Kidney stones can be painful and usually occur when the urine becomes concentrated due to certain chemicals or salts leading to crystal formation. Recurrence of these painful stones is very common, and more than half the people who have experienced kidney stones are likely to experience them again within 7 years. Most stones form when calcium combines with either phosphorus or oxalate. Uric acid stones are also common, which occur due to certain metabolic processes of protein in the body.
Preventing kidney stones is not complicated; however, this requires dedication and will power. Prevention involves eliminating conditions that support stone formation. Supersaturation of urine drives crystal formation and growth and depends upon volume, calcium, oxalate, citrate and pH measurements. Certain modifications in these factors can lower chances of crystal formation.
The most important thing to know is what type of stone is an individual more prone to. Common stones formed are calcium oxalate, calcium phosphate, and uric acid. Here are five proven diet tips that help to lower supersaturation of urine thereby reducing kidney stone formation.
1. Fluid intake
- The most important step in the prevention of kidney stones is high fluid intake. Sufficiently diluted urine will prevent individual salts from becoming concentrated and in turn their precipitation.
- Dilute urine helps in flushing out stones and does not allow stagnation of urine.
- The average daily requirement of water intake in an individual is about 1.2 liters a day. However, in individuals prone to stone formation a minimum volume of 2 to 2.5 liters is required every day. This is roughly 8 standard 8-ounce cups.
- Citrus beverages containing lemon or orange may provide additional benefits. Citrate helps to change urinary pH making it more alkaline, thereby preventing stone formation. Citrate also binds to calcium making it unavailable for stone formation. For individuals prone to stone formation, a mixture of 60 ml concentrated lemon juice in 1 liter water is recommended to increase urinary citrate levels.
2. Cut down salt
- An increased intake of salt can cause a drop in citrate levels and cause an increase in urine calcium levels. Therefore, a low sodium diet is recommended for individuals prone to kidney stones.
- In addition to this, sodium also inhibits the action of medications such as hydrochlorothiazide, which are given to effectively reduce calcium levels in the urine.
- Individuals prone to renal stones should try to adhere to the FDA recommendation of daily salt intake, which is about 2300 mg per day. Moreover, those who have hypertension should restrict salt intake to about 1500 mg per day.
- Avoid processed food because of its high sodium concentration, and read nutrition labels prior to consumption to monitor your intake.
3. Restrict animal protein
- High protein diets can cause uric acid stone formation. In addition, it also reduces the urinary citrate level, which acts as a natural stone inhibitor.
- Reduce intake of foods such as poultry, eggs, red meat, and sea food.
- Restrict your meat intake to about 6 oz a day.
- Lowering your meat intake and increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables also benefits your overall health.
4. Increase your calcium intake
- Although 75% of stones are formed by calcium, increasing your calcium intake does not cause stones.
- In fact, low calcium levels facilitate the absorption of oxalate, which is bound to calcium in the gut. This in-turn causes stone formation.
- Calcium obtained from dietary sources is a better option than taking supplements.
- If you need calcium supplements, take them during your meals for lesser chances of stone formation.
5. Watch out for stone forming foods
- The most commonly formed stone calcium oxalate is caused by high levels of oxalate.
- 40% of oxalate comes from dietary sources, while the remaining is formed in the liver naturally.
- Oxalate is found in many fruits and vegetables making it difficult to avoid completely.
- Most people should have a normal oxalate intake without need for restriction; however, restriction is needed for individuals with high urinary oxalate levels.
- Oxalate rich foods include
- Mustard Greens
- Sweet Potatoes