Kidney Stones and Gout: How to Prevent Uric Acid Kidney Stones

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Kidney Stones and Gout
Image: Medical gallery of Blausen Medical 2014

Kidney stones and gout: If you suffer from gout then you are at a higher risk of uric acid kidney stones. Use these strategies to help prevent excruciating kidney stones.

Kidney Stones and Gout

What Are Kidney Stones?

Kidney stones form when certain chemical substances in the body begin to crystallize and clog together eventually building-up into a hard, solid mass in the kidneys or urinary tract.

There are four types of kidney stone:

  • calcium-oxalate (the most common, due to elevated calcium and oxalate in the urine)
  • uric acid (due to elevated uric acid in the urine)
  • struvite (usually after a long-term urinary tract infection)
  • cystine (the rarest, caused by an inherited condition called cystinuria)

Today, we’re going to focus on uric acid kidney stones.

But first…

Your Kidneys

Your kidneys play a vital role in your general health and wellbeing. They do this by:

  • filtering waste products and excess fluid from the blood and turning it into urine.
  • controlling the body’s pH balance (acidity / alkalinity).
  • making hormones that help to produce red blood cells, control blood pressure and maintain healthy bones.
  • stabilizing electrolyte (e.g. sodium, potassium) levels in the body.

When the filtering process isn’t working at optimum efficiency, waste products (incl. excess uric acid) can be taken back into your blood and build-up in your body, causing numerous health problems, including gout and kidney stones.

Furthermore, there’s an increased risk of kidney stones if the pH balance isn’t maintained properly and your urine becomes too acidic.

As if the excruciating pain of a gout flare wasn’t enough, there’s a further serious complication of gout: agonizing uric acid kidney stones!

The same monosodium urate crystals that form in the joints and surrounding tissue can also appear in the kidneys and urinary tract and, over time, can clog together to form painful kidney stones that can interfere with proper kidney function.

Kidney Stone Symptoms

Pain arises when the stone causes an obstruction in the kidney such that the urine cannot pass freely and so backs up into the kidney. This causes an increase in internal pressure causing intense pain in the region, usually felt in the sides of the lower back. The pain can then move down into the abdomen and groin as the stone passes down the ureter towards the bladder .

As well as pain, other symptoms may include one or more of the following: blood in the urine, nausea, vomiting, fever, and chills.

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Gout Patients Are at a Higher Risk of Stones

Since uric acid kidney stones are caused by too much uric acid in urine and elevated uric acid is the root cause of gout, gout patients are at a much higher risk of these types of stones than someone who does not have gout.

How to Prevent Uric Acid Kidney Stones

Much of the preventative measures for uric acid kidney stones is the same as that for preventing the onset of gout i.e. maintaining your blood uric acid at healthy levels.

It makes sense. Gout is caused by elevated uric acid which gives rise to urate crystal formation that can also find their way into the kidneys and urinary tract.

In addition, high uric acid levels in the blood leads to a lower pH (more acidic) urine environment, which also increases the risk of kidney stones.

So by managing your uric acid at healthy levels, not only are you reducing the risk of a gout flare, you’re also reducing the risk of kidney stones.

Here are 5 strategies to help you manage your uric acid and maintain healthy kidneys:

1. Avoid high purine foods.

Since uric acid is a byproduct of the breakdown of chemical compounds called purines that exist in our body’s cells and the food we eat, it makes sense to avoid those foods that are high in purines.

So avoid or, at the very least, reduce things like fatty red meat, organ meat, game, shellfish, and dried legumes. Eat more vegetables (especially green-leafy vegetables), fruit, whole grains, and low fat dairy.

[Note: My guide “Gout Rescue” contains detailed A to Z lists of foods to avoid, foods to eat in moderation, and foods you can eat to your heart’s content.]

2. Avoid fructose.

Another cause of increased uric acid is too much fructose consumption.

Fructose is found in table sugar and a whole array of processed foods and drinks, often in the form of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), which is manufactured out of corn starch.

Fructose can also be found, naturally, in some fruits and vegetables, but in lower concentrations.

Fructose is not a purine, but when too much fructose is ingested, it can raise uric acid levels.

3. Eat more alkalizing foods.

A more alkaline urine environment aids uric acid excretion and helps to reduce the risk of kidney stones.

Most vegetables and fruits are alkaline. So eat plenty vegetables and fruit. Other alkaline-forming foods include things like: milk, cream, butter (unsalted), natural yogurt, eggs, potatoes and other root vegetables.

[I talk more about this in Gout Rescue too.]

4. Keep hydrated.

Not only does being properly hydrated keep your kidneys healthy, it also helps your kidneys flush excess uric acid out of your system.

Your urine should be straw-colored when properly hydrated. Any darker, then you’re probably dehydrated.

So keep properly hydrated by drinking lots of fluids, half of which should be water, but not alcohol or sugary / fizzy drinks.

5. Manage your blood pressure.

High blood pressure (hypertension) damages blood vessels. Your kidneys are packed with blood vessels that, when damaged, prevent kidney tissue getting sufficient blood. Poorly controlled high blood pressure is a leading cause of kidney disease.

And, of course, unhealthy kidneys are not as efficient as they should be so that waste products like uric acid can build-up in the body, increasing the risk of gout and kidney stones.

You can help manage your blood pressure and so help protect your kidneys by:

Avoiding alcohol.

Alcohol raises blood pressure that can damage your kidneys. But it also affects kidney function and hinders filtration. And, alcohol is a major trigger for gout.

Quitting smoking.

Smoking causes high blood pressure. But smoking can also affect medicines used in the treatment of high blood pressure, resulting in poor control that can lead to poor kidney function, even kidney disease.

Eating more plant-based foods.

Plant-based foods can help to lower and control blood pressure. The following are particularly effective for your kidneys’ health: leafy green vegetables, garlic, ginger, beetroot, pomegranate, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, spirulina, chlorella, turmeric, and lemon juice.

If you suffer from gout then you are at a higher risk of uric acid kidney stones. Please give serious consideration to the strategies above for helping to prevent them.