Nutrition To Prevent Kidney Stones

I’ll never forget the night my brother busted through my bedroom door and woke me from a sound sleep. He was hunched over, holding his side and told me I needed to take him to the hospital now. It turns out, he was passing a kidney stone and considering his favorite foods were jerky and sunflower seeds, my brother’s nutrition was a huge cause. He was only 25! He ate way too much salt and didn’t drink nearly enough water.

What Causes Kidney Stones?

In a nutshell, kidney stones can form when substances in the urine—such as calcium, oxalate, and phosphorus—become highly concentrated. Diet is one of several factors that can promote or inhibit kidney stone formation.

Types of Kidney Stones

There are different types of kidney stones, and my brother never had his stones examined in a laboratory to find out what type he passed.  

Nutrition recommendations are based on the specific type of kidney stone you pass, but you can also get a general idea for guidelines to follow if you don’t know the type of kidney stone.

Calcium Oxalate Stones

  • Reduce sodium intake
  • Reduce animal protein, such as meat, eggs, and fish
  • Consume enough calcium from food or take calcium supplements with food. The recommendation is 800 mg calcium per day.
  • Avoid foods high in oxalate, such as spinach, rhubarb, beets, nuts, and wheat bran
  • Limit sugar intake
  • Increase water intake

Calcium Phosphate Stones

  • Reduce sodium intake
  • Reduce animal protein intake
  • Consume enough calcium from food or take calcium supplements with food. The recommendation is 800 mg calcium per day.
  • Increase water intake

Uric Acid Stones

  • Reduce animal protein intake
  • Increase water intake
  • Maintain a healthy weight


How much fluid does my brother need to prevent future kidney stones from forming?

Drinking enough fluid is the most important thing a person can do to prevent kidney stones.

Drink enough fluid (approx. 2 liters) to produce at least 2 liters of urine a day. This amount depends on the weather and the person’s activity level. People who work or exercise in hot weather need more fluid to replace the fluid they lose through sweat. A 24-hour urine collection may be used to determine the volume of urine produced during a day. If the volume of urine produced is too low, the person can be advised to increase fluid intake.

Some studies suggest citrus drinks like juice from lemons and orange juice protect against kidney stones because they contain potassium citrate, which stops crystals from growing into stones.

Some people say passing a kidney stone hurts as bad as child birth, and although I’ve never had a kidney stone, I have had two kids, and I don’t want to experience that pain again! Luckily, there are credible, research-based nutrition guidelines which will drastically reduce a person’s chances of getting a kidney stone.

In Health and Happiness,

Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods



National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse; US Department of Health and Human Services. Diet for Kidney Stone Prevention. 

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