Can Stress Cause Kidney Stones? Explore the Connection

Jul 06, 2024 | 7 min read

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Can stress cause kidney stones? Chronic stress can lead to dehydration and hormonal changes, increasing the risk of kidney stones. Understanding the connection and managing stress is crucial for prevention.

can stress cause kidney stones

What Are Kidney Stones?

Kidney stones are hard deposits of minerals and salts that form inside the kidneys. They can vary in size, from tiny grains to large stones that cause significant pain. Kidney stones are a common urinary tract disorder, affecting millions of people worldwide. 

Understanding the types of kidney stones is crucial, as it helps in determining the cause and appropriate treatment.

The most common types of kidney stones include:

  • Calcium Stones: These are the most common type, typically composed of calcium oxalate. They can also form from calcium phosphate.
  • Uric Acid Stones: These form when urine is too acidic. A diet high in purines, substances found in animal proteins, can increase the risk of uric acid stones.
  • Struvite Stones: These can form after a urinary tract infection. They can grow quickly and become quite large, sometimes with few symptoms.
  • Cystine Stones: These are rare and occur in people with a genetic disorder called cystinuria, which causes the kidneys to excrete too much of certain amino acids.

Common Symptoms

Kidney stones may not always cause symptoms, especially if they are small and pass easily through the urinary tract. However, larger stones can cause significant pain and discomfort. Common symptoms include:

  • Severe Pain: Intense pain in the back, and side, burning sensation lower abdomen, or groin.
  • Blood in the Urine (Hematuria): Visible blood or microscopic amounts (occult blood) that are detected through a urine test.
  • Frequent Urination: An increased need to urinate or a persistent urge to urinate.
  • Pain During Urination: A burning sensation or discomfort while urinating.
  • Cloudy or Foul-Smelling Urine: Urine that appears cloudy or has a strong, unpleasant odor.
  • Nausea and Vomiting: Feeling sick to the stomach or vomiting, often due to the pain.
  • Fever and Chills: Symptoms of an infection, such as fever and chills, if the stone causes a urinary tract infection.


Diagnosing kidney stones involves several steps. Initially, a doctor will review the patient’s medical history and conduct a physical examination. If kidney stones are suspected, the following tests may be ordered:

  • Imaging Tests: X-rays, CT scans, and ultrasounds can detect the size and location of stones.
  • Urine Tests: These tests can identify minerals that cause stones.
  • Blood Tests: These help determine if there are too many stone-forming minerals in the blood.
  • Stone Analysis: If a stone is passed, it can be analyzed to determine its type.

For those who want to understand their urine and blood test results better, Docus online tool Lab Test Interpretation allows you to upload your test results and get a quick and detailed exploration of your results. However, remember that online tools are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult a professional before taking any action.

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Causes of Kidney Stones

Dietary Factors

Diet plays a significant role in the formation of kidney stones. Consuming foods high in certain substances can increase the risk of developing stones. Key dietary factors include:

  • High Sodium Intake: Too much salt in the diet can increase calcium levels in the urine, which may lead to stone formation.
  • Oxalate-Rich Foods: Foods like spinach, beets, and nuts are high in oxalates, which can bind with calcium in the urine to form stones.
  • Animal Proteins: High consumption of animal proteins such as meat, eggs, and fish can increase the risk of uric acid stones.
  • Insufficient Water Intake: Not drinking enough water can lead to concentrated urine, making it easier for stones to form.

Genetic Predisposition

Genetics can also play a role in kidney stone formation. The NIDDK states that if there is a family history of kidney stones, a child may have an increased likelihood of developing them. 

Certain genetic conditions, such as cystinuria, can lead to the formation of cystine stones. Understanding your genetic risk can help in taking preventive measures.

Medical Conditions

Several medical conditions can increase the risk of kidney stones. These include:

  • Hyperparathyroidism: This condition causes overactivity of the parathyroid glands, leading to higher levels of calcium in the blood and urine.
  • Gout: Gout increases uric acid levels, which can lead to the formation of uric acid stones.
  • Chronic Kidney Disease: This condition can alter the balance of minerals in the body, promoting stone formation.
  • Digestive Diseases and Surgery: Conditions like inflammatory bowel disease or surgeries like gastric bypass can affect absorption and lead to stone formation.

Lifestyle Choices

Certain lifestyle choices can increase the risk of kidney stones. Key factors include:

  • Obesity: Excess weight can alter the chemical balance in the urine, increasing the risk of stones.
  • Sedentary Lifestyle: Lack of physical activity can contribute to the formation of stones.
  • Dehydration: Failing to drink enough fluids, especially water, can lead to concentrated urine, which promotes stone formation.
  • Alcohol: While alcohol doesn't directly cause kidney stones, it can lead to dehydration and increase uric acid levels, both of which contribute to the development of stones.

Can Stress Cause Kidney Stones?

Stress can contribute to kidney stone formation in various ways, keeping your body in a state where naturally occurring waste chemicals accumulate in high concentrations.

Biological Mechanisms

Several hormones increase when your body initiates the stress response, including:

  • Vasopressin
  • Adrenocorticotropin (ACTH)
  • Cortisol
  • Parathormone

These hormones can raise calcium levels, decrease urine volume, and create a hypertonic, or solute-concentrated, urine state. Concentrated urine means a higher volume of waste products to fluid, creating an environment where minerals may be more likely to bind together to form stones.

Under acute stress, these physiological changes are temporary. Even if urine is concentrated, the stress response ends before your body has a chance to start kidney stone formation. 

Prolonged stress, however, can keep your body in a state of agitation where urine concentration, hormone production, and mineral increase remain long enough for kidney stones to form.

Stressful events can be a risk factor for kidney stone formation years before you experience symptoms of a kidney stone.

Impact of Stress on Dietary and Lifestyle Choices

Another significant way stress can lead to kidney stones is through dehydration. A study from NCBI indicates that inadequate fluid intake is directly linked to stone formation and is one of the most prevalent causes of kidney stones.

Under severe stress, the body might suppress the sensation of thirst to focus on other vital survival functions. As a result, inadequate hydration can cause urine to become more concentrated, which promotes the accumulation of minerals that form kidney stones.

Other impacts of stress on lifestyle choices include:

  • High Blood Pressure: Increased blood pressure is another immediate response to stress that can cause damage to the body—and kidneys—over long periods. Hypertension may cause cellular damage, and cellular injury in the urinary tract can promote the buildup of waste particles on renal surfaces.
  • Unhealthy Eating Habits: Stress can lead to cravings for high-calorie, high-fat foods and may increase the likelihood of storing fat compared to when relaxed.
  • Weight Gain: Stress-related weight gain can increase the risk for diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. These conditions can strain the kidneys, raising the chances of damage and disrupted function that may contribute to kidney stones.

Kidney Stones Prevention

Tips for Stress Management

Effectively managing stress is crucial to prevent the formation of kidney stones and maintain overall health. Here are some practical tips to help manage stress:

  • Exercise Regularly: Physical activity can reduce stress levels and improve overall well-being. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week.
  • Practice Relaxation Techniques: Techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga can help calm the mind and reduce stress.
  • Therapy and Counseling: Talking to a mental health professional can provide strategies to manage stress effectively and address underlying issues.
  • Engage in Hobbies: Participating in activities that bring joy and relaxation can be a great way to alleviate stress.
  • Adequate Sleep: Ensure 7-8 hours of quality sleep per night to help the body recover from daily stressors.
  • Social Support: Maintain strong relationships with family and friends to provide emotional support during stressful times.

Importance of Hydration and a Balanced Diet

Maintaining proper hydration and a balanced diet is essential in reducing the risk of kidney stones. 

According to a study from NCBI, drinking fluids low in calcium, like grapefruit, apple, and orange juices, can help reduce the risk of stone formation by lowering urine calcium oxalate levels.

Here are some dietary tips to follow:

  • Drink Plenty of Water: Aim for at least 8-10 glasses of water daily to keep the urine diluted and prevent stone formation.
  • Limit Sodium Intake: Reduce the consumption of salty foods to prevent high calcium levels in the urine.
  • Moderate Protein Consumption: Opt for plant-based proteins and limit the intake of animal proteins to reduce the risk of uric acid stones.
  • Increase Citrate Intake: Include citrus fruits like lemons and oranges in your diet to help prevent stone formation.
  • Avoid Oxalate-Rich Foods: Reduce the intake of foods high in oxalates, such as spinach, beets, and nuts, which can contribute to stone formation.

Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Kidney Stone Risk

Adopting a healthy lifestyle can significantly reduce the risk of kidney stones. Here are some changes to consider:

  • Maintain a Healthy Weight: Achieve and maintain a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise. Obesity can increase the risk of kidney stones.
  • Limit Caffeine and Alcohol: Both can contribute to dehydration, so it's important to consume them in moderation.
  • Avoid Sugary Drinks: Opt for water or natural juices over sodas and sugary drinks that can contribute to stone formation.
  • Regular Check-Ups: Regular medical check-ups can help monitor kidney health and detect any early signs of stone formation.

Frequently Asked Questions

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There is a significant connection between stress and kidney stone formation. Stress can lead to dehydration, hormonal changes, and unhealthy lifestyle choices, all of which increase the risk of developing kidney stones. Managing stress effectively, staying hydrated, and maintaining a healthy diet are key steps in preventing kidney stones and promoting overall health.

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