6 ways to keep from having another kidney stone

It’s estimated that 1 in 10 of us will have to deal with the unpleasantness of a kidney stone once in our lifetime.

But for an unfortunate few, dubbed “stone formers” by the medical community, it can happen more than once — and in some cases, multiple times.

Why do some people produce kidney stones throughout their lifetime while others never do, or may only have this dread experience once?

There are several reasons — but the good news is that many of them are manageable, and it may be possible to reduce your frequency or risk of experiencing them at all…

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Things that increase kidney stone formation

There are various wastes dissolved in urine. When there are too many of these chemicals in too little liquid, crystals begin to form.

The crystals then attract stone-forming chemicals including calcium, oxalate, urate, cystine, xanthine and phosphate, which come together to form a stone.

There are a few things that researchers have noted can increase the likelihood of stone formation, including:

  • Lower urine volumes and the amount of calcium in the urine. Drinking too little water can increase the chances of forming stones. So drink up: for every 6.7 ounces of water intake, the risk of stones is decreased by 13 percent.
  • Having insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes can also raise your odds of forming kidney stones. Insulin resistance might result in deficient ammonium production in the kidney, which lowers urinary pH, thus generating a favorable environment for uric acid stone formation.
  • A sedentary lifestyle can also increase kidney stone risk. Exercise in general helps, but weight-bearing exercises are a great option since they increase bone strength by drawing calcium out of your blood and to your bones where it’s needed.
  • Diet can influence kidney stone formation. For instance, because eating too much fructose correlates with an increasing risk of developing a kidney stone, soft drinks seem to be associated with a greater risk of stone events. Fructose can be found in table sugar and high fructose corn syrup like the kind used in most soda brands. Interestingly, caffeine and citrus fruit juice are not associated with kidney stones.
  • High sodium intake is associated with stone risk. Increased sodium consumption is directly associated with hypercalciuria — or excessive urinary calcium excretion — in both calcium stone formers and healthy subjects.
  • Animal proteins are associated with an increased risk for stone formation, whereas vegetable and dairy proteins are not. Increased meat intake is connected to acidic urine pH.

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The best diet for stone formers? An alkaline diet

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is strongly recommended for stone formers because they are alkalizing foods — one of the most important factors for protection against kidney stones.

Alkaline foods increase stone-preventing solutes — such as citrate, potassium and magnesium — and raise the pH of the urine from acidic to alkaline.

Conversely, elevated meat consumption is associated with acid load. This favors uric acid kidney stones by reducing urine pH and increasing urinary excretion of uric acid, especially in patients affected by metabolic syndrome and diabetes.

This means vegetarian and Mediterranean diets could help reduce the risk of forming kidney stones, while the typical Western diet (or standard American diet) can increase stone formation.

For alkalizing your body, adding these specific greens to your diet can help:

  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Collard greens
  • Mustard greens
  • Rapini
  • Watercress
  • Bok choy

Other fruits and vegetables that can have an alkalizing effect include:

  • Carrots
  • Parsley
  • Broccoli
  • Apples
  • Blueberries
  • Black currents

An extra tip: Vitamin K supplementation promoted the reduction in urinary calcium excretion in mice, and K2 is the form most effective at managing calcium in the body.

Sources of vitamin K2 include:

  • Natto
  • Foie gras
  • Aged and curd cheeses
  • Egg yolks
  • Butter

Organ meats and dark chicken meat are high in K2 as well, but if you’re avoiding meat to avoid kidney stones, you may not get enough from your diet and may want to consider a supplement.

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Dietetic and lifestyle recommendations for stone formers — Archivos Espanoles de Urologia

The Bone-Cardiovascular Axis: Mechanisms and Clinical Relevance — International Journal of Endocrinology

Diabetes Mellitus and Kidney Stone Formation — Reviews in Urology

Kidney Stones — National Kidney Foundation

Carolyn Gretton

By Carolyn Gretton

Carolyn Gretton is a freelance writer based in New Haven, CT who specializes in all aspects of health and wellness and is passionate about discovering the latest health breakthroughs and sharing them with others. She has worked with a wide range of companies in the alternative health space and has written for online and print publications like Dow Jones Newswires and the Philadelphia Inquirer.