How to Prevent Kidney Stones With Diet

If you click on the video below, you can see what the surface of a kidney stone looks like under a microscope. Now imagine one of those scraping down your urinary canal.

Kidney stones affect approximately 1 in 11 people in the United States. Twenty years ago it was only 1 in 20, representing a dramatic increase in the prevalence of the disease that started rising after World War II. Our first clue as to why was a study published in the 70s, which found a striking relationship between stone incidence and the consumption of animal protein. This was a population study, though, so it couldn’t prove cause and effect.

It did inspire researchers in Britain to do an interventional study, though, adding animal protein to subjects’ diets, such as an extra can of tuna fish to their daily diet and measuring stone-forming risk factors in their urine. Participants’ overall probability of forming stones increased 250% during those days they were eating that extra fish. And the so-called “high animal protein diet” was just enough to bring intake up to that of the average American. So Americans’ intake of meat appears to markedly increase risk of kidney stones.

What about consuming no meat at all? By the late 70s we knew that the only dietary factor consistently associated with kidney stones was animal protein. The higher the intake of animal protein, the more likely the individual was to not only get their first kidney stone, but to then suffer from subsequent multiple stones. This effect was not found for high protein intake in general, but specifically high animal protein intake.

Conversely, a diet low in animal protein may dramatically reduce the overall probability of forming stones. This may explain the apparent low incidence of stones in vegetarian societies, so researchers advocated “a more vegetarian form of diet” as a means of reducing the risk.

It wasn’t until 2014, though, that vegetarian kidney stone risk was studied in detail. Using hospital admissions data, researchers found that vegetarians were indeed at a lower risk of being hospitalized for kidney stones (compared to those that ate meat). Among meat-eaters, increasing meat intake is associated with a higher risk of developing kidney stones, whereas a high intake of fresh fruit, fiber, and magnesium may reduce the risk.

Which animal protein is the worst? People who form kidney stones are commonly advised to restrict the intake of red meat to decrease stone risk. But what about chicken and fish? Despite compelling evidence that excessive animal protein consumption enhances the risk of stone formation, the effect of different sources of animal protein had not been explored until another 2014 study. Researchers compared the effects of salmon and cod, chicken breast meat, and burger and steak.

In terms of uric acid production, they found that gram for gram fish may actually be worse. However, the overall effects were complex. Basically, stone formers should be counseled to limit the intake of all animal proteins, and not by just a little bit. Only those who markedly decrease their animal protein intake may expect to benefit.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death, More Than an Apple a Day, From Table to Able: Combating Disabling Diseases with Food, and Food as Medicine: Preventing and Treating the Most Dreaded Diseases with Diet.

Related:

Why Meat Causes Inflammation
Preventing Kidney Failure With Diet
Uric Acid Caused by Meat and Sugar

 

110 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for the article.

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Elena Poensgen
Elena Poensgen2 years ago

Thank you

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Marcella T.
Marcella T2 years ago

Without drastic dietary changes, it's hard to get the stones to dissolve. I know someone who needed minor surgery to crush the stones.

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Marcella T.
Marcella T2 years ago

Most Americans are low in magnesium. The body needs Mg to use Ca correctly and form bones, not stones, with it.

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Marcella T.
Marcella T2 years ago

I read that most stones are made of calcium oxalate. Too much calcium plus too much oxalate (found in kale and other vegetables) equals stone.

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Trish K.
Trish K2 years ago

Ouch. My brother had them. We do not eat alike.

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Marija Mohoric
Marija M2 years ago

tks

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Robert B.
Robert B2 years ago

Over 30 yrs ago I had a kidney stone. I immediately bought a water distiller. Never had another stone. Every time I cleaned out the distiller, there were flakes of sand like material coating the interior of the distiller. High concentrations of inorganic minerals in water contribute to some forms of stones. Certain types of food contain high amounts of oxylates, which also contribute to kidney stones. People prone to kidney stones have to find out what exactly is the cause. In my case it was the water. Instead of a distiller you can get a reverse osmosis filter (which I switched to later on). The cheapest way to purify your drinking water is a "ZERO" Water pitcher. It's looks like a Brita but it's filter cartridge removes total dissolved solids and it comes with a TS meter to test the water so you know when to change filters.

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Diane Wayne
Past Member 2 years ago

Hulda Clarke in her book 'A CURE FOR ALL DISEASES' has an easy natural way of eliminating kidney stones with her protocol. I did it and it worked! I got a lot of stones out painlessly!

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