How Do Kidney Stones Form and What Causes Them?
Most people know one thing big thing about kidney stones: you do not want to get them. But not everybody really understands what they are and how they even get into your body.
I want to really dive into how kidney stones form. I will answer important questions like: What is the formation process? What types of kidney stones are there and why are they forming? What factors cause these kidney stones to form?
Before we start, let’s make sure we are all on the same page with these kidney stone basics:
- Around 10% of all people will have a kidney stone at some point.
- Kidney stones can be as small as a grain of sand and they can be as big as a golf ball; a ureter, however, is normally only 3mm to 4mm This is why kidney stones can be such a painful ordeal.
How Kidney Stones Form
Everyone already has the ingredients necessary for creating kidney stones in their bodies. It is part of our kidneys’ natural filtering process. Here is how it works:
Kidneys produce urine. In that urine, you will find stone-forming substances like calcium, oxalate, phosphorus, uric acid, etc. That is because kidneys also work to filter out our blood.
So the filtering and the creation of urine are almost like a checks and balances approach: kidneys receive stone-forming substances (like calcium oxalate) during the blood filtering, so then the kidneys produce enough urine to flush them out.
That is how it is supposed to work, and it’s a brilliant system… until it doesn’t work quite right.
When everything in your kidneys is functioning properly, you will have plenty of urine to “flush” out these stone-forming substances. You will also have other substances that do the opposite – these are essentially “stone preventers.” (These include: magnesium, citrate, etc.)
When there is not enough urine for adequate flushing, or when the balance of stone-forming substances is not matched with enough “stone preventers,” a kidney stone can begin forming as the substances start binding together.
Around 10% of all people will have a kidney stone at some point
This is a basic overview of how a kidney stone forms, but why they are forming in your body can happen for many reasons and surrounds these three questions:
- Why does your body not produce enough urine for adequate flushing?
- Why does your body have too many stone-forming substances?
- Or why does your body not have enough “stone preventers”?
The answers to these questions can vary wildly. Two large factors to look at are:
- What type of kidney stone you have
- What health issues are arising in your body
Types of Kidney Stones
There are different types of kidney stones. Which you have depends on what type of imbalance you have in your system.
It’s important to start out by saying the vast majority of kidney stones will be the first on the list: calcium stones. But that does not mean an overabundance of calcium is the only way kidney stones form.
WebMD gives a helpful list of the most common types of kidney stones:
- Calcium stones: We already know this is kidney stone #1. Calcium oxalate naturally occurs in food; it’s good for you. And your liver even produces it. But too much of it in your urine means you are probably going to get a calcium stone. Another type of calcium stone is calcium phosphate.
- Struvite stones: These are typically only connected with UTIs
- Uric acid stones: Too much uric acid in the urine often comes to people who do not drink enough water or lose too much water (marathon runners, for example). This is where that lack of urine flush happens. Too much protein can be another factor.
- Cystine stones: If you get cysteine stones, you probably have a “hereditary disorder that causes the kidneys to excrete too much of certain amino acids (cystinuria).”
While it is possible to get an extremely rare kidney stone not found on this list, most likely that will not happen to you. In fact, the bottom three stone types are not even that likely.
And on top of these different “types” even the same type of kidney stone (say, two calcium stones) can be different. Some will be very small and pass without much discomfort. Some can be so large they require medical intervention.
Factors That Lead To Stone Formation
We now understand how kidney stones form and what types of kidney stones there can be, now let’s see what health conditions or lifestyle choices can lead to this stone formation.
- How you eat: When you have a diet extremely high in protein, sodium, or sugar, your chances of having kidney stones form goes up
- How you drink: If you constantly do not give your body enough water to flush out those stone-forming substances, you are setting yourself up for kidney stone formation; drink that water!
- Your weight: Getting kidney stones is more likely for somebody with a higher BMI or sudden weight gain
- Your family: There is a genetic component to kidney stones; if they run in your family, they will probably have more chance of forming in you
- Your history: Once you have had a kidney stone, it is more likely that you will continue to get them throughout your life
- Your health: Many different conditions can lead to an increased risk of kidney stones – especially those that cause you to lose water (like IBS, Crohn’s, or Celiac, which often cause frequent diarrhea) and therefore puts the substances in your kidneys off-balance; other conditions with high kidney stone odds include gout, renal tubular acidosis, urinary tract infections, and hyperparathyroidism
What This Means For You
You can watch a great recap of everything we have gone over in this short, 3-minute video on kidney stones. Plus, you can see some helpful graphics to understand exactly what these kidney stones look like.
Your next steps and what you do with this info really depends on where you are:
- If you have never had a kidney stone… just make sure to keep a hydrated body to lower your chances
- If you are dealing with a kidney stone now… drink fluid, consult your doctor, and try some all-natural stonebreakers like Chanca Piedra to help dissolve the stone
- If you have dealt with kidney stones in your past… you should take as many proactive steps as possible to keep them from forming in the future; this could include: adjusting your diet, consuming more liquids, losing some weight, or getting bowel diseases under control
If a kidney stone does form, it does not mean you are in a hopeless situation. There are plenty of all-natural solutions as well as high-tech medical treatments to make sure you can pass the stone with as much ease as possible.