5 Foods to Help Fight Kidney Stones
Kidney stones are small, hard stone-like accumulations of minerals and salt. They form in your kidneys that are most commonly formed when concentrated urine brings about crystalized minerals that stick together. Kidney stones can cause a lot of pain since the stones travel through your urinary system to be dispelled in your urine. While they have no single, definitive cause, kidney stones are more common in those with specific risk factors, such as those with a family or personal history of kidney stones, those who are frequently dehydrated, those who consume a particular type of diet, those who are overweight or obese, and those with particular digestive diseases or a history of gastrointestinal surgery.
Here at NCHS, we want to help those searching for information on kidney stones, and we want to help you prevent them altogether. The primary cause of kidney stones is thought to be an individual’s diet, so it makes sense that changing the way you eat, even slightly, can help drastically reduce your risk of getting kidney stones. Eating a diet that is especially high in protein, salt, and sugar can increase the likelihood of getting kidney stones, so here are 5 foods you can eat to help you fight kidney stones.
While this isn’t a food, it is an absolutely vital part of fighting kidney stones and staying healthy. Kidney stones form from an excess of minerals and salt in the kidneys, and dehydration is a major factor in that. The more water you drink, the more diluted your urine is, which means a reduction in the substances that cause kidney stones to form. While the standard recommendation for daily water intake is 64 ounces, that is often not enough, particularly if you live in a warmer climate or frequently do activities that cause you to sweat. Take your weight in pounds, and divide it by 2. That number is the number of ounces you should drink of water each day, at the very least. Your urine should be a light yellow that is almost completely clear. If your urine is darker yellow, cloudy, or exceptionally smelly, something is amiss in your body and you may need to get checked for kidney stones.
Fruits & Vegetables
This one should be another no-brainer, but your body needs fresh, raw, healthy foods. Fruits and vegetables contain many important vitamins and minerals that are key to helping your body function properly, including preventing kidney stones. Citrus fruits, in particular, have citrate in them which helps prevent the formation of kidney stones. Processed foods are often ridden with salt and other preservatives which contribute to the likelihood of kidney stones, so minimizing those and upping your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables will benefit you a great deal.
When you don’t consume enough calcium, the oxalate levels in your urine will rise, leading to kidney stones. Make sure you’re eating plenty of calcium-rich foods to keep your oxalate levels down and prevent kidney stones from forming. Some studies have linked calcium supplements to increased risk of kidney stones, so it is definitely better to get your calcium from foods. Things like almonds, broccoli, okra, kale, seeds (like chia, poppy, sesame), cheese, yogurt, beans and lentils (low-sodium options), and milk are the best foods to eat to get your daily amount of calcium. In addition to increasing your consumption of calcium-rich foods, increase the amount of vitamin D you consume as well. Vitamin D helps your body absorb more calcium and can be found in egg yolks, salmon, cheese, and other fortified foods.
Non-Meat Protein Sources (But Not Too Much!)
Protein is an essential part of an everyday diet, but those with a high-protein diet often find themselves with kidney stones more frequently than others. Eating too much animal protein increases the level of uric acid in your body, which contributes to kidney stone formation. Eating a high-protein diet also lowers your citrate levels. Citrate is a chemical that is found in urine that helps in the prevention of kidney stones. While animal protein (poultry, red meat, seafood, and eggs) are healthy in moderation, eating too much will increase your risk of getting kidney stones. Try swapping out some animal proteins with plant-based proteins, such as lentils, beans, and peas.
Salt-Free & Low-Sodium Foods
The biggest contributing factor to having kidney stones, at least when it comes to diet, is consuming too much sodium. Consuming high levels of sodium contributes to increased buildup in the urine that leads to the formation of kidney stones. Check the labels of anything you’re purchasing at the store, and stay away from processed foods, fast food, fried foods, and anything that tastes exceptionally salty. Also, be sure to minimize the salt you add to your foods when cooking or eating. Some normally high-salt foods have lower sodium options that can be a good replacement if you simply have to have those foods. But as always, limiting the processed foods you eat and increasing raw, fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet is always the best way to limit your sodium intake.