Daniel Pendick

5 steps for preventing kidney stones

If you’ve ever had a kidney stone, you surely remember it. The pain can be unbearable, coming in waves until the tiny stone passes through your urinary plumbing and out of the body. For many, kidney stones aren’t a one-time thing: in about half of people who have had one, another appears within seven years without preventive measures.

Preventing kidney stones isn’t complicated, as I write in the October Harvard Men’s Health Watch, but it does take some determination.

Kidney stones form when certain chemicals become concentrated enough in the urine to form crystals. The crystals grow into larger masses (stones), which can make their way through the urinary tract. If the stone gets stuck somewhere and blocks the flow of urine, it causes pain.

Most stones occur when calcium combines with one of two substances: oxalate or phosphorous. Stones can also form from uric acid, which forms as the body metabolizes protein.

Kidney stones

Preventing kidney stones means preventing the conditions that support their formation. I asked Dr. Melanie Hoenig, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, for the top ways to prevent kidney stones. Here are her recommendations:

Drink plenty of water: Drinking extra water dilutes the substances in urine that lead to stones. Strive to drink enough fluids to pass 2 liters of urine a day, which is roughly eight standard 8-ounce cups. It may help to include some citrus beverages, like lemonade and orange juice. The citrate in these beverages helps block stone formation.

Get the calcium you need: Getting too little calcium in your diet can cause oxalate levels to rise and cause kidney stones. To prevent this, make sure to take in an amount of calcium appropriate to your age. Ideally, obtain calcium from foods, since some studies have linked taking calcium supplements to kidney stones. Men 50 and older should get 1,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium per day, along with 800 to 1,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D to help the body absorb the calcium.

Reduce sodium: A high-sodium diet can trigger kidney stones because it increases the amount of calcium in your urine. So a low-sodium diet is recommended for the stone prone. Current guidelines suggest limiting total daily sodium intake to 2,300 mg. If sodium has contributed to kidney stones in the past, try to reduce your daily intake to 1,500 mg. This will also be good for your blood pressure and heart.

Limit animal protein: Eating too much animal protein, such as red meat, poultry, eggs, and seafood, boosts the level of uric acid and could lead to kidney stones. A high-protein diet also reduces levels of citrate, the chemical in urine that helps prevent stones from forming. If you’re prone to stones, limit your daily meat intake to a quantity that is no bigger than a pack of playing cards. This is also a heart-healthy portion.

Avoid stone-forming foods: Beets, chocolate, spinach, rhubarb, tea, and most nuts are rich in oxalate, and colas are rich in phosphate, both of which can contribute to kidney stones. If you suffer from stones, your doctor may advise you to avoid these foods or to consume them in smaller amounts.

For everyone else, particular foods and drinks are unlikely to trigger kidney stones unless consumed in extremely high amounts. Some studies have shown that men who take high doses of vitamin C in the form of supplements are at slightly higher risk of kidney stones. That may be because the body converts vitamin C into oxalate.

Related Information: Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy

Comments:

  1. Niels

    Hi out there, it is refreshing to read what the thoughts are in other countries, here, in Denmark, my doctor would not know what to answer me if I asked him about a special diet to prevent kidney stone (i am on my second time now :-(), it´s like: Oh..some people are just prone to stones – we do not know why. What! I am shocked and disappointed about the lack of debate on danish websides, and other media, at the hospital I met 5 or more people who had suffered from kidney stone (not patients, but hospital personal!)Imagine if I had made a little survey in my hometown (80 000 people)! I need to start my own blog on the topic.

  2. cosmetic-operations.co.uk

    I had the very painful experience of stones and have since learnt first hand that a healthy diet and plenty of fluid is so important in aiding prevention. Simple stuff really, but you would be surprised how many people don’t follow this simple advice!

  3. Se

    Thanks for the post! really better safe than sorry

  4. Salveo Andaman Noni

    With healthy food and pleanty of water it can be prevented its very painful. Although a very good article expecting more ..Cheers :)

  5. Nicholas sharkey

    Drinking green tea also may help prevent painful kidney stones. A new study shows compounds in green tea extract make it more difficult for certain kidney stones to form. The results showed that as the amount of green tea extract applied increased, the calcium oxalate crystals became flatter and flatter. I had already included wu-yi tea in my diet.

  6. Madhavi

    My father had kidney stones in 1992 and it took several years in India to get this cured. We were not aware of such preventive measures to be taken, else it would have helped… good article… madhavi…

  7. Nicholas sharkey

    Like avoiding stone forming food, you can also add stone flattening or dissolving food to your diet. Taking apple cider vinegar can help you with this. Cranberry juice also contains polyphenolic compounds that can dissolve kidney stones and flush them out of the body through the urine.

  8. Jones Murrey

    Additionally I would like in this article about preventing kidney stones.

    The most common types of kidney stones are calcium and oxalate. Each type may require a different eating plan. There are certain foods you can have, and other foods you should avoid, to reduce the chance that you will get kidney stones again.

    If you had kidney stones before, you are more likely to get them again. But by following the eating plan your doctor or dietitian suggests, you may prevent new kidney stones.

    Drink plenty of water. The most common cause of kidney stones is not drinking enough fluids, especially water.

    Thanks

  9. PPLIC

    Nice article. very interesting, thanks for sharing.

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  11. Goddessoflubbock

    Very confusing to me. Got my first stone about 3 years ago. Had 3 since. A nurse warned my high vit d supplement (5,000 iu daily) contributed to them.

    My nephrologist ran tests and put me on Vit c tabs, 500 mg 2x/day, saying my urine lacked acid.

    Since then no more stones, and no more UTIs either.

    I don’t eat a lot of chocolate but beets and spinach are regulars in my diet and my dr knows.