A Urologist Gives Top Tips On How To Prevent Kidney Stones

Having kidney stones can be a painful experience, as passing these solid deposits that develop within the kidneys is no easy task.

No one is immune to kidney stones, says Dr. Evan Lacefield, urologist at Memorial Hermann in Houston, Texas, in an exclusive interview with Health Digest. "While men remain more likely to develop kidney stones than women, the gender gap has been closing over the past 20 years," he explains. "There are many reasons for this, but the main drivers are that men are more likely to be dehydrated and have higher concentrations of the metabolites that form stones in their urine."

Dr. Lacefield goes on to address whether or not kidney stones are considered harmful to one's health. "Kidney stones rarely cause damage just by their presence," he states. "The real danger is if a stone blocks the kidney for a prolonged period of time. This can lead to kidney damage or infection requiring hospitalization," Dr. Lacefield explains.

Treatment methods for kidney stones

Dr. Lacefield tells Health Digest that different factors will influence how a patient is treated for kidney stones. "This depends on the size of the stone and the preference of the patient," he says. "Stones small enough to pass are usually given a chance to do so with medication than can assist passage and other medications for pain." However, treatment may be more involved for larger kidney stones, he explains. "If the stone doesn't pass or if it is too large to pass, surgery is recommended," Dr. Lacefield states. "The two main types of kidney stone surgery are to use either a laser or shockwaves to break the stone."

When it comes to methods of treatment and prevention, Dr. Lacefield notes that such tips are often the same for all patients. "The recommendations are the same for men and women," he states. "The important thing to know is that if you have had a kidney stone, your urologist can order simple testing that can help determine what the best course of action might be for you."

How to prevent the formation of kidney stones in the first place

Dr. Lacefield explains that hydration is key when it comes to the prevention of kidney stones. "Increasing fluid intake to increase urine volume and dilute urine," he says is his first tip. "A good rule of thumb is to keep urine clear or almost clear."

Along with boosting the amount of liquids we drink, Dr. Lacefield also recommends upping one's citrus acid consumption. He explains that this can be accomplished by ingesting certain specific foods and beverages. "This can be done through increasing the number of fruits and vegetables you get in your diet (and we can all stand to add more fruits and vegetables) or through drinking citrusy beverages like lemonade, lemon-water, lemon-lime sports drinks," he states.

However, in addition to increasing certain dietary elements, Dr. Lacefield says that we should also work to decrease others in order to help protect against the formation of kidney stones. "Limit the amount of animal protein you are consuming," he says. "High-protein diets are well-establish[ed] to increase the risk of developing all types of kidney stones, but especially uric acid stones," Dr. Lacefield states. He adds that excessive sodium intake can also heighten the risk of kidney stones. "Limit the sodium in your diet. Sodium intake increases the risk for calcium-based stones."

Maintaining a balanced diet

"Maintain a normal calcium intake," Dr. Lacefield identifies as his next tip. "Many patients think that because they have calcium-based stones they need to limit calcium in their diet. But limiting calcium can actually increase your risk of developing [these] stones," he says. Rather, he explains that milk, cheese, and calcium-rich vegetables are all safe to enjoy in average amounts on a regular basis.

"Don't over-consume foods and drinks with high oxalate levels. These include, leafy greens, peanuts, red wine, coffee, tea, soda," Dr. Lacefield adds. "While you don't have to completely cut these out, limiting them is a smart way to limit your risk of most types of kidney stones."

Concluding the interview, Dr. Lacefield reiterates the importance of fluids in one's diet, particularly for people who reside in hotter climates. "The main factor in the southern United States is dehydration," he states. "People living in warmer, more humid climates have a greater likelihood of experiencing dehydration." So exactly how much liquid should we aim to drink daily? "While there are no evidence-based recommendations on how much fluid to drink in a day, most people would do well to add another glass or two each day," says Dr. Lacefield. "This is especially important in the warmer months."