I have had several bouts with kidney stones and to be honest I had my fill. My doctor has never told me to follow a special diet or restrict any foods, but I have had several friends that have told me I should be watching my diet and avoid milk. Can you please clear the air and tell me if there is anything I can do to decrease my chance of a recurrance.
Thanks, Paul H.
Paul, though I have never myself experienced a kidney stone, I know they are no fun. Many of my patients discribe the pain to be “Worse than childbirth.” Unfortuniatly, once you have had one, you are more likely to get another one. Even though a definite genetic predisposition for developing kidney stones does exist, some lifestyle changes can help to reduce the risk.
Lose weight if you need to: Overweight and obese people are much more likely to get kidney stones. The more you weigh the more calcium and oxalates you excrete in your urine. This increases your risk of developing stones.
Stay hydrated: People living in the southeastern part of the United States are more likely to suffer from kidney stones than people living elsewhere. One of the reasons is probably dehydration. If your’re not staying hydrated your urine becomes concentrated. Concentrated urine can cause kidney stones. It’s helpful to drink water before bed and any time that you awaken during the night. This will help decrease the concentration of urine in the morning.
Eat and drink plenty of calcium-rich foods: Because calcium is a major part of some kidney stones, doctors used to advise patients prone to getting stones to avoid calcium-rich foods. This was very bad advice. As it turns out, calcium helps to prevent recurrences. However, do not rely on calcium supplements, which do not seem to have the same effect.
Be mindful of sodium intake: High sodium intakes cause the body to excrete more calcium. As stated above calcium can actually help prevent recurrences, so if you are making the effort to increase calcium you should be making the same effort to decrease sodium intake as well.
Coffee is ok, but tea is not: Coffee drinkers have less chance of developing stones than noncoffee drinkers. However, if you are a heavy tea drinker, you will want to cut back to only two cups/day. Tea is high in oxalates.
Follow your doctor’s diet recommendations: In some cases, doctors recommend a low-oxalate diet. The most common type of kidney stones consist of calcium attached to oxalic acid. Foods that are high in oxalate include cranberries, cranberry juice, spinach, rhubarb, almonds, baked potatoes, bulgur, beets and navy beans.
Avoid grapefruit juice and soft drinks that contain phosphoric acid: It is important to avoid consuming grapefruit juice and soft drinks that contain phosphoric acid. Some studies show that both of these beverages increase the risk of stone development.
Watch your protein intake: Excessive animal-protein intake leads to many physiological processes that increase the risk of kidney stones. Not everyone needs the same amount of protein. Your individual protein needs are based on your weight and if you need to lose weight. If you currently are consuming a high amount animal-protein it’s recommended that you cut back.
Include low-oxalate fruits and vegetables in your diet: People who have suffered a kidney stone should try to eat a diet that contains several low-oxalate fruits and vegetables each day.
Low-oxalate fruits: apples, avocados, cherries, cranberries, melons (cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon), seedless grapes (red and green), peaches and plums.
Low-oxalate vegetables: asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers; iceberg and Romaine lettuce; radishes, mushrooms, onions (yellow and white); squash (zucchini, acorn and yellow); red sweet peppers, turnips (root), water chestnuts.
Paul, I hope this information is useful and that it keeps you kidney stone “free”. If you’d like a diet tailored to your specific nutritional needs give our office a call, we’d be glad to help.
If you have a nutrition question you’d like answered in this column send it to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Question for the Breeze” as the subject title.
Lisa Eisele, RD, CSO, LD, can be reached at 706-473-5801.