What can you do right now to help prevent kidney stones?

February 10, 2021

Kidney stones. The name alone is enough to leave some people shuttering. While some kidney stones are as small as a grain of sand and pass through the ureter without us even knowing, some can leave you with a sharp pain in your back, side, lower abdomen, or groin, and chances are the task of passing that stone on your own isn’t all too enjoyable. The reason is that kidney stones are solid, pebble-like, and sometimes jagged pieces of mineral that form in your kidneys. So when they’re big, they are a huge pain.

The good new is there are simple steps you can take if you are trying to prevent them altogether. For this, we must focus on what we put into our bodies, which foods cause them, and which foods help keep them from forming.

Here are five general tips and tricks to keep them at bay.

  1. You want to make sure you stay properly hydrated.  The reason is simple – when we are properly hydrated, the materials that cause the stone in the first place become diluted. Citrus can help as well, so feel free to enjoy your water with some lime or lemon. Some helpful ways to get enough water can include starting early and drinking water soon after waking up, finding a water bottle that you can easily bring with you and refill throughout the day, being mindful of having a glass before and after a meal, or even using reminders or alarms on your phone to help you get into the habit. It is recommended to have 64 oz per day. Or take 1/2 of your body weight in lbs and try to drink half that number in ounces of water (for instance, a 200lb individual should work toward 100oz of water per day). It is important to note that we do want to avoid drinks like coffee, highly acidic juices like grapefruit juice, and sodas.
  2. Limit foods with high oxalates.  Oxalates can bind with calcium in the urine, which is what causes the stones to form. Some of the top oxalate foods are: spinach, rhubarb, some nuts, miso, corn grits, skin of potatoes, cocoa powder, raspberries, okra, bran cereals, french fries, and stevia sweeteners. While these foods do not have to be avoided completely, there are simple swaps you can make. Enjoy lettuce or bok choy instead of spinach; bananas, cantaloupe, or papaya instead of raspberries; broccoli, cauliflower, or mushrooms instead of okra, and so on.
  3. Don’t go overboard with animal protein, especially red meats, fatty meats, and processed meat.  High animal-protein diets can lead to kidney stones for a few reasons.  When we eat too much protein, our kidneys excrete more calcium, which can cause stones to form in the kidneys. The high uric acid levels in this type of diet can also lead to the stones’ formation. A high-protein diet also reduces levels of urinary citrate, the chemical in urine that helps prevent stones from forming. Instead, you can opt for plant based protein options like beans, dried peas, lentils, oats, or soy, or stick to lean cuts of white poultry or seafood.
  4. Keep an eye on the salt contents of your food.  The biggest high-salt offenders are items like frozen, processed, and prepackaged meals, as the salt is used to preserve these foods. You can also find high salt contents in some canned foods or premartinated foods. Luckily, the salt contents are easy to spot on a nutrition label. You want to be mindful of keeping this number under 2,000 mg of sodium. The reason why we want to keep our salt content low that is too much sodium is another contributing factor to producing too much calcium loss in the urine. Instead, opt for fresher foods (your heart with thank you as well), and get comfortable experimenting with other seasoning that you enjoy, like garlic, parsley, coriander, paprika, oregano, thyme, or allspice.
  5. Increase those fruits and veggies! Fruits and vegetables are a necessary part of any healthy diet, but can also help prevent stone formation, as well. Of course, you want to keep an eye out for the high oxalate foods discussed above. However, potassium rich veggies like brussel sprouts, broccoli, and kale can help keep from them forming. These foods also have antioxidants that can help prevent bladder, prostate, and kidney cancers. Citrus fruits are also helpful, as the citrate stops the stone formation by binding to the calcium, which makes it unable to bind with oxalates.

It is important to know that if we do experience even painful kidney stones, it is unlikely to leave long term damage when treated by a urologist. If you find yourself with sharp pains or blood in your urine, it is a good idea to get some help from a local Austin urologist. You can also get additional guidance from working with a nutritionist on creating the right diet for your needs.