It’s not news that smoking is harmful to your health. Public service announcements tell you of the many dangers, such as lung cancer and other respiratory illnesses. However, not everyone knows that smoking is also a risk factor for kidney stones. This can provide you with another good reason to quit smoking.
Smoking Effect on Kidneys
Smoking is mainly known for its damaging effect on the lungs. It increases the risks for almost every type of lung disease, including lung cancer, tuberculosis, and bronchitis. It can also irritate existing conditions such as asthma and allergies. Smoking also presents other dangers, such as increasing the risk of babies being born with health problems.
One area that’s gotten less attention is smoking’s impact on the kidneys and urinary system. The kidneys perform the critical function of flushing toxins out of your body. Inhaling smoke along with toxins such as nicotine can cause a variety of blockages and illnesses in this part of the body. Smoking has been connected with bladder cancer, incontinence, interstitial cystitis (IC), also known as painful bladder syndrome, and kidney stones.
Why Smoking Causes Kidney Stones
Kidney stones are a common and potentially dangerous condition. Recent studies suggest that lifestyle factors, including smoking, can contribute to the growth of kidney stones. Smoking can increase the risk of developing kidney stones by double. There’s also been interesting research showing how more women have developed kidney stones in recent years.
One study, for example, found that the number of women suffering from kidney stones has increased dramatically over the last few decades, which correlates with many more women smoking.
Studies have even shown that secondhand smoke can increase your risk of developing kidney diseases, including kidney stones. Secondhand smoke can be difficult to avoid, especially if you have family or friends who smoke. However, it’s also easier than ever to avoid smoke as most public places have banned it.
Risk Factors For Kidney Stones
As the smoking connection reveals, kidney stones are a complex condition that can be caused by many factors.
- Having had kidney stones in the past.
- Genetics — If members of your family have had kidney stones, you’re more likely to get them.
- Not drinking enough fluids.
- Being overweight or obese.
- Taking certain medications, such as diuretics.
- If you’ve had surgery involving the kidneys or intestines.
- A diet that’s high in animal protein, salt, or sugar.
- A sedentary lifestyle.
- Unhealthy habits such as smoking or excessively drinking alcohol, especially beer.
As this list reveals, there are many possible risk factors. None of these, by themselves, necessarily means you’ll get kidney stones. However, it’s useful to know risk factors, especially those you can control, such as diet and smoking.
Best Way to Prevent Kidney Stones
While there’s no foolproof way to ensure you don’t get kidney stones, there are some actions you can take to reduce your risk.
- Stop smoking. If you are a smoker, you may have tried to quit before. As challenging as it is, you owe it to yourself to give it your best effort. It’s one of the best ways to reduce your risk of many illnesses, including kidney stones. You should also do your best to avoid secondhand smoke.
- Change your diet. Reduce your intake of foods and beverages that may contribute to kidney stones. This includes alcohol, sweets, salt, and animal protein. If you have calcium oxalate stones, you also need to be aware of which foods are high in oxalates, such as spinach and other green leafy vegetables, rhubarb, soy, cocoa, as well as many nuts and legumes.
- Drink more fluids to pass and prevent kidney stones. Medical experts recommend drinking a minimum of eight 6oz glasses of water daily if you have or are at risk for kidney stones.
- Manage your weight. If you’re overweight, you can reduce your risk of kidney stones by losing weight. This tip works well with the recommendation to get regular exercise.
- Exercise regularly but in moderation. Living a sedentary lifestyle makes it more likely that you’ll develop kidney stones. On the other hand, very strenuous activities can also increase your risk. Moderate exercise, however, is beneficial.
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Many Lifestyle Choices Can Impact Kidney Stones
The kidneys are one of your most vital organs. A surprising number of actions and habits can affect how well they function. Smoking effect on kidney function is just one factor that can contribute to kidney stones. There’s no simple explanation of why some people are prone to kidney stones. The best you can do is focus on the risk factors you can manage, such as quitting smoking, drinking more water, and changing your diet.