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Cleveland Clinic

A Diet to Prevent Kidney Stones: Foods Vary

People who have suffered through the pain of passing a kidney stone might be all too eager to eliminate any and all foods from their diets that have been linked to kidney stones. However, experts say this isn’t a good approach.

“Unless your doctor suggests you should avoid certain foods, your prevention attempts may limit your diet unnecessarily,” says urologist Manoj Monga, MD, Director of Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Endourology and Stone Disease.

Kidney stones not created equal

Dr. Monga says kidney stones are not all the same. “There are five types of kidney stones, all caused by different things in a person’s diet,” Dr. Monga says. “Even the same type of stone can be caused by different foods in different people,” he adds.

Also, some foods associated with kidney stones are very healthy and shouldn’t be restricted unless shown to be a problem.

“We know certain foods are very good for general health, especially foods that contain oxalates, like spinach, nuts, and strawberries,” he says. “When people find out they have kidney stones, sometimes they restrict these foods from their diet without a full evaluation.

The moral of the story? Don’t restrict your diet until your doctor performs a full evaluation to determine what is causing your kidney stones, Dr. Monga advises.

This typically involves collecting an entire day’s worth of urine, which is then tested for various metabolites. Based on the results, a doctor can then make recommendations about any dietary changes that need to be made.

What causes kidney stones?

Kidney stones are caused by a combination of genetic predisposition and diet, Dr. Monga says.

Some risk factors include:

  • A diet high in protein, sodium and sugar, which can increase your odds of developing some types of kidney stones
  • A family history of kidney stones
  • Certain other medical conditions such as obesity, gout and other systemic diseases
  • Inflammatory bowel disease and gastric bypass surgery because they cause changes in the digestive process that affect how your body absorbs calcium and water

Changes anyone can make

Only your doctor can tell you what is causing your kidney stones. But there are some dietary changes that can reduce your risk and are safe for anyone to make.

  • Limit sodium. “The one thing we encourage people to do is limit sodium,” says Dr. Monga. “Go on a 1,500 mg-per-day diet. This low-sodium diet is healthy for the kidneys as well as the heart.”
  • Drink more water. Dehydration increases the risk of kidney stones, so people who sweat a lot or who live in hot climates should be especially careful to drink enough water.
  • Eat more citrus and melon.  People can also reduce their risk of developing kidney stones and improve their health in general by increasing their intake of melons and citrus fruits like lemons, limes and oranges, says Dr. Monga.

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