Man with head down on computer with large rock over his head.

Can Kidney Stones Be Caused By Stress?

Your emotional health is equally important to your physical health. The “mind-body” connection doesn’t get as much credit as it should. Stress is rampant in our lives and contributes to a host of health conditions, including kidney stones.

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What Is Stress?

Stress is any feeling of physical or emotional tension.

Stress comes from many parts of our lives. Most of us have some level of chronic stress related to work, school, family, money or other responsibilities.

An unexpected change, or “acute stressor” can add to stress levels. This is especially noticeable and harmful when we have a high level of stress from all of those routine stressors.

How Does Stress Cause Kidney Stones?

Research has found a strong link between kidney stones and stress.

A study found that people with kidney stones were much more likely to have had stress the two years before having a kidney stone. Specifically, people with kidney stones were more likely to report stressful feelings or emotional problems, or prolonged feelings of anger, nervousness or sadness in this study. (1)

There are multiple reasons why stress might cause kidney stones.

Metabolic Changes Make Kidney Stones

Stress changes the chemistry in your body. Stress can cause your body to make many hormones including adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH) and parathyroid hormone (PTH). These hormones can impact your health in many ways.

Specifically, these hormones change the chemistry in your urine, which is one way stress can cause kidney stones. Research has shown that stress related hormones increase urine calcium, oxalate and uric acid. (2)(3) High levels of calcium, oxalate or uric acid in your urine make kidney stones more likely.

Stress hormones can also decrease how much urine your kidneys make. This makes your urine more concentrated and kidney stones more likely. (2)(3)

Stress Related Diet Changes

Stress often impacts our food and drink choices. I’m sure that all of us can remember a time (or 100 times!) when we made different food choices because we were stressed, sad, nervous or anxious.

Time and time again, research shows that stress negatively impacts our diet. (4) (5) (6)

A healthy diet, and staying well hydrated, are very important to prevent kidney stones. In addition to the direct metabolic changes stress causes, a poor diet and drinking less water likely play a role in the connection between stress and kidney stones.

woman with hands on her head, clearly very stressed

The Toll of Stress On Health

Stress can impact your health in many ways. In fact, Merriam-Webster defines stress as “a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation“. (7)

Kidney stones are just one manifestation of stress in our bodies.

Stress is associated with many health conditions and systems including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Gastrointestinal health
  • Insomnia
  • Reproductive health
  • Immune system
  • And more!

Managing stress can do a lot for your health – in addition to helping to prevent kidney stones!

How to Prevent Stress Related Kidney Stones

Prioritize Mental Health & Stress Management

I know – easier said than done! Unfortunately, mental health and stress management is often pushed to the back burner. Life just seems to get in the way! But, mental health is just as (if not more!) important as your physical health.

There is no one formula to manage stress. Everyone is different! You know YOU best. Take time to truly reflect on the stressors in your life. Certainly, some of them are inevitable. But, I bet you can get rid of (or, reduce!) at least some of those stressors. Focus on those!

Also, I highly recommend setting up a stress management routine. Don’t wait for stress to hit to prioritize mental health. Focus on preventing stress with a regular stress management practice.

Of course, stress management will look different for everyone. Find what you enjoy – your stress management routine certainly shouldn’t cause even more stress!

Favorite Tips & Recommendations for Stress Management

  • Physical activity that feels good and that you enjoy (a dreaded workout routine probably will just add more stress)
  • Therapy (truly everyone would probably benefit from regular therapy!)
  • Regular deep breathing exercises
  • Meditation
  • Journaling
  • Prayer and/or prioritizing spiritual life
  • Bubble baths!
  • Yoga (I LOVE Adriene with Find What Feels Good – and she has tons of FREE videos!)
  • Calm or other apps
  • Walks outside (or, even just sitting outside to get some fresh air!)
  • Phone calls with friends or family members you haven’t connected with in awhile
  • Systems for prioritizing your “to-do” list and breaking it down into manageable chunks (this one literally changed my life!)
  • Make a recipe you’ve been dying to try!
Women practicing meditation together. Meditation can be a wonderful stress reduction technique
Meditation can reduce stress levels

If any of these tips sound good to you, pick ONE and go with it!

Remember that stress management is a lifelong journey. Your stress management routine will change over time. And, stress is inevitable. But, working on a regular stress management routine that works for you can help keep it at bay!

Drink Plenty of Water

Dehydration is a major cause of kidney stones. (8)

Prioritize drinking enough water, especially when you are stressed. When you are stressed, you are more likely to fall out of your regular water drinking habits. If you have a history of kidney stones, aim for 3 liters of fluid per day.

Many of my patients and students have found that a “smart” water bottle, such as the Hidrate Spark* is very useful to stay on track!

HidrateSpark 3 -- The World's Smartest Water Bottle

Eat Healthy Foods

A healthy diet is key to kidney stone prevention.(8) Similar to water, our eating habits often take a hit when we are stressed.

Try to prioritize your health, and eat healthy foods when you are feeling stressed or anxious.

Learn more about healthy eating for kidney stone prevention.

The Verdict: Can Kidney Stones Be Caused By Stress?

Yep. Unfortunately, stress can cause kidney stones.

But, prioritizing your mental health and being careful to continue your regular healthy diet and drinking habits when you are stressed can help!

Happy Eating!

Melanie

2 thoughts on “Can Kidney Stones Be Caused By Stress?”

  1. It was really interesting when you explained that people who have kidney stones are more likely to have emotional and stressful problems. If you are dealing with a kidney stone, it seems like it would be a good idea to seek out medical attention as soon as possible. A doctor would be able to help you manage the pain which could lower your stress levels significantly.

    1. Melanie Betz MS, RD, CSR, CSG

      Absolutely! I’m sure there is likely a back and forth cause/effect relationship going on here!

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