Your body relies on your kidneys to filter out dietary wastes and excess nutrients that can otherwise harm your health. When your kidneys suffer a loss of function from inherited, dietary, infectious or other causes, pain might be the first symptom you notice. Kidney pain comes on quickly and may be prompted by consuming certain foods or beverages, such as sweets or coffee. The most common conditions that create kidney pain are bacterial infections and kidney stones, which sometimes occur together. Kidney stones are more likely to have a dietary cause.
Pain from kidney stones localizes in the middle back and side -- usually one side or the other -- in the area where you can place a hand on your waist. Pain or cramping may spread to the lower abdomen and groin and may be accompanied by urinary changes, nausea, vomiting, fever or chills. While kidney infections share these symptoms, they usually result from the spread of a urinary tract infection rather than from dietary causes.
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Kidney stones develop from crystals that form in your urine from dietary elements that include calcium, phosphates and oxalates. While researchers haven't identified specific foods that cause kidney stones, some types of foods, such as those high in sugar, protein or sodium, may encourage stone formation in susceptible people. Dehydration, however, is a major cause of kidney stones, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. This condition arises over time, but the timing of your symptoms may coincide with eating sugar in a high-sugar diet or with drinking caffeinated beverages, which increase urination and invite dehydration.
Diagnosis and Treatment
If you experience kidney pain, whether or not it is associated with sugar and caffeine or other dietary elements, seek a medical diagnosis. Kidney stones can be asymptomatic long enough for kidney or ureter damage to escalate before you are aware of a health problem. Some kidney stones pass out of the body themselves during urination, while others may require medication or surgery to eliminate them. Increasing your fluid intake alone may solve the problem.
Persistent low fluid levels or food triggers brought on by excessive caffeine, sugar or other offending dietary elements can exacerbate your kidney problems. Without treating the cause of kidney stones after passing them or having them surgically removed, more stones usually develop. Chronic stone conditions raise your risk for ongoing urinary tract and kidney infections, ureter obstruction and kidney tissue scarring and damage. The result may be chronic kidney failure, which requires dialysis or transplant to sustain life.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Kidney Stones
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Urinary Tract Infection – Adults
- National Kidney and Urological Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Kidney Stones
- MayoClinic.com: Kidney Stones
- National Kidney and Urological Diseases Information Clearinghouse: What I Need to Know About Kidney Stones
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.