You might be able to spare yourself the excruciating pain of passing kidney stones with a simple preventive measure: Drink more water.
According to a paper presented at a recent conference of the National Kidney Foundation (NKF), the preliminary results show that people who have a high water intake significantly reduce their risk of developing kidney stones.
The study was a meta-analysis, reported MedPageToday.com, which means it combined the results from many studies, lending more significance to its results.
“This analysis shows that drinking water is an effective way to cut one’s risk for developing kidney stones in half,” Kerry Willis, PhD, NKF chief scientific officer, said in a news release. “Confirmation of reducing risk through improved hydration is an important finding.”
Drinking too much water can lead to a condition called hyponatremia, which can cause confusion and even seizures. But it’s rare, and far more people are at risk of dehydration (and kidney stones) than hyponatremia.
There’s no magic amount people should drink. But a general rule of thumb, according to the American Urological Association and the American College of Physicians, is that people who drink enough to prevent kidney stones produce two to two-and-a-half liters of urine per day.
Of course no one measures their urine output (at least not since Howard Hughes saved the stuff in bottles). But most people can tell if they’re drinking enough by monitoring the color of it – the lighter the color, the more you’re hydrated.
In addition to drinking sufficient water and monitoring the color of your urine, know that what you eat can contribute to forming kidney stones. According to the NKF, you should limit your salt intake, which means avoiding processed foods, fast food and paying attention to labels – sodium hides in additives including:
- monosodium glutamate, or MSG
- sodium bicarbonate, the chemical name for baking soda
- baking powder, which contains sodium bicarbonate and other chemicals
- disodium phosphate
- sodium alginate
- sodium nitrate or nitrite