Because kidney stones are mineral formations, what we eat and drink has a huge impact on whether or not they form. This is good news, though, because it means that you have a pretty high level of control over your overall kidney health.
One of the first and most important things you can do diet-wise when it comes to preventing kidney stones is to increase the amount of water you drink. The more you can keep your kidneys flushing excess minerals out of your body versus storing them up, the better.
A simple test to determine whether or not you’re drinking enough is to look at the color of your urine. If it’s light, you’re probably hydrating fairly well. However, if it’s dark, then you likely need to drink more.
It also helps to add some lemon or lime slices to your glass. The citrates found in these types of citrus fruits keep calcium from binding with other minerals and ultimately turning into stones. While you may be tempted to take a shortcut and just drink lemonade or limeade instead, be aware that the sugar in these types of drinks can actually increase your risk of stones versus reducing it.
You also want to stay away from soda, because research has found that this sugar-sweetened drink can lead to stone formation. As for your consumption of coffee and tea, the same study found that these two drinks actually lower the risk of stone formation, as does beer and wine.
Kidney stone prevention food recommendations
As far as which foods you should add to your diet to prevent future kidney stones, one suggestion is to eat foods that are high in fiber. This is based on research findings, such as one study published in The Journal of Urology where the participants were postmenopausal women. In this case, researchers concluded that “greater dietary intake of fiber, fruits and vegetables was associated with a reduced risk of incident kidney stones.”
Lowering your intake of animal proteins like meat, eggs, fish, and dairy is helpful as well. Why? Because his category of food is one of the top contributors to stones consisting of calcium oxalate, calcium phosphate, and uric acid—or, three out of the four types of stones. To make sure you still get enough protein in your diet after cutting your consumption of these foods, aim to eat more legumes, soy-based foods, nuts, and seeds because they are all higher in this necessary macronutrient.
Salt is the new calcium
When it comes to the foods you should eat, experts used to say that reducing calcium was key. This was primarily due to the fact that the most common stones consist of calcium in some part. However, they have since learned that this advice wasn’t only wrong, but often had the opposite effect.
Researchers have now learned that it’s not so much the amount of calcium a person consumes that is the issue when it comes to kidney stones. It’s actually more how the person’s body responds to this particular mineral and excretes it. So, if your body has a difficult time processing and using it efficiently, it doesn’t really matter how little or how much you ingest—it is likely that you will run into issues.
That’s why health experts now suggest that instead of paying so much attention to the amount of calcium you take in, focus on the amount of sodium you get. A high-sodium diet “increases the amount of calcium in your urine,” according to Harvard Medical School.
This means that you should be using the salt shaker less, limiting processed foods, and paying attention to food labels for their sodium content. And if you’ve had stones before, try to keep your daily intake at 1,500 mg or less.
To supplement or not to supplement?
One of the main dietary questions that people have when it comes to kidney stone prevention is whether or not they should continue to take their vitamins. According to the National Kidney Foundation, taking a vitamin B complex supplement can actually be helpful.
However, if you take vitamins C or D, calcium, or fish liver oil, you’ll want to check with your doctor before continuing your supplemental regimen.