How to Prevent Kidney Stones

by Dr. Julian Whitaker
Filed Under: General Health
Last Reviewed 02/14/2014

How to Prevent Kidney Stones

I used to get kidney stones regularly. Then, almost 25 years ago, I heard about taking magnesium. I’ve been taking it ever since and haven’t had a kidney stone. —H.M., Odessa, TX

Thanks for sharing this very interesting—and effective—tip, H.M. As you know, there’s nothing more painful than passing a kidney stone. You may be interested to find out that your helpful discovery is also backed by scientific research.

Harvard researchers found that taking 180 mg of magnesium along with 10 mg of vitamin B6 daily will prevent kidney stones by 92.3 percent per year! Another study showed about a 90 percent reduction with magnesium alone (500 mg daily).

I suggest that anyone who is prone to kidney stones take 500 mg of magnesium and 75 mg of B6 per day. For those lucky enough not to have ever experienced a kidney stone, here are some tips for reducing your risk of developing this surprisingly common condition.

Water Will Prevent Kidney Stones

The easiest way to prevent kidney stones is to drink lots of water—two to three quarts a day.

Kidney stones are hard masses of minerals that begin as tiny crystals and grow over time. Although most stones are small enough to pass through the urinary tract undetected, larger ones may become lodged in the ureters (the tubes connecting the kidneys and the bladder), blocking urinary flow and causing extreme pain.

Dehydration contributes to stone formation by increasing the concentration of the waste products in the urine that contribute to kidney stone formation. Do not underestimate the power of this simple therapy. Eight to 12 glasses of water may seem like a lot, but it provides potent protection.

Beyond this general recommendation, it depends on what kind of stones you have. Since the majority are calcium oxalate stones, that’s what I’ll concentrate on. (Much less common are calcium phosphate, uric acid, struvite, and cysteine stones.)

Add Lemon Juice to Your Water to Prevent Kidney Stones

People who develop calcium stones (both oxalate and phosphate) not only have excess calcium in their urine and kidneys, they also have low levels of citrate (a form of citric acid that inhibits calcium stone formation).

You can increase citrate levels by simply adding lemon juice to your water. Researchers from the University of California found that drinking four ounces of lemon juice per day, diluted in water, prevents kidney stones dramatically.

Monitor Your Consumption of High-Oxalate Foods

Curbing levels of oxalate is helpful as well. Go easy on high-oxalate foods such as:

  • Beer
  • Chocolate
  • Tea
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Berries
  • Grapes
  • Rhubarb
  • Beets
  • Leafy greens

Don’t Worry About Calcium or Vitamin C

Paradoxically, restricting calcium intake does not prevent kidney stone formation. In fact, low levels of calcium actually promote it, so contrary to what you might hear, do not restrict your calcium intake.

There’s also a longstanding myth that kidney stones are caused by vitamin C. There is not an ounce of truth to this—even megadoses of vitamin C have been proven to have no link to kidney stones. — JW

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