Hot weather makes us thirsty, and more prone to dehydration, but did you know what you drink to quench that thirst and replace fluids may cause kidney stones?
What Are Kidney Stones?
Kidney stones are mineral salts that accumulate in the urinary tract. When these substances crystalize and lump together, stones begin to form. As the stones increase in size, they begin to block urinary flow and lodge in the tube leading from the kidney to the bladder.
Indications are severe pain in the back, lower abdomen, or groin, which may also be accompanied by fever, chills, or flu-like symptoms. Urination may be painful, or more frequent than usual. Urine may appear cloudy or bloody.
What Causes Kidney Stones?
- Dehydration occurs more frequently during hot weather conditions. Dehydration can lead to kidney stones and is most common in the southeastern U.S., referred to in the medical profession as the “Stone Belt.”
- Magnesium deficiency may be the second leading cause of their formation.
- Drinking lots of sweet tea, punch, sodas, and other sugar-sweetened beverages during hot, humid weather may increase the chances of developing them as it interferes with magnesium absorption.
- Excessive alcohol and caffeine consumption is not only dehydrating to the body but decreases magnesium absorption, which can exacerbate kidney stones.
- A diet high in oxalates—found in almonds, spinach, black tea, cocoa, chard, and rhubarb—increase the risks.
- There is conflicting information about the regular consumption of grapefruit juice leading to the formation of kidney stones. If you’re prone to developing kidney stones, you may want to avoid drinking it on a regular basis. In The Country Doctor Handbook, the editors of FC&A Medical Publishing advise that “grapefruit juice actually increases your risk by as much as 44%. Researchers aren’t sure why, but they suspect that grapefruit juice might increase your body’s absorption of oxalate from other foods.”
- Refined sugar consumption may lead to the formation of stones.
- Studies show regular intake of antacids and synthetic calcium supplements can increase your risk by 20%.
- Diets high in animal protein, especially processed red meats, increase the likelihood of developing kidney stones.
- Heredity may be a factor as some people have a tendency to absorb more calcium than others. If you have a history of kidney stones in your family, talk to your doctor.
Preventing and Dissolving Kidney Stones
Even in the hottest climates, kidney stones can most likely be avoided by following these dietary and lifestyle recommendations:
- Drink more water. People who drink the most water are more likely to avoid stones from forming, according to a Harvard study. Instead of increasing your intake of sweet tea, milk, or fruit juice, drink water, especially when spending time outdoors this summer. Drinking adequate amounts of water not only prevents dehydration and heat exhaustion but dilutes the urine and prevents minerals and salts from concentrating and forming painful kidney stones.
- Drink lemon water. Squeeze the juice of a fresh lemon or add a drop or two of therapeutic food-grade grade lemon essential oil into a glass of water and drink daily. For pain relief, squeeze one-half of a fresh lemon into an 8-ounce glass of water and drink every half hour until the pain eases.
- Drink apple cider vinegar and water. For prevention, stir 2 teaspoons organic apple cider vinegar into an 8-ounce glass of water and drink. Repeat several times throughout the day to dissolve kidney stones.
- One beer or glass of wine daily was found to prevent kidney stone formation, according to a Harvard study as these beverages dilute the urine and increase the frequency of urination. However, due to the vast health and social problems associated with excessive alcohol consumption, don’t start drinking alcohol for possible health benefits.
- Consume magnesium-rich foods to avoid deficiency and formation of kidney stones. Foods rich in magnesium include apples, avocados, bananas, brown rice, cantaloupe, garlic, green leafy vegetables, lemons, peaches, salmon, wheat, and whole grains.
- Adequate intake of foods rich in vitamin B6 may help prevent oxalate kidney stones. Foods richest in vitamin B6 include eggs, carrots, brewer’s yeast, chicken, fish, meat, peas, sunflower seeds, walnuts, wheat germ, and alfalfa.
- Supplements to the rescue! Phyllis Balch, CNC, author of Prescription for Nutritional Healing: The A to Z Guide to Supplements recommends, “along with vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), magnesium helps to reduce and dissolve calcium phosphate kidney stones, and may prevent calcium-oxalate kidney stones.”
- Exercise and stay active! A sedentary lifestyle causes high levels of calcium to build up in the bloodstream. Exercise helps pull calcium from the blood into the bones. If you sweat a lot during exercise, be sure to drink plenty of water to replace lost fluids.
- Prevention by diet. Avoid eating processed foods, refined sugar, and carbonated soft drinks. Limit animal protein, calcium, and sodium consumption. Eat plenty of vegetables low in oxalates. Eat plenty of dietary fiber and drink quality, natural spring water.
Important Note: This article is for general, educational purposes only and is not intended to take the place of the advice of your health care professional. If you continue to experience kidney stones symptoms after following any of these suggestions or are in acute pain, seek medical attention immediately.
Deborah Tukua is a natural living, healthy lifestyle writer and author of 7 non-fiction books, including Naturally Sweet Blender Treats. She has been a writer for the Farmers' Almanac since 2004.