Kidney stone disease is a common problem globally and affects 7% of the adult population. The occurrence of kidney stones is gradually increasing and is believed to be related to the diet and lifestyle habits of people. Some individuals with kidney stones require hospital admission for proper care and management at some point when pain and discomfort following stone formation sets in. It is therefore important to be aware of certain habits that may increase the risk of kidney stones, and possible ways to prevent and manage stones formation.
Functions of the Kidneys
The kidney is an important organ connected to the urinary tract system that is needed by the body for survival. This organ is responsible for the filtration of blood and waste, regulates the body’s fluid level, and controls certain minerals like sodium, calcium, and potassium in the blood. The kidney makes urine which travels down the ureters into the bladder where it is stored and then leaves the body through the urethra.
What are Kidney Stones?
A kidney stone is a hard, irregularly-shaped crystalline mineral material that is formed within the kidney particularly when there are high levels of undissolved minerals and salt. The size of the stone may vary, from being as tiny as a grain of sand up to the size of a tennis ball. Some individuals may not be aware that they are developing stones. However, even stones that are as small as a grain of sand may cause serious discomfort and pain when passing out urine.
For some individuals, the presence of blood may be noticed in their urine when peeing which occurs as a result of a big sized stone getting trapped in the ureter (the tube responsible for draining urine from the kidneys down to the bladder) which can cause bleeding and deny the passage of urine.
What are the Habits that Can Increase Your Risk Of Kidney Stone Disease?
Your lifestyle habits may be putting you in a spot for developing a kidney stone. Here are certain habits that are likely to elevate your chances of stone formation:
1. Poor fluid intake
Not drinking enough fluid daily can gradually increase your chance of developing kidney stones. This is mainly one of the causes of kidney stones globally aside from other habits that may predispose to kidney stones. When you take a very little amount of fluid regularly, it would eventually amount to low urine production and a low volume of urine. When urine volume is low, urine is concentrated making it almost impossible to keep salts dissolved which can lead to the formation of stones. One way to prevent low urine production and volume is to stay hydrated always. A survey conducted in 2015 by the national kidney foundation observed that individuals who produced about 2 to 5 liters of urine daily, were 50% less likely to develop stones than those who produce less amount of urine. Consuming enough fluid daily will lead to an increase in urine volume and a decreased risk of kidney stone occurrence.
2. Consuming too much salt
Too much salt can trigger the formation of kidney stones because it increases the calcium level in the urine. Eating foods prepared with too much salt, overly processed foods that are high in sodium like ham, sausages, canned foods, and fast foods is a warning sign that your kidneys are likely to develop stones at some points in the long run. Cutting down on these predisposing factors can be very helpful in preventing the future occurrence of kidney stones.
3. Taking foods high in added sugar
Foods containing added sugar in your diet increase urinary calcium levels causing stones formation to occur. Foods containing added sugar include common culprits like fructose found in table sugar, candies, maple syrup, ice cream, sugar-sweetened beverages, and high fructose corn syrup. A particular study found that those that consume sugar-sweetened beverages have a 33% higher risk of developing kidney stones. Cutting down on added sugar is the right path to thread in keeping kidney stone formation at bay. Also, it is advisable to read nutrition labels of foods while shopping to watch out for the red flags of the added sugar content of an item before purchasing.
4. Excessive intake of Animal Protein
Consuming a diet so rich in animal protein more frequently than normal without putting into consideration the required servings per week has been shown to also cause an increase in acidic levels in the body and urine making it easier for stones to form. It is best to consume less animal protein daily and focus more on consuming a plant-based diet as they also contain an appreciable amount of protein that can be more beneficial.
5. Gaining excess weight
Having a Body Mass Index (BMI) above normal, and increased weight gain and a high waist circumference reading are strongly linked with the formation of kidney stones. Excessive accumulation of fat can cause kidney stone formation because being obese may alter acid levels in the urine, increase the amount of calcium present in the urine and raise oxalate levels compared to individuals within a healthy weight range. Also, Insulin resistance associated with obesity is linked with a reduction in renal ammonia and low urinary pH which can cause the formation of uric acid stones and calcium oxalate stones. Aim to achieve a healthy weight range, consume fruits and vegetables more often as they contain certain nutrients like, potassium, fiber, magnesium, antioxidants, phytate, and citrate which may help keep kidney stones from forming. Also, adopt other healthy lifestyle practices like limiting excessive alcohol consumption, quit smoking, engage in physical activities regularly, and seek dietary advice from a dietitian on eating right.
Your lifestyle habits can either promote or prevent the formation of kidney stones. Stay hydrated always, and focus on adopting a healthy dietary lifestyle!
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