The Kidney Stone Prevention Diet

DASH yourself away from kidney stone risk! We reported recently on new research which suggests that certain citrus-flavored diet sodas (such as 7-Up, Sunkist, Fanta, Fresca, or Sprite) could potentially help prevent kidney stones. Now, a new study suggests following the “DASH diet,” normally recommended for people with high blood pressure, could also help lower your risk for kidney stones.

Kidney stones form when there is an excess of certain crystalline substances like minerals and salts in the urine that can then precipitate (form a solid). Often, this process is worsened by dehydration. A decrease in fluid intake leads to a decrease in urination, creating an optimal environment for stones to form. When the body tries to excrete the stones through the urine, the tubes get blocked, causing significant pain.

Last year, research on 241,766 people in the U.S. revealed an association between the DASH-diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) and the risk of kidney stones. The researchers found that people who ate a diet more in line with DASH principles were 40 – 55% less likely to develop kidney stones than those whose diet was less DASH-compliant. The DASH diet is characterized as high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and nuts, while low in sodium, sweetened beverages, red meats, and processed meats. It also encourages cutting back on alcohol and getting regular physical activity. Normally this diet is emphasized for people who are pre-hypertensive (blood pressure between 120/ mmHg and 139/89 mmHg) or hypertensive (blood pressure greater than 140/90 mmHg).

Recently, the same researchers conducted a follow-up study that went further to examine why people on the DASH diet might be at lower risk of developing kidney stones by doing an analysis of their urine. In so doing, they analyzed urine samples of 3,426 men and women without kidney stones. They observed two key findings that may account for the observed association between a DASH diet and lower risk of kidney stones.  One is that the people who ate the most compliant DASH-style diet produced more urine than those least compliant with the DASH diet, despite consuming the same amount of liquids. This consequence was likely the case because their diets were high in fruits and vegetables, which naturally contain water. The other reason is that the people who ate a more compliant DASH-style diet excreted more of a natural compound called citrate in their urine compared to those least DASH-compliant.  Citrate helps inhibit calcium stone formation, the most common type of kidney stones.

Kidney stones are common and if you get them once, they are more likely to come back. If you feel like you’re having severe pain in the belly, side of the back, or groin area, make sure to contact your doctor.

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