If you have had trouble with a kidney stone and are now stone free, we know that there is a 50% chance that you will have recurrent stone disease within the next 10 years.
Why do I get kidney stones?
There are a number of medical conditions that will predispose a person to forming stones, but these are all very uncommon. Most people form stones because of genetic and lifestyle factors.
1. Genetic predisposition
If you form stones, your parents may be to blame! Tendency to form stones can be inherited. Patterns of inheritance are complex, so not everyone in a family will be affected.
2. Lifestyle factors
Diet and dehydration will affect the chemical composition of your urine, and influence whether or not you will form stones. For example, kidney stones are far more prevalent in hotter climates, like Australia.
Hydration is critical
Maintaining enough fluid intake to keep your urine dilute is the absolute cornerstone of kidney stone prevention. How much fluid is required? There is no magic number, because in different conditions we all lose different amounts of fluid from perspiration. The colour of your urine can serve as a rough guide of your hydration status. If the urine is clear, or light yellow, then you are very unlikely to be forming stones. As a general rule, you can try to drink 2.5L- 3L fluid per day.
What should I be drinking?
The volume of fluid is more important than what you are drinking. Water is healthy and cheap. Citrate, which is found in citrus fruits, helps to prevent kidney stones. Adding lemon or lime juice to water is a beneficial strategy that may make it easier to increase your drinking. Using carbonated water (soda water) is also not a problem.
Soft drinks should be avoided, because of their high sugar content. Cola drinks usually contain phosphoric acid, which may also encourage stone formation. Diet lemonade is probably OK.
Healthy heart, healthy kidneys
There is a link between cardiovascular disease and kidney stones. A heart-healthy diet is relatively low in saturated fat, animal protein and salt. It is high in fruit, vegetables and whole grains. A healthy diet and regular exercise will keep you healthy and reduce your risk of forming more kidney stones.
Personalised stone risk assessment
In selected situations, it can be worthwhile undertaking a full assessment involving kidney stone chemical analysis, blood and urine tests. This can help focus on what particular lifestyle modifications are most important. Occasionally the use of preventative medications can be considered.