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Learning About Diet for Kidney Stone Prevention

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What are kidney stones?

Kidney stones are small "pebbles" that form in your kidneys. They're made of salts and minerals in the urine.

Stones may not cause a problem as long as they stay in the kidneys. But they can cause sudden, severe pain. Pain is most likely when the stones travel through the ureters (the tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder). Kidney stones can cause bloody urine.

Kidney stones often run in families. You are more likely to get them if you don't drink enough fluids, mainly water. Certain foods and drinks and some natural health products may also increase your risk for kidney stones if you consume too much of them.

How can you prevent kidney stones with your diet?

The following tips may lower your chance of getting kidney stones or from getting them again.

  • Drink more fluids, especially water, if your doctor says it is okay.

    This is the most important thing you can do.

  • If your doctor told you that you have had a calcium kidney stone, you may need to change your diet.
    • Eat less salt and salty foods. One way to do this is to avoid processed foods and limit how often you eat at restaurants.
    • Talk to your doctor or dietitian about how much calcium you need every day. Milk, cheese, and yogurt are all good sources of calcium. If you don’t eat these foods, talk to your doctor or dietitian about calcium supplements.
  • If your doctor told you that you have had an oxalate kidney stone, you may need to limit certain foods.
    • Your doctor may ask you to limit certain foods that have a lot of oxalate, such as dark green vegetables, nuts, and chocolate. You don't have to give up these foods, just eat or drink less of them.
  • Your doctor or dietitian may suggest that you change your diet if you've had kidney stones in the past.
    • Too much protein may lead to kidney stones. Talk to your doctor or dietitian about how much protein you need and the best way to get it.
    • Eat a balanced diet that is not too high in animal protein. Animal protein includes beef, chicken, pork, fish, and eggs.
    • Increase how much fibre you eat. Fibre includes oat bran, beans, whole grain breads, cereals, vegetables and whole fruits.
    • Limit your intake of fruit juices if you have a history of kidney stones.
    • Talk to your doctor or dietitian if you take natural health products or supplements. Your doctor may want you to limit how much fish liver oil or calcium supplements you take. Also, do not take more than the recommended daily dose of vitamins C and D.
    • Learn more about kidney stones and your diet.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

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