What to Know About Kidney Stones and Gallstones

October 27, 2021

We’ve all heard time and again how important it is to fuel our bodies properly. Keeping your body free of kidney stones and gallstones is another example of why a healthful diet is so important.

Gallstones and kidney stones can both grow in organs that work as filters for the body. This happens when our kidneys or gallbladders have to work hard to process extra amounts of salt, sugar, and proteins, with too little water.

Let’s learn the differences and how to lower the risks for each type of “stone.”

Kidney Stones Defined

Kidney stones are crystals made from chemicals in the urine. They form when the kidneys don’t properly filter waste, and there’s more waste than liquid in the urine. The crystals attract other elements that are usually eliminated from the body through urine. The stone may stay in the kidney or travel down the urinary tract to the ureter. They can be incredibly painful to pass. Stones that don’t leave the body can cause a back-up of urine in the kidney, ureter, bladder, or urethra.

The National Kidney Foundation estimates that one in 10 people will have a kidney stone during their lifetime. Also, more than half a million people go to emergency rooms for kidney stone problems.


Types of Kidney Stones

There are four types and knowing which type can help you learn how to reduce your risk for future stones. Try to collect any kidney stone you pass at home and take it to your doctor for analysis.

  • Calcium stones — These are the most common formed with oxalate — a substance made daily by the liver and absorbed from certain fruits, vegetables, nuts, and chocolates which have high oxalate content.
  • Struvite stones — These are in response to urinary tract infections. They grow quickly and can become large with little warning.
  • Uric acid stones — These form in people with excessive fluid loss due to chronic diarrhea or malabsorption, people who eat high-protein diets, and those with diabetes.
  • Cystine stones — This is genetic and forms in people with a hereditary disorder called cystinuria that causes the kidneys to excrete too much of a certain amino acid.

Medical Office

When to See a Doctor

Symptoms can include pain in the side, back, or below the ribs. Difficulty urinating or urinating in small amounts are also symptoms. You need to see a doctor when:

  • The pain in back or sides is extreme and won’t go away
  • There is blood in your urine
  • You have fever and chills
  • You’re vomiting
  • Urine smells bad or looks cloudy
  • It burns to urinate

Most small stones can be removed by drinking lots of water. There are also medications that help loosen the muscles in your ureter to let you pass them more easily. Larger stones could require the use of sound waves to break them, or even surgery.

Drink Water

Reducing the Risk

Kidney stones are more common in non-Hispanic white people however anyone can get kidney stones. You’re more likely to get them if you’ve had them before or someone in your immediate family has had them.

You can reduce the risk by:

  • Drinking 64 to 72 ounces of water a day, unless you’re limited by kidney disease
  • Lowering your intake of protein, sugar, and salt
  • Maintaining a healthy weight

Stomach Pain

Gallstones Defined

Once again, we’re talking about organic material hardening into stone-like objects. This time it happens in the gallbladder, and it’s caused when bile stored there gets hard.

Gallstone Symptoms

There aren’t symptoms with most gallstones. Symptoms don’t start appearing until the stones get large enough to block the bile ducts. Then sufferers begin to feel “attacks.” Symptoms include:

  • Abdominal bloating
  • Belching or gas
  • Indigestion
  • Nausea
  • Pain between the shoulder blades
  • Pain in the right shoulder
  • Sensitivity to fatty foods
  • Steady and severe pain in the abdomen that increases quickly
  • Vomiting

It’s time to see a doctor when, in addition to these symptoms, people experience:

  • Chills
  • Clay-colored stools
  • Fever
  • Sweating
  • Yellowing skin or eyes

Woman Running

Gallstone Risk Factors

Gallstones are extremely common, affecting nearly 25 million people. Almost 1 million people are diagnosed each year and about one-fourth of those will need to be treated, typically with surgery to remove the gallbladder.

Some of the risk factors associated with gallstones are preventable, but there are plenty that aren’t. They include:

  • A family history of gallstones
  • Being female
  • Being 40 or older
  • Being Hispanic or Mexican
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Diabetes
  • Having a blood disorder like sickle cell anemia or leukemia
  • Liver disease
  • Pregnancy
  • Taking medications containing estrogen

Maintaining a healthy weight will help reduce the risk of getting gallstones. If you need to lose weight, don’t do it too rapidly. That will only increase your risk. Don’t skip meals and go slowly with your weight loss. Eating more fiber-rich foods will also help.

Helping To Keep You Healthy

AltaMed is here to help you take charge of your well-being with health and wellness programs. Solutions include our Family Health and Fitness Program, STOMP; diabetes support groups and diabetes prevention; support for a heart-healthy lifestyle; dietician consultants; and more

Call (888) 499-9303 for more information or to get started.

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Kidneys: Lean, Mean, Blood-Cleaning Machines

March 06, 2018

Did you know? A woman is more likely to donate a kidney than receive one

On March 8, we celebrate women and their contributions to the world through International Women’s Day. This day is also an opportunity to reflect on key health issues that affect women globally.

According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, chronic kidney disease (CKD) affects approximately 195 million women worldwide and is currently the eighth leading cause of death in women, with 600,000 deaths each year. This year, World Kidney Day will also be celebrated on March 8, with the aim of increasing awareness and education about kidney disease in women and girls around the world.

Your kidneys may only be the size of your fists, but they are a lean, mean, blood-cleaning machine. In addition to removing toxins and excess water from our blood, the kidneys also control blood pressure, produce red blood cells, keep our bones healthy, control the body’s chemical balance and make urine.

Though early CKD often has no signs or symptoms, you can lose up to 90 percent of kidney function without even knowing. While it cannot be reversed, CKD can be slowed and even stopped with proper diet and medication.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you can help prevent CKD by:

  • Staying active
  • Staying within your target blood sugar and cholesterol ranges
  • Eating more fruits and vegetables
  • Monitoring and controlling your blood pressure; consult with your provider about medications and other ways to lower your blood pressure if it’s high

Don’t hesitate to talk to your PCP about your individual risk factors, and whether or not you should be screened. You and your health are important.

Source: Chronic Kidney Disease, Gender, and Access to Care: A Global Perspective: here.

Eating Until You’re Color-Full

July 30, 2018

Colorful foods aren’t just nice to look at, they offer a lot of benefits to your health!


Red, Blue, and Purple Food:

  • They can lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, urinary tract infections, and memory loss.
  • These foods contain potassium, vitamins A and C, and folate.
  • They are known for anti-inflammatory properties, helping to protect against cell damage, and keeping the heart, blood, joint, and immune systems healthy.
  • Foods include tomatoes, pomegranates, berries, watermelon, cabbage, beets, eggplant, grapes, raisins, cherries, kidney beans, and red pepper.


Orange and Yellow Food:

  • They can improve immune function and lower the risk of heart disease, vision problems and cancer.
  • These foods contain folate, potassium, bromium, vitamins A and C, iron, and calcium.
  • They are known for flushing out toxins and keeping the eyes, skin, teeth, and bones healthy.
  • Try carrots, lemons, oranges, corn, peaches, nectarines, mango, squash, pineapple, bell pepper, cantaloupe, and sweet potatoes.


Green Food:

  • They can lower the risk of cancer and vision problems.
  • These foods contain folate and vitamins A, C, and K.
  • They are known for fighting free radicals, helping prevent blood clots, and regulating blood sugar.
  • Foods include leafy greens like kale, spinach and arugula, green apples, limes, kiwi, avocado, cucumber, asparagus, green beans, grapes, and broccoli.&


White Food:

  • They can lower the risk for stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, and cancers like colorectal cancer.
  • These foods contain potassium, folate, niacin, riboflavin, and vitamin C.
  • They are known for providing essential dietary fiber and supporting the immune and circulatory systems.
  • Try pears, bananas, cauliflower, mushrooms, ginger, dates, potatoes, garlic, onions, black eyed peas, and white nectarines.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, we should all try to eat five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables per day in a variety of colors. So go ahead and fill your plate with a rainbow of fruits and veggies!