5 Easy Ways to Prevent Kidney Stones

Simple dietary & nutritional changes can help reduce the risk

This article originally appeared on Live in the Now.

It’s estimated that one out of every ten people will have a kidney stone at some point in their life.

And if you’ve ever had a kidney stone, you know just how painful it is.

The pain produced by kidney stones sends more than a million people to the emergency room every year. In the majority of cases, these people are never admitted to the hospital. Instead, they’re given a medication that relaxes the muscles in the ureter to help the kidney stone pass. Then they’re sent home with instructions to drink two to three quarts of water a day, take a painkiller as necessary and “wait for it to pass.”

With this in mind, your best bet is to do everything you can to avoid kidney stones in the first place.

What Causes Kidney Stones in the First Place?

Calcium oxalate stones are the most common form of kidney stones. These occur when you eat too many oxalate foods and don’t consume enough liquid. As the oxalate builds up, it begins sticking to calcium. And this is what forms the crystallized stones.

Diets high in protein, salt and sugar are particularly problematic. Too much salt, in particular, increases the amount of calcium your kidneys has to filter. This is problematic since oxalate attaches itself to calcium in the kidneys. It’s also important to note that salt is dehydrating.

Not drinking enough water plays a significant role in the formation of stones. People should drink plenty of water to help prevent crystals from forming, or to help break them up if they’ve already crystallized.

Excess intake of high oxalate foods like nuts, beets, seeds and spinach also adds to the risk of kidney stones.

5 Easy Ways to Prevent Kidney Stones

Here are five natural ways to help offset the risk of developing kidney stones:

Limit Your Salt Intake: High sodium intake causes excess calcium to build up in your urine. Foods like deli meats, hot dogs, canned foods and those that come in packages are typically very high in sodium.

Drink Plenty of Fluids: The higher your fluid intake, the easier it is to flush out chemicals associated with the formation of kidney stones. Skip the sugary beverages and sodas, as they add to kidney stone risk.

Eat Fewer Oxalate Foods: You don’t need to discontinue them altogether, since many of these foods contain balanced health benefits. The Cleveland Clinic suggests cutting only the following oxalate foods:

  • Spinach
  • Bran flakes
  • Rhubarb
  • Beets
  • Potato chips
  • French fries
  • Nuts and nut butters

Don’t Eat Too Much Animal Protein: Small amounts are fine, but a diet high in animal protein can encourage the development of kidney stones. Choose plant-based proteins like chia seeds, beans, lentil or chickpeas when possible.

Get More Calcium in Your Diet: This may sound counterintuitive, but it’s sound advice. When you eat calcium and high oxalate foods at the same time, they bind together in the stomach and intestines before moving to the kidneys. This makes eating calcium and oxalate together a great way to get oxalate out of the body without the risk of stone formation.

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Foster G, et al. Emergency Department Visits and Hospital Admissions for Kidney Stone Disease, 2009: Statistical Brief #139. Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) Statistical Briefs [Internet]. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US); 2006-.2012 Jul.

Ferraro PM, et al. Soda and other beverages and the risk of kidney stones. Clin J Am Soc Nephrol. 2013 Aug;8(8):1389-95.

Kidney Stones: Oxalate-Controlled Diet. News Article. Cleveland Clinic. © 2017 Cleveland Clinic.

Moyad MA. Calcium oxalate kidney stones: another reason to encourage moderate calcium intakes and other dietary changes. Urol Nurs. 2003 Aug;23(4):310-3.

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