create the ideal environment for a kidney stone to be formed.
Types of kidney stones
Based on the substances from which they are formed, Kidney stones appear in four forms.
1. Calcium stones
This is the most common type of kidney stone. Calcium stones are usually in the form of calcium oxalate. Oxalate is a substance produced by the liver or from your diet. When there is not enough fluid in your urine, the oxalic acid from oxalate combines with calcium to form calcium oxalate crystals in the urine.
Calcium stones can also occur in calcium phosphate. This type of stone is more common in metabolic conditions such as renal tubular acidosis.
2. Struvite stones
Struvite stones occur in response to urinary tract infection. Bacteria in the urinary tract produce struvite when they break down urea into ammonia. These stones are quite dangerous because they grow quickly and with little or no symptoms.
3. Uric acid stone
Eating high protein diets or losing too much fluid can result in uric acid stones. When uric acid in the urine is too high and the urine becomes too acidic, uric acid stones are formed. Losing too much fluid may be as a result of chronic diarrhoea or malabsorption.
4. Cystine stones
These stones are commonly found in people with a hereditary disorder called cystinuria that causes the kidney to excrete too much of cysteine (an amino acid). Excessive cystinuria in the urine can result in the formation of cysteine stones.
How to prevent kidney stones
1. Drink enough water throughout the day
Whether you have a history of kidney stones or not, you should consume enough water every day. The kidney is responsible for the removal of waste products from the body in the form of urine. When you do not consume enough water over time, these waste products build up and form hard deposits of mineral and salts.
2. Reduce your salt intake
Excess salt has never been good for the body, so it’s no surprise that high intake can increase the risk of kidney stones. When you consume foods with excess salt, it prevents calcium from being reabsorbed from the urine to the blood. This causes high urine calcium which may lead to kidney stones. Examples of foods with high sodium include;
- Processed foods such as chips
- Foods that contain sodium nitrate
- Canned foods
- Foods that contain sodium bicarbonate
- Foods that contain monosodium glutamate
3. Eat more calcium-rich foods
Calcium oxalate stones are the most common type of kidney stones. This does not mean that you should avoid foods rich in calcium, on the contrary, you should consume more foods rich in calcium. Low calcium intake increases your risk of kidney stones. Foods high in calcium include;
- Low-fat milk
- Low-fat cheese
- Low-fat yoghurt
4. Eat fewer oxalate-rich foods
Some foods contain oxalate (a natural compound) which binds with calcium in the urine to form kidney stones. Also, oxalate and calcium bind together in the digestive tract before reaching the kidneys. So it is harder for stones to form if you eat high-oxalate foods and calcium-rich foods at the same time. Foods that are high in oxalate include:
- Sweet potatoes
- Soy products
- Wheat bran etc.
5. Eat less animal protein
Foods that are high in animal protein are acidic and may increase urine acid. High urine acid may cause uric acid and calcium oxalate kidney stones. You should try to limit foods like:
Consequently, some of the symptoms of kidney stones include pain while urinating, cloudy or smelly urine, nausea and vomiting. Some stones may pass out on their own through the urine while others may need medical treatment like sound waves or surgery. However, if you notice any symptoms of kidney stones, see a physician.
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