The Truth About Kidney Stones and Stress
Kidney stones are excruciating. We all want to avoid them – especially those of us who have experienced one before. So we try to do all the right things.
We adjust our diets, pick up some exercise, take helpful supplements, etc. But could a problem affecting almost every single human being be a main culprit too?
In the past month, around 75% of human beings have had moderate to high stress. We already know that stress can lead to all sorts of health issues from pain to insomnia, heart problems to intestinal problems, and overall fatigue and anxiety.
How does stress cause negative physical reactions like these? Watch this short TED-Ed video to understand:
Now we get to the big question: should we be adding kidney stones to that list stress-induced health issues?
I want to show you both the direct and indirect connections between kidney stones and your stress levels. Perhaps avoiding tremendous pain will be encouragement enough to start calming all that stress.
Direct Connections Between Stress and Kidney Stones
Can stress actually be a direct factor in the formation of kidney stones? Two studies seem to show us that it is.
The first goes back to 1997.
Researchers looked at 200 people with symptomatic kidney stones and 200 controls (those without kidney stones). They found out which patients had “highly stressful” situations in their lives. They focused on stresses that caused “intense emotional impact with apprehension and distress for at least one week.”
AKA: not just the mild stress of not finding a parking space. They were not looking at the casual, everyday stresses – but rather the intense times of stress that really affect the mind… and obviously the body.
Researchers broke these episodes of stress into 11 categories and 60 subcategories. Those with the symptomatic kidney stones suffered more frequently from 10 of the eleven categories and 41 of the 60 subcategories than the controls did.
Some of the most significant stressful situations that set apart those with kidney stones from those without were:
- Annual income of the family (it was lower for those with kidney stones)
- Stressful mortgage issues
- Emotional life events
The researchers concluded: “the data support the hypothesis that there is an association between stressful life event(s) and symptomatic kidney stones.”
Researchers looked at 200 people diagnosed with kidney stone disease. These patients self-responded to a questionnaire designed to measure stress. The scientists also assessed the nature of their stones and took into account any variables.
The results showed that being female, having a family member who dies or gets diagnosed with a serious illness, and psychological trauma played a significant role. These researchers concluded:
“Passage of two or more stones per year and presence of symptoms proved to be factors related to elevated stress in patients with a diagnosis of kidney stone disease. Female sex, age, and unemployment may also contribute to a stressed state in this population.”
15 years later, researchers performed the next study, which came out at 2012.
Indirect Connections Between Stress and Stones
So now we have seen the science behind a direct kidney stone and stress connection.
But there are some indirect ways that stress can bring about kidney stones as well.
The Austin Urology Institute puts it this way:
“Stress sets off a chain reaction of unhealthy behavior that can contribute to a kidney stone. It’s important to recognize when you’re stressed and manage it in a way that is beneficial and not harmful to you and your body.”
They cite certain “stressed-out” habits like drinking extra coffee or energy drinks (and not drinking enough water) and eating a poor diet as choices that turn into big risk factors for developing a kidney stone.
Basically, when we are stressed, we all tend to make not-the-very-best lifestyle decisions. But awareness is key. When you find yourself feeling stressed, notice it, and be deliberate about making the right choices anyway. And also, find ways to reduce that stress….
5 Ways To Combat Your Stress + Reduce Your Risk Of Kidney Stones
I know some of you are now going to be stressed about your stress. Don’t be. Everybody has times of stress. Simply take a few proactive measures that simultaneously combat stress and help reduce kidney stone formation.
1. Move your body
Exercise is a massive stress-buster and it helps ward off kidney stones. Activities like yoga, swimming, or nature walks are both fabulous for the body and calming for the mind. If you do not like any “typical” workouts, get creative. Go dancing, join a recreational league, or use your bike as a mode of transportation.
2. Get enough sleep
Your body needs time to heal itself physically and emotionally. Do whatever you can to get sleep. Buy a sound machine. Get thicker curtains. Try essential oils. Remove the electronics from your bedroom.
3. Cut down the sugar and sodium
We do not really reach for broccoli when we are stressed. We go for the ice cream, the chips – the junk food. All of these choices increase your odds of developing kidney stones. So when you are feeling stressed and want to order French fries, tell yourself your stress levels – and your kidneys – will thank you if you don’t.
4. Drink plenty of water
Anybody who knows anything about kidney stones knows drinking plenty of water is a must for keeping them away. But many people do not realize the connection between dehydration and stress. When you are dehydrated, your cortisol levels rise. Buy a new water bottle (BPA free) and take it with you everywhere you go. Order water a restaurant instead of iced tea, coffee, or soda.
5. Take a kidney stone supplement
Though the top kidney stone supplements may not ward off anxiety – the idea that there is help and hope for preventing kidney stones just might. Chanca Piedra and celery seed extract are both fabulous choices for breaking down and treating kidney stones
Of course, stress is not the only factor in preventing kidney stones. But it should absolutely not be ignored. Taking proactive steps to diminishing your stress can create a happy, healthy body – for your kidneys and beyond.