Every year, more than three million people seek treatment for symptoms related to kidney stones. Many are familiar with the pain associated with kidney stones, but there are some surprising facts you might not know.

What Causes Kidney Stones?

Although there is a connection to genetic predisposition, the causes of kidney stones are often related to diet and lifestyle. There is no one specific cause of kidney stones. Several risk factors can contribute to kidney stone formation:

  • A diet that is high in protein (red meat, poultry, eggs, and seafood), sodium (salty foods), or sugar (sodas and sugary drinks)
  • Dehydration
  • Digestive disorders like Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
  • Family history of kidney stones
  • Obesity
  • Other medical conditions like hyperparathyroid condition
  • Medications such as diuretics

Can You Reduce Kidney Stones Naturally?

Make a conscious choice to mind your diet!

  • Drink plenty of water.
    • Extra water dilutes the substances in urine that lead to stones. Aim for at least eight 8-ounce cups a day.
      • Add citric acid by squeezing in some fresh lemon or orange juice or switch up and incorporate low-sugar/no-sugar lemonade and orange juice.
  •  Eat calcium rich foods.
  • Reduce sodium.
  • Limit animal protein.
  • Avoid stone-forming foods such as beets, chocolate, spinach, rhubarb, tea, and most nuts that are rich in oxalate.
  • For some people, high doses of vitamin C in the form of supplements can lead to higher risk of kidney stones.

Can Kidney Stones Go Away Naturally?

There is only one way kidney stones can exit the body – through your urine. While smaller stones usually pass easily, larger ones require medical intervention. Modifying your diet and lifestyle can also help.

  • Hydrate to maintain a steady stream of clear (as possible) urine
  • Eat more plant-based protein (beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas)
  • Add cranberries, a natural diuretic, to your diet
  • Increase your intake of fish oil to decrease urinary citrate and oxalate level (salmon, sardines, and mackerel)
  • Limit caffeine consumption, which is in more foods and drinks than coffee
  • Consider preventative medication

While these tips may help, always talk to a medical professional who can prescribe an individual treatment plan.

Facts About Kidney Stones

  1. Calcium doesn’t cause kidney stones. In moderation, eating calcium can actually help prevent stones from forming.
  2. It’s more common than you think.  One in 10 people will develop a kidney stone in their lifetime and 85 percent will develop them again within 10 years. Men develop stones more often than women.
  3. Save that stone. If you pass a stone, save it for testing. There are different types of kidney stones. By knowing what specific type of stone you had, we can tailor prevention recommendations for your individual needs.
  4. One size does not fit all.  Kidney stones can be as small as a grain of salt or as big as a golf ball.  Different treatments are recommended for the various sizes of stones.
  5. Prevention is key.  Changes in diet and medication, if indicated, are about 90 percent effective in preventing new stones from forming.

5 Foods to Prevent Kidney Stones

Certain foods can increase your risk of developing kidney stones.  Eating in moderation while maintaining a healthy diet with fruits and vegetables is encouraged. It is important to be mindful of the following foods that can lead to the formation of kidney stones in certain people: foods high in sodium, cola beverages, fast foods, processed meats, certain supplements, black tea, chocolate, spinach, soy milk, almonds, cashews, soy beans.

The good news is there are many items you can include in your regular diet to help prevent stones from occurring.

  1. Water. Although a beverage and not necessarily a food, drinking water is the most important way to prevent kidney stones. We recommend two to three liters of water (at least 64 ounces or more) each day.
  2. Lemon. Lemon contains citric acid that stops kidney stones from forming and helps break up stones that have already formed.  For a refreshing beverage, add some fresh squeezed lemon into your water!
  3. Cruciferous vegetables. Vegetables rich in potassium such as brussels sprouts, broccoli and kale decrease calcium loss and stop kidney stones from forming. These foods also have antioxidant effects that help prevent bladder, prostate and kidney cancers.
  4. Whole grains. Most whole grains contribute to a healthy weight which is helpful in prevention and treatment of kidney stones.
  5. Calcium. The calcium in milk and yogurt can decrease the risk of forming kidney stones.

If you have a kidney stone, we can help. The Kidney Stone Center at The Miriam Hospital is the only center of its kind in Southern New England. We use the latest technology and preventive techniques to provide comprehensive care for those who have or are recovering from kidney stones. 

Learn more here, or call us call at 401-793-5400.

Gyan Pareek, MD, FACS

Gyan Pareek, MD, FACS

Dr. Gyan Pareek is chief of the Division of Urology and is co-director of the Minimally Invasive Urology Institute and director of the Kidney Stone Center at The Miriam Hospital. His areas of expertise include kidney stones, prostate cancer and benign prostatic hyperplasia.