Kidney stones can be agonizing. These are hard masses that form in the kidneys and must then be passed down into the bladder where the body expels them. Their passage through the ureters – narrow tubes linking the kidneys to the bladder – is where they are most painful, as they can be rough and sharp-edged.
Most people never suffer from kidney stones. Some have a small number throughout their lives. And an unfortunate few endure regular bouts of them.
Types of Kidney Stones
Kidney stones can form from a variety of substances found in the kidneys. The most common types are:
Calcium Phosphate Stones
Stones formed from calcium phosphate may be the most widespread type.
Calcium Oxalate Stones
Oxalate stones are closely related to calcium phosphate stones. In fact the distinction between phosphate and oxalate stones is often a matter of a ratio: oxalate stones have a greater abundance of calcium oxalate than calcium phosphate, while phosphate stones are the reverse.
Uric Acid Stones
Uric acid is a waste product normally flushed out of the kidneys. In some cases uric acid will harden into stones. These are less common than the calcium and oxalate varieties.
This type of stone typically occurs only when there is an infection in the urinary tract. They form from ammonia and magnesium, and they clear up when the infection is no longer present.
This type of kidney stone tends to be larger than others and is formed from cystine, a substance in the body used to build muscle and nerves. Cystine stones are due to a rare genetic disorder called cystinuria, which causes cystine to seep into the kidneys.
Kidney Stones And Your Diet
Modifying your diet can be an effective means of reducing the frequency of kidney stones, particularly phosphate and oxalate stones. First, it’s important to identify the type of stones you have. Consult your doctor for an assessment. Once you are armed with this information, you’re ready to proceed with changing your diet.
Calcium Is Not The Enemy
Since calcium is present in the two most common types of stones, it may seem that this is the culprit. But actually, high levels of calcium don’t necessarily lead to more kidney stones. Calcium even reacts with other substances in the gut tract that can contribute to stones. So don’t start cutting back calcium. There are other ways to address kidney stones.
Reduce Your Sodium Intake
For both phosphate and oxalate stones, this is important. The western diet typically contains much more sodium than we need, particularly in processed foods. So check the amount of sodium in the foods you eat.
Reduce Your Intake Of Animal Protein
Again, for both phosphate and oxalate stones, this can help restrict the formation of kidney stones. Consult your doctor or a dietician for ways to reduce animal protein. This includes red meats, fish, chicken, eggs, and dairy products.
For Oxalate Stones, Reduce Your Oxalate Intake
Oxalate is found in nuts, including peanuts. It is also present in wheat bran, spinach, and rhubarb. Tea and coffee contain oxalates; green teas contain much less than black teas.
Drink More Water
Putting more liquid through your kidneys may help dilute the compounds that form kidney stones, letting the body wash them out before stones can form.
Increase Your Fruit and Vegetable Consumption
While eating animal proteins increases acidity in the kidneys, fruits and vegetables reduce it. Acidity typically leads to more stones.
Living With Kidney Stones
If you have recurring kidney stones, there is unfortunately no hard and fast cure. However, you can mitigate them through dietary changes. Of course, always consult your health care professional for advice on the best approach. Your doctor may also recommend other treatments, including shockwave lithotripsy where ultrasound is used to pulverize stones, making them easier to pass, and drugs which help to reduce stone formation.