Guest blogger Ronda Kaysen: Five-year-olds are turning up at the pediatrician's office with kidney stones, the New York Times reports. An ailment that was once the domain of the middle-aged is now reaching epidemic proportions among kids.
The situation is so dire that hospitals are creating special pediatric kidney stone clinics. Kidney stones occur when oxalate binds with calcium in the urine. "Passing" a stone can be very painful and sometimes requires minor surgery. Here are some ways you can keep your kids from getting stones.
• Watch Out for Salty Foods. The biggest cause of stones is salt. Keep your kids (and yourself) on a low salt diet. It's not as easy as you think. Salt is that ubiquitous additive that shows up in just about everything. To keep it under control, cut down on chips, fries, processed deli meats, canned soups, packaged meals, and even Gatorade. Try cooking with less salt, too.
• Drink Water. The other major kidney stone culprit is dehydration. Make sure your kids drink plenty of water. Lots of kids avoid drinking at school because they don't want to interrupt class to go to the bathroom. Tell them it's okay and make sure they drink up. Also, make sure kids drink up before and after they exercise, when they can get dehydrated.
• Stay Slim. Although thin kids in great shape can get kidney stones, kids who are overweight are at a greater risk. So, if your kid is heavy, the risk of kidney stones is another reason to trim down.
• Know Your Family History. Kids with a family history of kidney stones are more likely to get them. So, if they run in your family, be extra vigilant.
• Steer Clear of Sugary Drinks. Sucrose, a sugary additive in soft drinks, increases the risk of stones. Drink water instead.
• Avoid High Protein Diets. High Protein diets, like the Atkins diet, are popular among teens, but can increase a kid's risk for stones
• Drink Milk. Even though stones are calcium deposits, consuming a lot of calcium actually helps reduce your risk for kidney stones because dietary calcium binds with oxalate before it is absorbed in your body. So make sure your kids drink their milk or eat other dairy foods.
Changing your kid's diet might feel like an overwhelming task, but use these tips for yourself, too. We're all at risk. The rate of kidney stones is increasing among people in their 20s and 30s, too.