Veganism and Kidney Stones: Dr. Shaw Weighs In

June 28, 2022

In a recent blog posted by The Beet, Dr. Shaw offered some insight into veganism and kidney stones. Urine naturally contains minerals and salts. When the urine is concentrated with these compounds it can cause hard stones to form in the kidneys (hence the name kidney stones). Once the kidney stones begin to move into the ureter towards the bladder, that kidney stone is now called a ureteral stone and it’s trying to make its way down the urinary tract to pass.

Depending on your intake of salt, water, fat, and protein, you may be more at risk of developing kidney stones.

Veganism and Kidney Stones

If you are considering a plant-based diet, it is important to understand that things like leafy greens, legumes, nuts, and milk alternatives derived from nuts and oats can increase your chances of getting kidney stones. Many people who go vegan will supplement their protein intake with things like shakes and powders. According to Dr. Shaw, consuming too much protein can also lead to kidney stones down the road.

If you’re eating an excess amount of protein, the acid content in your body will increase and thereby decrease the amount of urinary citrate – a beneficial chemical that prevents kidney stones.” 

Oxalates, What are They?

Most kidney stones are made from calcium oxalate. Certain foods that are staples of vegan or plant-based diets are high in oxalates that can cause kidney stones to develop. Dr. Shaw says that “Leafy greens and veggies are common in a vegan diet, but unfortunately they’re also high in oxalates. If you’re looking to prevent kidney stones while on a vegan diet (or any diet, really) try to avoid or limit the following foods: Rhubarb, spinach, strawberries, wheat bran, nuts, beets, dark chocolate and tea.” 

Can You Prevent Kidney Stones Naturally?

This is not to say that vegan diets and plant-based diets are inherently unhealthy or dangerous. But it is worth noting that some diets can put you at a greater risk for developing kidney stones. For example, foods that are high in salt and animal fat content also put you at greater risk for developing kidney stones. Regardless of your diet, there are a number of things you can do to decrease your chances of developing kidney stones.

Dr. Shaw’s Kidney Stone Prevention Essentials 

1. In addition to managing the amount of oxalates in your diet, it is absolutely essential that you increase your water intake. At least 50% of your daily fluid intake should be water; more if you’re physically active or live in a warm climate. 

2. Speaking of hydration, lemon water is a fantastic option. Increasing your intake of citric acid prevents large stone formation, so add a capful of lemon juice to your water every day. 

3. On the flipside, caffeinated beverages like coffee, soda, tea and carbonated drinks are linked to stone formation. Enjoy these in moderation and have them in tandem with an extra glass of water.

4.  Because sodium, sugar, and animal protein (not a problem if you’re vegan) are also linked to kidney stones, you’ll also want to make sure you’re not eating these in excess. 

5. Finally, aim to incorporate insoluble fiber – often found in rye, barley and rice – into your diet as this has been shown to help reduce the amount of calcium in urine. 

Can Certain Foods Reverse Kidney Stones? 

According to Dr. Shaw, kidney stones cannot be reversed once formed. If you think you may have kidney stones or are passing kidney stones, it is critical that you reach out to your doctor or set an appointment with AUI!  We can develop a plan to help mitigate the pain and nausea that often comes with passing kidney stones.