Passing a kidney stone is a painful experience that few people would ever forget, and although they are more common in men, it is important for everyone to be aware of what kidney stones are, how to prevent them, the signs of symptoms, and the treatment for this condition.
What Are Kidney Stones?
Kidney stones (also known as “renal calculi”), are crystalline “stones” formed by dietary minerals in the urine. If they occur inside the kidney, the condition is known as “nephrolithiasis”. If they occur in the ureter (the tube that connects the kidneys to the bladder), the condition is known as “ureterolithiasis”. And if they occur in the bladder, it is known as “cystolithiasis”.
Most stones are made up of calcium, potassium, and several other minerals and electrolytes, but calcium appears to be the most common kidney stone constituent, however other types of stones are also relatively common.
What Causes Kidney Stones to Form?
Kidney stones form due to several factors. One major factor is low fluid intake, leading to very concentrated urine and decreased ability for the body to rid itself of these minerals through more dilute urine.
High dietary intake of animal protein, sodium, refined sugars, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, cola, grapefruit juice, apple juice, and oxalates (found in spinach, nuts, chocolate, cocoa, strawberries, rhubarb, beats and other foods) can all lead to the formation of kidney stones.
Supplementation with calcium has also been linked to the formation of stones, so taking calcium under the advice of a medical practitioner or nutritionist is recommended. However, calcium consumed from calcium-rich food sources does not seem to contribute to the formation of stones.
There is some indication that fluoride in drinking water may also be a factor, but this seems inconclusive at this time.
Diets high in animal protein can contribute to the formation of kidney stones due to the excess of certain amino acids, uric acid and other properties of animal protein that acidify the urine. With increased urine acidity, the body will remove calcium from the bone tissue to fight this rising acidity, and kidney stone formation can result.
Dehydration is a common cause of kidney stone formation. Visitors to very dry climates such as the desert, for instance, must be cautious about increasing their intake of water and clear fluids in order to prevent the development of kidney stones.
Who Is Most At Risk?
Approximately 80% of the individuals experiencing a kidney stone are men, and it is very common between the ages of 30 and 40. Genetics is also a factor, as well as the dietary practices mentioned above. Ten percent of all men are likely to experience this condition in their lifetime, although Caucasian men are five times more likely to develop kidney stones than African American men.