If you need another reason to avoid feeding your children processed and junk food, you've got one: It's a suspected cause of a growing health problem in young children – kidney stones.
A recent New York Times report states that kidney stones are now showing up in children as young as five or six years old, and pediatric urologists and nephrologists across the United States are seeing a steep rise in young patients. Research has found that dietary factors are the leading cause of kidney stones, which are crystallizations of substances in the urine.
Experts in pediatric urology say kids are eating too much salt and not drinking enough water – the two main causes for this condition. But, as an article on kids' salt cravings in USA Today states, "There's less danger in the salt shaker than in the processed and fast foods many children live on." Processed foods like sandwich meats, canned soups, and packaged meals; chips and French fries; and even sports drinks like Gatorade are loaded with hidden salt. Avoiding those foods and drinking plenty of water are the most important steps in preventing kidney stones.
Children with kidney stones may complain of pain in their side or stomach, may feel sick to their stomach, and may pass blood in their urine. Medical treatment is not always required – many stones will pass on their own. But treatment is necessary if a stone is too large, if it blocks the flow of urine, or if there are signs of infection. According to the National Institutes of Health, most kidney stones can be treated with extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL), an alternative to surgery that requires no cutting, produces less pain, and offers a quicker recovery. An overnight hospital stay is usually not needed.
If there is a history of kidney stones in your family, your kids may be at risk, and it's doubly important to teach them lifelong habits of good hydration and a balanced diet – one that avoids processed, high-salt, high-fat foods.