Various studies suggest that one in every 10 people will have a kidney stone at some point in their lives. One major factor leading to the formation of a kidney stone is lack of water in the body. People who consume less than the recommended amount of water (2-3 litres per day) are known to develop kidney stones at a much higher rate. A research conducted on 666 patients tells that “480 (72.07%) patients did not drink required water daily.” (Prevalence and Risk factors of Kidney Stone published in Global Journal for Research Analysis). Lack of water in the body does not allow uric acid and certain minerals to get diluted thereby creating a conducive environment for the formation of kidney stones.
The two most common types of kidney stones are calcium oxalate and uric acid kidney stones. It is crucial to follow a good and healthy diet to accelerate the treatment process; water being of major significance for both types. A person with kidney stones is recommended to drink 3 quarts (12 glasses) of water daily. The dos and don’ts in terms of foods vary according to these different types:
Foods to Prevent Calcium Oxalate
Every human being needs food to survive. When food enters the body, all the nutrients get absorbed leaving the waste to be excreted out. At a time when there is too much waste and too little liquid, there is a tendency for crystals to form. These crystals stick together to form solid masses which we call stones. Oxalate is one substance which in most cases leads to the formation of kidney stones. There is usually a very low level of fluid in the body because of which oxalate sticks to calcium which in turn results in the formation of stones.
For a person suffering from calcium-oxalate kidney stones, here are some pointers that should be kept in mind while planning your diet –
- Go low on oxalate-rich foods: Some foods which are very high in oxalate include peanuts, rhubarb, spinach, beets, sesame seeds, chocolate and sweet potatoes.
- Consume milk and milk products: One of the most common mistakes that people make during this time is cutting down on calcium rich foods entirely. Doing this could lead to poor nutrition levels. Rather, it is recommended by nutritionists to take calcium and oxalate rich foods together so that the oxalate can bind itself to calcium before it reaches the kidneys. Products like milk, yogurt, and cheese should be consumed adequately.
- Say no to ‘too much salt’: Salt contains sodium which causes calcium to build in the urine (in this case, oxalate will attach itself to calcium only once it enters the kidneys which will lead to stone formation) and becomes a major disadvantage for a person suffering with kidney stones.
- Go low on animal protein – Protein leads to the reduction of citrate levels in the body, a chemical that helps prevent stones. While it is important to cut down on animal protein, as well as to make sure that your body gets the needed proteins. Therefore, to replace animal protein, the food that could be consumed includes beans, dried peas, lentils, soy milk, tofu, almonds, cashews, walnuts, pistachios and sunflower seeds.
- Eat lots of watery fruits and vegetables which help in increasing the liquid content in the body.
Bangalore-based Nutritionist, Dr. Anju Sood recommends, “A normal healthy meal just as it would be for any other person; three proper meals in a day and three small meals in between throughout the entire day for a person with kidney stones. The diet should include milk and milk products in moderation and should not be completely cut off.”
How to Keep a Check on Uric Acid
This is also a very common type of stone after calcium oxalates. Purine is a chemical compound found in some foods which increase the acidic level of urine if taken in high quantities. Increased acidic level leads to the formations of stones which we call uric acid kidney stones.
- At this time it is necessary to cut down on a purine rich diet. Foods such as red meat, organ meat and shellfish should be avoided as high concentration of purine can be found in these.
- Eat watery fruits and vegetables as they make the urine less acidic.
- Go low on sugar-sweetened fruits and drinks, especially those that contain high fructose corn syrup. Fructose intake leads to an increase of calcium, oxalates and uric acid in the urine.
- Cut down on animal protein (red meat, poultry, eggs, and seafood): Apart from reducing the citrate levels in the body, high level of protein leads to the formation of uric acid which in-turn forms stones. However, again, foods such as dried peas, lentils, tofu etc. should be consumed in order to replace animal protein.
- Limit the amount of alcohol intake as alcohol causes an increase in uric acid levels.
- Crash diets are not recommended as they too lead to an increase in uric acid levels.
One another substance that helps with kidney stones is citrate. The treatment of chronic kidney stones is often done with potassium citrate. It has been studied that foods that contain citrate naturally also have similar effects as potassium citrate. Citrate does not allow calcium to bind with other components that form stones. It has also been found that citrate prevents stones already present in the kidney from sticking with each other, thereby preventing the formation of large stones. Foods containing natural citrate are limeade, lemonade, fruits and juices. However, citrate levels are higher in actual limes and lemons and a person should be careful of the sugar content in juices as that might increase the risk of stones.
Health practitioner and macrobiotic nutritionist, Dr Shilpa Arora, recommends, “70% of the diet of a person suffering from kidney stones should include watery fruits and vegetables. Rest everything should be taken in moderation. Fruits like grapes, watermelon, oranges and plums should be taken as much as possible. Cherries are considered to be exceptionally good during this time. All these fruits and vegetables help in balancing the acidic levels in the body. However, fruits and vegetables with seeds, like tomatoes, eggplant, ladyfinger etc. must be avoided since seeds are hard to digest. Lemon water is highly recommended.”
There exist two more types of kidney stones which are not as common; struvite stones and cysteine stones. Here too, liquid acts as a major factor. It is absolutely necessary to drink at least 12 glasses of water daily irrespective of the type of kidney stone.