Staying hydrated is good advice for men who’ve had kidney stones before, but sugar-sweetened sodas and fruit punch may not be the best choice of fluids.
There’s nothing like the extremely painful experience of passing a kidney stone to motivate you to drink more fluids, but when it comes to reducing your risk of having a second—or third or fourth—stone, not all fluids are created equal.
Staying hydrated is one of the best pieces of advice for men who’ve already had a kidney stone. That’s because kidney stones thrive on dehydration. When you don’t drink enough fluids—such as when you forget to take your water bottle with you on a run—your urine can become extremely concentrated. When this happens, salts and minerals that are normally present in urine can form tiny crystals.
Many of these crystals will pass unnoticed out of the body in the urine, but the crystals can also clump together to form a kidney stone—ranging from the size of a grain of sand to a golf ball. If the stone is large enough, it can get stuck in the ureter—the small tube that carries urine from the kidneys to the bladder. This causes urine to back up behind it, sending waves of excruciating pain throughout your side, belly and groin.
Kidney Stones Strike Men Harder
While kidney stones affect both men and women, guys are twice as likely to have them. About one in eight men will have a kidney stone at some point during his life. Stones are also more likely to occur between the ages of 20 and 50, peaking in men age 30.
In addition to not drinking enough fluids, there are several other risk factors for kidney stones, including obesity, certain medical conditions (like gout), a family history of kidney stones and having a kidney stone before—once you’ve had one stone, the chance of having another one within 5 to 7 years jumps to 50 percent.
Even though there are several types of treatment available for kidney stones—including letting them pass out of the body on their own or breaking them apart with sound waves—prevention is one of the best options.
Drinking plenty of fluids is the first line of attack against future kidney stones because it dilutes the urine, which may keep the crystals that make up stones from forming in the first place.
The general recommendation for men who’ve had kidney stones before is to drink 8 to 10 glasses of fluids a day—or drink enough throughout the day that the urine is light yellow or clear.
Not All Fluids Are Created Equal
If you plan on increasing your fluid intake to keep away kidney stones, choose wisely, though—some drinks may make the problem worse, according to new research published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (CJASN).
“Our study found that the relation between fluid intake and kidney stones may be dependent on the type of beverage consumed,” said Gary Curhan, MD, ScD, the senior author of a new study by US and Italian researchers.
In the study, which involved almost 200,000 people who were followed for 8 years on average, people who drank one or more sugary sodas a day were 23 percent more likely to have kidney stones than people who drank less than one soda a week. Likewise, other sugar-sweetened beverages—such as fruit punch—also increased the risk.
Some beverages, though, decreased the risk of having kidney stones—including caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee, tea, wine, beer and orange juice—making them better options if you are trying to avoid passing another golf ball through your very slender ureter.
While the study doesn’t prove directly that sugary drinks cause kidney stones, “other associations with the consumption of sugary beverages has been reported,” Dr. Michael Palese, associate professor of urology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in New York City, told WebMD. “This includes diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity, which have also been linked to the formation of kidney stones.”
Fluids a Good Defense Against Kidney Stones
So what is the best way to stay hydrated if you want some help avoiding kidney stones? “In general, water is still the best hydrant and certainly, [for] kidney stone prevention, the preferred beverage,” Palese said.
If you aren’t used to drinking 8 to 10 glasses of water a day, these tips will help you get into the habit of staying hydrated (and hopefully free of golf ball-sized stones):
- start your day with 1-2 glasses of water
- drink water every time you walk by a water cooler
- carry your refillable water bottle with you everywhere (filled, of course)
- drink enough water that you have to get up at least once during the night, and then drink another glass on your way back to bed.
Ferraro, P., Taylor, E., Gambaro, G., & Curhan, G. (2013). Soda and Other Beverages and the Risk of Kidney Stones Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology DOI: 10.2215/CJN.11661112
Kidney stones: Common, painful, preventable. Harvard Men’s Health Watch 2012; 16(6):1-5.
Originally published on The Health Journal.