If you have ever experienced the pain associated with a kidney stone, there is almost nothing you wouldn’t do to prevent having to go through that agony again. But you might be surprised to find that the simplest (and least expensive) preventative step you can take to avoid future kidney stones is often ignored. The fact is, in spite of all the technological advances, new medications and surgical procedures, the most basic and effective way to discourage the formation of kidney stones is to drink plenty of water. That’s easy, right? Not necessarily. Drinking enough water to help prevent stone development requires commitment and discipline. What you need is a strategy to help increase your water intake and the motivation to make it happen.
Why water makes such a difference According to the Mayo Clinic, kidney stones form when your urine contains more crystal-forming substances – such as calcium, oxalate and uric acid – than the fluid in your urine can dilute. At the same time, your urine may lack substances that prevent crystals from sticking together, creating an ideal environment for kidney stones to form. The more water you drink, the more the crystal-forming substances are diluted, and the more often you will urinate, therefore passing them from the urinary tract before they can form stones.
Know your ideal daily water intake The exact amount of water each person needs to drink to reduce their risk of developing stones varies, but most experts agree it is about 3 liters (just over 100 ounces – a gallon). It’s important to note that if you have heart disease, kidney disease, or liver disease, or are elderly, you should talk to your doctor about your water intake to make sure it is within a safe range for your individual needs and conditions.
Set incremental goals For most people it is not easy to go from drinking one or two glasses of water a day to drinking a gallon a day. Start slowly. If you drink one glass per day now, drink two tomorrow and set new goals to increase your water consumption each week until you have reached your desired amount. Of course you have to expect to make more frequent bathroom visits, which can be a bit of a nuisance, but look at it this way, you also will have less frequent ER and doctor visits and most importantly less pain, suffering and expense from kidney stones.
Adopt a winning strategy. The following are just a few tips on how to keep on track with your water consumption goals.
Carry a ‘kickin’ water bottle. Find a water bottle that you don’t mind carrying around all day (or several that coordinate with your wardrobe). It might sound silly, but your water bottle is going to be your constant companion if you are to be successful, so make sure you don’t mind being seen with it. There are even ‘smart’ water bottles now that can sync with your smartphone and some other devices, track your water intake and can be programmed to glow when it’s time to hydrate. Check out the Hidrate Spark water bottle at www.hidratespark.com.
Make it tasty. If you get bored with “plain old water” and need a break, add some fruit to your water. Adding lemons can give you the extra benefit of increasing your level of citrate, which is a natural inhibitor of stones.
Take a bite out of dehydration (literally). Some foods contain very high concentrations (at least 90%) of water. Add to your overall water consumption by eating foods such as: cucumbers, radishes, iceberg lettuce, green peppers, cauliflower, star fruit, strawberries, broccoli, grapefruit, and watermelon. Warning: some other fruits and veggies with high water content, such as celery, tomatoes, spinach and baby carrots, contain oxalate, a substance you probably need to avoid. Check with you doctor about what is safe for you.
Make it work for you.
So, grab a glass or bottle of cool, refreshing water and make a toast to a healthier, more pain free, and stone free future. Cheers!