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Learn to prevent recurring kidney stones

October 01, 2013

The causes of kidney stones can vary widely from person to person. If you’ve had a single kidney stone, changes in diet are often all you need to prevent another stone from forming.

If you’ve had more than one stone, or if there is a history of recurring stones in your family, Duke urologist Michael Lipkin, MD, says that a thorough medical evaluation is needed to identify your specific risk factors -- so that you can stop the stone-stone cycle.

“People who have recurring stones may need medication as well as diet changes,” Lipkin says. “The right treatment can be very effective in preventing these painful episodes.”

While each person must discuss his or her unique circumstances with a doctor, Lipkin says there are a few guidelines that will help most people.

  • Drink more liquid. Water is a kidney’s best friend -- aim for 10 ounces, 10 times a day.
  • Eat less meat. Proteins from animals (including sea animals) increase uric acid in the urine, which increases the risk of stone formation -- and they decrease a substance called urinary citrate, which inhibits stone formation. 
  • Choose your veggies wisely. Veggies are good for everybody, but for people with stone disease some veggies are best left alone. A substance called oxalate, which can contribute to stone formation, is present in certain plant-based foods such as rhubarb, parsley, spinach, and beets -- your doctor can tell you if you need to avoid oxalate-rich foods.
  • Snack on calcium and magnesium. These two minerals are good for inhibiting stone formation, because they lower the overall levels of oxalate in your urine. Make sure that every day you’re getting at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium and 360 (for women) to 420 (for men) milligrams of magnesium -- and remember that the best source for these minerals is real food.
  • Watch your sodium intake. Excess sodium can increase the risk of stone formation, but the salt shaker is probably not your real enemy. Most sodium comes from processed foods, restaurant food, and take-out food. Try eating at home, and cooking from scratch when you can. Also avoid canned and pickled food, and go easy on the added salt, soy sauce, and teriyaki sauce.

Learn about kidney stone treatment at Duke

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