9 Ways to Prevent Kidney Stones

Kidney stone prevention

Kidney stones are hard mineral deposits that form inside your kidneys. They cause excruciating pain when they pass through your urinary tract.

Up to 12 percent of Americans are affected by kidney stones. And once you’ve had one kidney stone, you’re 50 percent more likely to get another within the next 10 years.

There’s no one sure way to prevent kidney stones, especially if you have a family history of the condition. A combination of diet and lifestyle changes, as well as some medications, may help reduce your risk.

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How to prevent kidney stones naturally

Making small adjustments to your current diet and nutrition plan may go a long way toward preventing kidney stones.

1. Stay hydrated

Drinking more water is the best way to prevent kidney stones. If you don’t drink enough, your urine output will be low. Low urine output means your urine is more concentrated and less likely to dissolve urine salts that cause stones.

Lemonade and orange juice are also good options. They both contain citrate, which may prevent stones from forming.

Try to drink around eight glasses of fluids daily, or enough to pass two liters of urine. If you exercise or sweat a lot, or if you have a history of cystine stones, you’ll need additional fluids.

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You can tell whether you’re hydrated by looking at the color of your urine — it should be clear or pale yellow. If it’s dark, you need to drink more.

2. Eat more calcium-rich foods

The most common type of kidney stone is the calcium oxalate stone, leading many people to believe they should avoid eating calcium. The opposite is true. Low-calcium diets may increase your kidney stone risk and your risk of osteoporosis.

Calcium supplements, however, may increase your risk of stones. Taking calcium supplements with a meal may help reduce that risk.

Low-fat milk, low-fat cheese, and low-fat yogurt are all good calcium-rich food options.

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3. Eat less sodium

A high-salt diet increases your risk of calcium kidney stones. According to the Urology Care Foundation, too much salt in the urine prevents calcium from being reabsorbed from the urine to the blood. This causes high urine calcium, which may lead to kidney stones.

Eating less salt helps keep urine calcium levels lower. The lower the urine calcium, the lower the risk of developing kidney stones.

To reduce your sodium intake, read food labels carefully.

Foods notorious for being high in sodium include:

  • processed foods, such as chips and crackers
  • canned soups
  • canned vegetables
  • lunch meat
  • condiments
  • foods that contain monosodium glutamate
  • foods that contain sodium nitrate
  • foods that contain sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)
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To flavor foods without using salt, try fresh herbs or a salt-free, herbal seasoning blend.

4. Eat fewer oxalate-rich foods

Some kidney stones are made of oxalate, a natural compound found in foods that binds with calcium in the urine to form kidney stones. Limiting oxalate-rich foods may help prevent the stones from forming.

Foods high in oxalates are:

  • spinach
  • chocolate
  • sweet potatoes
  • coffee
  • beets
  • peanuts
  • rhubarb
  • soy products
  • wheat bran

Oxalate and calcium bind together in the digestive tract before reaching the kidneys, so it’s harder for stones to form if you eat high-oxalate foods and calcium-rich foods at the same time.

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5. Eat less animal protein

Foods high in animal protein are acidic and may increase urine acid. High urine acid may cause both uric acid and calcium oxalate kidney stones.

You should try to limit or avoid:

  • beef
  • poultry
  • fish
  • pork

6. Avoid vitamin C supplements

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) supplementation may cause kidney stones, especially in men.

According to one 2013 study, men who took high doses of vitamin C supplements doubled their risk of forming a kidney stone. Researchers don’t believe vitamin C from food carries the same risk.

7. Explore herbal remedies

Chanca Piedra, also known as the “stone breaker,” is a popular herbal folk remedy for kidney stones. The herb is thought to help prevent calcium-oxalate stones from forming. It’s also believed to reduce the size of existing stones.

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Use herbal remedies with caution. They’re not well-regulated or well-researched for the prevention or treatment of kidney stones.

How to prevent kidney stones with medication

In some cases, switching up your dietary choices may not be enough to prevent kidney stones from forming. If you have recurrent stones, talk to your doctor about what role medication can play in your prevention plan.

8. Talk to your doctor about the medications you’re currently taking

Taking certain prescriptions or over-the-counter medications can result in kidney stones.

Some of these medications are:

  • decongestants
  • diuretics
  • protease inhibitors
  • anticonvulsants
  • steroids
  • chemotherapy drugs
  • uricosuric drugs

The longer you take these drugs, the higher your risk of kidney stones. If you’re taking any of these medications, talk to your doctor about other medication options. You shouldn’t stop taking any prescribed medications without your doctor’s approval.

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9. Talk to your doctor about preventative medications

If you’re prone to certain types of kidney stones, certain medications can help control the amount of that material present in your urine. The type of medication prescribed will depend on the type of stones you usually get.

For example:

  • If you get calcium stones, a thiazide diuretic or phosphate may be beneficial.
  • If you get uric acid stones, allopurinol (Zyloprim) can help reduce uric acid in your blood or urine.
  • If you get struvite stones, long-term antibiotics may be used to help reduce the amount of bacteria present in your urine
  • If you get cystine stones, capoten (Captopril) may help reduce the level of cystine in your urine
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The bottom line

Kidney stones are common. There’s no guarantee that prevention methods will work, but they may reduce your risk. Your best bet for preventing kidney stones is staying hydrated and making certain dietary changes.

If you have a condition that increases your risk of kidney stones, such as inflammatory bowel disease, persistent urinary tract infection, or obesity, talk to your doctor about ways to manage it to decrease your kidney stone risk.

If you’ve passed a kidney stone before, ask your doctor to have it tested. Once you know what type of stone you’ve had, you can take targeted steps to prevent new ones from forming.

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Hydronephrosis ICD-9: 591 Description Hydronephrosis is the distention of the renal pelvis and calyces of a kidney due to pressure from accumulating urine. The pressure impairs, and may eventually interrupt, kidney function. One or both kidneys may be affected. Etiology Hydronephrosis is caused by a urinary tract obstruction. The ureters and renal pelvis dilate proximal to, or behind, the obstruction. This swelling causes the hydronephrosis with resultant destruction of functional tissue. In children, the obstruction is usually the result of some congenital defect in urinary tract structure. In adults, the obstruction is more often acquired, resulting from blockage by neoplasms or uroliths, commonly called kidney stones or renal calculi. Urinary tract obstruction in men may be produced by benign or malignant enlargement of the prostate. Women may experience urinary tract obstruction as a complication of pregnancy. Underlying disorders such as neurogenic bladder also may allow urine to acc...
Acute Tubular Necrosis ICD-9: 584.5 Description Acute tubular necrosis is the rapid destruction or degeneration of the tubular segments of nephrons in the kidneys. The disease is characterized by a sudden deterioration in renal function, with resulting accumulation of nitrogenous wastes in the body. Impaired or interrupted renal function from acute tubular necrosis is considered reversible. Etiology The majority of cases of acute tubular necrosis are due to renal ischemia, or the interruption or impairment of blood flow in and out of the kidneys. This disease is the most common cause of acute renal failure in critically ill persons. Although there can be numerous causes for such impairment, renal ischemia leading to acute tubular necrosis is most frequently produced by severe bodily trauma or as a complication following surgery. The renal tubules also can be damaged in other ways. Acute tubular necrosis may be toxin induced (as a result of exposure to solvents, heavy metals, or certain medication...
Neurogenic or overactive bladder ICD-9: 596.54 Description Neurogenic bladder refers to any loss or impairment of bladder function caused by central nervous system injury or by damage to nerves supplying the bladder. Overactive bladder function may be manifested as either incontinence (loss of voluntary control of micturition) or loss of the autonomic reflex, producing the sensation that the bladder is full. This is also referred to as urinary incontinence. Etiology Neurogenic bladder may present in one of the following two ways: (1) specific bladder dysfunction in which the neurological lesions are above sacral nerves S2 through S4 or (2) flaccid bladder dysfunction in which the lesions are below sacral nerves S2 through S4. Physical trauma to the spinal cord is a frequent cause of neurogenic bladder. Neurogenic bladder may arise as a consequence of multiple sclerosis, dementia, and Parkinson disease. Other causes can include nerve damage as a consequence of chronic alcoholism or heavy-metal poisoning. Me...
Kidney Stones What are kidney stones? Kidney stones, or renal calculi, are solid masses made of crystals. Kidney stones usually originate in your kidneys. However, they can develop anywhere along your urinary tract, which consists of these parts: kidneys ureters bladder urethra Kidney stones are one of the most painful medical conditions. The causes of kidney stones vary according to the type of stone. Types of kidney stones Not all kidney stones are made up of the same crystals. The different types of kidney stones include: Calcium Calcium stones are the most common. They’re often made of calcium oxalate (though they can consist of calcium phosphate or maleate). Eating fewer oxalate-rich foods can reduce your risk of developing this type of stone. High-oxalate foods include: potato chips peanuts chocolate beets spinach However, even though some kidney stones are made of calcium, getting enough calcium in your diet can prevent stones from forming. U...
Nephrotic syndrome ICD-9: 581.9 Description Nephrotic syndrome is a condition or a complex of signs and symptoms (syndrome) of the basement membrane of the glomerulus. (The basement membrane surrounds each of the many tiny capillaries comprising a glomerulus.) The disease is characterized by severe proteinuria, often to the extent that the body cannot keep up with the protein loss, which is known as hypoalbuminemia. The disease is further characterized by hyperlipemia (excessive levels of fatlike substances called lipids in the blood), lipiduria (lipids in the urine), and generalized edema. Etiology Nephrotic syndrome may result from a variety of disease processes having the capacity to damage the basement membrane of the glomerulus. Between 70% and 75% of the cases of nephrotic syndrome result from some form of glomerulonephritis. The syndrome also may arise as a consequence of diabetes mellitus, systemic lupus erythematosus, neoplasms, or reactions to drugs or toxins. The disease is occasio...