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Tips To Prevent Kidney Stones

September 15, 2012


By Urologist Betsy Perez, MD

For many people passing a kidney stone can mean excruciating pain. For others, passing a stone causes slight discomfort and could pass without notice. How can you prevent kidney stones? A diet high in protein and salt and low in water, citrate and calcium (yes, calcium), will put you at a higher risk for kidney stones. The most important factor in preventing kidney stones is staying hydrated. Your urine should be light yellow or clear by the end of the day. If not, you are not hydrated.

There are several types of kidney stones, but the majority of them (70%) are calcium oxalate stones. The key to preventing calcium oxalate stones is drinking plenty of
non-caffeinated fluids, limiting the amount of oxalate acid you eat and being careful about your calcium intake. I recommend the following lifestyle tips:

  • drink at least 6 glasses of water a day.
  • get your calcium from food sources; steer away from calcium supplements. If you must take calcium supplements use calcium citrate.
  • avoid eating foods that have high levels of oxalate acid. This means avoiding or limiting: soft drinks, coffee, beer, spinach, cocoa, and tea.
  • don’t take large doses of vitamin C in supplement form; this can increase oxalic acid in your urine. Limit vitamin C to less than 2 grams per day.
  • reduce your salt intake. Salt has been linked with increased frequency of kidney stones. Most of the salt in our diet isn’t in the salt shaker on the table; it is in the processed food we eat.
  • eat less meat. Animal protein raises the level of calcium in your urine, increasing your chances of developing kidney stones. This means all animal flesh including chicken and fish.

It is estimated that approximately 20% of us will have a kidney stone in our lifetime, and of those who get a stone, half will have another stone. The risk of kidney stones rises dramatically as men enter their 40s and continues to rise into their 70s. For women, the incidence of kidney stones peaks in their 50s.

Improving you chances of never having a kidney stone includes eating a high fiber diet and including foods rich in magnesium, potassium and citrate. Foods rich in magnesium include: kiwi, bananas, strawberries, peas, summer squash and almonds. Potassium rich foods include: bananas, grapes, carrots, cauliflower and asparagus. Lemons, limes and other citrus fruits are great sources of citrate.

Another key is to stay hydrated because that allows tiny kidney stones to pass easily. It also prevents crystals in the urine from forming stones. You want to drink six to eight glasses of water a day.

Unfortunately, there are no warning signs associated with a kidney stone. A stone that is too large to pass will cause extreme pain to the back and lower abdomen in the area of the affected kidney. The pain is caused by the stone blocking off the passage of urine in the tube leading from the kidney. The kidney swells and this causes pain kind of like being “kidney punched”. Stones can be very painful, but are not usually dangerous. However, if you have a fever above 100 degrees you need to contact your doctor immediately as it might mean a serious kidney infection.

When a stone fails to pass, treatment involves techniques to break up the stone. Laser treatment provides a quick, low-pain way to break up the stone, allowing smaller particles to easily pass through the body. It is typically performed on an outpatient basis.

If you do experience the pains of a kidney stone seek medical attention.

Dr. Betsy Perez is a Board Certified urologist and has been providing urology care at Copley Hospital since 2001. Urology care includes diagnosing and treating all kinds of urologic conditions that affect men and women. Conditions can include erectile dysfunction, incontinence, kidney stones, kidney and bladder cancers and prostate issues. Copley Hospital provides excellent, compassionate care with access to a variety of medical specialists including cardiology, oncology, sleep medicine and urology on its campus in Morrisville. Visit or call 802-888-8888 for more information