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5 Ways to Say No to Kidney Stones

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James Johannes, MD

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Relaxing by a pool. . . strolling along a lush fairway. . . tackling a long-awaited backyard project. Summer is full of exciting possibilities. Here’s one you should try avoiding: kidney stones. When these “stones” – they’re actually mineral deposits – get stuck in the ureter, bladder or urethra, they can block the flow of urine and cause great pain. They also can lead to secondary medical complications if not treated.

“Dehydration is a major cause,” says Lehigh Valley Health Network urologist James Johannes, MD, of the Center for Stone Disease at LVPG Urology. “That’s why we see a spike in kidney stones every summer.”

Men aged 20-40 are at highest risk, although the number of women getting kidney stones has been rising. Studies estimate 10-15 percent of Americans will develop a kidney stone at some point in their life. Urologists like Johannes treat these stones using sound waves, scopes, and in some cases, open stone surgery. Follow his tips to help reduce your risk:

  1. Drink more water. Aim for up to 12 full glasses a day, more if you engage in activities that make you sweat excessively. The fluid helps flush away stone-forming minerals.
  2. Celebrate citrus. Studies show that limeade, lemonade and other fruits and juices high in natural citrate offer stone-preventing benefits.
  3. Reduce caffeine. Too much can cause rapid fluid loss. Try limiting coffee, tea and colas to one or two servings daily.
  4. Reduce sodium. Too much sodium increases calcium levels in urine, leading to stones. In general, don’t cut back on calcium; just salt and foods high in sodium.
  5. Watch protein. Aim for 6-8 ounces daily, about the size of your palm. Too much meat, especially red meat, can raise uric acid levels, another leading cause of stones.