Ask the Doctor
Questions about kidney disease? Risk factors? Signs and symptoms? Are you concerned about yourself, a friend or family member? Ask Dr. Spry.
One of the most important things you can do for all kinds of kidney stones is to drink plenty of fluids, mostly water. You should have at least three quarts (12 cups) of fluid a day, including a glass of water before you go to bed, because the crystals that lead to stones are more likely to form at night. And if you get up to go to the bathroom during the night, you should drink another glass of water before returning to bed. This way, you are dissolving the crystals. You can see how this works when you continue to add more water to sugar crystals piled together at the bottom of a cup. As you add water, the pile of crystals begins to break apart and to dissolve in the water. This same principle is at work when you drink fluids – you are preventing crystals from sticking together to form stones.
If you have any type of calcium stone, as well as a high level of calcium in your urine, then you may need to limit the sodium in your diet to about 2000 milligrams (mg) a day. Extra sodium in your diet makes you lose more calcium in your urine. If you do not have high calcium in your urine, your health care professional will guide you about other dietary needs you may have. Unless there is a good reason, you should not cut back on the calcium in your diet, but rather you should combine high oxalate foods with those high in calcium. This way, calcium and oxalate bind together in the stomach and intestines before they can bind together in the kidneys where they can form stones. This is also true in the case of calcium oxalate stones — combining oxalate with calcium-containing foods is the preferred dietary approach, so you may not need to limit oxalate, especially because many healthy foods have oxalate, including spinach, beets, peanuts, and sweet potatoes. You should discuss this with your health care professional.
Uric Acid Stones
Uric acid stones are formed from purines. Some foods and beverages that are either high in purines or that contribute to uric acid formation include organ meats, shellfish, alcohol, and sugar-sweetened beverages, especially those with high fructose corn syrup. Purines make the urine more acidic and this makes it easier for you to form stones. Crash diets can also make the urine more acid and put you at risk for stones. Follow a healthy diet of mostly vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and low-fat dairy foods.
Chronic Kidney Stones
Chronic kidney stones may be treated with potassium citrate, which is also found in limeade, lemonade, and other juices. Citrate in the urine may prevent calcium from binding with other substances to form stones. Be sure to use juices that are pure and without added sugar.
The B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, B6 and B12) may be helpful for kidney stones. In particular, B6 may help those with high oxalate in their urine. Check with your doctor or dietitian about using vitamin C, vitamin D, fish liver oils, or calcium supplements, as all of these can promote stone formation in some people.Everyone can reduce their risk for kidney stones by increasing fluids, losing weight if overweight, and following a healthy diet with less animal protein. Guidance from a registered dietitian is the key to understanding the diet that is best for you.