Just ask anyone who’s had a painful kidney stone: If there’s something you can do to avoid getting one, do it.
University of Minnesota Health Clinical Dietitian Angie Moeding, RD, has seen many patients with kidney stones. To avoid becoming one of them, she recommends that most people who have not been diagnosed with a kidney stone consume 64 ounces of fluid—equal to about eight glasses of water—each day. If you have ever been diagnosed with a kidney stone, you should drink more fluids and limit your sodium.
Drinking plenty of water can prevent the formation of kidney stones. And it comes with a bevy of other benefits, including better-looking skin, higher energy levels and easier weight control.
That needn't all be water, of course, but there’s nothing quite like water to keep your urine diluted—and dilution helps prevent stones. If you want to vary your fluid intake, Moeding also recommends lemon/lime and orange juices containing citrate, which has been shown to help prevent kidney stone formation.
“We recommend half a cup of 100-percent lemon or lime juice daily. Two cups of orange juice will also provide adequate citrate. However, orange juice should be alternated with the lemon or lime juice due to the high sugar content in the orange juice.”
Beyond that basic advice, a lot depends on the type of kidney stones afflicting an individual patient. Four types of stones can form, and a simple urine test can determine which type a patient has.
“You can read many things online about kidney stones and diet, but without the specific guidance from a dietitian who can review the 24-hour urine results, the person may be unnecessarily restricting his or her favorite foods,” Moeding said.
Cystine and uric acid stones are less common than stones made of one of two calcium salts. And salt is a key enemy in the battle against kidney stones, Moeding said.
“Start by throwing away the salt shaker. Nearly everything we eat contains sodium. Ideally, we should all be getting less than 2,000 milligrams of sodium a day,” she said.
Don’t use the salt shaker that much? Take a look at the “nutrition facts” on that package of processed food you’re eating, and don’t be surprised if a single serving contains more than a quarter of the sodium you should be consuming all day.
Reaching for vegetables and fruits is a better choice, in part because those foods also contain a good deal of water.