HOW TO DRINK ENOUGH WATER

Jill jpegIn my 13 years of working with stone formers, as a nurse in residence at Litholink Corporation and in my own practice, the number one question has always been: ‘How much water do I really need to drink?’ Maybe as important is: ‘How Do I Do It?’

Tread Slowly

Many patients leave their doctor’s office with the vague instruction to increase their water input. How much are you supposed to drink to reduce your stone risk?

Even more, patients are told to go home and start drinking a gallon of water a day. If you don’t drink more than a couple of glasses per day now, how are you supposed to drink a gallon tomorrow?

Drinking more water is a simple way to reduce your stone risk, but simple does not mean easy. Most of you find this task extremely hard. I tell everyone to start out slowly. If you drink one glass per day now, then drink two tomorrow. Set new goals to increase your water consumption each week. I have seen people go from 1 glass per day to 10 glasses per day within a month.

Understanding how much water to drink and all of the details behind it can be exhausting. I just released a course called The Kidney Stone Prevention Course to help you understand how to implement your physician’s prescribed treatment plans.

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Spend Time to Avoid Pain

I can hear you saying now; I don’t have enough time in the day to spend it in the washroom”.

This is a legitimate response and one I have heard many times throughout my career. I will not lie. You will spend more time in the bathroom, but you will get accustomed to your more frequent bathroom visits. The bigger picture is the one to focus on. Better hydration means you will be less likely to form more stones; this means that water can reduce ER and doctor visits, and lost time away from work.  What is going to the bathroom a few more times a day compared to all of the pain, suffering, and expense you will endure if you don’t drink more water?

Be Willful

I have seen my share of pilots, teachers, surgeons, nurses, and traveling salesman all increase water intake despite the time constraints of their occupations. The one thing they all do is make the time.

I have worked with surgeons and surgical nurses before and it is true that they cannot leave the OR to use the bathroom during an 8 hour open heart surgery. Intermittent dehydration can be a real problem in this case. My clients who work in the OR do their best to drink for the rest of the day to try and make up for the loss. Sometimes there is really no choice. Thankfully this is the exception, not the rule.

Once you make up your mind that you do not want to suffer with the severe consequences that kidney stones bring to your life, you will find a way to incorporate more water into your daily routine. It is your choice, your commitment to your health that creates a one day at a time habit of drinking more water.

How Much?

Under the usual conditions of life, 3 – 4 liters of fluids a day will provide 2.5 to 3 liters of urine volume, and this is enough. The average healthy adult bladder holds about 1/2 liter, so this means 7 – 9 bathroom trips in 24 hours.

Input Doesn’t Always Equal Output

Four factors make the answer harder to come by: sodium intake, geographical location, occupation, and exercise.

Sodium intake

High sodium intake can confuse people. It is does not by itself change how much you need to drink, but salt intake can shift the timing of water loss so you think you are not increasing your urine volume even though you are drinking. It does something more. It increases urine calcium losses, a matter we will come back to at a later time.

When you eat a meal that is high in salt, you can count on it decreasing your urine output. I have clients tell me that they drink “a ton” of  water but they never have to use the bathroom. The reason is that water is retained with the excess sodium. High sodium meals will decrease urine output that day and even that night, thus causing bloating, worsened hypertension, and higher risk for stones because of higher urine calcium.

But a steady high sodium intake, not just the effects of one meal, will cause a steady water retention and stable weight gain so after a while the extra water you drink will appear in the urine. In fact, when people lower their salt intake they become less thirsty so they have to focus more on drinking or they will ‘forget’.

Even so, keeping your water intake high and lowering your sodium consumption is best. Stone formers who have no medical contraindications to lower salt diets should be aiming for about 1500 mg of sodium per day. People become accustomed to high water intake and low sodium intake, and can benefit not only from the stone prevention but often from a lower blood pressure. How you lower your sodium intake to this number will be discussed in a future post.

Geographical location

There are actually places on the map that we who deal with kidney stones call the “stone belt”. Basically these are the states that are consistently hot and humid or hot and dry. Why is where you live a problem?  Simply put, you sweat more. If you sweat more, you run the risk of becoming dehydrated, and being dehydrated reduces your urine volume and makes you more prone to form a stone. If you live in a hot, humid or dry state, you need to drink more to compensate.

Occupation

Are you working construction in the summer in Texas? Are you a camp counselor in Arizona? Do you wash windows for a living in Florida? Your occupation can be the increased risk factor for your stone disease. The reason is the same as above. You are sweating more and need to drink more than the office worker seated in the air conditioned office whose windows you are washing.

Exercise

I am very proud of you that you are doing your daily exercise. We all know how important that is to maintain good health. Exercise plays an important part in stone prevention so make sure you do it. Just remember to hydrate before, during, and after to balance the water lost from sweating!

Tricks

Here are few ways to make water drinking more enjoyable.

Stylish water bottle

Find a water bottle http://www.zazzle.com/fun+water+bottles  that you really like carrying around. Seems like such a silly thing, but it really does help. I like big ones so I don’t have to keep getting up to fill it and it makes me very proud to see it empty. You may find smaller ones keep you inspired and you can easily go refill it as you make your bathroom pit stop. Here is an awesome water bottle I have found to help http://www.amazon.com/Basily-Infuser-Bottle-Around-Hydrated/dp/B00M1UOF3K/ref=dp_ob_title_sports

Make Tasty

Add fruit to your water. Adding lemons to your water has the added benefit of increasing your citrate level which is a natural inhibitor of stones, but use fruit that makes you smile most.

Using the product Mio http://www.makeitmio.com/ has helped many patients who constantly tell me that water is BORING. My reply is always, “better boring water than excruciating stones”. It is at that point that they take another sip.

Water is the most benign way to increase fluid intake, but don’t forget to include other beverages in your daily intake: Green tea, lemonade (no sugar), flavored waters, even fruit like watermelon, grapes, etc. will be helpful.

Be Techy

If you’re a phone app geek like me, download this app and track your progress https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/waterlogged-drink-more-water/id352199775?mt=8

Treats

Eat Your Water

Here is a list of foods that are made up of at least 90% water. Be careful. Some of them are high in oxalate and for those of you who need to limit your oxalate intake I have asterisked them: cucumbers, radishes, iceberg lettuce  celery*, tomato*, green peppers, cauliflower, spinach*, starfruit, strawberries, broccoli, grapefruit, baby carrots*, and watermelon.

Channel Your Inner Child

I have straws on my counter top in a cute container. They add color, fun, and make drinking water a much more whimsical experience. They also makes the water go down a bit faster. I find myself downing a glass with ease when I have a straw. My son likes it too. No matter what your age or disposition, straws add fun to an otherwise boring activity.

If you are enjoying some grape or apple juice, dilute it with half water. You will cut down on your sugar and increase your water intake. This is a win-win.

A neat way to add color and zest to your water without added calories or artificial flavors: Freeze grapes, or lemon, lime, or orange peels, and add to your water instead of boring ‘ole ice cubes.

Make new habits

Every time you reach for a diet soda, replace it with water. Soon you will just reach for water and your old diet soda will be a long forgotten bad habit.

Upon waking, drink a glass or two of water with lemon. This helps keep your urine alkaline and gets you feeling ready for the day.

In winter, get some hot water, lemon and honey. It will warm you up on a cold day.

Green tea (yes, low in oxalate).

Le Croix. For those of you who are addicted to bubbles. Try this no calorie, carbonated water. It comes in many flavors and has been a staple in my house for the past year. There are generic versions of it for budget conscience stone formers.

Drink a glass of water before and after a meal. Drink water. Eat less. Yet another win, win. Who knew it would be this fun?

Be Patient and Persist

I want you to know that incorporating large amounts of water into your life takes a bit of time. New habits are built with commitment, patience, and an understanding that you are not perfect. You will have days that you cannot get in the amount of water that you would like to. It is ok. Your goal is to do your best on more days than not. And when you don’t, you can get back on track the next day.

Drinking more water is the number one thing you can do to help prevent further stone formation. It also has no bad side effects. So what do you say?  Let’s raise a glass, a refreshing, ice cold glass of water. It might just save you from your next ER visit.

A Reservation

Water is always the first line of treatment for stones.The most important thing to do about supersaturation is lower it, and water will do just that. In relation to kidney stone prevention, more is better. In a perfectly healthy younger (below age 50) person taking no medications, up to 5 or even 6 liters a day is safe provided it is consumed over the whole day and never all at once. But if you have heart disease, kidney disease, or liver disease, or are elderly, great caution is important and the amount of water needs to be determined individually for you. When diuretic drugs are being used, to lower urine calcium excretion for stone prevention or for blood pressure control, water intake needs to be no more than 3-4 liters a day and testing is necessary at intervals to be sure blood sodium levels have not fallen. Many other medications interfere with water excretion; psychoactive drugs can do this, for example. All drugs in use must be reviewed with  your physician before drinking large volumes of water, above 2.5 liters daily. It is true that most people can easily and safely drink the extra water needed for stone prevention, but the reservations are important, always.

I have recently put together a private FB page called THE Kidney Stone Diet.  It is a group that helps educate you on your physician prescribed treatment plans. I moderate it to keep it clinically sound.  Come on over and join the discussion!

 

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Understanding how much water to drink and all of the details behind it can be exhausting. I just released a course called The Kidney Stone Prevention Course to help you understand how to implement your physician’s prescribed treatment plans.

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363 Responses to “HOW TO DRINK ENOUGH WATER”

  1. Dushyant

    Hi Fredric L Coe,

    I am 25 and my kidneys have a tendency to form stones since I was 15. Two years ago I had surgery because a 4.5 mm stone in left ureter was causing an obstruction. This year again 4.5 mm and 11.5 mm stone blocked the left ureter so I was again operated for DJ stenting. Even after the current, I have 5-6mms sized calculi in the right kidney’s upper and lower calyces. Another of 5mm in left kidney’s upper calyx.
    Now I am taking 4-5L of liquid every day and don’t want another surgery when the stone will come down.
    1. What can I do about the tendency of my kidneys which is forming stones apart from maintaining liquid intake
    2. How long it might take me to pass these stones (in general for 5-6mms)
    3. Is there anything I can do to avoid DJ stenting again when these stones will come out?

    Reply
    • Fredric L Coe, MD

      Hi Dushyant, Your prime goal is prevention. Here is my best introduction, and I strongly urge you follow the scheme for diagnosis and treatment. Being so young prevention is crucial. Water alone is well known to be inadequate, as in your case. Regards, Fred Coe

      Reply
  2. Lisa

    Does the type of water make a difference? Our tap water (San Francisco Bay Area) is very hard with minerals so I drink bottled water. Should I drink Spring Water? Purified Water? Some other type? I want to order water delivery so I don’t have to worry about stocking up on water every week. Thank you, Lisa

    Reply
    • Fredric L Coe, MD

      Hi Lisa, Usually not. Although water can add sodium or calcium, it adds so much more water the net effect on stones is negligible. Just use whatever water is safe and cheap, usually that from the kitchen sink. Regards, Fred Coe

      Reply
  3. Shazia Ahmad

    How much litres of water should I intake and for how many days for my kidney stone to flush out? The size is less then 4mm.

    Reply
    • Fredric L Coe, MD

      Hi Shazia, Water may or may not matter. What matters is that you have a urologist supervise your care during stone passage to protect the kidney against injury from obstruction. Regards, Fred Coe

      Reply
  4. Pasindu

    Doctor,
    Is that true beer reduces the risk of having kidney stones? I have seen this on dozens of blogs but can’t help asking you. Do they help with this problem? Thank you for your valuable post.

    Reply
    • Fredric L Coe

      Hi Pasindu, Not really. It is just that beer is mostly water, and water is always valuable for stone prevention. Regards, Fred

      Reply
  5. Vamshi

    I was diagnosed with a few tiny renal calculi with mild focal calyectasis in the left kidney measuring around 2.2*1.5mm with 130-160HU in the upper pole calyx and 1.7*1.8mm in the middle calyx. Does mild focal calyectasis make this worse? Please ensure me if it goes naturally, and what extra care should I take?

    Reply
  6. Laura

    I have a 4mm kidney stone in the lower pelvic ureter it started out the size of a 6mm kidney stone in the upper ureter and now has moved down to the lower pelvic ureter. It has been 46 days. Doctor is so big on doing surgery, he has been from the beginning and I asked if I could wait and he agreed. I went back and he still wants surgery. I really want to let my body pass this naturally. During this time I have passed a 5mm stone and the lab could not analysis it. I don’t understand that, frustrated as that is a huge stone. I don’t understand why I keep getting them. I came across your article and I thank God I did because I have learned and gained so much knowledge. I told my PCP about the 24 hour urine analysis and she agreed to do it. She was able to find another stone I passed in June 2019 and it was a 90% calcium oxalate dihydrate and 10% calcium phosphate. Told me about a low oxalate diet. I am tired of dealing with these stones and the doctor is saying I really need to do surgery. I don’t understand why I can’t keep trying to pass this naturally. Please advice how much longer I could keep on trying the natural approach and how much more water I need to drink. I just started increasing my water intake to 5 liters a day,plus drinking 1 cup coconut water,  1 cup diluted lemonade and orange juice, plus a mixture of applecider vinegar with fresh squeezed lemons and honey. The X-Ray now shows that my kidney’s have 3 small more small stones in the kidneys again. Thank you for writing your article as it is very knowledgeable It has helped me to understand more about kidney stones. If you could advice any more insight that was be helpful. Thank you, Laura.

    Reply
    • Fredric L Coe

      Hi Laura, If the stone is obstructing the kidney it should be removed. Your surgeon is the one to judge this, and I would do as she says. Kidney damage from an obstructing stone, or infection that could affect the kidney are best avoided. As for cause, here is my favorite article on how to proceed. You really need to if you want to stop forming stones. Regards, Fred Coe

      Reply

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