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with Elaine Magee, MPH, RD

Elaine Magee's blog has now been retired. We appreciate all the wisdom and support she has brought to the WebMD community throughout the years.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Tell Me What To Eat if I Get Kidney Stones

Some people get kidney stones and some don’t. If you’ve ever seen someone suffer with a kidney stone, you can understand why he or she tends to be HUGELY motivated to prevent another one from forming. If you do tend to get them, are there foods and beverages that you should and shouldn’t consume?

Unfortunately if you have had kidney stones in the past you are more likely to have them in the future. But there are a few things you can do to make it a bit less likely.

  • Eat a balanced diet that isn’t too high in animal protein

Okay…you are probably thinking, “done and done.” What else can you do? While some lists include coffee, tea, beer and wine in the “limit” column, there is some evidence they can decrease risk of kidney stone development. Grapefruit juice seems to consistently make the “limit” list however. One study found that women drinking eight ounces of grapefruit juice a day increased their risk of developing stones by 44%.

Beyond this, the diet suggestions seem to depend on the specific type of stone that you have formed in the past (calcium and/or oxalate containing kidney stones, for example.) Definitely consult your doctor for diet recommendations but the following are possible suggestions to consider with him/her:

  • If you had a calcium-containing kidney stone, eat less salt and salty food and try not to get more than the recommended daily amount for calcium or excessive amounts of vitamin D.
  • If you had an oxalate-containing kidney stone, limit food that has a lot of oxalate (no need to eliminate them, just eat/drink less. This includes:
  • Chocolate
  • Dark green veggies (i.e. spinach, Swiss chard, greens)
  • Mixed nuts and peanuts
  • Tahini and sesame seeds
  • Beets
  • Rhubarb
  • Miso
  • Chocolate soy milk
  • Sweet potatoes

Lemons to the rescue!
Lemon juice is thought to be helpful mainly because it contributes extraordinary amounts of citrate and citrate may help in two ways. It makes the urine less acidic (discouraging stone development) and it can bind with calcium in the urine, potentially reducing the amount of calcium available to form calcium oxalate stones.

Bottom line: More needs to be known about various foods and beverages and their impact on kidney stone formation. In the meantime, you can definitely do the things that make sense for other health reasons, like drinking lots of water, not overdoing animal protein, and eating less sodium and salty foods.

Posted by: Elaine Magee, RD at 7:00 am

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