2. The Most Common Causes Of Kidney Stones
Kidney stones are made of clusters of minerals, acids and salts in the body that bind to one another inside the kidneys, becoming lodged and sometimes blocking the urinary tract, giving you intense pressure and pain when you try going to the bathroom. Kidney stones form when your urine contains a high level of crystal-forming substances, while at the same time too little of the substances you need to break up crystals and flush minerals from the body. This perfect storm creates the ideal environment for kidney stone formation.
About 80 percent of kidney stones are the type known as calcium stones, which means calcium that’s normally present in the body combines with other substances (oxalates, phosphate or carbonate) to form an abnormally hard stone. In most cases, oxalates are the substance that calcium binds to, which we acquire from certain fruits and vegetables that naturally carry them.
While calcium stones are much more common, sometimes kidney stones can also be caused by the buildup of other acidic salts, such as uric acid. Besides calcium stones, other types of kidney stones include: struvite stones, uric acid stones or cystine stones (the type most tied to hereditary factors).
Why does calcium — or other acids — build up in the body in some people? The main reasons that kidney stones can form include:
- eating a poor diet, especially one that’s high in oxalates (10)
- taking synthetic calcium supplements, which aren’t always absorbed well
- dehydration (11)
- genetic factors (if someone in your immediate family has kidney stones often, you’re more likely to develop them too)
- an abnormal pH balance, meaning the body becomes overly acidic
- having trouble with normal digestion, such as healing from gastric bypass surgery, having an inflammatory bowel disease or chronic diarrhea
- food allergies or sensitivities that can affect digestion
- electrolyte imbalances
- medication or drug use
- nutrient and mineral deficiencies
- thyroid disorder (which can cause the thyroid to produce too much parathyroid hormone, which raises calcium levels)
Once a kidney stone forms, it can wind up attaching itself to sites that block the urinary tract, which is usually the primary reason for feeling such intense pain. For some people, struvite stones (the type that are “horn-shaped,” larger than calcium stones and usually more dangerous) form due to chronic urinary tract infections, which is more common in women than in men.
One reason urinary infections can keep developing and forming stones is due to a buildup of ammonia in the urine. Uric acid stones, a byproduct of protein metabolism, can develop in people who are eating a very high-protein diet, those who are recovering from chemotherapy treatments or in rare cases because of genetic factors.
Sometimes the pain can subside, and therefore it might seem like the kidney stone dissolved on its own and is no longer an issue — however this can be problematic because that’s not always the case. In some cases, the blockage hasn’t actually been resolved even though pain has faded and the kidney actually starts to shut down, which left untreated by a doctor can lead to permanent loss of function in that kidney within just a short period. A kidney stone can even rupture if it remains for too long, which is another cause kidney failure.
—> NEXT: Do You Have These Kidney Stone Symptoms?