Pictures of various drinks with title: Top 6 best drinks for kidney stones over image

Top 6 Best Drinks For Kidney Stones

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.

Tips to drink more water infographic. Put marks on water pitcher indicating how much you should drink by a certain time. Make your water more delicious by infusing it with fruit or herbs. Set reminder alarms on your phone throughout the day.

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.

HidrateSpark 3 -- The World's Smartest Water Bottle

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!

My favorite brands are La Croix*, Spindrift* and Bubly*.

Infused Water

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!

Picture of blackberry rosemary water infusion recipe. Place 1 cup squished blackberries and 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary in a big pitcher of water. Refrigerate overnight.

Milk

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)

Crystal Light Lemonade* has a surprising amount of citrate in it. A liter has about 20mEq of citrate, the same amount that is commonly prescribed to people with kidney stones with potassium citrate.

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!

Graphic of each drink best for kidney stones: water, diet lemon lime soda, milk, unsweetened sparkling water, sugar free lemonade, coffee and tea.

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!

Regular Soda

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)

In fact, regular soda drinkers are at a higher risk of kidney stones. (3)

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.

If have high oxalate on a 24-hour urine test and need a low oxalate diet, vegetable juice can also be a very concentrated source of oxalate.

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.

Punch

Packed with sugar. Punch is not the best drink for kidney stones.

Sweet Tea

Also packed with sugar. Sweet tea often has even more sugar than soda.

Energy Drinks

Again, packed with sugar. Energy drinks are also often surprisingly high in sodium.

Learn more about energy drinks and kidney stones.

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.

Learn more about alcohol and kidney stones.

Happy Eating (and drinking!)

Melanie

21 thoughts on “Top 6 Best Drinks For Kidney Stones”

  1. Hi Melanie,
    Ever since I was on chemotherapy a couple of years ago, I have been starting my day with 4oz of prune juice (Sunsweet Light). It really helps to keep my system regular. I saw dried prunes on your list in the Medium Oxalate column but I was wondering about prune Juice. What are your thoughts on this?
    Thank you.

    1. Melanie Betz MS, RD, CSR, CSG

      The juice of any fruit that has oxalate will have similar oxalate levels in it – oxalate is water soluble, so it ends up in juice. I’d ask your dietitian about it based on your 24 hour urine test!

  2. As a previous commenter mentioned, potassium citrate is not a sweetener, and Crystal Light is not using it for added sweetness! You should correct the article.

    1. Melanie Betz MS, RD, CSR, CSG

      Thanks, John. It is probably more used for flavor, and possibly a preservative. I clarified in the article.

    1. Melanie Betz MS, RD, CSR, CSG

      Nutrition is different for everyone with kidney stones! I’d ask your dietitian what is best for you!

  3. Thank for this. Everything on your site seems so common sense compared to some of the other low oxalate resources I have found, where it’s all about “dumping” and very complicated health scenarios. I am just getting started with all this. I had a large calcium oxalate stone removed surgically 10 days ago and a radical nephrectomy due to RCC coming soon on the other side, all from a routine visit to my urologist where I had no apparent symptoms. Luckily he saw blood in the urine which got the whole process rolling. I feel very lucky that things have been caught fairly early and very optimistic for a successful outcome. I will be back for more food and recipe ideas after the surgery – thanks again!

    1. Melanie Betz MS, RD, CSR, CSG

      Thank you so much for your kind words! I’m glad you’ve found me! I hope you are recovering from surgery and feeling as well as can be expected! To really dive into what you can do for preventing more stones – definitely check out this article about 24 hour urine tests! That is the truly the only way to know what will actually work for you!

      P.S – Here are my thoughts about “oxalate dumping” 🙂

      1. Thanks for the clear discussion of oxalate dumping. After seeing it mentioned online, I did a search of PUBMED for research papers and found absolutely nothing. So then I asked my nephrologist about it and he had never heard of it. He searched and couldn’t find any research either. That was enough to convince me that it probably wasn’t the “scientific breakthrough” some were claiming. But it’s nice to see it debunked by a reliable source.

      2. Yeah, “oxalate dumping” is a myth. Yet, it seems that most of the people posting on the “trying low oxalate” Facebook group blame bouts of massive oxalate dumping or long term oxalate dumping for all manner of problems – everything from skin rashes, to itchy eyes to arthritis, you name it. I’ve come to the sad conclusion that despite the moderators touting “evidence based science”, they suffer from confirmation bias and some pretty massive blind spots.

        1. Melanie Betz MS, RD, CSR, CSG

          Ditto to everything you said! It’s so unfortunate there is SO MUCH of this type of this out there! This is such a huge motivator to why I do what I do!

          1. Case in point from a recent post:
            “So I’ve been sick the last few days and haven’t eaten. This evening I’m having crystals coming out of my lower gums, and right top eyelid. I’ve tried to slow down dumping by having a little whole milk greek yogurt, should I have a cuppa black tea. The dumping is not too bad now, but I don’t want it to get worse. Personal experiences, please”

  4. Appreciate your lists of “good and bad”. I just had my first and hopefully last kidney stone ER visit event this weekend. So painful. Anyway… these lists will help me going forward as I try to avoid having more “events”. Am home and taking it slow. D.

    1. Melanie Betz MS, RD, CSR, CSG

      Hi Dave! Glad you’ve found my site helpful! And BOO to those stones. Let’s do everything we can to never have to deal with that again! Definitely know that there is no single “diet” for kidney stones, and nutrition really needs to be individualized to your 24 hour urine test. Here is a post more about that!

  5. Hi Melanie, thank you so much for this information! Do you know if metamucil is high in oxalates? I’m trying to increase my fiber intake, but I’m not sure if it is high in oxalates.

    Thanks again for posting all this great information, it’s an incredible resource.

    1. Melanie Betz MS, RD, CSR, CSG

      Hi Jon! As far as I know, metamucil has never been tested. I wouldn’t expect it to be high. I always encourage people to avoid stressing about oxalate in everything they eat since oxalate intake is usually the LEAST of my worries when it comes to stone prevention. This article explains a bit more!

    1. Melanie Betz MS, RD, CSR, CSG

      I can’t say what is best for you without working with you individually. True Lemon is similar to Crystal Light!

  6. Thanks for your tips on fluids. That is going to be an ongoing challenge for me, so suggestions help.
    But you might want to rephrase the following in your blog entry:

    Crystal Light Lemonade* has much more citrate in it compared to regular lemonade. It is sweetened with potassium citrate.

    —————

    Crystal Light is sweetened with aspartame and maltodextrin. (Crystal Light has different varieties, including Crystal Light Pure which is sweetened with cane sugar and Stevia.)

    I liked learning that it contains potassium citrate, but it is listed after citric acid so I don’t have a sense of how much it actually contains.

    ———-

    Crystal Light Drink Mix, Lemonade, Lemonade – EWG’s Food Scores
    CITRIC ACID, POTASSIUM CITRATE, SODIUM CITRATE, ASPARTAME+, MAGNESIUM OXIDE, MALTODEXTRIN, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF NATURAL FLAVOR, ACESULFAME POTASSIUM, SOY …

    1. Melanie Betz MS, RD, CSR, CSG

      Hi Cathy! It is very difficult to know how much actual citrate is in these beverages. We know how much is in this particular beverage because of a study referenced in this article by my colleague at the University of Chicago.

      The EWG tends to be pretty alarmist in their recommendations and cautions. Their recommendations aren’t generally backed by quality science when you dive in and actually look at the science and the actual amount of “toxin” in the food they claim is harmful. I put “toxin” in quotes because everything could be a toxin in theory. Vitamin A, for example, is definitely toxic at high amounts, however we would never think about avoiding everything that has vitamin A in it. Even water could kill you in high amounts. The amount makes the “poison”, if you will. This is a wonderful article about the “Dirty Dozen” that the EWG puts out every year that dives into the issues with this list- many of these issues hold true for most of the EWGs recommendations outside of the organic space.

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