Warm Weather and Kidney Stones: Does Summer Increase Your Risk?

June 07,2022 |
Family walking to the beach.

The primary role of your kidneys is to filter waste and excess fluid so they can be removed from your body. Anatomically, kidneys are each made up of millions of tiny filtration systems called nephrons. Nephrons work using a two-step process. First your blood filters through a unique blood vessel called a glomerulus to remove waste, then it passes through a tubule which directs the essential substances back into your blood stream and waste out of your body. Simultaneously, your kidneys work to remove the acid that’s produced by various cells within your body to help maintain a certain level of homeostasis between hormones, minerals, salt, and water. The waste product produced by the kidney is urine. Although the direct cause is largely unknown, kidney stones can occur when urine contains high levels of crystal-forming substances. These often include things like calcium, oxalate, and uric acid. Some individuals are more prone to kidney stones, while others will never experience them. However, an interesting trend has been noticed where more people tend to experience kidney stones in spring and summer. Here, we’ll explore the link between warm weather and kidney stones in an attempt to explain why summer increases your risk.


Causes and Symptoms of Kidney Stones

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to pinpoint a single factor that causes the formation of stones. However, there are four distinct types of kidney stones and understanding which type you’re experiencing can provide insight as to the underlying cause.

Calcium Kidney Stones

Calcium kidney stones are the most common form of kidney stone that people experience. These are most commonly formed due to the buildup of calcium oxalate in urine. Oxalate is made by your liver and absorbed through food, so your doctor may recommend adjusting your diet if you suffer from recurrent calcium stones. Foods that have a high oxalate content include spinach, almonds, soy, potatoes, raspberries, dates, beets, and more. High doses of vitamin D and intestinal bypass surgery may also increase your risk of high oxalate concentration. 

Calcium kidney stones can also accumulate due to high concentrates of calcium phosphate. This is more common in individuals suffering from metabolic conditions, but certain medications may also raise your risk. Talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing recurrent kidney stones to better understand the underlying cause and utilize preventative treatment.

Struvite Kidney Stones

These stones are commonly referred to as infection stones and are usually associated with UTIs or other conditions. They’re comprised of the mineral magnesium ammonium phosphate and tend to grow rapidly and lead to a lot of discomfort or various health complications. Struvite kidney stones may occur with very few symptoms or without warning, but if you begin to notice any signs of discomfort see your doctor as soon as possible.

Uric Acid Kidney Stones

Uric acid kidney stones affect individuals who experience a rapid loss of fluids due to illness, chronic diarrhea, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, or in individuals who eat a high-protein diet. These stones may remain stationary, which can lead to significant amounts of pain and cause urinary obstructions or infections. If you experience any symptoms that include severe pain, hematuria, nausea or vomiting, fever, or urine that smells bad or has a cloudy appearance, see your doctor.

Cystine Kidney Stones

Cystine stones are one of the least common types of kidney stones, but they can be recurrent in individuals who experience them. Cystine stones occur in people with a hereditary disorder called cystinuria, which causes your kidneys to excrete high levels of certain amino acids. If you’re diagnosed with cystinuria, talk to your doctor about preventative measures to take to reduce your risk of these stones.


The Impact of Seasonal Shifts on Your Body

While summer months bring inviting weather and outdoor activities, the change of temperatures and humidity levels can impact how your body functions. Since you’ll likely be losing more fluid through sweat, the risk of dehydration severely increases. When this isn’t properly addressed, a myriad of health conditions can follow. Similarly, summertime means more backyard barbeques and therefore, more processed meats. These foods are usually high in excess sodium, which further increases your risk of kidney stones, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Try to avoid falling victim to unhealthy summer habits and instead, focus on ways to stay active without putting too much strain on your body.


How to Attain Alleviate Discomfort Caused by Kidney Stones

Having to endure a kidney stone in the middle of summer is not particularly enjoyable. While small stones can be passed fairly easily, larger ones may require treatment or even surgery to avoid debilitating levels of discomfort. To reduce your risk of experiencing kidney stones, or to help you alleviate any discomfort caused by their formation, consider the following tips.

Eat Strategically

If you’re prone to calcium kidney stones or uric acid stones, altering your diet can help you reduce your chances of experiencing them during the summer. In general, try to avoid sodium, processed foods, and foods that are high in fat.

To reduce your risk of calcium kidney stones, eat a balanced diet and avoid excessive consumption of high oxalate foods. You can still eat these fruits, vegetables, grains, seeds, nuts, and legumes in moderation—completely eliminating them hasn’t been shown to have a high impact on stone formation. Most foods that are rich in oxalate are also extremely nutritious, so just try to balance your plate and combine oxalate-rich foods with a good source of calcium to help facilitate early binding and reduce the formation of stones. Some calcium-rich options include milk, yogurt, almonds, and salmon.

To lower your risk of uric acid kidney stones, reduce consumption of red meats and shellfish, as these have high levels of purine. Purine increases the production of uric acid in the body, which can put strain on the kidneys. Instead, focus on eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products. Avoid eating excessive amounts of protein and stick to moderate portions of lean options like chicken breast or ground turkey. Alcohol can also increase uric acid levels, so drink responsibly and talk to your doctor about any symptoms ahead of time.

Focus on Hydration

One of the best ways to help reduce your risk of experiencing kidney stones in the summer is to drink plenty of water. Since kidney stones are more likely to form when you’re dehydrated—either from sweating or urinating—replenishing your fluid levels can help create a balance and reduce the strain on your kidneys. Urine that’s diluted with water will help dissolve salts that can lead to kidney stones, making it a good preventative measure. When your properly hydrated, you should be voiding at least two liters of day. If you have any problems with fluid retention, talk to your doctor about your options.

Choose Citrus Over Sugar

Reduce your consumption of sugary beverages like soda or sports drinks. Instead, opt for naturally flavored seltzer water or add a few slices of lemon and cucumber to your glass. The citrate that’s present in citrus fruits like lemons, oranges, and limes act as a natural inhibitor of kidney stone formation. Citrus fruits are a great way to add some variety to your summer drinks and reduce your risk of uncomfortable stones.

Try Preventative Medicine

When you experience kidney stones once, you’re about 50% more likely to experience them again at some point in your life. To reduce your risk of recurrent episodes, talk to your doctor about preventative medicines available to you. There are options that can help your body control ions and minerals that are present in your urine, thus reducing your risk of stone formation. Different medications are needed based on the type of kidney stones you experience, so your doctor may need to wait until you pass them again to ensure you receive the proper treatment.

Regardless of if you’ve had kidney stones in the past or are just experiencing them for the first time, seeing your doctor is important to reduce your risk of complications. While some stones may pass naturally, certain formations require additional procedures. Unfortunately, once you have kidney stones, your risk for repeated episodes increases. If you experience any pain or discomfort, schedule an appointment with your urologist. To learn more about urologic supplies, urology problems and complications, or additional resources, visit our educational support page. Byram Healthcare is a full-service urological care supplier that offers discreet home delivery directly to your doorstep.

Byram Healthcare is a member of the National Association for Continence’s Trusted Partners Program, whose mission is to provide quality continence care through education, collaboration and advocacy. We continue to build partnerships in the clinical community to ensure we focus on what’s best for the patient.