Kidney stone symptoms vary. Some people pass stones without even knowing it, and others feel an increased urgency to urinate, have blood in their urine, or feel pain in the back or groin that can range from mild to excruciating.
AARP’s recent article entitled “What to Eat to Prevent Kidney Stones — and What to Avoid” says that whatever the symptoms, kidney stones are surprisingly common.
Roughly 11% of men and 6% of women get them, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Genetics can make a person more prone to these benign-looking clumps, as can certain medications (like diuretics and calcium-based antacids) and jobs (truck drivers, teachers, and others who aren’t able to hydrate often enough). However, your diet can also be part of it. Here are eight dietary changes that may help you avoid them.
- Drink plenty of water. This is the best and first line of defense against kidney stones. Try to drink between 60 to 80 ounces of water a day to start, knowing that you may end up needing more than that, depending on your risk profile. Your urine should be clear, not yellow, orange, or brown.
- Reduce processed and other high-salt foods. If someone has high calcium in their urine, they need to moderate their sodium intake. That’s because a high level of salt increases calcium excretion in the urine. Limit processed foods, such as crackers, chips and frozen and pre-made meals, which are loaded with sodium.
- Add milk, cheese, and yogurt to your diet. It doesn’t mean taking calcium supplements. Foods filled with calcium help to avoid calcium stones, which is the most common type of kidney stones. However, calcium supplements can increase the risk of stones. Other supplements you may want to cut down on include vitamin D and vitamin C.
- Add lemon and lime juice to your drinks. These juices contain citrate, which is a natural stone inhibitor. It chelates calcium, which means it prevents calcium from bonding with something else.
- Eat plenty of fruit. Fruits are good at helping with kidney stones because they have a high water and fiber content, offer high levels of magnesium and citrate and are more alkaline — all of which help fight kidney stones.
- Watch eating leafy green vegetables, rhubarb, beets, and sweet potatoes. Although these are part of a heart-healthy diet, they’re also high in oxalates. That’s a naturally occurring compound linked to kidney stone formation. However, you could make sure you’re having a low-fat dairy serving at the same time you’re having a high-oxalate food because the dairy will provide calcium. That will bind with the oxalate and stay in the stool and won’t be absorbed into the blood and put into the urine.
- Eat less animal protein. This contains high levels of compounds called purines, which can cause you to excrete more uric acid and be more prone to uric acid stones. Limit your protein intake to six ounces of lean meats per day.
- Limit your iced tea, sodas and soy or almond milk. Tea is high in oxalate, and colas, especially dark colas, are made bubbly by phosphoric acid, which increases the risk of kidney stones. Pale sodas like ginger ale are better options, but watch for high sugar content. Sugars increase the amount of calcium in the urine and lead to metabolic syndrome, bad cholesterol and diabetes, all of which tend to cause more acidic environments in the body. Almond and soy milk are also high in oxalates.