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Drink a Lot of Iced Tea? Watch Out for Kidney Stones
Going overboard on iced tea, a favorite summer drink, could have a painful consequence. Here's why it might increase your kidney stone risk.
By Jaimie Dalessio Clayton
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FRIDAY, August 3, 2012— Refreshing, inexpensive, and low in calories, a cold glass of makes an ideal summertime sip. But before you guzzle glass after sweating glass of the brewed stuff, beware of one not-so-sweet risk: kidney stones.
Kidney stones are solid masses of salts and minerals in the urine that form in the kidneys and can pass through the urinary tract, causing great pain. While the most common cause of kidney stones is simply not drinking enough water, tea contains oxalates, chemicals that also play a role in kidney stone formation. During the summer, when you're more likely to refill your iced tea glass than your water bottleandmore likely to get dehydrated from sweating, those risk factors merge to make double trouble for people susceptible to kidney stones.
Who's at Risk for Kidney Stones?
The prevalence of kidney stones in the United States is growing — from 5.2 percent in the mid-1990s to 8.8 percent in 2010, according to data from a nationwide survey presented in May at the American Urological Association meeting — but experts can't explain why.
Similar data suggests men are more prone to kidney stones than women — especially after age 40 — and kidney stone prevalence among women peaks in their fifties, according to the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NKUDIC).
People who've had kidney stones once are more likely to get them again, and those whose family members have a history of kidney stones also face a higher risk.
Food and drink, like iced tea, can facilitate formation of kidney stones in susceptible individuals, but scientists don't believe it does so in people who are not susceptible, according to the NKUDIC.
What Makes Iced Tea Different for People at Risk?
The ease with which people can drink iced tea, consuming more of it, makes it riskier than hot tea, says John Milner, MD, from the Department of Urology at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine in Maywood, Ill. "It's hard to drink enough [hot tea] to cause kidney stones," he said in a Loyola release. Roughly 85 percent of tea consumed in the United States is iced, according to the Tea Association of the USA. That's a lot of iced tea!
Other foods high in oxalates include chocolate, spinach, beets, and peanuts. Interestingly enough, coffee doesn't make the list.
To protect against kidney stones, Dr. Milner's advice includes eating less salt, more calcium — which can reduce the amount of oxalates the body absorbs — and drinking plenty of water. The citrate found in lemons also helps prevent the unpleasant pebbles from forming.
If you do have kidney stones, you might not feel any pain until they start traveling from the kidneys to the bladder. You might feel the pain in your side your side, belly, or groin, and your urine might look pink or red. If you feel any of these symptoms, call a doctor who can give you medicine to help the stone pass on its own. If medication and drinking lots of water aren't enough to help the stone pass, you might need additional treatment.
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