Health

Doctors Share The 9 Things That Prevent Painful Kidney Stones

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There are some medical conditions that are really painful, or embarrassing, or just plain annoying.

Kidney stones fit all three of those categories.

But the worst part about these nasty growths is how common they are.

Research shows that 12% of Americans will develop stones, and once they form in your body they're likely to come back again.

Thankfully, we know a lot about how these stones are made, and how to make them stop.

Here are the 9 most important pieces of advice from doctors to prevent kidney stones:

1. Eat less meat

red meat
Jon Sullivan

Specifically meats that raise the amount of uric acid in your urine.

This acid promotes a common kind of kidney stone, and mainly comes from the meat in our diet.

While chicken and fish contain uric acid, the worst offenders are shellfish, red meat, and organ meat (liver, tripe).

Avoid excessive drinking for the same reason - alcohol is rich in uric acid.

2. Cut salt from your diet

One of the most common kinds of kidney stones is caused by calcium crystals.

A lot of salt in your urine prevents your body from absorbing calcium, which helps the stones to grow.

Mainly, you should be avoiding processed foods, canned soups and meals, and lunch meats.

3. Enjoy more citrus fruit

Jennifer Chalt / Flickr

These colorful fruits are full of citrate, or citric acid.

Unlike other acids, citrate helps break down stones in your kidneys before they form.

Oranges, grapefruits, and lemonade are all good sources of citrate (just choose sugar-free lemonade).

4. Drink more water (really)

We know, we know, you're tired of hearing you should drink more water.

But when it comes to kidney stones, this is really important.

Normally, our urine dissolves kidney stones.

But when we don't drink enough water, the low concentration of urine encourages them to grow.

Don't forget: if you're exercising regularly, you need to drink even more water than you normally would.

5. Avoid phosphates

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Called "stone-forming foods" by doctors, these foods contain chemicals that encourage kidney stones to grow.

They include beets, chocolate, spinach, rhubarb, tea, and soda.

Foods that are full of sugar and high fructose corn syrup also promote kidney stones.

6. Add calcium to your diet

This is the one rule that most patients get wrong about kidney stones.

It's true that calcium crystals form kidney stones, but that's no reason to cut this important nutrient out of your diet.

Calcium-rich foods - like cheese and yogurt - actually helps your body absorb other chemicals that cause stones.

On the other hand, calcium supplments do increase your risk of developing stones. So focus on getting calcium by eating healthy food instead.

7. Avoid Vitamin C supplements

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Just like vitamins for calcium, vitamin C supplements seem to increase your risk of developing kidney stones.

In fact, one study showed that these vitamins double a man's risk of developing stones.

It may be because our body converts the vitamins into oxalate, a chemical that causes kidney stones.

Like calcium, the risk from food rich in vitamin C is not as high.

8. Be careful about foods that contain oxalate

As I mentioned, oxalate is one of the key ingredients that form kidney stones.

This chemical binds together the calcium crystals that cause most cases of stones.

Oxalate is in a lot of food, including spinach, chocolate, coffee, peanuts, and soy products.

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But don't cut oxalate out of your diet entirely.

You can lessen the damage of oxalate-rich ingredients by combining them with calcium-rich ingredients.

This way, the two combine and are absorbed before they reach your kidneys, preventing stones from forming.

9. Listen to your doctor

What kidney stones really thrive on is ignorance and a lack of attention to your body.

Even after passing these painful stones, less than half of patients follow their doctors advice to prevent more stones.

And just 15% of patients take all of their prescribed medication.

You also need to be proactive about treating infections like UTIs, which can cause stones to grow quickly.

kidney stones
Kidney stones. Jakupica - Wikimedia

If you worry you already have a kidney stone, here are the six symptoms you should never ignore:

  1. Back pain
  2. Blood in your urine
  3. Nausea and vomiting
  4. Fever or chills
  5. Frequent urination
  6. Cloudy, smelly urine

Get checked out right away if you're experience any of these symptoms!

[H/T: Harvard Medical School, Kidney.org]

I write about all sorts of things for Shared, especially weird facts, celebrity news, and viral stories. CONTACT: zachary@shared.com