How Can I Avoid Getting Kidney Stones?

Dehydration is one of the most common causes of kidney stones, but are you familiar with other things that can encourage the development of stones? Simple things such as diet, daily water intake, and certain foods can increase your risk of developing kidney stones.

Timothy Averch, MD, Department of Urology at UPMC, recommends proper hydration for preventing kidney stones, and shares additional preventive tips below.

Tip #1: Know how to reduce your risk.

The first step to preventing kidney stones is knowing what kidney stones are and how kidney stones form. If you have a history of kidney stones, see your doctor or urologist. He or she will be able to provide guidelines specific to your health, including preventive medications, if necessary.

Tip #2: Monitor your water intake and output.

One of the most important steps in preventing kidney stones, or avoiding stone recurrence, is to drink plenty of fluids. Since not drinking enough water is one of the main causes of kidney stones, staying hydrated, especially in the warmer months when you’re losing extra water through your sweat, is vital. The amount of water you should drink can vary from person to person. A good way to keep track of your hydration is by monitoring your urine output. If you’re well-hydrated, your output will be close to two liters per day. Not only can drinking plenty of water reduce your risk of developing stones, staying well-hydrated may also prevent urinary tract infections.

Tip #3: Reduce portion sizes of animal protein.

If eaten in excess, the protein found in meats, fish, and eggs can break down into uric acid in the urine, causing stones to form. Animal protein can also lead to the development of calcium stones by increasing your excretion of calcium and reducing your excretion of citrate, a substance that typically prevents kidney stones.

Tip #4: Avoid high oxalate foods; eat foods low in oxalate.

Foods rich in oxalate, such as spinach, nuts, and chocolate, can contribute to the development of calcium oxalate stones. Eating foods low in oxalate and limiting your daily oxalate intake to about 40 to 50 milligrams can help. Low calcium levels can also increase the amount of oxalate that your body absorbs, so it’s important to eat foods rich in calcium with foods that contain oxalate. For a complete listing of high and low oxalate foods, please visit the low oxalate diet page.

To prevent calcium stones, you do not need to limit your calcium intake from food and beverages, but calcium supplements may increase your risk of developing stones. Ask your doctor before taking any supplements. Cutting back on sodium can also decrease the calcium in your urine and prevent dehydration, making you less likely to develop stones.

For more information on kidney stones, please visit the Department of Urology at UPMC website or call 412-692-4100.