Make sure you drink plenty of water and maintain a good diet of fruits and vegetables – you needn’t worry about kidney stone formation

The formation of stones sounds like a geological event, but remember, it could happen in our bodies when excess minerals and salts get accumulated in our bodies, or if they don’t get flushed out effectively. Physicians report that occurrence of kidney stones is becoming more common now, triggered by unhealthy diets and life styles. “Not just adults, an increasing number of youngsters too are now being diagnosed with kidney stones, brought about by an unhealthy lifestyle,” informs Dr. M. Prabhakar, Consultant Urologist, Nova Specialties, and author of the research paper “RIRS for 1.6 – 3.5 cm upper ureteric/renal calculus”, which appeared in the Indian Journal of Urology.

“Earlier, incidence of these stones was considered higher in men. Now, we find there is almost equal incidence in men and women”, informs Dr. Shyamala Gopi, consultant urologist, Apollo Hospitals. Urinary stones may occur in children too. “These kids may have underlying metabolic or kidney disorders and need to be evaluated,” adds Dr. Shyamala.

Recognising stones

Kidney stones get formed in our kidneys or ureter, the tubes that carry urine from our kidneys into the bladder. They might get washed away by urine, when they are tiny. But as they grow bigger, they can’t be flushed out. “These stones block the urinary tract and prevents the normal flow of urine. If the blockage is left untreated, it can cause permanent damage to the kidney,” warns Dr. Prabhakar.

Some of us do not experience clear symptoms. In others, there may be indications, such as pain in the abdomen or lower back, flank or groin pain, pain in the external genitalia, blood in urine, burning sensation during urination, increased frequency of urination, or even non-specific symptoms like irritability, fever, and nausea or vomiting. “Unfortunately, most people suspect or become aware of kidney stones and take medical help only when these stones trigger the typical and severe pain in kidney, abdomen area, ureter or external genitalia,” points out Dr. H. Agarwal, general physician.

Fluid intake

The causes for these stones may be multi-factorial including metabolic, genetic, and anatomic. But the bottom line in terms of prevention of stone formation is in adequate fluid intake. “This keeps the urine dilute, and crystal formation is minimised as the urine is not saturated. Considering our sweaty and hot tropical climate, we need to drink at least 2.5 litres of fluids every day, in the case of healthy individuals,” advises Dr. Shyamala. This translates to 12-15 200 ml glasses of fluids — chiefly water, juices etc.

The type of stones formed varies, such as calcium oxalate stones (which are most common), uric acid stones, triple phosphate stones etc. In these individuals, appropriate everyday diet modifications will be needed subsequent to treatment too, to prevent the reoccurrence of these stones, as the reoccurrence rate is quite high for kidney stones. “For instance, with occurrence of calcium oxalate stones, a person would need to cut down on high protein intake. With uric acid stones, he would need to cut down tea, tomato, fish foods, etc,” shares Dr. Shyamala.

WASH IT AWAY

Drink sufficient water at frequent intervals: 2.5 – 3 litres or about 12-15 200ml glasses of water every day.

Reduce intake of oxalate rich foods like red meat (beef pork mutton), spinach or pasalai greens.

Reduce high calorie diet, excess fats, and refined carbohydrates.

Reduce intake of aerated beverages, cola, etc.

Avoid junk food and ready-to-eat foods as they could alter the metabolism of minerals in our body and lead to increased mineral levels and consequent stone formation.

Avoid high protein intake/supplements. Moderate protein intake and a balanced, healthy diet are recommended.

Reduce tea/coffee as they promote dehydration, leading to crystallisation of salts excreted in urine, and formation of urinary stones

Drink around 350 milk or equivalent milk products in any form every day to maintain optimum calcium level.

Eat plenty of fibrous vegetables like banana stem, beans, green leafy vegetables, etc. Include fruits like lemons and oranges which contain potassium citrate, as it helps prevent stone formation.

Exercise every day for about 30 minutes

These are recommendations for people normal health. Others will need to consult with their physicians.