Q: Why are high-salt diets bad for kidney stones?
A: Sodium and calcium are similar ions. Your kidneys’ job is to get rid of salt to maintain balance, but along with the sodium comes calcium too, increasing calcium in urine. They operate in parallel. You can lower your urinary calcium by lowering salt intake.
Q: Has research shown that high-protein diets raise the risk of stones?
A: Americans tend to grossly overconsume animal protein. The body doesn’t need it, so it breaks it down into uric acid and excretes it through the urine, which can increase risk of uric acid stones. Secondly, protein, especially red meat, contains sulfuric and phosphoric acids that need to be excreted. These lower your urinary pH, which also increases the risk of stones. I recommend to folks no more than 10 ounces of animal protein a day.
Q: Are there any other foods that cause kidney stones?
A: Americans consume a lot of sucrose in soda pop, and it’s used as a sweetener in a lot of foods. Studies show it increases the risk of stones independent of the weight gain it may cause.
Q: Is there anything new in the management of kidney stones?
A: There are three mainstays of our treatment of kidney stones if you can’t pass them. The first is shock-wave lithotripsy, which is a noninvasive technique in which the stones are pulverized. The second treatment is ureteroscopy, where we send a tiny scope through the urinary opening to destroy the stone. They both work very well for smaller stones. If the stone is very large, then it’s removed through surgery from the back. With those three treatment techniques, it’s rare for a person to undergo a traditional surgical procedure with large incisions.