Kidney stones, though relatively common, remain shrouded in misconceptions and myths. These small, hard mineral deposits can cause excruciating pain and discomfort when they block the urinary tract. It’s crucial to separate fact from fiction to better understand this condition and take appropriate measures for prevention and treatment. We spoke to Dr AK Jayaraj, MBBS, MS (Gen Surgery), MCH (Urology), Apollo Spectra Hospital, Chennai, who debunked myths about kidney stones and stated the facts.
Myths And Facts About Kidney Stones
Myth 1: Only older adults get kidney stones
Fact: “While it’s true that the risk of developing kidney stones increases with age, they can affect people of all ages, including children and adolescents”, said Dr Jayaraj. Factors, such as dehydration, dietary habits, genetics, and certain medical conditions can contribute to kidney stone formation regardless of age.
According to Advances in Urology, kidney stones are one of the most common diseases of the urinary tract and have been linked to an elevated risk of end-stage renal failure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and hypertension.
Myth 2: Drinking too much milk can cause kidney stones
Fact: “This myth stems from the belief that consuming dairy products, especially milk, can lead to the formation of kidney stones. However, research suggests that consuming moderate amounts of calcium-rich foods, including milk and dairy products, can lower the risk of kidney stones”, added Dr Jayaraj. Calcium from food sources, including dairy, binds with oxalates in the digestive system, preventing them from forming stones in the kidneys.
Myth 3: Cutting out all oxalate-rich foods prevents kidney stones
Fact: Oxalates are compounds found in many plant-based foods, including spinach, nuts, and chocolate, and they can contribute to certain types of kidney stones. However, eliminating oxalate-rich foods is unnecessary and may deprive the body of essential nutrients. Instead, moderation and hydration are key. Pairing oxalate-rich foods with calcium-rich foods can also help reduce the risk of stone formation by binding with oxalates in the digestive tract.
Myth 4: Cutting out calcium prevents kidney stones
Fact: Limiting calcium intake to prevent kidney stones can increase the risk of stone formation. Dr Jayaraj highlighted, “Calcium binds with oxalates in the digestive system, preventing them from reaching the kidneys and forming stones. Inadequate calcium levels can lead to higher oxalate absorption, potentially increasing the risk of certain types of kidney stones. It’s important to maintain a balanced diet with appropriate calcium levels.”
Myth 5: Drinking plenty of water doesn’t help prevent kidney stones
Fact: “Hydration is one of the most effective ways to prevent kidney stones. Water helps dilute urine, reducing the concentration of minerals and preventing them from crystallising and forming stones”, said Dr Jayaraj.
Aim to drink at least 8-10 glasses of water per day, or enough to keep urine light yellow. In hot climates or during strenuous exercise, increasing fluid intake is particularly important to prevent dehydration and kidney stone formation.
Myth 6: Small kidney stones always pass without complications
Fact: Although many small kidney stones can pass through the urinary tract without medical intervention, they can still cause significant pain and discomfort. Also, larger stones or those lodged in the urinary tract may require medical treatment, including medications to help relax the muscles and facilitate stone passage, or procedures, such as lithotripsy to break up the stones into smaller pieces for easier elimination.
Myth 7: Once you’ve had a kidney stone, there’s nothing you can do to prevent future stones
Fact: While individuals who have had kidney stones are at a higher risk of recurrence, there are proactive steps they can take to reduce the likelihood of future episodes. This includes adopting a balanced diet low in sodium and refined sugars, maintaining a healthy weight, limiting alcohol consumption, and monitoring their calcium and oxalate intake. Regular medical follow-ups and urine tests can also help identify early signs of stone formation and guide preventive measures.
Dr Jayaraj concluded, “Understanding the facts and dispelling myths about kidney stones is essential for effective prevention and management. By adopting preventive measures, such as hydration, balanced nutrition, and lifestyle modifications and understanding the factors that contribute to kidney stones, individuals can minimise their risk and enjoy better kidney health for years to come.”[Disclaimer: This article contains information provided by a registered healthcare professional and is for informational purposes only. Hence, we advise you to consult your expert if you are dealing with any health issues to seek necessary treatment.]