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Bring the Conversation to the Table: Understand Your Family Health History

As family travels from near and far to be together during the holiday season, it’s an opportune time for you to not only cherish the time with your loved ones, but also gain a deeper understanding of your family’s health history. Take the time to have important conversations about family health history. Discussing your family’s health background doesn’t have to overshadow the festive atmosphere, however, it can be a valuable way to understand potential health issues that may be hereditary, allowing you to proactively address them with your healthcare provider.

Understanding your family’s health history is crucial for everyone. It empowers you to develop a strategy for managing any potential health concerns. For instance, a family history of breast cancer can be associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer. Certain genetic mutations that elevate the risk of breast cancer also raise the likelihood of prostate cancer in men. Therefore, if you discover a family member has had breast cancer, it’s important to discuss your own cancer risk with your doctor.

This holiday season, take a moment to engage in discussions with your family about the significance of understanding your health history. The more you comprehend potential health impacts, the better equipped you and your doctor are to address them early on, allowing you to continue relishing those special holiday moments.

The Right Diet Plan Could Prevent Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are hard masses that form from crystals in the urine. Sometimes, they do not have recognizable symptoms, but often, kidney stones can be very painful. Either way, you will want to avoid them, or maybe you’ve had them and you’re in no rush for them to return. There are preventative actions you can take with changes to your diet plan that will help keep kidney stones from building.

Before we begin with diet recommendations, it’s important to note that all kidney stones are not the same. The most common type of kidney stone is a calcium stone, with uric acid stones following close after. Diet and medical treatment are different depending on the stone type.

The National Kidney Foundation gives these diet recommendations dependent on the kidney stone type.

1. Calcium Oxalate Stones: most common stones

Oxalate is naturally found in many foods, including fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, grains, legumes, and even chocolate and tea. Some examples of foods that have high levels of oxalate include peanuts, rhubarb, spinach, beets, Swiss chard, chocolate and sweet potatoes. Limiting intake of these foods may be beneficial for people who form calcium oxalate stones which is the leading type of kidney stone.

Eat and drink calcium foods such as milk, yogurt, and some cheese and oxalate-rich foods together during a meal. The oxalate and calcium from the foods are more likely to bind to one another in the stomach and intestines before entering the kidneys. This will make it less likely that kidney stones will form.

Calcium is not the enemy but it tends to get a bad rap! This is most likely due to its name and misunderstanding that calcium is the main cause in calcium-oxalate stones. A diet low in calcium actually increases your chances of developing kidney stones.

Don’t reduce the calcium in your diet. Work to cut back on the sodium in your diet and to pair calcium-rich foods with oxalate-rich foods. The recommended calcium intake to prevent calcium stones is 1000-1200 mg per day (you can eat 3 servings of dairy products with meals to meet the recommendation).

Extra sodium causes you to lose more calcium in your urine. Sodium and calcium share the same transport in the kidney so if you eat high sodium foods it will increase calcium leakage in the urine. Therefore, a high sodium diet can increase your chances for developing another stone. There are many sources of “hidden” sodium such as canned or commercially processed foods as well as restaurant-prepared and fast foods.

You can lower your sodium intake by choosing fresh low sodium foods which can help to lower calcium leakage in the urine and will also help with blood pressure control if you have high blood pressure.

2. Uric acid stones: another common stone

Red meat, organ meats, and shellfish have high amounts of a natural chemical compound known as purines. High purine intake leads to a higher production of uric acid and a larger acid load for the kidneys to excrete. Higher uric acid excretion leads to more acidic urine. The high acid concentration of the urine makes it easier for uric acid stones to form.

To prevent uric acid stones, cut down on high-purine foods such as red meat, organ meats, beer/alcoholic beverages, meat-based gravies, sardines, anchovies and shellfish. Follow a healthy diet plan that has mostly vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products. Limit sugar-sweetened foods and drinks, especially those that have high fructose corn syrup. Limit alcohol because it can increase uric acid levels in the blood and avoid short term diets for the same reason. Decreasing animal-based protein and eating more fruits and vegetables will help decrease urine acidity and this may help reduce the chance for uric acid stone formation.

General Diet Recommendations for Kidney Stones:

Drink plenty of fluid: 2-3 quarts/day
This includes any type of fluid such as water, coffee and lemonade which have been shown to have a beneficial effect with the exception of grapefruit juice and soda. This will help produce less concentrated urine and ensure a good urine volume of at least 2.5L/day.

Limit foods with high oxalate content
Spinach, many berries, chocolate, wheat bran, nuts, beets, tea and rhubarb should be eliminated from your diet intake.

Eat enough dietary calcium
Three servings of dairy per day will help lower the risk of calcium stone formation. Eat with meals.

Avoid extra calcium supplements
Calcium supplements should be individualized by your physician and registered kidney dietitian.

Eat a moderate amount of protein
High protein intakes will cause the kidneys to excrete more calcium therefore this may cause more stones to form in the kidney.

Avoid high salt intake
High sodium intake increases calcium in the urine which increases the chances of developing stones. Low salt diet is also important to control blood pressure.

Avoid high doses of vitamin C supplements
It is recommend to take 60mg/day of vitamin C based on the US Dietary Reference Intake Excess. Amounts of 1000mg/day or more may produce more oxalate in the body.


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