Kidney stones are in direct relationship with the health of our urine. Our urine contains an array of dissolved minerals and salt, and when these factors are too high, stones develop. From what we feel when we have kidney stones, we know that stones can be small or large, grow from small to large in size, and even stay in the kidneys! Though our problems occur when these stones are painfully flushed out from our bladders via urine, they can also become lodged in the ureter, creating a block in urine flow from that particular kidney with painful consequences.
The whole function of our kidneys involves cleaning waste from our blood and removing it with the urine we expel from our bodies. Sodium, potassium, and calcium are controlled in the blood by this process. With the help of the ureters and bladder, the kidneys create the urinary tracts that creates, moves, and stores urine in our bodies.
Kidney stones are made of calcium stones (80 percent of stones), uric acid stones (5-10 percent of stones), struvite stones (10 percent of stones), and cystine stones (less than 1 percent of stones). Each of these stones have different causes.
Below is a list of the most common causes of kidney stones:
Low Urine Volume. We often don't want to drink a whole lot of water because then we feel like we'd have to run to the restroom every five minutes to urinate, however, a major risk factor for kidney stones is constant low urine volume. This may come from dehydration due to exercise, working or living in a hot place, and/or just not drinking enough fluids. You can tell your urine volume is low when the urine is concentrated and dark in color, which means that there is less fluid to keep salts dissolved and more buildup to cause stones. Diluting the salts in your urine means drinking more water (at least 8 glasses a day!) or until your urine is consistently clear throughout the day.
Diet. Knowing the right foods to eat and to avoid will help prevent and help tame kidney stones. Decreasing salt/sodium intake, increasing calcium intake with non-animal protein foods, limiting or eliminating animal protein, and decreasing oxalate-rich foods are highly recommended ways of preventing kidney stones from occurring. Kidney stones are often caused by high sodium, low calcium, high animal protein and oxalate rich foods. Hopefully it feels empowering to know that our actions can help prevent the pain of kidney stones in the future just by certain food changes!
Medical Conditions. An increased risk of kidney stones is associated with certain conditions such as chronic bowel conditions that cause diarrhea (which leads to dehydration) like Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. Obesity can also be a risk factor, as obesity may change the acid levels in the urine. Family history of kidney stones also can increase your risk of having them.