Prevent Kidney Stones by Following These 9 Simple Tips

Our kidneys are probably the most sensitive organs we have since they are often the first to take the hit for our bad decisions, be it a drink or two, or our addiction to everything that's too sweet or too salty. One of the most common, and simultaneously most painful kidney condition are kidney stones, small (but not small enough) crystals that form as the result of many chemical processes that happen in our body. Suffering from kidney stones is no joke: the excruciating pain accompanying kidney stones has been often described as “worse than childbirth” by women. Luckily, kidney stones are preventable, even if you've had them before. With just a few simple lifestyle changes you can protect yourself from this debilitating disease. The following 9 dietary and lifestyle tips will help you prevent kidney stones. 

1. Be Wary of Foods Containing Oxalates

kidney stone prevention Foods Containing Oxalates
The group of chemicals called oxalates occur naturally in both plant and animal-derived foods, and many extremely healthy foods, such as whole grains, berries, and leafy greens contain a lot of oxalates. And while on their own these compounds don’t cause any harm (the human body even produces oxalates on its own), they can bind with calcium in the kidneys, forming crystals - kidney stones.
In fact, it has been estimated that about 67% of kidney stones are actually derived from calcium oxalate. Still, doctors don’t normally recommend avoiding oxalates completely, and instead, they recommend consuming enough calcium so that the two compounds bind in the gut before they reach the kidneys. Still, if you’re at risk of developing kidney stones, it’s best if you watch your oxalate intake.

2. Eat Plenty of Citrus Fruits

kidney stone prevention citrus fruit
Citrus fruits contain plenty of citric acid which was proven to prevent kidney stones. In fact, a deficiency of citric acid in the body was found in 60% of kidney stone patients, so eat plenty of citrus fruit or drink unsweetened orange, lemon or lime juice to keep your kidneys healthy.

3. Reduce Alcohol and Coffee Intake

kidney stone prevention coffee
Both alcohol and caffeine can dehydrate your body, which is especially dangerous for people prone to kidney stones, kidney infections and UTIs. Keep in mind that many sodas, teas, and other beverages, and not only coffee, contain a lot of caffeine. The overall consumption of caffeinated drinks should be limited to a maximum of 4 daily servings.

4. Stay Hydrated

kidney stone prevention drinking water
The single most effective and also most overlooked way of preventing kidney stones is simple: all you have to do is drink enough fluids. More fluid intake means more diluted urine, which, in turn, prevents sand and tiny crystals in the urine from clumping together and forming kidney stones.
But how much fluid intake is enough? If you’re healthy and don’t have a history of kidney or urinary problems, you should aim towards 8 glasses of fluids a day, enough to pass on 2 liters of urine. If, however, your immune system is compromised or you have suffered from urinary problems before, you should drink at least 12 glasses of fluids daily.
Also, note that at least half of your daily fluid intake should be water.

5. Consume Less Salt

kidney stone prevention foods high in sodium
We should all follow a low sodium diet anyway, knowing what it can do to our cardiovascular health, but a diet high in salt can also trigger kidney stones. When you eat too much salt, it increases the amount of calcium in your urine, which, in turn, creates kidney stones.
Your daily limit of sodium should be 2.300 mg (about 1 teaspoon of table salt), even if you’ve never had kidney stones before. This is the heart-safe daily intake limit as well.

6. Avoid Sugary Drinks

kidney stone prevention soda
Sweetened drinks, such as sodas, juices, and flavored waters, especially those that high-fructose corn syrup can wreak havoc on your digestive system, teeth, and endocrine health, increasing inflammation and even being a contributing factor to diabetes. Apart from that, these drinks increase your risk of developing kidney stones, so it's best to avoid them altogether.

8. Limit the Amount of Animal Products in Your Diet

kidney stone prevention animal products
Apart from often being high in salt, animal-derived products also increase the level of uric acid and lower the levels of citrate in the body. Why is that important? Uric acid is one of the main contributors to kidney stone formation, whereas citrate prevents the formation of kidney stones.
So, by eating too much red meat, hard cheeses, seafood, poultry, and eggs, you’re both weakening your body’s defense against kidney stones and increasing the risks of their formation. Clearly, all these foods are a primary source of protein for the majority of people, so cutting them out of our diet would be impossible. Instead, limit your consumption of these foods, especially of meat, to a portion no bigger than a pack of cards.

8. Make Sure You Eat Enough Calcium-Rich Foods

kidney stone prevention
While it’s true that calcium oxalate kidney stones are the most common ones, doctors point out that these calcium-based stones can often form because we have not enough calcium in our diet. Both men and women over the age of 50 should get 1.000 mg of calcium a day, accompanying it with 800-1.000 IUs of vitamin D for better calcium absorption.
Still, don’t rush to the drugstore for a calcium supplement, as scientists point out that calcium supplements are not beneficial for our kidneys, with some studies even linking these supplements to kidney stones. Instead, get your daily norm of calcium from your diet. Above you can see a picture with common calcium-rich foods.

9. Keep a Close Eye on Your Supplements

kidney stone prevention supplements
While it has been found that vitamin B6 and fish oil supplements are beneficial for preventing kidney stones, others, such as calcium and vitamin C supplements may be harmful to our kidneys. We discussed the effect of calcium in the section above.
As for vitamin C, it has been found that supplementation of this vitamin can make you more likely to develop kidney stones, especially if you’re male. The scientists suggest that this is because a vitamin C supplement may be converted into oxalate in the body, so it's best to get your vitamin C from your diet.
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