Rates of kidney stones are on the rise across the United States. That means the chance you’ll develop one is, too. According to the National Kidney Foundation, one in ten people will have a kidney stone during their lifetime. Those who have a history of kidney stones are even more likely to experience another.
Learning how they develop—and how your diet impacts that process—can help reduce your risk.
What are kidney stones?
Kidney stones form from substances found in urine. In most people, natural chemicals prevent stones from forming. But as the 10 percent who develop stones can attest, these small masses can be excruciatingly painful.
How to avoid them
Whether you’ve never had a stone, or you're at risk for a recurrence, it pays to know how to avoid developing one. Dietary changes are not a guarantee you’ll never have one, but these five tips can reduce your risk:
Drink more water
The more you drink, the more urine your body passes. More urine flowing through your kidneys and urinary tract means less opportunity for minerals to combine and create kidney stones.
Doctors suggest drinking at least three quarts (12 cups) of fluid a day—and most of that should be water.
Learn about oxalates
Oxalates are found in foods including peanuts, seeds, beets, chocolate and sweet potatoes. They bind with calcium as they move through your system to form the most common type of kidney stone, the calcium-oxalate stone.
Eat oxalate-containing foods and calcium-rich foods (such as dairy and dark leafy greens) together. You’ll increase the chance the two will bind in the stomach or intestines before they reach the kidneys.
Don’t skimp on citrus
Limes, lemons and some other citrus fruits contain citrates, which can also decrease the likelihood of calcium-oxalate stones. Add a squeeze of citrus to your water or your meal to boost your citrate intake.
Do skimp on salt
The sodium in salt can lead to increased levels of calcium in your urine. That increases the chance of calcium binding with oxalates to form stones.
Ask your doctor’s advice, but a common recommendation is to limit sodium to 2,000 milligrams per day. Pay attention to salt you add to your food and to "hidden" sodium found in packaged and restaurant foods.
Trade red meat and alcohol for fruits and vegetables
There are plenty of health benefits to limiting red meat and alcohol. Add one more: less acid in your urine is key to avoiding another common type of kidney stone, the uric acid stone. So, say yes to fresh fruits and vegetables and take a pass on the red meat every once in a while.
Talk with a doctor for more advice on how to avoid kidney stones. If you think a kidney stone may already be causing you pain, make an appointment today.