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Kidney stones are hard deposits that form in the kidneys. These stones have to travel through the urinary tract to exit the body. Passing a kidney stone can be very painful. However, there are options for managing kidney stone development and pain at home.
Most cases of kidney stones are treatable with pain medications, fluid therapy, or another type of medical intervention. There are also steps people can take to reduce their risk of developing kidney stones.
Not all of these remedies require a prescription, or even a medication. However, if kidney stones become too painful, it is best to seek medical attention.
In this article, we discuss six methods for preventing or managing kidney stones at home.
Before trying any home remedies for kidney stones, it is important to seek consultation with a doctor, especially when a person has an underlying medical condition or takes medications regularly.
Also, although many of these remedies may help relieve the symptoms or reduce the risk of future recurrences, kidney stones can cause intense pain. Home remedies may be best alongside more traditional treatments.
Some people may even need surgery to extract or break up the stones, as well as intravenous pain medication.
The sections below discuss some home remedies for easing the symptoms of kidney stones.
1. Drink water
Drinking water is one of the easiest ways to treat and prevent kidney stones, as dehydration is one of the main causes.
Most health authorities recommend drinking six to eight glasses of water per day to prevent dehydration.
2. Drink lemon juice
Lemons contain citrate, a compound that helps break down calcium deposits and slow their growth.
A 2019 cross-sectional study found that sugar-free lemon juice was an effective remedy for kidney stones.
In fact, consuming only 4 ounces of lemon juice can increase citrate levels effectively.
It is important to examine labels carefully when purchasing juice products. Many lemon juice products contain small amounts of pure lemon extract and high amounts of sweeteners, which can actually increase the risk of kidney stones.
Buying pure extract or purchasing fresh lemons and squeezing them at home are the easiest ways to get undiluted lemon juice. Good alternatives include melon and orange juice, which both contain high levels of citric acid.
3. Consume apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar also has citric acid content that may help dissolve calcium deposits.
A 2019 study of over 9,000 people found that those who consumed vinegar had a significantly lower risk of kidney stones.
However, more research will be necessary to confirm the benefits of apple cider vinegar, specifically, as a standalone natural remedy for kidney stones.
4. Manage weight
Although this does not suggest causality, there may be a link between weight and kidney stones. The study authors believe that metabolic conditions such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure may contribute to kidney stone formation.
Managing body weight and adopting a nutritious, balanced diet are important steps for the prevention and treatment of kidney stones.
5. Avoid sugary or caffeinated drinks
Carbonated, caffeinated, and alcoholic drinks can all increase a person’s risk of developing kidney stones.
Also, foods high in sugar, salt, and fat are known to increase the risk of kidney deposits and intensify the symptoms.
6. Meet the daily calcium requirements
For people with calcium oxalate stones, which are the most common kind, finding sources of calcium can help them meet their daily calcium requirement and manage their risk of kidney stones.
It is important to note that taking calcium supplements can increase the risk of kidney stones, as they may provide more than the recommended daily intake. Obtaining calcium from food sources, however, can help reduce the risk.
People can get calcium from:
- dairy products
- Chinese cabbage
- fish with soft, edible bones
- calcium-enriched cereals and juices
According to the most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, around 8.8% of adults in the United States have kidney stones.
Males are more likely to develop kidney stones than females. Specifically, around 10.6% of males in the U.S. experience kidney stones, compared with 7.1% of females.
Some estimates suggest that African American and Hispanic American people are also less likely to report kidney stones.
Some medical conditions, including kidney disease and Crohn’s disease, can cause kidney stones or increase the likelihood of developing them.
Particular medications can also increase the risk of kidney stone formation, including:
- HIV treatments
- antiseizure medications
- calcium-based antacids
Obesity and diet are also primary risk factors for kidney stones. In the U.S., around 11.2% of people with obesity develop kidney stones.
Diets high in dehydrating foods and compounds — such as sugar, salt, and alcohol — may also contribute to the development of kidney stones.
Specific foods, though otherwise nutritious, are also naturally rich in oxalate. People with a high risk of developing kidney stones may therefore wish to avoid the following foods:
- buckwheat flour
- sesame seeds
- chocolate soy milk
- Swiss chard
Kidney stones develop when minerals and salts, most commonly calcium oxalate, crystallize in the kidneys and create hard deposits. Although they form in the kidneys, these stones can occur in any part of the urinary tract.
Kidney stones are also known as calculi, or urolithiasis.
Dehydration is a major contributing factor in the development of kidney stones. When the body dehydrates, fluid moves more slowly through the kidneys, increasing the likelihood of mineral and salt compounds meeting and sticking together.
Small stones may form and pass on their own without causing any symptoms. However, most medium and large stones are extremely painful to pass and require medical attention.
A person should seek immediate medical attention if they experience severe pain in the lower abdomen or genitals. Many kidney stones are treatable using fluid therapy and pain medications.
However, stones can get stuck in the urinary tract or damage the urinary tissues. This usually requires immediate surgery.
A doctor should assess the following symptoms:
- persistent lower abdominal or lower back pain lasting longer than 4 weeks
- fever or chills
- bloody urine
- loss of consciousness
- painful urination
- cloudy or foul-smelling urine
People can use some home remedies for smaller kidney stones. However, for many medium and larger kidney stones, it may be necessary to seek more conventional treatments and use these home remedies as supporting therapies.
Are there any home remedies for pain relief that work for kidney stones?
First, walk around during the pain. For most people, movement will help ease the discomfort. Also, try gentle stretches.
It may also help to take a hot bath or shower, or apply a heating pad to the area for 20–30 minutes at a time, a few times per day. Sip fluids continually to keep the kidneys flushing, and take any pain pills with food.
When sleeping, lie on the side that has the kidney stone, as this may help it move through the body.
However, if a person is unable to keep food down or their pain is increasing, they should seek medical care.
Debra Rose Wilson, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.