Why Chronic Stress Might Be Your Kidneys' Worst Enemy

Posted by Alerna Kidney Health on

  • Kidney stones are solid mineral deposits that can form in the kidneys due to concentrated substances in the urine.
  • Stress can indirectly contribute to kidney stone formation by elevating cortisol levels and affecting urinary calcium excretion.
  • Key aspects of stress management include meditation, exercise, and a balanced diet to reduce the risk of kidney stones.
  • Chanca Piedra, a herbal remedy, has been used traditionally to support kidney health and may help dissolve kidney stones.
  • Seek medical advice for severe pain, persistent symptoms, fever, or a history of kidney stones to ensure prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Understanding Stress: What it is and How it Affects You

Stressed man with hand over the head. Image by Freepik

In our fast-paced modern lives, stress has become an all-too-familiar companion. Juggling work, family, and personal commitments can lead to mounting pressure that affects our well-being in more ways than we realize.

Stress, an ever-present force in our lives, can profoundly affect our mental and physical well-being.1 This section will explore the different types of stress, their impact on the body, and how they may play a role in kidney stone formation. Understanding stress is the first step toward safeguarding our overall health and finding natural ways to effectively prevent and manage kidney stones.

Chronic and Acute Stress

Stress is a natural response that helps our bodies cope with challenges and potential threats.2 There are two main types of stress: chronic and acute.

  • Chronic Stress: This type of stress persists over an extended period. It may result from ongoing issues such as work pressures, financial worries, or relationship problems. If left unmanaged, chronic stress can adversely affect your overall health, potentially increasing the risk of various health issues, including kidney stones.
  • Acute Stress: Acute stress is short-term and typically arises from immediate pressures or demands. While occasional acute stress can be normal, frequent occurrences can still impact your health in the long run.

The Role of Cortisol in Stress

When we encounter stress, our bodies release hormones, including cortisol, often called the "stress hormone."3 Cortisol is crucial in our fight-or-flight response, helping us react swiftly to perceived threats. However, prolonged exposure to high cortisol levels can harm different bodily functions.3

Research suggests that elevated cortisol levels may increase calcium excretion in the urine. Higher calcium levels in the urine can contribute to the formation of kidney stones over time.

Health Implications of Stress

Stress doesn't merely affect your mental and emotional well-being; it can also affect your physical health. 12 Understanding the potential consequences of stress can motivate us to take proactive measures to manage it effectively.

  • Impact on the Immune System: Chronic stress weakens the immune system, making you more susceptible to infections and other health issues.
  • Digestive Problems: Stress can disrupt your digestive system, leading to indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and decreased nutrient absorption.
  • Cardiovascular Risks: Long-term stress is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and other cardiovascular problems.
  • Inflammation: Chronic stress can trigger inflammation throughout the body, which may worsen existing health conditions and contribute to the development of new ones.

By understanding how stress affects your body, you can take proactive steps to manage and reduce its impact, potentially decreasing your risk of developing kidney stones.

Remember, while stress can be a factor in kidney stone formation, it is not the sole cause. Other factors, such as diet, hydration, and family history, also play significant roles.

What Are Kidney Stones?

Kidney stones, though small in size, can cause significant discomfort and disrupt our daily lives. Understanding their formation, types, and symptoms is crucial in taking proactive measures to prevent and address them naturally.

Formation and Types of Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are solid mineral and salt deposits that form in the kidneys when certain substances in the urine become highly concentrated.4 There are several types of kidney stones, each originating from different compounds. The most common types include:

  • Calcium Stones: These are the most prevalent type and are typically composed of calcium oxalate or calcium phosphate.5 High levels of calcium and oxalate in the urine contribute to their formation.
  • Uric Acid Stones: These form when there are elevated uric acid levels in the urine. They are more likely to develop in individuals with a diet high in purines or conditions that lead to increased uric acid levels.
  • Struvite Stones: Struvite stones are often the result of urinary tract infections (UTIs). They can multiply and become quite large, potentially leading to complications.
  • Cystine Stones: Cystine stones are rare and usually occur in individuals with a hereditary disorder called cystinuria. This condition causes high cystine levels (an amino acid) to accumulate in the urine, leading to stone formation.

What are the symptoms of kidney stones?

Man suffering kidney issues. Image by Freepik

Detecting kidney stones early is essential for prompt intervention.6 Here are common symptoms that may indicate the presence of kidney stones:

  • Intense Pain: Severe back, side, or lower abdomen pain is often the hallmark of kidney stones. The pain can fluctuate in intensity and radiate to the groin or thighs.
  • Urinary Changes: Changes in urination, such as frequent urges to urinate, cloudy or foul-smelling urine, or experiencing small amounts of urine, may be indicative of kidney stones.
  • Hematuria: Blood in the urine, known as hematuria, can occur due to kidney stones irritating the urinary tract.
  • Nausea and Vomiting: Kidney stone pain can be accompanied by feelings of nausea and vomiting, especially when the pain is severe.
  • Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs): Recurrent UTIs may occur in association with kidney stones.

It is important to note that the severity of symptoms can vary depending on the stone's size and location within the urinary tract. If you experience any of these symptoms, seeking medical attention for proper diagnosis and treatment is crucial.

Why Do Kidney Stones Develop?

Understanding the factors contributing to kidney stone formation can empower us to make informed lifestyle choices and take preventive measures.

High Blood Pressure and Kidney Stones

High blood pressure, or hypertension, can impact kidney health and increase the risk of kidney stones.7 Hypertension may alter normal kidney function and affect the delicate balance of minerals in the urine, promoting stone formation.

Diet and Its Influence on Kidney Stones

Diet plays a crucial role in the development of kidney stones. Certain dietary choices can lead to accumulating substances in the urine, paving the way for stone formation.8 Key dietary factors include:

  • Calcium and Oxalate: Consuming oxalate-rich foods (such as spinach, beets, and nuts) in combination with high-calcium foods can contribute to calcium oxalate stone formation.
  • Sodium: A high-sodium diet can increase calcium levels in the urine, raising the risk of calcium stones.
  • Animal Proteins: Diets high in animal proteins may lead to higher uric acid levels in the urine, increasing the likelihood of uric acid stones.
  • Hydration: Inadequate fluid intake can lead to concentrated urine, making it easier for stones to form.

Dehydration and Kidney Stones

Proper hydration is essential in preventing kidney stones. When we don't drink enough water, the urine becomes more concentrated, and minerals are more likely to crystallize and form stones. 9 Staying well-hydrated helps flush out these minerals, reducing the risk of stone formation.

Genetic Factors in Kidney Stones

Genetics can also play a role in kidney stone development.10 Certain hereditary conditions, such as cystinuria and hypercalciuria, can predispose individuals to form specific types of kidney stones. If you have a family history of kidney stones, being vigilant about preventive measures and regular health check-ups is essential.

Addressing these factors and adopting a kidney-friendly lifestyle can reduce the risk of kidney stone formation and promote overall kidney health.

Can you get kidney stones from stress?

While stress may not directly cause kidney stones, it can influence various physiological processes contributing to stone formation. One of the key players in this relationship is the hormone cortisol, which is released during stress.

The Role of Stress in Kidney Stone Development

Prolonged stress can lead to increased cortisol levels, which, in turn, may elevate the excretion of calcium in the urine.1112 Higher levels of urinary calcium increase the likelihood of forming calcium-based kidney stones, such as calcium oxalate stones.

Stress can trigger changes in dietary habits. People experiencing stress may resort to unhealthy eating patterns, consuming more processed foods, and neglecting nutritious options. Also, stress might lead to decreased water intake, reducing urine output and concentrated urine, promoting stone formation.

Stress-Induced Dietary Changes

When stressed, some individuals may seek comfort in unhealthy food choices, such as sugary snacks, high-sodium foods, or excessive caffeine and alcohol consumption. These dietary changes can contribute to the risk of kidney stones.

  • Sodium: Consuming excessive sodium can increase the amount of calcium excreted in the urine, making it more likely for calcium stones to form.
  • Caffeine and Alcohol: Both caffeine and alcohol can lead to dehydration, reducing urine volume and increasing the concentration of stone-forming minerals.

Stress, Metabolism, and Kidney Stones

Stress can influence the body's metabolism, altering various biochemical processes. Changes in metabolism can affect the urinary composition, potentially promoting kidney stone formation.

  • Uric Acid: Stress-induced metabolic changes may increase uric acid production and excretion. Elevated uric acid levels in the urine can raise the risk of uric acid stone formation.

The Impact of Stress on Kidney Health

Stress is a pervasive aspect of modern life, and its effects extend beyond our mental and emotional well-being. When it comes to kidney health, chronic stress can have significant implications.1112 Let's explore how stress can impact the kidneys and what steps we can take to protect these vital organs.

1. Elevated Blood Pressure: Prolonged stress triggers the release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones can lead to increased heart rate and elevated blood pressure. High blood pressure (hypertension) is a well-known risk factor for kidney damage and can contribute to the development of kidney disease over time.

2. Impaired Kidney Function: The increased strain on the cardiovascular system caused by stress can affect the kidneys' blood flow and filtration process. Over time, this strain may lead to reduced kidney function, impairing their ability to filter waste and maintain the body's balance of fluids and electrolytes.

3. Calcium Excretion: Stress-induced cortisol elevation can increase calcium excretion in the urine. Higher levels of urinary calcium can raise the risk of calcium-based kidney stones, potentially causing pain and obstruction in the urinary tract.

4. Altered Immune Response: Chronic stress weakens the immune system, making the body more susceptible to infections and inflammatory conditions. Infections in the urinary tract can contribute to forming certain types of kidney stones, such as struvite stones.

5. Hydration and Concentrated Urine: Some individuals may need to prioritize proper hydration under stress, leading to decreased water intake. This can result in concentrated urine, creating an environment conducive to stone formation.

6. Impact on Lifestyle Choices: Stress influences dietary habits and choices. People experiencing stress may resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as overeating, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, or lack of exercise, all of which can negatively impact kidney health.

Stress Management Techniques for Kidney Stone Prevention

Woman meditating with nature. Image by Freepik

While we cannot entirely eliminate stress from our lives, we can adopt healthy coping strategies and lifestyle changes to protect our kidneys and overall well-being:

Mental Health Techniques: Meditation and Professional Support

In addition to adopting a kidney-friendly lifestyle, incorporating mental health techniques can play a crucial role in preventing kidney stones and promoting overall well-being.12

Stress Management Techniques: Engage in stress-reducing activities such as yoga, meditation, deep breathing exercises, or spending time in nature to help alleviate stress and its impact on the body.

Quality Sleep: Prioritize getting enough restful sleep to support your body's ability to manage stress and promote overall health.

Seek Professional Support: Professional support from a therapist, counselor, or mental health expert can be immensely beneficial. They can guide, offer coping strategies, and help you navigate challenging emotions.

Physical Health Techniques: Exercise, Hydration, and Nutrition

Maintaining excellent physical health is a key aspect of kidney stone prevention. Incorporating regular exercise, proper hydration, and a kidney-friendly diet can support your kidneys' well-being and reduce the risk of kidney stone formation.1314

Balanced Diet: Choose a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins while limiting sodium, sugar, and processed foods. A balanced diet supports kidney health and overall resilience.

Hydration: Drink adequate water throughout the day to maintain proper hydration and reduce the risk of kidney stone formation.

Regular Exercise: Incorporate regular physical activity into your routine, as exercise can help manage stress, promote cardiovascular health, and support kidney function.

Routine Check-ups: Visit your healthcare provider regularly for check-ups and screenings to monitor your kidney health and address any potential issues early on.

Treating Kidney Stones: What are Your Options?

Discovering that you have kidney stones can be a painful and concerning experience. Fortunately, various treatment options are available, depending on the size, type, and location of the stones.6 Let's explore the two primary approaches for kidney stone treatment: medical interventions and dietary/lifestyle modifications.

Medical Interventions

Medical treatments are often recommended for larger or more problematic kidney stones that may not pass on their own. Here are some common medical interventions:

  • Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL): This non-invasive procedure uses shock waves to break large stones into smaller fragments, making them easier to pass through the urinary tract.
  • Ureteroscopy with Laser Lithotripsy: In this procedure, a thin tube with a camera (ureteroscope) is inserted through the urethra and bladder to access and break up stones in the ureter or kidney using a laser.
  • Percutaneous Nephrolithotomy (PCNL): For larger kidney stones, PCNL involves making a small incision in the back to access and remove the stones directly from the kidney.
  • Surgical Stone Removal: In some cases, open surgery may be necessary to remove large or complicated kidney stones.

Diet and Lifestyle in Kidney Stone Treatment

In addition to medical interventions, dietary and lifestyle modifications play a crucial role in managing kidney stones. These changes are significant in preventing stones' recurrence and promoting overall kidney health.91314 Here are some key dietary and lifestyle recommendations:

  • Hydration: Stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water to help flush out minerals and reduce the risk of stone formation.
  • Low-Sodium Diet: Limit your sodium intake to prevent the accumulation of calcium in the urine, which can contribute to stone formation.
  • Calcium and Oxalate Balance: While it may seem counterintuitive, it's essential to consume adequate calcium to bind with oxalates in the gut and prevent them from being absorbed into the bloodstream. Talk to a healthcare professional to determine the appropriate calcium intake for you.
  • Moderate Protein Intake: If you're prone to uric acid stones, consult your doctor about moderating your protein consumption, particularly animal proteins.
  • Limit Oxalate-Rich Foods: Reduce the consumption of foods high in oxalates, such as spinach, rhubarb, and nuts.
  • Maintain a Healthy Weight: If you're overweight, losing excess pounds can help reduce the risk of kidney stones.
  • Regular Exercise: Engage in regular physical activity to support kidney health and overall well-being.

Are There Any Natural Home Remedies In Treating Kidney Stones?

Chanca Piedra natural stone breaker. Free Stock photos by Vecteezy

Kidney stones can be painful and uncomfortable, prompting many individuals to seek natural home remedies for relief and prevention. While it's essential to consult a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment, some natural remedies may complement medical interventions and support kidney health. Here are a few commonly used natural home remedies:

1. Chanca Piedra: Chanca Piedra, or "Stone Breaker," is a popular herbal remedy used for centuries in traditional medicine to treat kidney stones and other urinary tract issues.15 This herb is native to the rainforests of South America and has gained attention for its potential benefits in kidney stone management.

2. Hydration: One of the most crucial home remedies for kidney stones is staying well-hydrated.9 Drinking plenty of water helps flush out minerals and toxins, reducing the risk of stone formation. Aim to drink enough water to produce clear or pale yellow urine.

3. Lemon Juice: Lemons are rich in citric acid, which can help inhibit the formation of certain types of kidney stones, particularly calcium oxalate stones.16 Adding freshly squeezed lemon juice to your water can increase citrate levels in the urine, preventing crystal formation.

4. Dietary Adjustments: Making dietary changes can play a significant role in kidney stone prevention.1314 Moderating your intake of oxalate-rich foods, such as spinach, beets, and nuts, can reduce the risk of calcium oxalate stone formation. Maintaining a balanced diet and avoiding excessive sodium and animal protein can also support kidney health.

5. Dandelion Root Tea: Dandelion root tea is a natural diuretic that may help increase urine production and promote the flushing of kidney stones.17 It is essential to consult a healthcare provider before using dandelion root, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking medications.

What is Chanca Piedra and How Can It Help with Kidney Stones?

Chanca Piedra (Phyllanthus niruri) is a tropical plant commonly found in the Amazon rainforest and other tropical areas. It has a long history of use in traditional medicine for various purposes, including treating kidney stones.

How Does Chanca Piedra Work for Kidney Stones?

  • Stone Dissolution: Chanca Piedra is believed to contain compounds that may help dissolve kidney stones and prevent their growth.15 Some studies suggest that it may inhibit stone-forming crystals from sticking together, making it easier for the body to pass the stones naturally.
  • Urinary Tract Relaxation: This herb relaxes the urinary tract, potentially helping to ease the passage of kidney stones and reducing discomfort during stone expulsion.15

How to Use Chanca Piedra:

  • Chanca Piedra is available in various forms, including capsules, tablets, liquid extracts, and teas. Follow the product's instructions for proper dosage and usage.
  • As with any herbal remedy, it's essential to consult your healthcare provider before using Chanca Piedra, especially if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have existing health conditions or medications.

Buy Chanca Piedra

When to seek medical advice?

Knowing when to seek medical advice is essential for prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatment of kidney stones.6 If you experience any of the following symptoms or situations, it's crucial to consult a healthcare professional:

  1. Severe Pain: Intense, unrelenting pain in the back, side, lower abdomen, or groin, especially if it is accompanied by nausea and vomiting.
  2. Persistent Symptoms: If you have symptoms that suggest kidney stones, such as changes in urination (frequency, color, or odor) or blood in the urine (hematuria), they do not improve or worsen over time.
  3. Difficulty Urinating: If you have trouble passing urine, feel the need to urinate frequently, or experience a weak urine stream.
  4. Fever or Signs of Infection: If you develop a fever or experience symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI), such as pain or burning during urination, urgency, or cloudy/foul-smelling urine.
  5. History of Kidney Stones: If you have a personal or family history of kidney stones, monitoring your kidney health and discussing preventive measures with a healthcare professional is essential.
  6. Pre-existing Medical Conditions: If you have underlying health conditions that may increase the risk of kidney stones, such as gout, hyperparathyroidism, or certain kidney disorders, you must receive regular check-ups and follow your healthcare provider's recommendations.
  7. Recent Kidney Stone Passage: If you have previously passed a kidney stone, it's essential to seek medical advice to determine the cause of the stone and take preventive measures to avoid recurrence.
  8. Pregnancy: If you are pregnant and experience symptoms suggestive of kidney stones, seeking medical attention promptly is crucial, as kidney stones can be particularly concerning during pregnancy.

Kidney stones can cause severe pain and complications, and early intervention can lead to better outcomes. If you suspect kidney stones or experience any concerning symptoms, don't hesitate to contact your healthcare provider or visit the nearest medical facility for proper evaluation and guidance.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can stress and anxiety cause kidney problems?

Prolonged stress and anxiety can impact kidney health indirectly by increasing blood pressure and altering hormonal responses. Stress management is essential for overall well-being.

How do you destress your kidneys?

To destress your kidneys, practice relaxation techniques like meditation, deep breathing exercises, and engage in regular physical activity. Stay hydrated and maintain a kidney-friendly diet.

What emotion is linked to kidney stones?

In traditional Chinese medicine, kidney stones are associated with the emotion of fear. Emotional well-being is crucial for overall health.

Can kidney stones affect you mentally?

Kidney stones can cause pain, discomfort, and stress, which may affect mental well-being. Managing stress and seeking support is vital.

Can stress increase creatinine?

Yes, chronic stress may impact kidney function, leading to increased creatinine levels. Managing stress is essential for kidney health.

Medical Disclaimer:

The information provided in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please consult with your healthcare provider before starting any new dietary supplement, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, have a medical condition, or are taking other medications. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article.


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