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How do you prevent kidney stones?

Kidney stones

According to data, the risk of kidney stones is around 11% in men and 9% in women. It is one of the most common kidney issues to face, and it can be extremely painful. Passing a kidney stone is not something you ever want to do, and the good news is that you can prevent them from forming in your body. 

Below, we have created a guide that will answer all of the common questions relating to kidney stones and how you can stop them:


Where do kidney stones come from?

Kidney stones come from chemicals in the urine. As you are aware, the role of urine is to excrete waste products out of the body. Consequently, lots of different things are supposed to dissolve in your urine, allowing them to pass through your body. Alongside these waste products, urine is also made up of liquid - mainly water. 


So, where do kidney stones come from? Well, when your urine contains too little liquid and too much waste, crystalization starts to happen. The chemicals in your urine crystalize and attract other things that form together to create what is known as a kidney stone. It gets larger and larger until you eventually pass it with urine. 


What are the causes of kidney stones?

As mentioned above, kidney stones form when chemical elements in your urine start to crystalize. The question is, why does this happen? 

We’ve already touched upon one possible reason; a lack of liquid in your urine. This usually happens when you are dehydrated and not taking on enough water every day. However, plenty of other things are known to cause kidney stones, including issues with your kidneys. When your kidneys don’t work correctly, they’re unable to take these chemicals and break them down in your urine. Hence, stones are likely to appear. 

It’s also important to note that there are three main different types of kidney stones to be aware of: 

There is also another type of kidney stone - cystine - but it is normally caused by genetics and tends to be a hereditary thing. 

Mainly the cause of kidney stones relates to your diet, but it can also be linked to existing health conditions and medications. People with a high BMI are said to have a bigger chance of passing kidney stones than others, as are people with hyperparathyroidism. Vitamin C supplements and laxative medication are all linked as causes of kidney stones. 


How to prevent kidney stones?

So, keeping all of the above in mind, how do you prevent kidney stones? The good news is that a lot of these stones are definitely preventable. Here are some of the things you should do: 


What foods to avoid with kidney stones?

There are a plethora of foods you should look to avoid to prevent kidney stone formation in your urine. 

To start, you should implement a low-oxalate diet. If you remember, calcium oxalate kidney stones are the most common. When you have large amounts of oxalate in your body, the chances of these stones forming will increase. Unfortunately, oxalate is found in a lot of foods, such as: 

Next, you need to start a low-sodium diet. Sodium - or salt - is present in just about everything we eat. By all means, salt is good for the body when consumed in safe amounts. However, if you are eating too much salt, it can cause a whole host of health concerns. Specifically, too much salt in your body will stop calcium from being reabsorbed from urine into the blood. Consequently, you have too much calcium in your urine, which can merge with oxalate to form kidney stones. 

Cut down on foods high in salt, such as: 

Lastly, it is a good idea to reduce your animal protein intake. You don’t have to turn vegetarian or vegan, but eating less meat will help you stop kidney stones. Why? Because meat products are very acidic, even if they don’t taste that way. When you eat them, you increase the acidity levels in your urine, which can cause uric acid kidney stones. Not only that but it is also shown to increase calcium oxalate kidney stones. 


What to eat when you have kidney stones?

You’ve seen what foods to avoid, but what should eat to prevent kidney stones? This section can help you form a kidney stone prevention diet, while also giving you ideas on what to eat if you currently have these stones in your system and want to get rid of them as fast as possible. 

To begin, you need to eat more calcium-rich foods. Now, this confuses a lot of people as calcium oxalate kidney stones are the most common. After all, we have just spoken about avoiding oxalate-rich foods, so why do you need more calcium? 

Well, consuming enough calcium will ensure that it binds with oxalate before it goes to your kidneys. Therefore, the two compounds can’t bind together in your urine and cause stones. Foods high in calcium include: 

Alongside a calcium-rich diet, you need to eat foods that are low in oxalates. Below, we have created a low-oxalate food list for you to take a look at: 

Adding plenty of these foods to your diet - while reducing the high-oxalate foods we listed earlier - will help you lower the chances of kidney stones. Thankfully, all of the foods on this list are very common and easy to get ahold of. They can also very easily be added to meals or snacked on throughout the day, so you shouldn’t have to make extreme dietary changes. 

Citrus fruits are also really good at treating kidney stones and preventing them from forming. They contain something called citrate, which is an important compound in urine. It’s believed that citrate binds to calcium to help stop kidney stones from forming. It can also work to make your urine less acidic, preventing uric acid kidney stones as well as calcium oxalate ones. Lemon juice is a fantastic source of citrate, but many other citrus fruits - like oranges and limes - are also good ways to get it in your body. 


Is cranberry juice good for kidney stones?

There has long been a positive link between cranberry juice and your kidneys. Clinical research suggests that a daily dose of cranberry juice could prevent 50% of the recurrences of UTIs. As a result, many people wonder if it will have the same effect when looking at kidney stones. 

Now, you may find claims that cranberry juice is good for kidney stones, but the evidence is not conclusive. There are lots of contradictory studies at various points in time that claim cranberry juice can either increase or decrease the risks of developing kidney stones. However, it is important to note that the most recent review suggests it does increase the risk. Still, it is unwise to totally discount older studies that claim the opposite. 

What we do know is that cranberry juice is high in oxalates. As we have spoken about before, oxalates need to be avoided or reduced if you want to stop calcium oxalate kidney stones from forming. Moreover, there has been a study that claims cranberry juice can lower the pH of urine, increasing acidity. Thus, uric acid and calcium oxalate stones are more likely to form. Ironically, an acidic environment in your urine can prevent some kidney stones from developing - such as struvite ones. 

All in all, because there are so many contradictory claims and reviews, it is perhaps best to steer clear of cranberry juice. There are other things that can definitely prevent kidney stones, so focus on adding them to your diet instead - cranberry juice isn’t worth the risk. 


Are there any home remedies for kidney stones?

Yes, there are plenty - and we have touched upon a few already. Drinking lots of water and adding lemon juice to your diet are both home remedies that will stop kidney stones from being a problem. 

But, here are some other ideas to consider: 


How to stop kidney stone pain immediately

Kidney stone pain gets worse as the stone starts to get bigger and passes through your urinary tract. Stopping the pain right away can be difficult, but using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can help you ease it. You should be prescribed this by a doctor, taking the drugs only when necessary. 

Ultimately, the key to stopping the pain is reducing the size of the kidney stone and getting it passed as quickly as you can. Two things we have already spoken about will help you deal with the pain. Unsurprisingly, staying hydrated is the number one thing you can do. It increases your urine frequency, which can help you flush the stones out quicker. Secondly, ingesting acetic acid is shown to help reduce kidney stone size, minimizing your pain. 

On that note, you have seen how to prevent kidney stones and manage the pain associated with them. Of course, prevention is always better than finding a cure. Ensure you remain hydrated and alter your diet if you want to stop kidney stones from forming in your body. 

Uday Khosla, MD Uday Khosla, MD Uday M. Khosla, MD, is board certified in nephrology and hypertension and has served as a Houston kidney consultant since 2004. He currently practices as a renal specialist at Kidney360 - a nephrology practice located in Houston, TX serving the greater Katy, Sugar Land, Channelview, Pearland, Montrose, Downtown Houston, and Spring areas. Dr. Khosla is available as a kidney consultant in various settings, including in-hospital, outpatient clinics, outpatient dialysis, and home care.

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