Safeguarding your kidney health
KIDNEY stones can be incredibly painful and cause serious problems if not taken care of properly.
These little, hard mineral deposits form in the kidneys and can cause discomfort when passing through the urinary tract. The good news is that there are ways to prevent kidney stones and keep your kidneys healthy.
In this article we’ll explore some practical steps you can take to lower your risk of developing kidney stones.
1. Stay hydrated: The power of drinking water
One of the simplest and most effective ways to prevent kidney stones is to drink plenty of water. Keeping yourself well-hydrated helps dilute your urine, making it less likely for minerals to stick together and form stones in your kidneys. Doctors often suggest drinking around 8-10 glasses of water a day but remember, your specific needs might vary depending on factors like age, activity level, and the climate you live in.
2. Watch your diet
Making some changes to your diet can make a big difference in preventing kidney stones. Here are some key dietary tips:
a. Cut back on sodium
A diet high in sodium can increase the levels of calcium in your urine, which can lead to the formation of stones. So, try to limit your salt intake and steer clear of processed foods that are packed with sodium.
b. Be mindful of oxalate-rich foods
In certain foods is a substance called oxalate that can combine with calcium in your urine to form kidney stones. Foods that are high in oxalates — like spinach, beets, nuts, and chocolate — should be eaten in moderation.
c. Balance your calcium intake
It might seem counter-intuitive but cutting back on calcium won’t necessarily prevent kidney stones — in fact, not getting enough calcium can actually increase your risk. It’s all about getting the right amount, either through your diet or with the help of supplements, as advised by your health-care professional.
d. Enjoy citrus fruits: Citrate, which is found in citrus fruits like lemons and oranges, can be helpful in preventing kidney stone formation by stopping crystals from growing. So, go ahead and add some citrus fruits to your diet.
3. Keep animal protein in check
Eating too much animal protein, like red meat, can raise uric acid and calcium levels in your urine, making it more likely for kidney stones to form. A good idea is to have a balanced diet that includes lean proteins from different sources, like fish, poultry, and plant-based alternatives, for the sake of your kidney health.
4. Maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight or obese can increase your chances of getting kidney stones. By exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet you not only reduce the risk of kidney stones but also improve your overall health and well-being.
5. Be aware of medications
Some medications, such as diuretics and calcium-containing antacids, can contribute to kidney stone formation. It’s essential to have a chat with your health-care professional about potential side effects and consider alternatives if necessary.
Taking care of your kidneys and preventing kidney stones involves making some lifestyle changes and being mindful of what you eat. Drinking plenty of water, watching your diet, moderating your animal protein intake, maintaining a healthy weight, and being aware of medications can go a long way in safeguarding your kidney health. Remember, personalised advice from health-care professionals is crucial, especially if you have a history of kidney stones or other kidney-related issues. By taking preventive measures you can lead a happier and healthier life, free from the discomfort of kidney stones.
Dr Jeremy Thomas is a consultant urologist. He works privately in Montego Bay, Savanna-la-Mar and Kingston, and publicly at Cornwall Regional Hospital. He may be contacted on Facebook and Instagram: @jthomasurology or by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org