Most of us have heard about the infamous kidney stone, a small “pebble” that forms in the kidney and then passes, painfully, through the urinary tract.
Hard crystals made up of minerals and acid salts that form in the kidney, these stones are most commonly made up of calcium oxalate, according to Dr. Koushik Shaw, founder of the Austin Urology Institute. While the stones don’t typically cause any permanent damage, their promise of pain is enough to make anyone nervous.
Are you at risk for these painful pebbles? According to Shaw, it depends on your gender, your diet, and—surprisingly enough—your location. Stones typically strike more frequently in men, but the number of women suffering from kidney stones has increased over the past 10 years.
“We are likely now seeing more females affected likely due to the dietary and climate changes,” says Shaw.
The likelihood of developing kidney stones rises as men hit 40, and continues to increase into the 70s. Women are at peak kidney stone risk in their 50s, but the risk can also surface during pregnancy, due to the body’s heightened calcium excretion.
Shaw explains that if an individual forms one stone, there is a 50 percent chance they will develop another sometime down the road. Ouch.
According to the doctor, diet is an important factor in preventing kidney stones, and research has shown a correlation with obesity and uric acid stones. But Shaw’s top tip for preventing kidney stones may surprise you. “We cannot say it enough: Water with lemon, water with lemon, and water with lemon.”
Citrate, naturally found in lemon, helps stones from forming and prevents larger stone formation. Shaw recommends a squeeze of lemon twice a day, as well as making sure your daily water intake reaches 6 to 8 glasses, especially if you live in a humid climate.
That’s right. Where you’re located can affect your risk for developing kidney stones. Austin, Texas, where Shaw’s practice is located, is situated in the “Stone Belt” of the United States. “This is an area approximating a ‘belt’ that goes across the southern part of America where there is a higher occurrence of kidney stones,” says Shaw. Theories behind the belt focus on higher temperatures, which increases sweat and dehydration.
But regardless of where you live in the country, if you’re worried about developing kidney stones, the preventative answer for Shaw is clear: squeeze a lemon into your water and chug.