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Lifestyle Changes to Manage Kidney Stones

People who have had one kidney stone are likely to have them again. Changing some eating habits can help prevent this. Some changes may depend on what type of kidney stone and why it developed.
Here are some general steps:

Drink Plenty of Fluids

Fluids help to flush excess minerals out of the body. Minerals can build up in the kidneys if you do not drink enough. This increases the chance that a stone can develop. Drink at least 2 liters of fluid a day. Try using a reusable water bottle and keep it nearby throughout the day.
People with cystine stones may need to drink more than 2 liters.

Limit Animal Proteins

You may need to limit the amount of beef, chicken, pork, or eggs you eat. In some cases, dairy may also need to be limited. Swap animal proteins for plant-based proteins such as:
  • Nuts or seeds—this includes nut butters like almond butter
  • Legumes such as beans, peanuts, or lentils
  • Soy products including soy milk or tofu

Limit Salt Intake

High amounts of salt in your diet also increase the risk of kidney stones. Lowering salt intake means limiting certain foods such as:
  • Lunch meats and cured meats like ham, sausage, and bacon
  • Salted snacks
  • Prepared salad dressings, mustard, ketchup, soy sauce, and barbecue sauce
  • Pickled foods and olives
  • Canned soup and bouillon
  • Processed foods and prepared meals

Calcium and Vitamin Intake

Too much and too little calcium can lead to kidney stones. It is best to get your calcium through your diet. Calcium can be found in:
  • Fortified juices, cereals, or breads
  • Certain vegetables especially leafy greens like kale or spinach
  • Soy
  • Dairy products
Calcium supplement may help if you have low levels of calcium. However, taking too many supplements can also cause problems. Let your doctor know about any vitamins you may be taking. Excess vitamin C or D can also increase the risk of stones.

Limit Oxalate

Foods high in oxalate may increase the risk of this type of stone. You may need to track how much oxalate you have in your diet. Some foods high in oxalate are:
  • Spinach, beets, okra
  • Rhubarb, raspberries, dates, avocado
  • Rice bran, soy flour, bulgur, brown rice flour, millet, barley flour, corn grits, wheat berries
  • Nuts
  • Navy beans, soy beans
  • Cocoa powder, hot chocolate
  • Miso soup
  • Baked potato, French fries
  • Cereals such as shredded wheat and raisin bran

Lose or Keep a Healthy Weight

Losing excess weight can help lower the risk of getting kidney stones again. Find out where your weight range should be. A dietitian will help you lose or keep a healthy weight safely.

References

Diet and kidney stones. National Kidney Foundation website. Available at: https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/diet. Accessed April 2, 2019.
Eating, diet, & nutrition for kidney stones. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/kidney-stones/eating-diet-nutrition. Updated May 2017. Accessed April 2, 2019.
Nephrolithiasis—prevention of stone recurrence in adults. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T920714/Nephrolithiasis-prevention-of-stone-recurrence-in-adults. Updated April 25, 2018. Accessed April 2, 2019.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrienne Carmack, MD
  • Review Date: 03/2019
  • Update Date: 04/02/2019
Article written by Carmack A