According to Harvard Medical School, approximately 19% of men and 9% of women will experience a kidney stone by age 70.
If you have never experienced the excruciating pain of passing a kidney stone, consider yourself to be very lucky. If you have had at least one, unfortunately you are likely to have another. In either case you should keep reading to learn how your diet can help keep these painful stones at bay.
How Do Kidney Stones Form?
Kidney stones are hard crystals of salt and other minerals formed from calcium or uric acid. They develop in the kidney and can travel to other parts of the urinary tract. Sometimes we pass them without knowing and without any pain. The painful passage of kidney stones results in one million visits to the ER each year.
Because the majority of kidney stones (90%) contain calcium, for many years patients were instructed to reduce the intake of calcium in their diet. This turned out to be incorrect, whereas the opposite is true. A diet high in calcium actually reduces the risk of kidney stones.
The DASH Diet
Recommended by the American Heart Association, NIH or National Institute of Health, and the American Urological Association, the DASH diet promotes low blood pressure and reduces the risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and kidney failure. In addition, it helps to reduce the risk of developing kidney stones.
Drink 2 ½ liters of fluids per day. This is the equivalent of ⅔ of a gallon or 8 glasses of 8 oz liquids. Water dilutes substances in urine that develop into kidney stones.
Most people think of drinking water only, but you can also include lemonade, orange juice, coffee, tea, and even wine when accounting for your 2 ½ liters.
Sodas and sugary drinks increase the risk of kidney stones, so they should be avoided.
Eat 1000 – 1200 mg of dietary calcium each day. Low fat yogurt, low fat cheese, and low fat milk are all good choices. Always try to get your calcium from foods instead of supplements.
One of the most important dietary components to prevent kidney stones is reducing the amount of sodium in your diet. We can all be conscious of the salt shaker, but there are many foods we consume with hidden sodium.
Avoid processed foods, luncheon meats, canned soups, and other frozen products. Get into the habit of reading labels since you should be consuming no more than 2300 mg of sodium a day. If you have had a stone previously, it should be no more than 1500 mg.
Eat Whole Foods
Keep plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and nuts on hand to consume multiple servings each day.
Your diet should be rich in calcium, magnesium, potassium, and fiber to reduce your risk of kidney stone formation.
Limit Animal Protein
This includes red meats, chicken, and even fish. If you have already had an encounter with a kidney stone this one rule is especially important. Limit your daily intake to about the size of a deck of cards.
Kidney stones are extremely painful and can be dangerous, but you can reduce the risk of a recurrence.