Learning About Diet for Kidney Stone Prevention

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What are kidney stones?

Kidney stones are small "pebbles" that form in your kidneys. They're made of salts and minerals in the urine.

Stones may not cause a problem as long as they stay in the kidneys. But they can cause sudden, severe pain. Pain is most likely when the stones travel through the ureters (the tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder). Kidney stones can cause bloody urine.

Kidney stones often run in families. You are more likely to get them if you don't drink enough fluids, mainly water. Certain foods and drinks and some dietary supplements may also increase your risk for kidney stones if you consume too much of them.

How can you prevent kidney stones with your diet?

The following tips may lower your chance of getting kidney stones or from getting them again.

  • Drink more fluids, especially water, if your doctor says it is okay.

    This is the most important thing you can do.

  • Change your diet if you've had a calcium kidney stone.
    • Eat less salt and salty foods. One way to do this is to avoid processed foods and limit how often you eat at restaurants.
    • Talk to your doctor or dietitian about how much calcium you need every day. Try to get your calcium from food, rather than from supplements. Milk, cheese, and yogurt are all good sources of calcium.
  • Limit certain foods if you've had an oxalate kidney stone.

    Your doctor may ask you to limit certain foods that have a lot of oxalate, such as dark green vegetables, nuts, and chocolate. You don't have to give up these foods, just eat or drink less of them.

  • Change your diet if you've had kidney stones in the past.
    • Eat a balanced diet that is not too high in animal protein. This includes beef, chicken, pork, fish, and eggs. These foods contain a lot of protein, and too much protein may lead to kidney stones. You don't have to give up these foods. Talk to your doctor or dietitian about how much protein you need and the best way to get it.
    • Increase how much fiber you eat. Fiber includes oat bran, beans, whole wheat breads, wheat cereals, cabbage, and carrots.
    • Avoid grapefruit juice.
    • Drink lemonade made from real lemons (not lemon flavoring). It is high in citrate, which may help prevent kidney stones.
    • Talk to your doctor if you take vitamins or supplements. Your doctor may want you to limit how much fish liver oil or calcium supplements you take. Also, do not take more than the recommended daily dose of vitamins C and D.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.