If you’re a woman who has experienced natural childbirth sans any pain medications and having a kidney stone, you will likely vote the kidney stone as “the worse of the two.” Of course, you did receive a bundle of joy after the pain of childbirth, which may have mitigated the pain. But in a head-to-head competition, the kidney stone likely wins hands down in the pain category. In a recent report, a British surgeon suggests that there is a “malicious combination of poor health habits” at play, causing an upswing of kidney stone cases in England. This convergence of the causes in individuals is fueling this incredibly painful and sometimes dangerous condition. And the U.S. could be pacing right behind England.
The surgeon, Dr. Bhaskar Somani, identifies the combination of obesity, poor hydration, high blood pressure and a lack of exercise as the culprit behind an uptick of hospitalizations for kidney stones in his British hospital. He fingers poor diet and lifestyle as fueling kidney stone formation. In his hospital, rates of kidney stone admissions increased by 40 percent over the past 3 years, and that uptick required the hospital to invest in specialized nurses, virtual phone clinics to advise patients and other ancillary care measures.
The dangers of kidney stones
Kidney stones (renal lithiasis, nephrolithiasis) are typically small, hard stones made up of mineral deposits and acid salts that form inside your kidney. Most people experience tremendous pain in the side or mid to lower back areas, possible nausea and vomiting, fever and chills, and persistent need to urinate accompanied by inability to pass urine when the stone becomes a certain size. It is likely that you will pass the stone if it is very small, especially if you begin to hydrate, which is why you may receive intravenous fluids in the emergency room (along with a generous dose of pain medication). In most cases, you won’t experience any permanent damage. If however, the stone or stones become lodged in the urinary tract, or if they damage the ureters, then you may need surgery.
Risk factors for kidney stonesIf you are seen in the emergency room or by your doctor, you may be given a small mesh screen so that when you urinate you can actually catch the stone or stones when they pass. This will allow a lab to identify the type of stone which will correlate to some possible risk factors. ** Calcium stones** present as calcium oxalate. Oxalate occurs naturally in some fruits, vegetables, nuts and chocolate. Your liver also produces oxalate. High doses of vitamin D can also predispose some individuals to develop oxalate stones. ** Struvite stones** may be caused by a urinary tract infection. ** Uric acid stones** can occur in poorly hydrated people, individuals on high protein diets and individuals with gout. ** Cystine stones** happen in individuals with certain hereditary disorders. The other more general risk factors include:
- Having a family history or personal history
- High sodium diets
- Gastric bypass surgery
- Inflammatory bowel disease or chronic diarrhea
- Other conditions like UTI’s (urinary tract infections) and use of certain medications
New research cites “malicious combination” raises riskThe study, which was published in the Journal of Endourology, reviewed publications involving 219,255 patients and showed a direct correlation between metabolic syndrome (a confluence of factors including obesity, diabetes, elevated cholesterol, and high blood pressure among other traits) and kidney stone disease. ** Individuals with three or more of the conditions in metabolic syndrome had the highest rates of kidney stones**. Obviously, obesity is often associated with poor eating habits – excessive animal protein, salt and sugar intake or with extreme dieting patterns that may emphasize protein intake – all of which can result in a build-up of chemicals in the urine, caused by products of the processed foods. This heightens the risk of developing kidney stones.
The findings suggest that when you add poor hydration and lack of exercise to the mix, it further raises the risk of developing kidney stones. Dr. Somani suggests that “kidney stones are the forgotten by-product of weight gain.” Add in poor hydration, lack of exercise, and high blood pressure and you literally have a snowball effect, layering risk upon risk.
First steps to reduce your risk
- Awareness should motivate habit changes
- Limit consumption of processed foods
- Make sure you are drinking adequate amounts of fluids, with water, unsweetened tea, unsweetened coffee, and fat free milk and nut milks as your primary beverages
- Add physical activity to your day and commit to exercising 30 minutes most days of the week
- Lose weight if you are overweight or have been diagnosed with obesity by following a sensible diet
- Treat hypertension
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Source: Medical News Today
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Known as The HealthGal, expert contributor Amy Hendel is a popular medical and lifestyle reporter, nutrition and fitness expert, columnist, and brand ambassador, as well as a health coach. Trained as a physician assistant, she maintains a health coach private practice in New York and Los Angeles. Author of The Four Habits of Healthy Families, you can find her on Twitter @HealthGal1103 and on Facebook at TheHealthGal. Her personal mantra is “Fix it first with food, fitness, and lifestyle.”