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Diet changes may help head off kidney stone recurrence

Severe, sharp back pain can be a symptom of kidney stones. (Getty Images)

People who have had a kidney stone face about a 30 percent chance of having another within five years, but dietary changes may help prevent a recurrence, Mayo Clinic researchers say.

Increasing fluid intake, especially water, is a commonly recommended way to prevent the development of kidney stones, but the researchers’ investigation noted that foods can have a positive effect, too — specifically, those high in calcium and potassium.

In their study, which involved 795 adults and was published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, people with lower levels of dietary calcium and potassium were more likely to have a follow-up episode of kidney stones than were those whose diets included more of those minerals. Foods high in potassium include bananas, oranges, avocados, potatoes, beans and more. Common sources of calcium include dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese) as well as leafy greens, almonds and salmon.

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Kidney stones develop when substances in a person’s urine fail to dissolve and instead join and form a hard object, usually ranging in size from that of a grain of sand to a pebble. Symptoms may include cloudy or bloody urine, nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, and severe, sharp pain in the lower back as the stone moves through the urinary tract.

If a stone will not pass from the body on its own, treatment options depend on the size and location of the stone, but they may involve the use of shock waves to break a large stone into smaller, passable pieces (lithotripsy) or surgical removal.

More than a half-million people go to emergency rooms every year because of kidney stones, according to the National Kidney Foundation, and about 10 percent of adults (slightly more men than women) will have a kidney stone at some point in their life.

This article is part of The Post’s “Big Number” series, which takes a brief look at the statistical aspect of health issues. Additional information and relevant research are available through the hyperlinks.