Kidney stones aren’t just painful; they’ve also been linked to future health problems such as kidney disease and cardiovascular disease. It’s estimated that 1 in 10 people will have a kidney stone at some time in their lives.

While the risk of getting kidney stones is higher in men, their incidence has doubled in both men and women over the past two decades. There’s also been a sharp rise in the number of children with kidney stones. Fortunately, everyone can take action to prevent kidney stones.

1. Drink up

Drink enough water to keep your urine well diluted (light yellow to colorless). About 12 servings of 8 ounces a day of all liquids is recommended for stone prevention. Good hydration prevents natural substances from binding together to form stones. When you’re exposed to heat and humidity, or if you sweat a lot during exercise, it’s especially important to stay well hydrated. Sweating may lead to dehydration and less urine production, and this can put you at risk for forming stones.

2. Eat well

Sodium or salt is a natural substance that builds up in the urine with increased dietary intake. Sodium is overly abundant in processed foods. Even though calcium stones are the most common type of stone, it is usually more sodium in the diet—not calcium—that increases the risk for calcium-based stones. Less sodium in the urine will mean less calcium in the urine to form stones. Follow a healthy diet that is rich in vegetables and fruits, whole grains and low-fat dairy products and less animal proteins. Limiting animal proteins will make the urine less acidic and help prevent stone formation. You can also make the urine less acidic with juices high in natural citrate (limeade, lemonade, orange juice), but without added sugar. Limit sugar-sweetened foods and drinks, especially those that contain high fructose corn syrup.  

3. Lose smart

Obesity is linked to kidney stone formation. Weight-loss diets high in protein and low in carbohydrates have been found to increase the risk of kidney stones. Crash diets that lead to rapid weight loss add to this risk, as well as to other serious health problems. Seek guidance from your healthcare professional most notably a registered dietitian or nutritionist (RDN), regarding weight loss and diet.

4. Beware of future stones

Passing a kidney stone is often described as one of the most painful experiences a person can have, but unfortunately, it's not always a one-time event. Studies have shown that having even one stone greatly increases your chances of having another. If you get a stone, it’s important to heed the advice of a primary care clinician or kidney specialist (nephrologist or urologist). Blood and 24-hour urine testing for metabolic kidney stone risk can help your clinician tailor an individual stone prevention treatment plan.