10 Surprising Risk Factors for Kidney Stones

The risk of kidney stones is higher in the United States than it is in the rest of the world. Although these stones do not normally cause any permanent damage, passing them can be quite painful.  Depending on the size of the stone, surgical intervention may be necessary. Kidney stones are a relatively common occurrence, especially in the United States.  They affect approximately one in ten people throughout their lifetime, and the incidence of kidney stones has actually increased over the past few decades. 


10 Surprising Risk Factors for Kidney Stones

1. Not enough calcium: Calcium is one of the main minerals that kidney stones are made up of. One would think it makes sense to cut calcium out of their diet but now experts believe people who consume more calcium are less likely to encounter a kidney stone than those on low-calcium diets according to a significant 2013 study by researchers from Harvard Medical School. If your diet doesn't contain enough calcium, oxalates, chemicals that normally bind to calcium in the digestive tract, will bind with calcium in the urine and trigger the formation of kidney stones. 

2. Overeating meat: If you tend to eat too much poultry and red meat, you might be put at risk for kidney stones. A study published in the journal, Nutritional Epidemiology in 2014 found vegetarians and fish-eaters were 30-50% less likely to have kidney stones than those who consumed 100 grams of meat per day.

3. Eating too many greens: We know, we know, this can be frustrating, since we're told eating dark leafy greens are one of the best things we can eat. So why is this? Those pesky little chemicals oxalates again, which are found in leafy greens like spinach, rhubarb and beets. When the amount of oxalates are too high, these chemicals can concentrate in the urine and lead to a stone formation. 

4. Too much salt: Kidney stones are one of the last problems that consuming too much salt can cause but it's important to understand the connection. Sodium consumed in high amounts triggers an increase in the amount of calcium your kidneys excrete. A buildup of calcium in the urine increases the risk of kidney stone formation. Limit your intake to 2,300 milligrams per day and those with high blood pressure should lower that to less than 1,500 milligrams per day.

5. Migraine medications: If you're prescribed to take topiramate found in prescriptions med called Topamax can be more likely to have kidney stones than those who don't take the drug. This chemical increases the pH levels in the urinary tract which may lead to an increased risk of kidney stone formation.

6. Being overweight: Women who are obese are actually about 35% more likely to develop kidney stones than their leaner counterparts according to a 2011 study in the journal of Urology. Although researchers aren't quite sure why but most think extra weight changes the environment in your urinary tract making it easier for kidney stones to form. 

7. Weight loss surgery: A 2009 study from the Journal of Urology showed the risk for kidney stones increased with bariatric surgery. People might not absorb as much calcium in their diets post-surgery. Drinking more water and limiting meat and sodium will help  but if you've recently had surgery, talk to your doctor. 

8. Chronic urinary tract infections: Frequent UTIs are possible signs of a kidney stone. Not all stones cause pain. Other times kidney stones stay in the urinary tract and block the flow of urine, which could lead to a UTI. Sometimes having recurring urinary tract infections is the only way urologists detect kidney stones at all. 

9. Overusing laxatives: People have been misusing laxatives for year now. According to a 2010 study published in the journal, Drugs, older people tend to use them as well as those suffering from eating disorders. This can interfere with the body's ability to absorb nutrients and medications and may also bring on an electrolyte imbalance. It can also cause dehydration which can trigger the development of kidney stones. 

10. Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Those suffering with this condition have a higher risk for stones than those without. One 2013 study in the International Journal of Nephrology and Renovascular Disease found that patients with Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis were at high risk.