No matter what kind of kidney stone you have, drinking A LOT of fluid is key to stopping kidney stones. But, not all drinks are created equal. What are the best drinks for kidney stones?
Look no further for a complete guide to drinks for kidney stones!
Why Are Drinks So Important For Kidney Stones?
Your doctor has probably told you to “drink more” about a million times. But, why? Why is it so darn important that you drink a ton if you have kidney stones?
The answer comes down to diluting your urine. Or, making your urine less concentrated.
Kidney stones are made when your urine to too concentrated with certain minerals and other substances. The most common kidney stone making molecules are calcium and oxalate. When calcium and/or oxalate get too concentrated, they are more likely to bind and form a kidney stone. This is exactly what we want to avoid!
The most effective way to make your urine less concentrated is to drink more fluids! When you drink more, you will make more urine. This gives all those molecules more room to float around, and makes them less likely to bind and form kidney stones.
Bottom line. Drink more to make more urine and reduce the chances of more kidney stones!
How Much Should I Drink For Kidney Stones?
Ah, yes. The golden question. How much do I need to drink to prevent kidney stones?
The American Urological Association recommends that everyone with kidney stones drink enough to make 2 1/2 liters (or, about 85 fluid ounces) of urine each day. (1)
You lose some fluid in things like sweat, feces and metabolism. The amount of fluid lost is different for everyone, and likely changes day to day.
For most people, drinking about 3 liters of fluid per day is enough to meet our goal of 2 1/2 liters of urine.
3 liters of fluid per day is about the same as:
- 3,000 milliliters
- 100 fluid ounces
- 12 1/2 cups
Certain medical conditions might change your fluid goals. Always ask your doctor or Registered Dietitian how much water is right for you.
Tips to Drink Enough
Drinking all that fluid is no easy task! Here are my top tips to help you meet those lofty fluid goals.
Increase Fluid Slowly
Jumping from just 1 liter to 3 liters of fluid per day is huge! It can be hard to get used to drinking this much all at once. Plus, it takes time for your bladder to adjust too.
Calculate about how much fluid you are drinking now, and increase it by a cup or two each week. Or, when you feel that you are used to the higher fluid goal. For example, if you are drinking 4 glasses of water right now, work on drinking 5 glasses. After a week or so, add another glass. Continue to increase until you meet your goal!
Spread It Out
It is surprisingly easy to go an entire day without drinking! All of the sudden it is 5:00 PM and you realize you’ve had only 1 cup of coffee all day!
Trying to “catch up” and get in 3 liters of fluid starting late in the day is NO fun.
Also, for maximum kidney stone prevention, it is best to drink fluid consistently throughout the day. This way, you are diluting your urine ALL day. If you squeeze all of your drinks into a small timeframe, your urine will be more concentrated the rest of the day, making you susceptible to kidney stones during that time.
Come Up with a Fluid Game Plan
Start the day with a plan to meet your drink goals. Set multiple mini goals to drink a certain amount by the end of the morning, afternoon and evening.
Here are some ways to keep track of your drink game plan:
- Set reminders to drink on your phone throughout the day.
- Fill a pitcher with water in the morning. Mark the pitcher to indicate how much water you should drink by specific times.
- Keep track of how much water you drink using a note on your phone, or old school pen and paper,
Enlist the Help of Fancy Technology
Many Kidney Stone Nutrition School students love using the Hidrate Spark* water bottle. This water bottle tracks how much you drink. It also lights up and sends an alert to your phone when you fall behind your fluid goals.
Best Drinks For Kidney Stones
Okay, so we know why it is so important to drink for kidney stones. Here are the best drinks to help keep kidney stones away.
Plain Old Water
Not exciting, I know. But most of your drinks should be just water. For the vast majority of us, tap water is completely okay. No need to invest in distilled, mineral, spring, alkaline or other fancy waters.
It doesn’t matter if the water is cold, room temperature or hot. Drink whatever you most enjoy!
Unsweetened Sparkling Water
Carbonated water seems to have taken over the world the past few years! The number of unsweetened, sparkling water options are endless. As long as your favorite sparkling water does not have sugar in it, it is a great choice for kidney stones!
Making your own water infusions at home is a fun way to experiment and make water more exciting. Add a few pieces of your favorite fruit to a pitcher of water and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight. I also love to add fresh herbs like basil, mint or rosemary to feel extra fancy!
Yep! After water, milk is one of the best drinks for calcium kidney stones.
Milk is a great source of calcium. Counterintuitively, consuming enough calcium is very important for people with calcium kidney stones. (1) Calcium is very important for bone health, which is of high importance for people with kidney stones. Calcium is also a powerful way to reduce oxalate absorption, which ultimately controls urine oxalate levels.
If you don’t tolerate, or choose not to drink dairy, there are some plant-based milks that are good for kidney stones too.
Diet Lemon Lime Soda & Lemonade
Diet citrus drinks often have some citrate in them. Citrate is a powerful inhibitor of kidney stones. (2)
One liter of diet lemon lime soda has 8-10mEq citrate. This varies by brand and type of soda. This is much less than Crystal Light Lemonade* and isn’t likely to make a huge change in your urine citrate. But, diet lemon lime soda is a great way to switch up your fluid and keep it interesting!
Coffee or Tea
Surprise! Yes, coffee and tea are both good drinks for kidney stones.
You’ve probably read that tea is off limits because of oxalate. However, studies have found a lower risk of kidney stones in tea drinkers. (3)
Tea is often “off limits” for people with kidney stones because of oxalate. But, oxalate only matters if you have high urine oxalate on a 24-hour urine test. (1) Even if you do have high urine oxalate, a few cups of tea likely isn’t going to be a problem. There are no studies that have found a higher risk of kidney stones in tea drinkers.
If you are still concerned about oxalate, herbal teas tend to have much less oxalate than black tea.
Coffee is also fine! Just be mindful of how much sugar is added with fancy flavored creamers and syrups.
It is best to drink no more than 1-2 cups of caffeinated beverages per day. Some caffeine is not a problem for most people, but excess caffeine could cause blood pressure, heart, irritability or sleep issues.
Worst Drinks For Kidney Stones
Of course, there are some drinks that people with kidney stones should limit. In general, any drink with added sugar should be limited. Here are drinks I recommend saving for special occasions!
Any type of regular soda is packed with sugar. Usually this sugar is in the form of high fructose corn syrup, which has been shown to be especially risky for people with kidney stones. (4)
All this sugar (especially high fructose corn syrup) can increase urine calcium levels, leading to a higher risk of calcium kidney stones. (5)
Fruit or Vegetable Juice
Although juice does have lots of vitamins and minerals in it, I don’t recommend it. I’d much prefer people eat the ACTUAL fruit of vegetable, instead of juicing it and leaving all of that valuable fiber behind.
Even 100% fruit juice has quite a bit of sugar in it. It is easy to consume a lot of sugar in juice form, compared to simply eating actual fruit. One serving of fruit is equivalent to only 4 fluid ounces of fruit juice.
Vegetable juice is packed with sodium. Eating too much salt is one the most common dietary causes of high urine calcium and kidney stones. Even low sodium vegetable juice is pretty high in salt. An 8 fluid ounce serving of V8 vegetable juice has 640mg of sodium. The low sodium version has 140mg of sodium.
Yes, this even includes “fresh” juices from a fancy juice bar or juice made at home.
Lemonade Made with Sugar
Lemonade is unfortunately often recommended for kidney stones. This is likely because of the lemon juice itself is a great source of that stone-inhibiting citrate.
However, the amount of lemon juice and citrate you get from lemonade is minimal. You have to drink an entire 1/2 cup of straight to get 20mEq of citrate.
Importantly, lemonade is usually made with sugar, which increases the risk of kidney stones. (5)
Crystal Light Lemonade* has much more citrate in it compared to regular lemonade. It has potassium citrate in it for flavoring and preservation.
Packed with sugar. Punch is not the best drink for kidney stones.
Also packed with sugar. Sweet tea often has even more sugar than soda.
Again, packed with sugar. Energy drinks are also often surprisingly high in sodium.
Alcoholic Drinks for Kidney Stones
Kidney stones alone are not a reason to completely avoid alcohol. However, a lot of alcohol can cause dehydration if fluids are not replaced. Dehydration can increase kidney stone risk.
It is recommended that everyone limit alcohol to:
- 1 drink per day for women
- 2 drinks per day for men
Always ask your doctor if it is safe for you to drink alcohol.
Happy Eating (and drinking!)