Can Kidney Stones Affect Bowel Movements?

Man sitting on toilet in robe holding toilet paper.
  • A kidney stone is a small, hard lump that can form in the body and is caused dehydration, a high-salt diet, or certain medical conditions.

  • Gastrointestinal(GI)-related symptoms caused by kidney stones can lead to digestive issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and bowel obstruction, as well as diarrhea or constipation.

  • Staying hydrated, introducing more fiber to your diet, and speaking to your doctor about treatment options can help establish normal bowel movements after developing stones.

What Are Kidney Stones and How Do You Get Them?

Kidney stones — also known as calcium oxalate stones — are small, hard lumps of mineral and uric acid salts that form in the body.

They can vary in size, with some as small as a grain of rice and others as large as a golf ball.

The exact cause of this condition isn’t always clear, but certain factors may put you at an increased risk of forming kidney stones. These include:

  • Family history of kidney stones

  • Dehydration

  • Diet that is high in salt or protein

  • Obesity

  • Medical conditions like gout or hyperparathyroidism

If you have kidney stones, some of the first symptoms you will notice may be related to your GI system. You may experience:

  • Pain

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

Non-GI symptoms of kidney stones could include painful urination that could be accompanied by fever and chills. Your urine may also contain traces of blood and have a foul smell.

Do Kidney Stones Cause Digestive Issues?

The GI-related symptoms caused by kidney stones may increase your risk of developing digestive issues as well.

Common problems associated with kidney stones include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and bowel obstruction. You may also experience diarrhea or constipation.

A man in a blue shirt clutches his lower abdomen in pain.

How Can Kidney Stones Impact Bowel Function?

The presence of kidney stones can cause inflammation in the bowel, which can lead to changes in bowel function.

Certain medications for treating kidney stones can also increase the risk of constipation.

Large stones may also cause a physical obstruction in the urinary tract — called urinary stone disease — which can lead to excessive retention.

When concentrated urine builds up in the bladder, it can put pressure on the bowels, leading to changes in movement and function.

Key Point: What is Abnormal vs. Normal Bowel Function?

Abnormal function is used to describe a condition where the normal pattern of bowel movements is interrupted.

This can cause changes in the frequency, consistency, and volume of stool. When natural bowel movements are interrupted, this leads to:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating
  • Severe pain in the abdominal area

These gastrointestinal issues can be caused by many health conditions, including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and kidney stones.

Normal function, on the other hand, refers to regular bowel movements.

Although the frequency of bowel movements can vary, a healthy system usually allows you to easily pass a stool from three times a week to three times a day.

How Do You Establish Normal Bowel Movements after Kidney Stones?

If you’ve experienced changes in bowel movements because of kidney stones, there are a few things you can do to establish normal functioning.

Increasing your fluid intake by drinking more water and staying hydrated is essential.

Water flushes out potentially harmful minerals, but it also helps to soften stools to promote regular bowel movements.

Including more fiber — like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes — in your diet can also prevent constipation.

If your bowel movement issues are persistent or severe, you might need to speak to your doctor about alternative treatment options.

They may prescribe laxatives or anti-diarrheal medications to help you manage your symptoms and promote normal bowel functioning.

A woman drinks from a water bottle while standing outdoors.

Can You Prevent Kidney Stones?

Although it’s not always possible to prevent stones from forming, there are steps you can take to reduce the chances of developing them. This also minimizes the risk of impaired bowel function.

As we’ve mentioned, one of the most important things you can do is stay hydrated.

Drinking enough water helps flush out minerals and other substances that contribute to the formation of kidney stones.

You can also make dietary changes like reducing your salt intake and eating less animal protein.

If you are prone to developing kidney stones, your doctor may recommend medications or supplements to prevent them from forming.

When Should You See a Doctor About Kidney Stones and Bowel Movements?

If you suspect that you may have developed kidney stones, it’s important to see your doctor as soon as possible.

They will be able to determine if you can pass your kidney stones naturally or if you’ll need further medical intervention.

You can also speak to a board-certified physician or nurse practitioner at LifeMD from the comfort of your home for a professional opinion.

Head over to LifeMD to schedule a telehealth appointment.

Dr. Banita Sehgal

Dr. Sehgal received her medical degree from Western University in Los Angeles and trained as Chief Resident at White Memorial Medical Center, also in Los Angeles. She’s been practicing medicine for 20+ years and has a specific interest in women’s health.

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This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Consult a healthcare professional or call a doctor in the case of a medical emergency.

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