You have probably heard of kidney stones but do not know what exactly they are. If you have ever passed a kidney stone or know someone who has passed one, then you know that they can be terribly painful. Kidney stones are fairly common – 1 in 10 people will develop one in their lifetime. And if you do develop a kidney stone, then you are 50% more likely to get another one. Doctors are still not sure why some people are more prone to kidney stones than others. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to keep from developing them. Here are our top tips to avoid getting kidney stones.

What are kidney stones?

Kidney stones are hard deposits of salts and minerals that crystalize inside your kidney. They develop when there is not enough fluid to flush out the solid waste made by the body. You may have a kidney stone and not realize it. However, once a kidney stone starts to pass through your urinary tract, it becomes extremely painful. Even a very tiny stone can cause a tremendous amount of pain. This is why it is so important to take steps to avoid developing one.

Drink More Water

Staying hydrated is the best way to avoid getting a kidney stone. If you are dehydrated, then you will not have enough urine to flush out the salts and minerals in your waste. This gives them the chance to crystalize. If you exercise regularly or work a job where you sweat a lot, then make sure you drink extra water.  You produce less urine when you sweat, making you more prone to kidney stones.

Eat More Veggies

Eating too much animal meat can cause kidney stones because of its high acidic content. If you have too much acid in your urine, then you may develop calcium oxalate kidney stones or uric acid stones. Limiting your animal protein intake, especially red meat, organ meat, and shellfish, will reduce your risk of developing kidney stones. Replace your meat with lots of colorful veggies and fruits instead.

Avoid Sodium

Foods that are rich in sodium increase the salt in your body. This then increases your chances of developing calcium oxalate stones. This is because too much salt prevents calcium from being absorbed into your blood stream, so it stays in the urine. Avoid adding salt to your foods and especially avoid prepackaged foods. This includes chips, crackers, cookies, canned foods, condiments and lunch meats. Sticking with fresh, unprocessed foods is the best way to eat a low sodium diet.

Increase Citric Acid Intake

Kidney stones are often treated with potassium citrate. The good news is that fruits and juices high in citric acid are just as helpful as potassium citrate. The citrate helps prevent calcium from binding with other minerals to cause stones. Citrate can also prevent stones that have already formed from growing larger. Just be sure to watch your sugar intake if you choose to drink lemonade or limeade. Too much sugar will lead to kidney stones.

Increase Calcium Intake

There is a lot of confusion surrounding calcium and kidney stones because kidney stones are often made of calcium oxalate. However, avoiding calcium does not decrease your risk of developing kidney stones – it actually increases it! Instead of taking calcium supplements, get your calcium from foods like cheese, milk and yogurt. The best time to eat calcium is when you eat foods that are rich in oxalates, which brings us to our next point.

Watch out for Oxalates

Oxalates eaten on their own can cause kidney stones because they can easily bind with other substances to form stones. Oxalates are found in lots of healthy foods like spinach, beets, sweet potatoes and wheat bran. Oxalates are also in chocolate, coffee and peanuts. If you enjoy these foods, try to eat them with calcium rich foods. You may also need to cut back on less healthy high-oxalate foods if you are prone to kidney stones.

Avoid Alcohol

Alcohol can cause kidney stones for two reasons. First, it dehydrates you, which makes you produce less urine. And second, alcohol is also highly acidic and can contribute to the production of uric acid kidney stones. Just like animal proteins, alcohol consumption should be decreased, especially if you have already had a kidney stone.

Kidney stones are fairly common and you do not need to panic if you have been diagnosed with one. While painful, they are generally not dangerous. You can take over the counter pain medication if the pain becomes too much to handle. If your symptoms are severe, head to the ER so you can be supervised until the kidney stone passes. After the stone has passed, take the steps necessary to avoid developing more. With a healthy diet, you can prevent more stones from developing and no longer worry about repeating the experience.