Know Your Stones...Protect Your Kidneys

Author: Betty Kovacs, MS, RD
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

Do you know your kidney stone?

The unfortunate thing about kidney stones is that once you have had one there is a significant chance that you will have another one. Fortunately, there are things that you can do that may help prevent future occurrences.

One of the keys to prevention is to learn about your previous kidney stones. If you pass a stone and can save it, your doctor can have it analyzed to determine precisely what kind of stone it was. Your doctor may order blood and urine tests as well. The tests will be checking your urine volume and levels of acidity, calcium, oxalate, sodium, citrate, creatinine, and uric acid. Knowing what caused your stone will make preventing future stones more likely.

How can your diet increase the risk for calcium stones?

Approximately four out of five kidney stones are calcium stones. These stones are often a combination of calcium and oxalate, but can also be a combination of calcium and phosphate or a combination of all three. A great deal of research has uncovered dietary factors that can lead to the development of these stones.

The beef about animal protein: Protein is an essential nutrient needed for numerous functions in our body. The average American consumes about twice the RDA for protein each day with the majority of it coming from animal sources. Some research has shown a link between kidney stones and diets high in animal protein, while others have found no difference in stone formation in animal versus plant protein consumption. If the majority of your meals contain a source of meat (for example, chicken, turkey, eggs, beef, seafood, pork, or dairy foods), then the recommendation would be to cut back on the quantity and/or frequency that these are consumed. Here are some ways to get protein from plant sources:

  • Soy cheese
  • Tofu
  • Beans
  • Chic peas
  • Lentils
  • Soy milk
  • Whole grains
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts (if oxalates are not a problem)