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Kidney stone prevention: What you eat and drink can make a difference

There are no guarantees when it comes to kidney stones. But drinking lots of water, cutting back on sodium and sugar and adding a little lime or lemon juice to your diet can lower your odds of having a stone.
Staying hydrated with water will help your kidneys flush toxins from your bloodstream, according to Registered Dietitian Rasa Troup, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, Troup also recommends adding a lemon or lime to your water, or drinking orange juice. Citrus fruit contains citrate, which has been shown to help prevent kidney stone formation.
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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 Registered Dietitian Rasa Troup, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, has seen many patients with kidney stones. She believes the best way to avoid becoming one of them is to follow general health and well-being recommendations. Chief among them: Consume 64-100 ounces of fluid—equal to about eight glasses of water—each day. Troup also recommends avoiding added or processed sugars, decreasing your sodium intake and increasing the amount of calcium you consume. Finally, eat more fruits and vegetables, Troup advised.

Proper hydration is especially important. Drinking plenty of water helps flush the kidneys and prevent the formation of kidney stones. Good hydration also comes with a bevy of other benefits, including better-looking skin, higher energy levels and easier weight control. There’s nothing quite like water to help your kidneys flush toxins from your bloodstream, Troup said, but if you want to vary your fluid intake, Troup 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.”

Read more about preventing and treating kidney stones.

Beyond that basic advice, a lot depends on the type of kidney stones afflicting an individual. There are four types of kidney stones, and a simple urine test can determine which type a person may have. 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, Troup 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.

Learn more about the University of Minnesota Health kidney stone program.

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.

Troup also advised people with kidney stones to seek out advice and help from a registered dietitian.

“In order to understand modifications you need to make to your diet to avoid kidney stones, meeting with a registered dietitian is a must,” Troup said. “Many people are not aware of what they eat and how much they eat, so they may not be well-equipped to make sustainable changes to their diets.”

“People are sometimes reluctant to see a registered dietitian because they believe wrongly that the dietitian will advise them against eating all their favorite foods,” Troup said. “However, the goal of nutrition counseling is to assess a person’s current nutrition, document challenges and to work with an individual to develop an eating philosophy that fits that person’s food preferences.”

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