Drinking More Fluids Cuts the Risk of Kidney Stones

by Sudha Bhat on  January 21, 2015 at 12:20 PM Health In Focus   - G J E 4
Plenty of water a day may keep the kidney stones away. The new guidelines issued by the American College of Physicians advocate drinking at least 2 liters of water per day so as to prevent recurrence of kidney stones.
Drinking More Fluids Cuts the Risk of Kidney Stones
Drinking More Fluids Cuts the Risk of Kidney Stones

Life is provided "as is" and without any warranties, so you have to incur damages arising from use or misuse. Problems like kidney stones could arise at any time; may seem serious and encompassing in the heat of the moment, but it will eventually pass. For some patients, the pain is mild and generally comes and goes, however in others the intense pain makes their legs go weak and their stomach buckle over!

What is a kidney stone?

Kidney stones generally occur when there is accumulation of certain crystals or solid materials, usually of calcium oxalate in the kidney. They vary in size from a fraction of an inch to several inches. Small kidney stones can generally pass through the urinary tract and out of the body with minimal pain. However, when the larger stones are lodged in the urinary tract, they cause intense pain, blockage or infection. Other problems such as bleeding and damage to the kidneys may also occur. Kidney stones made of calcium are the most common type.

It is believed that about 13% of men and 7% of women in the US will develop a kidney stone at some point during their life. And the worst part is that once you have one, you are more prone to develop another one. Studies have shown that there is a 35 to 50% chance of patients having another kidney stone within 5 years of the first one.

New ACP guidelines for prevention and treatment of kidney stones

American College of Physicians (ACP) conducted a review of all scientific evidences which were published between the years 1948 and 2014, taking into account the benefits and risks of drugs and dietary treatments to prevent recurring kidney stones. They came up with the new guidelines which were published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, along with a patient summary. It simply states to drink plenty of water (at least 2 liters in a day) to prevent recurrence of kidney stones. On a hot and humid day, it is recommended you should drink 3 liters of water.

It has been well established in many scientific studies that drinking lot of fluids could potentially cut the risk of developing recurrent kidney stones by at least half. The stipulated theory behind this is that increasing fluid intake reduces the concentration of solids in the urine, thus reducing the formation of stones.

Dr. Elizabeth Kavaler, an urologist at Lenox Hill Hospital said, "The reason that water is supposedly helpful is that it is a mechanical flushing process so that stone fragments can pass but also so the urine doesn't sediment in the kidney and collect."

The study authors also observed that reducing intake of cola drinks , particularly the sweetened variety could also possibly help prevent further kidney stones. Studies have shown that subjects who change their beverage habits and abstain from soda, particularly the sodas acidified with phosphoric acid could reduce their risk of recurrence of kidney stones by about 15 percent. They however, did not find any evidence suggesting tap water to be any better or worse than a particular brand of mineral water.

Dr. Kavaler further added that soda has oxalates and phosphoric acid, which could be major factors in the formation of kidney stones. In addition, soda can be a diuretic so it has a dehydrating effect.

Drinking more fluids does not always resolve the issue for some patients; these patients could resort to drug therapy and try diuretics (also known as "water pills") to reduce stone formation. Citrates or allopurinol also effectively reduces recurrence of kidney stones made of calcium.

The ACP reviewers also advised patients about making changes in their diet by reducing intake of foods containing oxalate, such as beets, rhubarb, spinach, strawberries, nuts, chocolate, tea and wheat bran.

The guidelines suggest minimizing intake of animal protein and purines (compounds that break down into uric acid) in their diet. Patients are also advised to maintain their normal dietary calcium intake.

The ACP researchers also want us to note that "the quality of available research varies, and studies comparing one treatment with another are limited."

Tips to prevent kidney stones

Drink plenty of fluids: Drinking enough fluid is vital to prevent kidney stones. People who have had a kidney stone in the past should make it a point to drink enough water and other fluids to make at least 2 liters of urine a day. Keep yourself well hydrated at all times, especially when engaging in exercise or activities that cause a lot of sweating.

Consider adding lemon to water: Citric acid in lemon binds with calcium in the urine, thus decreasing the amount of calcium available to form calcium oxalate stones. It makes the urine less acidic, consequently inhibits the development of both calcium oxalate and uric acid stones.

Limit intake of sodium: It is believed that sodium, which comes most often from salt we ingest, causes the kidneys to excrete more calcium into the urine. High concentrations of calcium combine with oxalate and phosphorus in the urine leading to formation of stones. Limit sodium intake.

Cut down in foods rich in purines: Cut down on high-purine foods such as red meat, organ meats and shellfish to prevent formation of uric acid stones. Eating less of animal-based protein will help decrease urine acidity and help reduce possibility of kidney stone formation. Eat a balanced healthy meal consisting of plenty of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and low fat dairy products.

Continue eating calcium-rich foods: It is a myth that calcium from food increases the risk of calcium oxalate stones. In fact, calcium is known to bind to oxalate from food and thus prevents it from entering the blood and eventually the urinary tract, where it could form stones. Thus, getting too little calcium in your diet can cause oxalate levels to rise and cause kidney stones. Make sure to get the recommended amount of calcium in your daily diet.

Continue exercising: It is believed that you are more prone to kidney stones if you have a sedentary lifestyle, because limited activity could cause your bones to release more calcium. So get up, be on your toes as much as possible and exercise. Exercise will also help control high blood pressure, a condition that is thought to double your risk for kidney stones.

Remember, kidney stones aren't a one-time thing, they can come back. With some lifestyle modifications and a big determination, you surely can keep kidney stones at bay!!!!

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