Kidney stones can cause several gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, as well as complications that may need medical attention.

Kidney stones are hard, crystallized masses that can form in your kidneys.

They’re common, affecting about 600,000 Americans every year. While anyone can have kidney stones, different types of stones are more or less likely to affect different groups of people.

There are many reasons you might have kidney stones. Some types of stones are caused by genetic conditions. Others are linked to digestive problems, not taking in enough fluids, and certain infections.

Kidney stones are associated with severe pain in your abdomen, lower back, and sides — but they can cause other issues as well.

Kidney stones have a complex relationship with your gastrointestinal system. Let’s take a look at how the two might affect each other.

When you have a kidney stone, some of the symptoms that you first notice might be related to your gastrointestinal system.


Gastrointestinal pain is the most common symptom of kidney stones. It’s sometimes called renal colic.

This type of pain often comes and goes in waves, and it usually feels sharp and severe. You might feel it in your abdomen, sides, lower back, and groin.


Kidney stones can also cause nausea, sometimes as a reaction to pain. This symptom is not as common as pain itself, and may indicate that you need immediate medical care.


Vomiting can also be a symptom of kidney stones, but like nausea, it’s one of the less common symptoms. If you believe kidney stones are the cause of your vomiting, call a doctor right away.

The gastrointestinal symptoms of kidney stones described above are things that could alert you to a kidney stone. Symptoms usually go away after the kidney stones are treated.

As a result of having kidney stones, you might also experience new gastrointestinal issues.

Irritable bowel syndrome

A study in Taiwan found that adults were more likely to develop irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) after having a kidney stone. More than 30% of new cases of IBS occurred within 6 months after having a stone for the first time.

Bowel obstruction

While it’s extremely rare, a 2013 case report described an older female whose kidney stone caused a bowel obstruction. This led to complications that are not usually associated with kidney stones, including complete constipation and feculent vomiting.

Kidney stones can cause gastrointestinal symptoms and complications, but is the reverse true as well? It turns out that yes, some gastrointestinal issues can lead to kidney stones.


Diarrhea has many causes and is characterized by watery bowel movements that are frequent and urgent. A short bout of diarrhea is unlikely to cause kidney stones. Chronic diarrhea, however, can lead to dehydration, which is one of the known causes of kidney stones.

Inflammatory bowel disease

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) refers to a group of disorders that affect your intestines and digestive tract, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. The inflammation associated with these conditions can make it hard for your body to properly absorb certain compounds. This malabsorption can sometimes cause kidney stones to form.

Abdominal surgeries

Sometimes, abdominal surgeries — such as gastric bypass and sleeve surgeries — can cause issues like diarrhea or malabsorption. As described above, these issues do have the potential to lead to kidney stones.

There are some symptoms of kidney stones that don’t affect your gastrointestinal system. If you have kidney stones, you may experience some, all, or none of these symptoms. Only a doctor can diagnose kidney stones, so if you’re unsure, you should consult with a doctor about your symptoms.

Kidney stone symptoms that are not gastrointestinal include:

The least invasive treatment for kidney stones is to let them pass naturally on their own by exiting your body with your urine. But in some cases, your kidney stones might be too big to safely pass on their own. If left untreated, this could cause an obstruction. The only way to know if a stone is small enough to pass on its own is to have it examined by a doctor.

The most common symptom of kidney stones is pain, but pain can be caused by many other conditions. If you think you might have a kidney stone, it’s best to call a doctor.

If you experience other gastrointestinal issues, such as nausea or vomiting, it might mean your kidney stone is more severe. In this case, get immediate medical attention.

The relationship between kidney stones and gastrointestinal issues is complex, with each having the ability to cause the other under certain circumstances. Here are answers to the most common questions on this topic.

Can kidney stones affect bowel movements

While this is something that could happen, generally the answer is no. Kidney stones do not typically affect bowel movements except in extremely rare cases, such as a kidney stone causing a bowel obstruction.

What GI issues can cause kidney stones?

Dehydration and malabsorption can both lead to kidney stones. Both of these problems can be caused by GI issues including:

  • chronic diarrhea
  • inflammatory bowel disease
  • abdominal surgeries

What GI issues can kidney stones cause?

Adults who have their first kidney stone are more likely to develop irritable bowel syndrome within the following 6 months than adults who have never had a kidney stone.

Very rarely, kidney stones can cause bowel obstructions as well.

Can kidney stones cause IBS?

While it’s not known if kidney stones can cause IBS, adults who have had a kidney stone are more likely to develop IBS over the next 6 months than those who haven’t. More research is still needed to determine if kidney stones can directly cause IBS.

Kidney stones and gastrointestinal issues have a complicated relationship. You can have either condition independently of the other. For some people, kidney stones can be caused by gastrointestinal issues. For others the reverse is true, and gastrointestinal issues can be caused by kidney stones.

If you experience kidney stones and gastrointestinal issues at the same time, it could indicate that your kidney stones are more severe. If you think you might have kidney stones, the best thing to do is consult with a doctor immediately.