How Can I Prevent Kidney Stones?

Benjamin Franklin is credited with saying that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This couldn’t be more true in the case of kidney stones because, if you can keep them from occurring in the first place, you’re certainly much better off.

But what actions can you take to potentially keep your body from producing these pain-inducing little mineral balls? Fortunately, there are a lot of options.

Drink a lot of water. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDKD) reports that consuming a lot of liquids is “the most important thing you can do to prevent kidney stones.” With one of the primary causes of stones being low urine output, this only makes sense.

The NIDDKD goes on to say that water should be your preferred beverage of choice and you should aim for at least six 8-ounce glasses daily, with eight glasses being even better. If you live in a hot climate, work outdoors in the heat, or engage in intense physical exercise, you’ll likely need more to help replace the water you lose via your sweat.

To meet this goal, drink one glass when you wake up in the morning, two glasses with each meal, and one glass before bedtime. And if you find water too plain, you can always add cucumber slices, mint leaves, or wedges of citrus fruits (lemon, lime, or orange) to boost the flavor. Also, keep a glass or bottle always by your side so you can sip on it continuously throughout the day.

Drop your excess weight. Obesity has long been linked to major health conditions like high blood pressure, increased heart attack risk, and type 2 diabetes. However, research published in the medical journal Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation has also connected being overweight with an increased risk of kidney stones.

This makes dropping your excess weight beneficial to your kidney’s health. To do this, strive to eat healthy foods and increase your activity levels daily. Small changes can really add up, especially where your kidney function is concerned.

Avoid certain foods. Another way to reduce your chances of developing kidney stones is to reduce, if not eliminate, certain foods and dietary substances in your diet. The ones you want to avoid most depend highly on what types of stones you get.

For instance, if you tend to suffer from calcium oxalate stones, the NIDDKD suggests that you stay away from nuts, rhubarb, spinach, and wheat bran. Reducing your sodium intake is also critical for this type of stone, as is limiting your intake of animal proteins (meat, eggs, fish, and dairy). Lowering your animal protein intake can also help stones made of uric acid or calcium phosphate, the second of which also benefits from lower sodium levels.

Eat certain foods together. While some foods should be limited or avoided, researchers stress that particular foods should be eaten together for maximum kidney stone prevention. So, if you tend to eat a lot of foods high in calcium, eat them at the same time that you eat oxalate-rich foods. This makes sure that they bind together, giving your kidneys less of a chance of creating stones.

For instance, if you plan to eat a spinach salad (a food high in oxalate), then add some calcium-rich almonds on top. Or, if you like to have a yogurt (calcium) for breakfast, throw in some bran flakes (oxalate) to balance it out.

Taking actions like these can greatly reduce your risk of kidney stones.