At the International Kidney Stone Institute, our goal is nothing less than the cure.

Kidney Stone Risk Greatly Increases in Summer Months

INDIANAPOLIS – “I’m sweating like a pig!”  We have all made that comment at some point in our lives and summer is the season of sweat.  BUT, for folks with kidney stones, “sweat” spells “dehydration”.   Dehydration affects urine output, which is a problem for kidney stone formers.

Now, urine isn’t usually a topic of proper social conversation, but for those who form urinary stones, it’s a critical concept.  When the body is dehydrated, the kidneys conserve water by making urine that is concentrated, and concentrated urine sets up a cascade for stone crystal formation. 

According to Dr. James Lingeman, co-director of the International Kidney Stone Institute, “The focus in stone prevention is not the amount of fluid consumed, but rather the amount of urine produced.  In the summer months, extra intake is necessary to counteract the season’s dehydrating effects.  I tell patients they should never pass up a drinking fountain!”

The essential concepts of stone formation are as follows:  stone crystals form in the urine only in the presence of particular molecules in enough quantity and concentration to allow chemical union.  As Dr. Lingeman quips, “Crystals love one another and they seek togetherness.” The essentials of stone prevention, therefore, are to reduce either the quantity or the concentration (through dilution) of those molecules. 

For the ten percent of Americans who will have a kidney stone at least once in their lifetime, the pain of the stone is a poignant memory.  In the acute or immediate sense, stones can cause severe pain, nausea and vomiting, blood in the urine and infection.  If left untreated, kidney stones can result in failure of one or both kidneys.

There are several types of stones, and people form them for various reasons.  Many patients understandably want to know why they form stones.  The metabolic issues are quite complex, but there are a number of universal steps patients can take to prevent stone formation.  

  • Increase urine OUTPUT Remember that perspiration decreases urine volume. What is important here is to maintain a high urine output despite loss of fluid through sweating. Pale, clear urine 24 hours per day, seven days per week is the goal. The volume of urine should exceed 2 liters in twenty four hours. Water is the best liquid, but fruit juices are acceptable. Try to limit beverages high in caffeine or calories, and watch out for high sodium sports drinks.
  • Limit salt and sodium intake Salt drives extra calcium into the urine, which increases risk of calcium stone formation.
  • Limit animal protein intake High animal protein intake is associated with an increased risk of both calcium and uric acid stone formation. Experts recommend limiting meat protein intake to twelve ounces per day. This is plenty to meet the needs of healthy adults.
  • Consume calcium rich foods to meet the FDAs Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) It is a common misconception that patients who form calcium stones need to avoid dairy products. Current research supports consuming a normal amount of calcium in the diet for nearly all patients who form stones.

In the summer months, the most important of these recommendations is the first:  increase urine output.  By increasing fluid intake in the summer months, the effects of dehydration can be minimized.   Drink more fluids?  No sweat!