How Food and Drink Can Help Prevent, Banish Kidney Stones
Approximately 1 million people in the United States experience kidney stones each year, but you can take steps to avoid being among that crowd. Did you know that your food and drink choices can help prevent and even banish kidney stones?
What are kidney stones?
Kidney stones are solid, stone-like objects that form in the kidney when the concentration of certain substances, such as calcium, oxalate, and phosphorus, gets too high. These stones may stay in the kidney or move through the urinary tract, in which case they can get stuck and cause severe pain.
Your dietary choices have a significant impact on whether you will develop kidney stones, while genetics also has a role. In fact, a Washington State University of Medicine study recently reported how a variation in a gene called claudin-14 can increase a person’s risk of developing kidney stones by 65 percent.
The altered gene has a dietary effect. Specifically, it can cause people who consume too much calcium or salt and who don’t drink enough water to accumulate calcium in the urine, resulting in the formation of kidney stones.
However, even people who do not have the altered claudin-14 gene can get kidney stones. Therefore, it’s important for everyone to know what they can do in their food and drink choices to help prevent or even get rid of kidney stones.
Kidney stones can be various sizes, and when they are tiny like grains of sand, they may pass with minimum pain or discomfort. However, if you experience significant pain, see your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
Which foods and drinks are helpful?
According to the authors of a new study in Medicina, certain foods have been shown to increase the risk of kidney stones, such as animal protein (e.g., meat, fish, fowl), foods high in oxalates (e.g., chocolate, tea, cola, nuts, peanuts, parsley [see below], and spinach), sugary drinks, and salt. But which foods and drinks should you choose to help prevent or get rid of kidney stones?
- Bran cereal. Bran is an excellent source of fiber, which helps eliminate calcium and oxalate in the urine and thus reduce the risk of kidney stones.
- Carrots. These vegetables are a rich source of vitamin A, which is essential for healthy kidneys. Just one or two carrots a day provide more than enough of this critical nutrient. Other veggies rich in vitamin A include broccoli, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and winter squash.
- Fruits rich in citrates. In addition to lemons and lemonade, choose fruits that have a high level of citrates, including bananas, cherries, grapes, oranges, and tomatoes, to help prevent stone formation.
- Herbal teas. A tea made from the leaves of hydrangea may help dissolve kidney stones. Hydrangea tincture is also available. Other herbal teas that can help eliminate excess uric acid from the kidneys and thus reduce the risk of kidney stones are joe-pye weed, meadowsweet, nettle leaf, plantain, and sarsaparilla.
- Lemonade. Choose real lemonade (made from real lemons, not the powder mixes) rather than sugary drinks. Lemons are a rich source of citrates, which inhibit the formation of kidney stones.
- Lemon and olive oil. If you experience mild kidney stones, you can help eliminate them by drinking a mixture of equal amounts of fresh lemon juice and olive oil, followed by a glass of water, before going to bed. The stones will hopefully pass within 24 hours.
- Parsley. You may think of parsley as decoration, but it is an excellent diuretic and can help eliminate urea and other substances that contribute to the formation of kidney stones. If fresh parsley is not your cup of tea, then make parsley tea! Fresh parsley also can be added to soups and salads. However, if you are prone to forming calcium-oxalate stones, you should limit or avoid intake of parsley.
- Pumpkin and squash seeds. These tasty seeds are an excellent source of magnesium, a mineral that can significantly reduce the risk of kidney stones.
- Water. Be sure to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of fresh water daily. You can increase the ability of water to help prevent kidney stones by adding fresh lemon juice to each glass, for a total of 4 ounces of lemon juice daily.
- Watermelon. If you have kidney stones, eating lots of watermelon and nothing else for 24 hours may help dissolve kidney stones. It’s also helpful to make watermelon a regular part of your diet.
In addition to the above dietary suggestions, research has shown that taking 180 mg of magnesium plus 10 mg of vitamin B6 daily can reduce kidney stone formation by more than 92 percent per year.
Don’t risk getting kidney stones. Drink lots of water and make wise dietary choices, as they can have a significant effect on whether you develop kidney stones.
Negri AL et al. Diet in the treatment of renal lithiasis. Pathophysiological basis. Medicina (B Aires) 2013; 73(3): 267-71
Whitaker J. Magnesium for kidney stones