Kidney stones, also called renal calculi and urolithiasis or nephrolithiasis, are hard deposits made of salts and minerals that develop inside one or both kidneys.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, about 11% of men and 6% of women in the U.S. have kidney stones at least once in their lifetime. The prevalence of kidney stones is on the rise.
People with kidney stones tend to feel a sharp pain when these hard deposits move around or pass into ureters. Having kidney stones can negatively affect a person’s quality of life.
In this post, you will learn more about different ways to prevent kidney stones.
How to prevent kidney stones naturally
Kidney stones are preventable, and doing so is easier than you think. Scroll down to see how to prevent kidney stones naturally.
1. Reduce sodium consumption
High consumption of sodium increases the risk of kidney stones. That happens because excessive sodium levels in urine prevent the re-absorption of calcium from urine to the blood.
In other words, reduced salt intake can lower urine calcium levels and thereby reduce kidney stone risk.
Decreasing sodium intake goes beyond putting less salt into your meals. You also need to read labels carefully and avoid or reduce your intake of canned soups, processed food, lunch meat, canned vegetables, condiments, and foods that contain monosodium glutamate, baking soda, sodium bicarbonate, and sodium nitrate.
2. Stay hydrated
One of the best ways to prevent kidney stones is to stay hydrated, preferably by drinking more water. Higher fluid intake increases urine output. This is important because low urine output is more concentrated and thereby less likely to dissolve salts in urine that cause the development of kidney stones.
Drinking orange juice and lemonade is beneficial, as well. These beverages contain citrate, which can prevent kidney stones.
Citrate binds with urinary calcium and decreases the supersaturation of urine. At the same time, citrate also binds calcium oxalate crystals, thereby preventing crystal growth and calcium oxalate stones.
Strive to drink eight glasses of fluid a day. Make sure to increase water intake if you have a history of cystine stones or exercise and sweat a lot.
3. Avoid vitamin C supplements
Many people take vitamin C supplements, but that may not be the best choice if you want to prevent kidney stones. Supplementation with vitamin C or ascorbic acid increases the risk of kidney stones, especially for men.
A study from the JAMA Internal Medicine found that men with a high intake of vitamin C supplements were twice as likely to develop kidney stones as their counterparts who did not.
Scientists explain that vitamin C from food doesn’t cause this effect. So, make sure to get your vitamin C through diet rather than supplementation.
4. Avoid stone-forming foods
Foods abundant in oxalate can increase the risk of kidney stones. Oxalate, or oxalic acid, is a naturally-occurring compound in some plants.
Evidence confirms that oxalate urolithiasis is the most common type of kidney stone, and they occur because oxalate forms crystals in the urine. These crystals can bind to one another and create hard deposits.
You may want to avoid or reduce your intake of oxalate-rich foods such as chocolate, beets, rhubarb, sweet potato, spinach, most nuts, and tea.
5. Lose weight
Instead of following fad diets to slim down, you will benefit more from a healthy lifestyle. Eat a well-balanced diet and exercise regularly to lose weight and keep it off.
6. Reduce intake of animal protein
Foods abundant in animal protein are acidic. As a result, they increase the level of urine acid, which contributes to kidney stone development. It can increase the risk of both calcium oxalate and uric acid stones due to higher uric acid levels.
For that reason, you may want to avoid or reduce the consumption of pork, fish, poultry, and beef.
7. Eat calcium-rich foods
Calcium is largely misunderstood when it comes to preventing kidney stones. Many people believe this mineral is bad for kidneys because calcium oxalate stones are so common. However, this isn’t quite correct.
You see, a low calcium intake can increase the risk of kidney stones and osteoporosis. Dietary calcium binds to oxalate in the intestines and reduces oxalate levels absorbed into the bloodstream and excreted by the kidneys. That means the concentration of oxalate in urine is lower, and you’re less likely to develop kidney stones.
While calcium from diet is beneficial for kidney stone prevention, supplementation doesn’t induce the same effects. Calcium supplements can increase the risk of kidney stones unless you take them with a meal. Good sources of calcium include low-fat cheese, low-fat yogurt, and low-fat milk.
8. Try herbal remedies
Some herbal remedies can help decrease the risk of kidney stones. One such remedy is chanca piedra or stone breaker.
Chanca piedra is a herb that grows in tropical regions such as South American rainforests. This herb has been used to treat kidney stones for many centuries, hence the name.
Chanca piedra is alkaline, which is why it has the potential to prevent acidic kidney stones. Supplementation with this herb can help you urinate more.
A lot more studies are necessary on chanca piedra and other herbal remedies. Consult a doctor before you start using these products, especially if you’re taking medications for some health condition.
How to prevent kidney stones with medication
In addition to natural strategies to prevent kidney stones, some medications could also serve this purpose. Keep in mind natural prevention measures are always a lot more important. Below, you can see where medications come in.
9. Consult a doctor about preventative medications
Some medications can help regulate the concentration of material found in urine. These medications could be helpful for men and women prone to kidney stones. You may want to consult the doctor about these medications because the exact drugs depend on the type of kidney stones you have.
For example, thiazide diuretic or phosphate could benefit persons with calcium oxalate kidney stones. The doctor may prescribe Capoten (Captopril) to prevent cystine stones, long-term antibiotics for prevention of struvite stones, and allopurinol (Zyloprim) to reduce the risk of uric stones.
10. Consult a doctor about the current medications you’re taking
Some over-the-counter and prescription medications can elevate the risk of kidney stones. These include diuretics, chemotherapy drugs, decongestants, protease inhibitors, steroids, anticonvulsants, and uricosuric drugs.
You may want to consult a doctor if you’re taking these medications. Make sure not to stop taking them on your own. The doctor will explain whether they could increase kidney stones risk or they may prescribe alternatives.
Kidney stones are preventable, and there’s a lot you can do to avoid the symptoms they cause. This post outlines 10 important strategies. Keep in mind healthy lifestyle is crucial.