Changing Your Diet to Prevent Kidney Stones

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates that one in 10 people will develop at least one kidney stone in their lifetime. If you’ve already had a kidney stone, you know that these hard masses that form from crystals in your urine can be excruciatingly painful and may require surgery.

Alex Lesani, MD, an expert urologist in Las Vegas, Nevada, wants to prevent your next kidney stone. Here he offers dietary tweaks that can keep your kidneys stone-free.

Drink lots of water

No matter what kind of stone you had, the best way to prevent another one from developing is to stay hydrated. If you passed a stone by yourself, you may have done so by drinking up to three liters of water (i.e., 8-12 cups) a day. Drinking that much can prevent stones, too.

You can count coffee, tea, and soup as part of your liquids intake, but avoid sugary drinks — especially those containing high-fructose corn syrup. Hydration keeps your urine clear of crystal build-ups by making you pass water frequently throughout the day, whether you have:

If you work out to the point of sweating, use saunas, or live in a hot climate, drink more liquids to replace what you lose while sweating.

Cut down on sodium and animal protein

If you have calcium oxalate stones, calcium phosphate stones, or uric acid stones, a major part of prevention is cutting down on sodium (i.e., salt) and animal protein. 

Sodium is a problem because it transports calcium into your urine, where the calcium can collect and create a stone. Keep your total sodium intake under 2,300 mg (about one teaspoon) per day. Check food labels carefully for hidden sources of sodium.  

Eating animal protein raises your risk for all forms of kidney stones. Limit:

You can replace some of your animal-protein meals with vegetable sources of proteins, such as nuts, seeds, and some legumes. But don’t eat peanuts if you’ve had a calcium oxalate stone.

Add in fresh vegetables, fruits … and lemons

To replace sugary sodas, add fresh-squeezed lemon or lime juice to your water. Not only does it give the water some flavor, but the citric acid also prevents calcium from binding with other substances that can cause stones. In addition, the juice prevents crystals that may be present in your urine from binding together and growing larger.

Piling your plate high with fresh fruits and vegetables can keep both your taste buds and your appetite satisfied as you make changes to your diet. Fresh vegetables and fruits also improve your overall health and help you lose weight, when needed.

If you had calcium oxalate stones  

Raw kale — that health food that everyone pretends to love, but secretly hates — should go on your “do not eat” list if you had calcium oxalate stones, the most common type of kidney stone. Why? Kale is full of a chemical called oxalate, which helped form your stone. 

Other foods you must limit because they’re high in oxalate include:

The good news is, you can eat some of your favorite oxalate-rich foods if you pair them with a calcium-rich food — such as milk, yogurt, or cheese — in the same meal. Calcium and oxalate bind together in your gut before entering your kidneys, so the oxalate’s less likely to cause stones. Aim for 1,000-1,200 mg calcium per day. Cook your greens to reduce oxalate.

And don’t forget: Limit sodium and animal proteins, while filling up on water.

If you had calcium phosphate stones

Counterintuitively, to reduce your risk of another calcium phosphate stone, you actually have to eat more calcium. But since you must reduce sodium and animal proteins, consider plant-based sources of calcium, such as:

Don’t take a calcium supplement unless Dr. Lesani prescribes one. Drink plenty of water, reduce sodium, and avoid animal proteins.

If you had uric acid stones

Limiting animal proteins is especially important if you had uric acid stones. When uric acid collects, it can create kidney stones, but it also moves into your joints to trigger a form of arthritis called gout.

Foods that are high in purines can cause both uric acid stones and gout. Especially avoid red meats, organ meats, and shellfish (while also limiting other sources of animal protein). Limit all alcohol, because it increases uric acid in your bloodstream.

If you need help preventing or treating kidney stones, contact Dr. Lesani today. You can phone our friendly office staff at 702-470-2579, or use the online booking form.

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