Kidney stone myths

Some commonly held beliefs about kidney stones can be considered myths, without any supporting evidence. Other beliefs we consider controversial and are likely to also be incorrect based on expert opinion.

Myth 1. I got a kidney stone because of my calcium intake.

Despite the fact that calcium is a major component of 75% of stones, excessive calcium intake is very rarely the cause of stone formation. In fact, several studies have shown that restricting calcium intake in most stone formers actually increases the number of stones they develop. Find out more on our page on calcium intake.

Myth 2. I can take something to dissolve my stones*

This myth has an asterisk because it is actually true in select cases.

For the majority of stones formers, including those with calcium oxalate and calcium phosphate stones (80% of stones), there is no medication available that can successfully dissolve their stones.

In select patients with uric acid stones (5-7% of stones) or cystine stones (1-3% of stones), medications can potentially be used to help dissolve their stones. However, even in these cases, surgery is still sometimes required to remove or treat the stones.

Myth 3. Cranberry juice will help me prevent stones.

While cranberry juice can help in the prevention of recurrent urinary tract infections, it does not seem to have an overall beneficial effect for stone formers. Instead, ingestion of cranberry juice results in a mixed effect on urinary factors which probably leads to no benefit or potentially increased stone risk for most patients (Gettman et al, J Urol, 2005).

Myth 4. Drinking this olive oil and lemon juice will help lubricate my stone and help it pass.

Besides sounding awful tasting, we are not aware of any studies showing that drinking this combination (or other similar home remedies) can improve stone passage. There are however some medications that have been shown to speed stone passage in randomized studies.

Infographic of how common kidney stones are in the United StatesMyth 5. Not many people get stones.

Stones are actually more common than most people realize. 1 in every 11 Americans will experience a stone in their lifetime.

Myth 6. Water is the only fluid useful to help prevent stones.

Research suggests that it is the volume of fluid you drink that is most important, not the type of fluid. Some fluids previously felt to increase stone risk (tea, coffee, beer) actually seem to decrease risk. Cola drinking also doesn’t seem to increase risk. We talk about it more below. The bottom line for those trying to keep their fluid intake up is that for the most part you can drink what you want.

Myth 7. Kidney stones are related to gallbladder stones (gallstones).

Although both are considered stones and have the word “bladder” associated with them, gallstones and kidney stones are not in any way related.

Myth 8. I shouldn’t be getting kidney stones because no one in my family has had them.

While those with a family history of stones are at 2.5 times greater risk of forming a stone than individuals without a family history, the majority of new stone formers actually do not have family history.

Controversy 1. My soda drinking is causing me to form stones.

The belief that soda drinking is associated with increased kidney stone formation is supported by a study of 1,009 males randomized to refrain from or continue soft drinks over three years by Shushter and colleagues. In their study, those who refrained were 6.4% less likely to form another stone than those who continued their soda intake. Additionally, they observed that those who refrained from sodas acidified by phosphoric acid as opposed to sodas acidified with citric acid had a more pronounced 15% lower likelihood of forming another stone (Shuster et al, J Clin Epidemiol, 1992). Phosphoric acid is most commonly used in colas (Coca Cola) while citric acid is most commonly used in fruit flavored sodas (Sprite). Based on this study, avoidance of cola drinks is recommended by some physicians as a way to avoid stones.

More recent research has however questioned these early findings. In a study of 45,289 men, intake of 21 different types of beverages and the development of stones was determined over six years. The authors found that cola intake did increase stone risk but that this appeared to be because individuals with higher cola intake also has other dietary factors that would increase their stone risk. They concluded that if a person’s diet was otherwise kept the same, the addition of cola would not increase the risk of stones (Curhan et al, Am Journal Epid, 1996).

Overall, the risk of forming stones from cola drinking seems to be mixed. Kidney stoners who want to play it safe might want to avoid colas and choose other beverages. They can also choose colas which don’t use phosphoric acid. (You can check this by reading the ingredients list on the side of the bottle or can). Some brands we’ve found that don’t use phosphoric acid include Pepsi Natural and Red Bull Cola.

Controversy 2. The bad (hard) tap water in my town is causing my stones.

It seems intuitive that drinking “hard” tap water, which contains more dissolved minerals (such as calcium and magnesium), might increase stone risk. However, most studies on the subject show that the type of tap water (hard versus soft) either doesn’t seem to make a difference or that soft water, and not hard water, is actually associated with increased stone risk (Schwartz et al, Urology, 2002).

Based on available research, the quality and source of your tap water likely makes little or no impact on stone risk. Putting in a water softener system may actually increase your risk! We like drinking filtered water, but only because it improves the taste.

174 Responses to Kidney stone myths

  1. Ackbar Jeff says:

    The National Institute of Health seems to disagree with your myth #1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9873217

    • Maria says:

      I ran into the same article while doing my researches. But if you think carefully, it doesn’t contraddict Myth #1. Infact, it says that hard water increases risk factors for kidney stones IN PATIENTS WITH IDIOPATHIC NEPHROLITHIASIS. Which is quite acknowledged. If your kidneys work correctly there is no problem in drinking hard water.

  2. JC Morrison says:

    One small note: there is no clear evidence that drinking cranberry juice helps to treat or prevent UTIs.

    • JH Grismer says:

      Although there may be no clear evidence (you do not cite a source) I can share my personal experience. My first kidney stone occurrence was in 1992 which was accompanied by a UTI. A couple of years later I had another kidney stone occurrence with a UTI. I began drinking cranberry juice every day thereafter and although have had other kidney stones, no accompanying UTIs. I also have a condition called “sponge kidney” which is more prone to UTIs. As a result I will keep drinking my daily dose as a preventive measure. I just had another kidney stone occurrence this past week and no UTI.

  3. Carolyn says:

    Wow reading some comments lmao, some people slept through science hey haha.
    Go research- acids, physics, bio chemistry, chemistry, nutrients, minerals, vitamins aw heck while there look up Quantum Physics, vibrational frequencies, atoms, photons, protons, neutrons, neurons & anything else that’ll expand your mind lol. The best thing one can do is research, research, research when you think you know everything remember you don’t & research some more. Question everything! Even what i write, based on years of research & still going, but still – question & research don’t be lazy.
    WE ARE WHAT WE EAT, IT REALLY IS THAT SIMPLE..
    A glass of any soda a day or every few days isnt going to cause issues if overall diet is adequite, however high intake if the rest of the diet is good can be risky. Though stated ‘some with stones drinking — soda also had bad diets’, well, not all who drink lots of any soda have bad eating habits yet have still had stones, i did not see that stated. Seemes to me research for article was limited, unfinished & biast to the writers wants.
    Excessive intake of any soda & processed food is risk for kidney stones & other illness.
    Sugar a big reason, cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, glucose, dextrose, lactose, fructose, maltose, galacyose & so on, other additives, preservatives ect there’s a recipe for kidney stones. Adult average daily intake of added sugar (not naturally present) should only be approx 6-9 teaspoons, many exceed this up to a whopping 30-40+ teaspoons.
    Manufactured sugar, really isn’t good for us, as addictive as some drugs, causes the same chemical reaction in the brain as a hit of Cocaine & you know what else, sugar is harder to quit.
    In fact, it’s so addictive & causing so many health & mental issues, issues that even lead to death (stats put number of deaths & associated illnesses for sugar higher than drug related, did you also know of all drugs Alcohol is the biggest killer, yes legal & the biggest killer) doctors & specialists are fighting to have it classed a drug.
    Honestly, unless food is fresh & unprocessed it’s a risk to us, especually the way we consume copious amounts of crap…
    FYI – Increased milk/dairy intake IS cause for stones i personally witnessed, discharged from hospital a few hours ago, milk the cause being the only major diet change.
    Humans aren’t supposed to consume dairy anyway, we don’t digest or process it properly, get very little value from it (but hey it tastes good so why not lol), it triggers the body to produce extra muccus & other yuck stuff. Dairy started as a money maker for cattle farm business nothing more. We do properly digest, process, absorb & better benifit from the calcium in fruits & veg.
    I’m usually a tad health & fitness geek, healthy, active, didn’t drink soda, limit junk & fast foods to rare treats & drink lots of water. BUT about the last 6 months (since losing work) slacked off nutrition, having days of very high milk consumption, those days neglecting water (2-3 ltrs of milk daily), craving it everyday the week prior & first 2 days of periods, started to drink soda occasionally (by law in Australia only made with cane sugar not high fructos corn syrup) but became daily with sugar addiction, still not as high as milk consumption…
    Prior, before getting lazy, drank Apple Cider Vinegar daily & warm filtered water with lemon slfilte& honey.. Made own salad dressings with Olive oil, fresh squeesed lemon juice, herbs & spices (not sure if olive oil lubes stones but it can help lube things a bit with pooping troubles), Olive oil and balsalmic or brown vinegar etc. NEVER in my life have i ever encountered stones or pain like i experienced when waking up yesterday morning.
    FINALLY! After all day in hospital, high on probably half the pain killer supply, countless tests no results, 12:30am they opted for CT scan, which found 2 small stones.
    3mm – culprit for the pain as it rode the Kidney Coaster of Death, now free at kidney exit, happily dwells near the entrance of it’s next adventure, deciding when to dive in ride the ‘Bladder Buster Splashtacular’ to complete freedom.
    The other just on 2mm, waiting at top of the kidney could one day too to take the Kidney Coaster of Death adventure if i don’t kill it first.
    Apple cider vinegar, lemons & limes do help dissolve small stones, are awesome for cleansing & detoxing the body. Also help to decalcify other parts of the body & if taken daily prevent stones & bad calcium build up. Always filter water, fluride added to drinking water as well as toothpaste, other foods etc IS VERY TOXIC, should NEVER be ingested, causes bad calcium build up & calcification to parts of the body, NOT the good healthy calcium our body needs that is obtained through fruits & veg.
    Kidney stones, gallbladder stones etc are not the only mineral & sediment build up in the body.
    Due to poor diet, high processed food & fluid intake, excessive milk/dairy consumption, excessive meat eating (particularly eating lots of yummy fat attached to the meaty goodness lol) calcification of the Pineal Gland a gland that produces Serotonin & Melatonin chemicals that regulate sleep pattetns, control conciousness during sleep stages, dreaming and much more. Calcification reduces chemical & hormone production & brings on insomnia, depression, dementia, makes people lethargic & more
    Pineal Gland also produces METAtonin, DMT based chemical every living thing – plant & animal on the planet can produce, only thing is many humans for the most part have lost the ability to produce successfully produce & maintain METAtonin, biggest reason is Calcification of the Pineal Gland another is a counter chemical we’ve learnt to produce attacks METAtonin when released by the Gland.
    A fetus produces this chemical in abundance until birth, by approx age 4-5 calcification slowly sets in, by adulthood for many calcification so bad & worsens till death, a surge of it is released giving the person visions. Decalcification is possible & METAtonin when used can allow for higher self conciouness, ability for more vivid deeper lucid dreaming, enhanced visual meditation, stronger psychic connections & much more, possibly even self healing & prolonged life.
    There’s a portion of our DNA that is dorment, throughout history few have been able to trigger & use parts of their dormant DNA, studying these people & through other studies scientists believe METAtonin is the key to awakening all our DNA, giving us abilities we never thought possible. If you don’t believe me look it all up.

    • Mike says:

      This all makes good sense… I believe you. Thanks so much. I am at the moment in pain with what I think is a growing kidney stone. I had one before that took me 4 days to pass and being injected every 4 hours with pain killer (meth I think), and never want another.Pain was so bad the Meth only lasted about 60-90 minutes and they gave me 2 panadol then lol. Been trampled by horses, 2 head on car crashes, fell backwards of a roof ladder, bleeding ulcers, beaten to a pulp by 3 thugs, and I would rather all the above at once, than this kidney stone again. It reduced me, a fit and healthy strong man, to a crying baby. Now, after a huge change of diet over the last 2 weeks of milk products and meat, I have this pain once more. At the minute I am drinking 2 cans of beer (as well as 6 glasses of water over the last few hours) to try and flush it. So far the pain is manageable, but scared of what it might become. I hope the beer works.I also have sleep problems, so I will certainly take your advise on Metatoonin. Thanks again Carolyn

    • L1ttl3J1m says:

      > fluride added to drinking water as well as toothpaste, other foods etc IS VERY TOXIC, should NEVER be ingested

      > metatonin

      Ya know, right up untill you were unable to restrain yourself from popping these little dead giveaways into your jolly screed, I was starting to think you might aftually know what you were on about.

    • JH Grismer says:

      Look where in particular? You raise some interesting points and I am interested in understanding more about the relationship of the chemical benefits of certain foods and the bad effects of others. I had prostate cancer ten years ago and multiple bouts of kidney stones. I agree that proper nutrition is a key factor. No one else in my immediate family has had kidney stones, so why me?

  4. John Holmes says:

    I’m in the middle of internally dissolving kidney stones even as I type. This article is correct, there is no medicine that dissolves stones. However, the local grocery store has the three ingredients you need to be free from passing any stones. A pound of asparagus, a six pack of soda pop containing phosphoric acid, and a gallon of spring water. I passed one stone, ever; the first one. With this combo, I’ve avoided passing dozens of stones rver since over the years.

  5. Cheryl says:

    I just had my second procedure for kidney stones. The first procedure was called a lithotripsy which is soundwaves to break up the stones and unfortunately there’s a chance they didn’t break all of them up during the procedure which is why I had to go back a second time. I had a second lithotripsy and a stent put in my ureter & the stones removed during surgery from the doctor. I wanted to share my experience so others would know what to expect. The lithotripsy was absolutely no problem but having a stent put in and that second procedure being a little bit more invasive what is more difficult. I was not prepared that it would take a couple of weeks to feel better and to have the frequent urination and pain to subside. I took Percocet and ibuprofen around-the-clock to feel better. I am almost 2 weeks out of my surgery and just now starting to feel a little bit better & less pain meds thankfully’ Each procedure room is about $6000 so be prepared for that. My final step is to find out what type of stone I have so that I can change my diet.

  6. Dheeraj Upadhyay says:

    My name is Dheeraj Upadhyay. My mother has stones in her right kindey of size 10.7mm. She just had a surgery of gallbladder & stones removal (less than a month). She has sugar as well. The doctor advised us for another surgery of removal kidney stones which i don’t want. As per the doctor, the size of the stone is big & not possible to remove it without surgery.

    Is it possible to remove the stone without surgery & with the help of medicines ?

    Request you to kindly reply & advise accordingly.

  7. Coetta says:

    We are so confused. So many different charts show different items being low medium high or extra high oxalate. It is hard to figure out which one to follow to keep your activate low. What is the best harden list to follow?

    • Dr. Mike Nguyen says:

      I agree that knowing what to eat to limit your oxalate intake can be confusing. I generally recommend avoiding oxalate excess but don’t recommend trying to significantly limit oxalate as this is very difficult to do and is not necessarily useful for all patients. However, for patients who are identified to have high urinary oxalate on a 24 hour urine collection, oxalate intake is more of a concern.

      For more information and real world advice on managing oxalate in your diet, I would suggest you take a look at The University of Chicago’s page on how to eat a low oxalate diet.

  8. Doug Symes says:

    I heard on the radio of a trucker that ate only junk food
    and had a bad case of kidney stones, he was told by his
    Friend who also did this and succeeded,to
    drink a couple of bottles of mineral water a week, after
    6 months the stones were gone.When I was diagnosed
    with kidney stones, I decided to try it and the stones I had
    disappeared after 6 months, my urologist couldn’t
    believe it .

  9. Kodza says:

    Researchers propose new treatment to prevent kidney stones
    Modifier appears to dissolve crystals of the most common kidney stone

    so google article to disolve myth fm truth

    Date: August 8, 2016

  10. Rajvardhan says:

    I have one stones in my both kidney of 4mm and 4.5mm. Does food also causes stone formation? I am very scared by remembering the pain,so I am little bit worried and feared. While passing through urine does it hurt.

    • Suzanne says:

      Let me tell you. I just passed a 3 mm and thought I was going to die! I gave birth to a breech baby that tore me from stem to stern and didn’t utter a cry. The stone, however, I moaned LOUDLY!!!

  11. John says:

    I woke up in the night with terrible pains in my lower back, I could not get comfortable and the next night it was worse, in addition I kept on feeling that I needed to go to the loo, but would only pass a little water. It got worse and in desperation searched the web for information. As soon as I read about the vinegar treatment It made sense to me and I started off with Malt vinegar with water, Not the best taste but I was getting desperate! Within a day or two I felt much better, and switched to Apple Cider Vinegar. It worked for me.
    To my mind, the increase in acid consumption makes the body balance up by urinating the excess and as it passes through the kidneys it starts to dissolve the stone. This works for Calcium stones – and these are the most common stones.
    (I do not know why anyone would drink olive oil unless they are getting mixed up with gall stones which are completely different problem) hope this helps!

    • Grandma Roses says:

      The acid in your stomach, that your body produces every day, is much more acid than any vinegar. If that acid is not enough to work on your kidney stones, no other acid will, either.

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