Top 8 Natural Remedies for Kidney Stones

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doctor with kidneys; find out the top natural remedies for kidney stones

Often described as a pain rivaling childbirth, kidney stones are an extremely uncomfortable and agonizing experience. As approximately one out of every 11 Americans will develop them in their lifetime, natural remedies for passing or preventing kidney stones are commonly sought out. 

In this article, learn more about what kidney stones are, what causes them, how to prevent them, and the top eight natural remedies for passing kidney stones or reducing the risk of developing them.  

What Are Kidney Stones? An Overview

Kidney stones, also known as nephrolithiasis, renal calculi, or urolithiasis, are small, rock-shaped deposits made up of minerals and salts from the urine. Although all urine contains these minerals and salts, kidney stones occur when the minerals build up in excess or when fluid intake is too low to dissolve the salts, causing crystallization.

Calcium oxalate stones are the most common type of kidney stones, resulting from the urine containing high levels of calcium, oxalate, and uric acid with low citrate levels. Calcium oxalate comprises up to 80% of kidney stone cases. Calcium phosphate kidney stones are also commonly found alongside calcium oxalate stones. 

A less common type is uric acid stones, which make up about 5-10% of kidney stone cases. The two other types of kidney stones, struvite and cysteine stones, are also infrequently seen. 

Some stones remain in the kidneys and don’t cause issues, while other stones travel to the bladder, where they can block urine flow and cause severe pain. Stones that are less than 10 millimeters in size tend to pass on their own. In contrast, bigger stones may require surgery or a shock wave lithotripsy procedure, which uses sound waves to break up the stones into smaller pieces that can be passed naturally. 

kidney stones can cause excruciating back and side pain

Risk Factors for Kidney Stones

There are several risk factors for developing kidney stones. Most people who get kidney stones experience a recurrence of the disorder. According to research published in Investigative and Clinical Urology in September 2017, an average of 11% of kidney stone patients have a recurrent event within two years, and 39% recur within 15 years. 

The leading risk factors for kidney stones include: 

  • Family or personal history of kidney stones
  • Dehydration or low fluid intake
  • Obesity
  • Consuming a diet high in salt, animal protein, or sugar
  • Medical history of gastric bypass surgery or intestinal surgery
  • Diagnosis of hypertension, gout, polycystic kidney disease, inflammatory bowel disease, renal tubular acidosis, hyperparathyroidism, or repeated urinary tract infections. 

In addition, males are more likely to develop kidney stones than females, although both sexes are at risk. 

Top 8 Natural Remedies for Kidney Stones

There are several natural remedies thought to either reduce the size of or help eliminate kidney stones. However, the available research on many of these home remedies is not robust. Therefore, more studies are needed to determine definitively if these therapies are curative for kidney stones.

1. Fluids

Maintaining adequate hydration is the easiest and most effective way to prevent and treat kidney stones, as the extra fluids will increase the frequency of urination. This allows for more opportunities for the mineral salt buildups to be flushed out of the urinary system. 

In a systematic review published in European Urology in July 2009, the results from eight randomized controlled trials found that a high water intake of more than two liters reduced kidney stone recurrence risk by 60%.

It’s recommended to consume at least two liters of fluids per day. While most of your fluid intake should be water, other beverages like green or herbal tea, coffee, or flavored water could be included in small amounts.

proper hydration is one of the best natural remedies of kidney stones

2. Apple Cider Vinegar

Although most of the claims are anecdotal, apple cider vinegar (ACV) is thought to help soften and dissolve the mineral aggregates in kidney stones due to its acetic acid content. 

In a study published in EBioMedicine in July 2019, researchers looked at the impact of drinking acetic acid-rich vinegar in humans and rats. They found that individuals who consumed vinegar daily had higher citrate and lower calcium urinary excretion. Low citrate and high calcium levels in the urine are characteristic of kidney stones. 

In rats, providing daily vinegar suppressed calcium oxalate crystal formation. Although the research wasn’t specifically with ACV, the high levels of acetic acid used in this study are comparable.

Try a raw, unfiltered form of ACV for kidney stones and dilute one or two tablespoons first in a cup of water. Drinking undiluted ACV can cause esophageal damage and tooth enamel erosion. To improve the taste, try adding a squeeze of honey or fresh lemon juice for additional benefits, as discussed in the next section.

3. Citrus

Citrus fruits, including lemon, lime, orange, and grapefruit, contain high amounts of citric acid, which inhibits the crystallization and growth of calcium oxalate and phosphate and can break up smaller kidney stones.

In a study published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews in October 2015, the data from seven randomized controlled trials were analyzed. Of the 477 participants with kidney stones studied, citrate salt treatment significantly reduced stone size and prevented new stone formation. 

Citrate salts, including potassium citrate, potassium-sodium citrate, and potassium-magnesium citrate, are closely related to citric acid and can alkalinize the urine, which can reduce the risk of kidney stones. 

4. Fish Oil

Fish oil is rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. However, the standard Western diet is high in omega-6 fatty acids, which promote inflammatory pathways when in excess. 

The primary omega-6 fat, arachidonic acid (AA), is found in vegetable and seed oils. The breakdown of AA increases prostaglandin E2, which causes high levels of calcium excretion in the urine. Fish oil can counteract this inflammatory mechanism, reducing urinary calcium excretion and the risk of kidney stone development. 

Approximately 1,800 mg of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), one of the primary omega-3 fats, is beneficial for reducing urinary calcium excretion, as seen in a study published in European Urology in May 2001.

5. Green Tea

Green tea contains many beneficial polyphenols and antioxidants, including catechin, epicatechin, and epigallocatechin-3-gallate. Although green tea contains oxalates, research has found that green tea consumption does not increase the growth of calcium oxalate kidney stones. 

A study published in the International Journal of Urology found that habitual green tea consumption was linked to a significant reduction in the risk of kidney stones, with the effects more pronounced in men.

6. Nigella Sativa

Nigella sativa, also known as black cumin or black caraway seed, is a medicinal plant with anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, and renal-protective properties. The main bioactive component of Nigella sativa is thymoquinone, which reduces oxidative stress by scavenging for free radicals. 

In a study with rats with kidney stones, those treated with Nigella sativa had significant reductions in the number of calcium oxalate deposits and lowered urinary calcium oxalate concentrations.

7Pomegranate 

Pomegranate juice contains high levels of antioxidants, anthocyanins, and polyphenols known to support kidney health. Also, one cup of pomegranate juice includes 15% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance for potassium, which is beneficial for kidney stones as potassium reduces urinary excretion of calcium.

Researchers looked at the effects of pomegranate on kidney stone formation in a study published in Urolithiasis in October 2014. They found that adults who consumed 1,000 mg of pomegranate polyphenol extract for 90 days experienced reductions in calcium oxalate supersaturation.

8. Herbal Remedies

Lastly, herbs that may act as natural remedies for kidney stones include: 

  • Basil, especially when juiced
  • Parsley
  • Barberry root
  • Fenugreek seed 

Tips to Prevent Kidney Stones

Many healthy foods, including certain fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, contain oxalates. However, it’s not recommended to entirely cut out these foods if you have kidney stones due to the otherwise healthful nature of them. 

If you have recurring kidney stones that have been tested and are determined to be calcium oxalate stones, you may consider a lower-oxalate diet. Otherwise, eat high-oxalate foods in combination with high-calcium foods, as the two compounds bind to each other and reduce the likelihood of stones forming.

Other tips for preventing kidney stones include: 

  • Drink 2-2.5 liters of water and low-sugar fluids per day.
  • Limit salt because sodium increases urinary calcium excretion.
  • Limit animal protein, as it breaks down into uric acid and can reduce citric acid excretion.
  • Increase calcium from foods, like dairy, green leafy vegetables, and sardines, rather than calcium supplements. 
  • Increase omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Increase your consumption of fruits, vegetables, and high-fiber foods.
  • Perform light to moderate regular exercise.
  • Maintain healthy body weight.  

Key Takeaway:

  • Kidney stones, also known as nephrolithiasis, can cause excruciating and debilitating pain.
  • The top natural remedies to help pass kidney stones are increased fluids, citrus fruit, fish oil, Nigella sativa, and pomegranate juice. 
  • Prevent kidney stone development with increased water intake, green tea, omega-3 fatty acids, dietary calcium, and high-fiber foods while reducing sodium and animal protein consumption. 

Show references
 

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Rode J, Bazin D, Dessombz A, et al. Daily Green Tea Infusions in Hypercalciuric Renal Stone Patients: No Evidence for Increased Stone Risk Factors or Oxalate-Dependent Stones. Nutrients. 2019;11(2):256. Published 2019 Jan 24. doi:10.3390/nu11020256

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Shu X, Cai H, Xiang YB, et al. Green tea intake and risk of incident kidney stones: Prospective cohort studies in middle-aged and elderly Chinese individuals. Int J Urol. 2019;26(2):241-246. doi:10.1111/iju.13849

Tracy CR, Henning JR, Newton MR, Aviram M, Bridget Zimmerman M. Oxidative stress and nephrolithiasis: a comparative pilot study evaluating the effect of pomegranate extract on stone risk factors and elevated oxidative stress levels of recurrent stone formers and controls. Urolithiasis. 2014;42(5):401-408. doi:10.1007/s00240-014-0686-8

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