Globally the incidence of kidney stones and rate of recurrence are increasing. Although kidneys stones typically have a higher prevalence among men, the incidence is also increasing for women (1).
Once you’ve had a kidney stones you are at an increased risk for a recurrence with a 50% chance you will have another within 5 years and 75% within 20 years (1).
The good news is that there is a lot you can do with nutrition to prevent the most common types of kidney stones.
What are kidney stones?
The kidneys assist the liver in filtering our blood of toxins such as urea and with the reabsorption of useful minerals.
Kidney stones are deposits of minerals and salts that form in the kidneys and are often very painful to pass through the urinary tract.
Symptoms most commonly associated with a kidney stone include (2):
- pain so severe that you cannot get comfortable
- pain accompanying nausea and vomiting
- blood in your urine
- difficulty passing urine
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms please seek medical attention.
If you have already experienced kidney stones or have a family history of kidney stones there are changes you can make to your diet to prevent and/or reduce kidney stones from recurring.
What causes kidney stones?
Kidney stones form when your urine contains more crystal forming substances such as calcium, oxalate and uric acid than the fluid in your urine can dilute. In addition, a lack of substances that prevent crystals from forming contributes to kidney stone formation.
The type of stone that is formed will determine how best to prevent further stones so if you pass a stone be sure to keep it and have it’s composition analysed.
Most kidney stones are formed from calcium oxalate. Oxalates are naturally found in many foods such as beans, cocoa, instant coffee, parsley, rhubarb, spinach and cranberry juice. See the chart below for a list of the 12 most commonly consumed foods that are high in oxalates.
A magnesium deficiency can also contribute to the formation of calcium oxalate stones since magnesium keeps calcium soluble. When magnesium is deficient, calcium is more prone to form calcium salts which contributes to kidney stones (3).
Uric acid stones are formed when; not enough fluids are ingested, there is a high amount of water loss, and in those who eat a high protein diet. Proteins consist of purines which are broken down into uric acid during metabolism. Other foods high in purines include; bacon, liver, sardines, anchovies, dried peas, beans, and oatmeal.
What can you do?
To reduce your risk of kidney stones you can:
- STAY HYDRATED – drink at least 2L of filtered water daily
- replace black tea and coffee with herbals teas (especially dandelion tea which is beneficial to the kidneys and urinary tract).
- Add lemon to your water. Lemons are high in citric acid which can help prevent kidney stones from forming. Lemons are also antibacterial so they reduce the risk of urinary tract infections which can also contribute to kidney stone formation.
- Add Apple Cider Vinegar to your water. Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) has acetic acid which can help to soften and possibly reduce the size of kidney stones. Add up to 2 Tbs of ACV to 8oz of filtered water. Begin slowly by adding 1 tsp to your water and adding another teaspoon every few days to get to the 2 Tbs. Before using ACV, discuss with your doctor if you are on insulin, digoxin or diuretics as it may interfere with these treatments.
- eat less meat and other high purine foods (bacon, liver, sardines, anchovies, dried peas and beans, oatmeal)
- eat more vegetables – vegetables are known to alkalinize (increase pH) of the urine (low urine pH is associated with uric acid stone formation) and provide minerals such as magnesium and Vitamin K which can reduce the formation of kidney stones (3).
- limit foods high in oxalates (see chart below)
- limit sodium intake including table salt, processed foods, red meats and cheeses.
- eat more probiotic foods containing lactobacillus (yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, miso, kombucha, pickles) since they may decrease intestinal absorption of oxalates.
The information in this post is not intended to replace medical advice. If you suspect that you have a kidney stone, please see your health care provider.
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