Summer is coming! But here in the Southeast, a.k.a. the “stone belt,” summer is also prime kidney stone season. Sure, a hot day on the boat accompanied by beer, hot dogs and potato chips sounds like a great time, but it’s also a recipe for a kidney stone…which is NOT fun. So how does summertime lead to kidney stones?
First and foremost, hot weather can lead to dehydration — a main cause of kidney stones. When we sweat we lose a lot of water, and to compensate, the kidneys try to conserve body water by decreasing urine output, which makes urine more concentrated. This allows the chemicals in the urine to solidify into stones, which can get stuck in the urinary tract, causing excruciating pain.
The best prevention? Drink more water during summer months. As a general rule, a well-hydrated person should produce at least 2 to 3 liters of urine in 24 hours. Not into measuring your urine output? Understandable: another trick is to drink enough water to keep urine looking clear, much like water, rather than colored. One of the best beverages to hydrate with is water with fresh squeezed lemon, which contains citrate, a natural inhibitor of stone formation.
What to Avoid
There are also some foods to be wary of, particularly if you have a personal or family history of kidney stones. Foods high in a chemical called oxalate can cause kidney stones, as can foods high in sodium. Here’s what you should try to avoid or moderate:
- potato chips, french fries
- dark beers
- processed foods like sausage, hot dogs, animal proteins such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs — which can increase stone formation.
Yes, protein is good for you and necessary, but it’s all about moderation. Unfortunately some other foods that are actually otherwise healthy contain a great deal of oxalate, including dark greens like spinach and collards, okra, sweet potatoes, nuts, soy products, rhubarb and beets. Oxalate is also produced when vitamin C is broken down by the body, so consider limiting vitamin C supplements to 500mg per day. And if you are planning on eating an oxalate-rich meal, pair it with high calcium foods (dairy products) — the calcium binds to the oxalate in the intestines and prevents it from being absorbed into the body. This is why low calcium diets actually increase kidney stones!
Starting to see why we are in the stone belt? A little barbecue, collard greens, and sweet tea make a great meal but can make for a painful experience, especially when hot weather causes dehydration.
Summer is sweet in the Lowcountry, so don’t let kidney stones get in the way. But if they do, come see us at The Kidney Stone Center of Charleston. A board certified urologist will see you immediately, and walk-ins are welcome.
By Dr. Dennis Kubinski, a urologist with Roper St. Francis Physician Partners and the Kidney Stone Center of Charleston