Can stress cause kidney stones?

October 28, 2015

Kidney stones are a major pain in the abdomen. At Austin Urology Institute, Dr. Koushik Shaw and his team frequently see patients who are sidelined by a burr in their urinary tract, wondering how it got there and how to make it go away.

Patients often ask if kidney stones are caused by stress (or too much caffeine or any number of other things). The truth is that kidney stones can indirectly be caused by stress.

A stone commonly forms in the kidney when a person becomes dehydrated and the urine becomes concentrated. This can be the result of a bad cycle where stress leads to poor diet, less exercise, decreased sleep quality, an increase in caffeine intake, and weight gain.

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.

When most people get stressed, the use of coffee, energy drinks, and poor diet choices increases. These are all huge risk factors for kidney stone formation. Water and hydration also get left out in the process which increases risk even more. The last thing you want when you’re stressed is a kidney stone trying to pass. 

How do I prevent kidney stones?

The best way to prevent stone formation is through diet. Some key points to remember about kidney stone prevention include:

  • Exercise – A great stress reducer that also decreases your risk of kidney stone formation. Remember to stay hydrated though.
  • Increasing hydration – Drink 6-8 glasses of water per day; this helps dilute the urine and hinders the formation of stones. At least 50% of total fluid intake should be water.
  • Decreasing caffeine intake – Cut back to 1-2 servings of caffeine a day. This includes coffee, soda, carbonated beverages, tea, ice tea, and energy drinks. These tend to be highly linked to stone formation.
  • Sleep – Be sure to get about 8 hours of solid sleep per day. This way , you will be less dependent on caffeine.
  • Eat healthier – Decrease sodium, sugar, and red meat. Sodium and sugar can easily be reduced by avoiding packaged and processed foods.
  • Moderating calcium intake – Unless told otherwise by your physician, it is not necessary to deprive yourself of calcium or do it in excess, but moderate your intake.
  • Increasing citric acid – This is found in citrus foods, and most potently in lemons; adding a capful of lemon juice to your water every day will help prevent stones from forming and sticking to one another.
  • Decreasing oxalate – The majority of stones are made of calcium oxalate, which bind together in the intestines. This reduces calcium’s ability to be absorbed, and an excess of oxalate will be excreted into the kidneys. Foods that contain large amounts of oxalate should be reduced or eliminated: rhubarb, spinach, strawberries, chocolate, wheat bran, nuts, beets, and tea.
  • Increasing fiber – Insoluble fiber (found in wheat, rye, barley, and rice) may help to reduce calcium in the urine.