Roughly 13 percent of men and 6 percent of women in the United States will have to deal with a kidney stone at least once during their lifetime. The majority of people with stones have a metabolic predisposition to stones that can, and should, be identified to prevent ongoing issues with stones. Urine contains many dissolved minerals and salts. When your urine has high levels of these minerals and salts, you can form stones.
Kidney stones can start small, but can grow larger in size. Some stones stay in the kidney and do not cause any problems. Sometimes the kidney stone can travel down the ureter, the tube located between the kidney and the bladder. If the stone gets stuck in the ureter, it blocks the urine flow from that kidney and causes pain.
Dehydration, or not drinking enough water, can lead to stones. With warmer temperatures hitting the southern portion of the United States more often, not staying hydrated due to the hotter climate, could make a stone more common.
Diet also plays a major factor in forming stones. Foods with high salt contents are a staple of many popular southern-style restaurants, and too much salt in the diet is a risk factor for forming stones. This is because too much salt is passing into the urine, keeping calcium from being reabsorbed from the urine and into the blood. Reducing salt in the diet lowers urine calcium, making it less likely for calcium stones to form.
Keep in mind that a diet high in animal protein, such as beef, fish, chicken and pork, can raise the acid levels in the body and in the urine. High acid levels can also make it easier for stones to form.
Dr. Vitaly Margulis is Associate Professor of Urology at University of Texas (UT) Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas.