How to Prevent Kidney Stones

Two Methods:Identifying Risk Factors for Kidney StonesPreventing Kidney Stones Through Diet

Kidney stones, which are also known as renal lithiasis or calculi, are solid deposits that originate in the kidney. Initially, these deposits are microscopic; however, they can grow into larger stones. Kidney stone prevention is important, because these tiny stones can result in excruciating pain as they descend from your kidneys to your bladder. In some instances, kidney stones become lodged in the ureter and block the flow of urine. Fortunately, making the correct dietary decisions can prevent the development of kidney stones, especially if you fall into a higher-risk category.

Method 1
Identifying Risk Factors for Kidney Stones

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    Ask close relatives if they have had kidney stones. You are at greater risk for developing stones if family members have experienced kidney stones.[1]
    • Studies show that kidney stones appear to be more common in people with Asian and Caucasian backgrounds than for Native Americans, Africans, or African Americans.[2]
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    Watch your weight. Research suggests that people with a high body mass index and larger waist sizes are at greater risk for the development of kidney stones.[3]
    • Body weight, not diet or fluid intake, appears to be the greatest risk factor for kidney stones. Eat a healthy diet and get plenty of exercise to reduce your weight and your risk.
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    Consider your age and gender. Men between 30 and 50 years old and postmenopausal women are the most likely to get kidney stones.[4]
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    Think about other medical conditions you may have. Certain surgical procedures and medical conditions increase your risk of kidney stones.[5] These include:[6]
    • Gastric bypass or other intestinal surgery
    • Urinary tract infections
    • Inflammatory bowel disease and Crohn's disease
    • Chronic diarrhea
    • Renal tubular acidosis
    • Hyperparathyroidism
    • Insulin resistance
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    Know the different kinds of kidney stones.[7] There are four different kinds of kidney stones. The first step in being able to prevent kidney stones is knowing what causes them. Different kidney stones are caused by different lifestyle factors and diet decisions.
    • Calcium stones. Calcium stones come in two forms: calcium oxalate stones and calcium phosphate stones. Calcium oxalate stones are the most common form of kidney stone. Calcium stones are often caused by high sodium intake.
    • Uric acid stones. Uric acid stones form when urine is very acidic, and are often because the patient has a diet high in animal protein (meat, fish, shellfish).
    • Struvite stones. These are usually caused by kidney infections. Staying free of infection can usually stop struvite stones.
    • Cystine stones. These are formed when cystine leaks into the kidneys, resulting in stones. Cystine stones are caused by a genetic disorder.

Method 2
Preventing Kidney Stones Through Diet

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    Drink plenty of water. You may have heard the “eight glasses a day” rule, but research suggests that you may actually need more than that. The Institute of Medicine recommends that men drink about 13 cups (three liters) of fluids per day. Women should drink about nine cups (2.2 liters) of fluids per day.[8]
    • If you’re sick or you exercise a lot, you’ll need to drink more.[9]
    • Water is the best choice. Drinking a half-cup of fresh-squeezed lemon juice daily raises the citrate levels in your urine, which can help reduce your risk of developing calcium kidney stones. Experts no longer recommend orange juice, as it raises oxalate levels.[10]
    • Be cautious with grapefruit juice, apple juice, and cranberry juice. Several studies have linked grapefruit juice to an increased risk of kidney stones, although not all studies agree.[11][12] Apple and cranberry juice both contain oxalates, which are linked to the development of kidney stones. Cranberry juice may increase your risk for calcium oxalate and uric acid stones. However, it may help prevent the less-common types of stones, such as struvite and brushite stones, and it’s good for overall kidney function.[13] Talk with your doctor about whether consuming these juices is a good idea for you.
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    Limit your intake of sodium. Consuming too much salt can cause kidney stones by increasing the calcium content of your urine. Read nutritional labels carefully and avoid processed foods, which tend to be high in sodium. Use the following sodium guidelines:[14]
    • Consume no more than 2,300 mg of sodium daily if you are a healthy young adult. According to the US Department of Agriculture, most Americans eat far more than that recommended allowance, 3,400 mg.[15]
    • Restrict your sodium to 1,500 mg per day if you are at least middle aged or you have certain conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.
    • Look for “lower sodium” or “no salt added” labels on canned foods. Canned vegetables and soups often have high levels of salt. Luncheon meat, hot dogs, and frozen prepared meals often have extremely high levels of sodium, so check labels before you buy.[16]
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    Minimize your intake of animal protein. A diet high in animal protein, especially red meats, increases your risk of developing kidney stones, especially uric acid stones.[17] Limiting your animal protein intake to 6 ounces or less per day helps reduce your risk of forming all types of kidney stones.[18]
    • Red meats, organ meats, and shellfish are high in a substance called purine, which increases your body’s production of uric acid and can cause kidney stones.[19] Eggs and fish also contain purines, although at a lower level.[20]
    • Substitute some of your animal protein with other rich sources of protein, such as nuts and legumes.
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    Increase your citric acid consumption. Citric acid from fruits acts as a protective factor by coating existing kidney stones, making it difficult for them to increase in size. Your doctor may prescribe medications such as calcium citrate or potassium citrate; these are not dietary sources and work differently.[21]
    • Lemons and limes are the best source of citric acid. Drinking lemonade or limeade (especially low-sugar varieties) and squeezing lemon or lime juice on foods are excellent ways of increasing your citric acid intake.
    • Increasing your fruit and vegetable intake will help boost your citric acid consumption.
    • Some sodas, such as 7UP and Sprite, contain high levels of citric acid. While you should avoid high-sugar beverages, the occasional clear soda may be a good way to increase your citric acid intake.[22]
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    Eat a “low-oxalate” diet. If you have a history of kidney stones made from calcium oxalate, the most common type of kidney stone, avoiding foods that are high in oxalate can help prevent future kidney stones.[23] If you do eat foods that contain oxalates, eat them at the same time as foods that contain calcium. The calcium and oxalate will bind to each other, making them less likely to cause trouble for your kidneys.[24]
    • Limit oxalate to 40-50mg daily.
    • Foods that are high in oxalate (10mg+ per serving) include nuts, most berries, wheat, figs, grapes, tangerines, beans, beets, carrots, celery, eggplant, kale, leeks, olives, okra, peppers, potatoes, spinach, sweet potato, and zucchini.
    • Beverages that contain high levels of oxalate (more than 10mg per serving) include dark beer, black tea, chocolate-based beverages, soy beverages, and instant coffee.
    • Don’t over consume vitamin C. Your body may turn high doses — such as those from supplements — into oxalate.[25]
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    Use calcium supplements with caution. The calcium you eat from foods doesn’t affect your risk of developing kidney stones. In fact, diets that are too low in calcium may cause kidney stones to develop for some people. However, calcium supplements may increase the risk of developing kidney stones, so don’t take them unless your doctor has recommended them.[26]
    • Children between four and eight years old should get 1,000 mg of calcium daily. Children nine to 18 years old should get 1,300 mg of calcium daily. Adults 19 and older should get at least 1,000 mg of calcium daily. Women over 50 and men over 70 should increase their intake to 1,200 mg of calcium a day.[27]
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    Eat a high-fiber diet. Studies suggest that fiber-rich foods may help prevent kidney stones.[28] Many high-fiber foods contain phytate, a compound that helps prevent calcium from crystallizing.
    • Beans and rice bran are good sources of phytate. While wheat and soybeans also contain phytates, they are also high in oxalate, so it’s recommended that you avoid them unless recommended by your doctor.
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    Watch your alcohol intake. Alcohol increases the level of uric acid in the bloodstream, which can contribute to kidney stones.[29] If you do drink alcohol, choose light-colored beers or wine. These beverages don’t appear to increase your risk of kidney stones.[30]
    • Dark beers contain oxalate, which can increase kidney stones.[31]


  • Request a referral to a nutritionist or registered dietitian. These professionals can work with your doctor to tailor a nutritional plan to your specific needs.
  • Don’t go on a “crash diet.” Not only are these bad for your overall health, they can increase uric acid levels and increase your risk of kidney stones.[32]


  • Never make adjustments to your diet without consulting with your personal physician first.

Sources and Citations


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Categories: Intestinal and Digestive Health