By far the most important and effective way to prevent kidney stones is to consume lots of fluids. Research shows that those who drink more than 2.5 liters per day are 40 percent less likely to experience a kidney stone than those who drink less. Water is the best fluid source, but other drinks, including caffeine, also contribute to reduction of risk. Citrus juices, in particular, can be beneficial – including squeezing a lime, lemon, or orange into your water. Liquids that are not recommended are sugary drinks such as soda and fruit punch.
“The number one risk factor for kidney stones is not drinking enough water,” says Dr. John Watson, of UCA Hamilton. “If you aren’t drinking enough, your urine will have higher concentrations of waste products, including substances that can form stones.”
The foods that are best can depend on the type of kidney stone you have had, but in general a healthy, balanced diet is recommended. For patients who have had calcium stones, one misconception is that calcium should be reduced in the diet. In fact, consuming a normal level of dietary calcium helps to reduce the risk of kidney stones. Also beneficial is a diet high in fiber, with moderate levels of protein and low levels of salt. Packaged and processed foods tend to have high sodium levels, so it is important to read the labels and know the salt content of the food you are purchasing. Increasing potassium citrate, either in the diet or through supplements, can help by increasing the pH levels and citrate levels in the urine. Physical activity is also beneficial, particularly weight-bearing exercise and walking.
For preventing a recurrence of uric acid stones, it is particularly important to consume a diet high in fruits and vegetables, and low in animal proteins and carbohydrates. This method helps to counteract the acid load in the body. For stones containing oxalate, the dietary recommendations are less clear, but it appears that in addition to fluids, following a high-calcium, low-sodium, high-fiber diet is the best approach.
Specific dietary recommendations often depend on the individual. When considering your urologic health and making changes to your diet, consult your primary care physician or one of our expert UCA physicians for options and the best approach to meet your specific health needs.