Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center - Health Library

Lifestyle Changes to Manage Kidney Stones

Changes in your diet may help to prevent another kidney stone. The type of change will depend on your specific needs. Ask your doctor which steps may work best for you.

You may need to limit certain foods. A registered dietitian can help you find a healthy balance and develop a meal plan that works best for you. General changes include:

Drink Plenty of Fluids

Fluids help to flush excess minerals out of the body. When you don't have enough fluids, these minerals can build up in the kidneys. This increases the chance that a stone can develop. Try to drink at least 2 liters of fluid a day. If you have cystine stones you may be encouraged to drink more. Try using a reusable water bottle. Keep it nearby throughout the day.

Limit Animal Proteins

Your doctor may recommend that you limit the amount of animal proteins that you eat. This includes beef, chicken, pork, or eggs. Dairy products may also need to be limited, but not always. Replace those proteins with plant-based proteins such as:

  • Nuts or seeds including nut butters like almond butter
  • Legumes such as beans, peanuts, or lentils
  • Soy products including soy milk or tofu

Limit Salt Intake

High sodium can also increase the risk of kidney stones. Your doctor may recommend lowering your salt intake. This includes limiting salt you add to your food and salty foods such as:

  • Lunch meats and cured meats like ham, sausage, and bacon
  • Salted snacks
  • Prepared salad dressings, mustard, ketchup, soy sauce, and barbecue sauce
  • Pickled foods and olives
  • Canned soup and bouillon
  • Processed foods and prepared meals

Calcium and Vitamin Intake

Too much and too little calcium can lead to kidney stones. It is best to get your calcium through your diet. Calcium can be found in:

  • Fortified juices, cereals, or breads
  • Certain vegetables especially leafy greens like kale or spinach
  • Soy
  • Dairy products

Calcium supplement may help if you have low levels of calcium. However, taking too many supplements can also cause problems. Let your doctor know about any vitamins you may be taking. Excess vitamin C or D can also increase the risk of stones.

Limit Oxalate-Rich Foods

Oxalate rich foods may increase the risk of calcium oxalate stones. You may be asked to reduce the amount of oxalate rich foods in your diet. Some foods high in oxalate include:

  • Spinach, beets, okra
  • Rhubarb, raspberries, dates, avocado
  • Rice bran, soy flour, bulgur, brown rice flour, millet, barley flour, corn grits, wheat berries
  • Nuts
  • Navy beans, soy beans
  • Cocoa powder, hot chocolate
  • Miso soup
  • Baked potato, french fries
  • Cereals such as shredded wheat and raisin bran

Reach or Maintain Healthy Weight

Overweight is a risk factor for some kidney stones, especially uric acid stones. Losing weight can decrease your risk of future stones. Talk to your doctor or a dietitian about a weight loss plan.

When to Contact Your Doctor

  • If you have questions about your diet.
  • If you are having difficulty with bladder control after you increase your fluid intake.
REFERENCES:

Diet and kidney stones. National Kidney Foundation website. Available at: https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/diet. Accessed March 6, 2017.

Kang DE, Sur RL, Haleblian GE, Fitzsimons NJ, Borawski KM, Preminger GM. Long-term lemonade based dietary manipulation in patients with hypocitraturic nephrolithiasis. J Urol. 2007 Apr;177(4):1358-1362.

Kidney stones. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/urologic-disease/kidney-stones-in-adults/Pages/facts.aspx. Accessed March 6, 2017.

Nephrolithiasis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114904/Nephrolithiasis. Updated January 15, 2017. Accessed March 6, 2017.

Siener R. Impact of dietary habits on stone incidence. Urol Res. 2006;34(2):131-133.

Last reviewed March 2017 by Adrienne Carmack, MD  Last Updated: 7/18/2018