Most cases of kidney stones are treatable with pain medications, fluid therapy, or other medical intervention. Also, there are steps people can take to reduce their chances of getting them.
What are kidney stones?
Kidney stones are crystalized minerals and salts, and may be a result of dehydration.
Kidney stones occur when minerals and salts, most commonly calcium oxalate, crystallize in the kidneys and create hard deposits. Although they form in the kidneys, kidney stones can affect any part of the urinary tract.
Kidney stones are also called calculi or urolithiasis.
Dehydration is considered a major contributing factor in the development of kidney stones.
When the body is dehydrated, fluid moves more slowly through the kidneys, increasing the chances of mineral and salt compounds coming into close contact and sticking together.
Small stones may form and pass on their own without causing any symptoms. However, most medium or large stones are extremely painful to pass and require medical attention.
Thirteen home remedies for kidney stones
Before taking any home remedies, it is a good idea to talk with a doctor, especially for people with pre-existing medical conditions or who are taking medications.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not monitor herbs or supplements.
Drinking water is one of the easiest ways to prevent and treat kidney stones. Most health authorities recommend drinking 64 ounces (oz) or eight glasses of water per day.
Drinking 12 glasses per day may help ease the passage or slow the growth of deposits in the kidneys.
2. Lemon juice
Lemons contain citrate, a compound that helps break down calcium deposits and slow their growth. Two 5-oz glasses, the first on an empty stomach first thing in the morning and another a few hours before dinner, may help break down smaller stones.
It is important to examine labels closely when purchasing juice products. Many products labeled as lemon juice contain small amounts of pure lemon extract and high amounts of sweeteners, which can 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.
Basil contains compounds known to help stabilize uric acid levels, making it harder for kidney stones to form. Also, basil contains acetic acid, a chemical known to help dissolve stones.
One teaspoon of basil extract or pure juice per day may help prevent and treat kidney stones.
4. Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar again contains citric acid that may help dissolve calcium deposits.
Two tablespoons of pure apple cider vinegar mixed with 8 oz of water may reduce the symptoms of kidney stones and prevent their development. This mixture can be drunk several times a day and may be most effective when consumed before meals.
5. Wheatgrass juice
Wheatgrass juice can help to expel minerals and salts from the urinary tract, preventing them from crystalizing into kidney stones.
Wheatgrass contains compounds that increase urine production, allowing stones to pass more easily and reducing the risk of their formation.
Wheatgrass also contains antioxidants, which help rid the urinary tract of minerals and salts.
The urinary benefits of wheatgrass are best obtained by consuming 2- to 8-oz of pure extract or juice daily. Supplemental powders or pills are also available at many health stores.
6. Celery juice or seed
Celery contains antioxidants and compounds known to increase urine production. Adding celery seeds to meals on a regular basis may help reduce the likelihood of developing kidney stones.
One or two celery stalks can also be blended with water to create celery juice. Celery juice can be consumed daily to help treat kidney stone symptoms.
7. Uva ursi
The disinfectant and solvent properties of the herb uva ursi may help cleanse the urinary tract and ease the passage of kidney stones.
Some research indicates that 500 milligrams (mg) of pure, dried uva ursi three times daily may be beneficial for those with kidney stones.
8. Kidney bean broth
Kidney beans contain a lot of magnesium, a compound known to help reduce kidney stones and their symptoms.
One way to get the benefits from the beans is to remove them from their pods then slowly boil the pods for approximately 5-6 hours. The resulting liquid can then be strained, ideally using a cheesecloth, and served warm or cooled.
The preparation can be consumed several times throughout the day.
9. Extra-virgin olive oil
Extra-virgin olive oil is a thick, rich oil that may help ease the passage of kidney stones by lubricating the urinary tract.
A 5-oz glass first thing in the morning and late in the afternoon, ideally at the same time as other herbal or home remedies, may reduce pain and discomfort.
10. Tribulus terrestris
Drinks made from the fruits of Tribulus terrestris may help lower phosphate levels in the urine, making it harder for stones to form.
The herb also contains compounds known to increase urine output and help dissolve mineral deposits.
All the parts of the plant and its fruits can be consumed raw. The herb may only be available in pill form or dried for use as a tea. One 500-mg pill, or 1 cup of tea, may be enough to help prevent kidney stones and ease their passage.
11. Pomegranate juice
The astringent and antioxidant properties of pomegranates are thought to reduce the chances of developing kidney stones and ease their passage.
Pomegranate juice also contains compounds that lower the acidity of urine, making it harder for stones to form.
Buying whole pomegranates and eating their seeds or juicing them is the easiest way to get these health benefits.
12. Dandelion extract, tea, or juice
Dandelions contain compounds that increase the production of bile and urine, helping to rid the body of waste.
In a pill or capsule form, 500 mg of dried dandelion extract may help ease the symptoms of kidney stones or prevent their formation. In tea or juice form, 3 to 4 cups daily are recommended.
13. Lose weight
A healthy weight combined with a healthful diet rich in nutritious, fiber-filled foods, is considered essential to the prevention of kidney stones and for their treatment.
Carbonated, caffeinated, and alcoholic drinks can all increase a person's risk of developing kidney stones.
Also, foods high in sugar, salt, or fat are known to increase the risk of kidney deposits and to intensify symptoms.
A diet high in salt may increase the risk of developing kidney stones. Obesity and extreme weight loss are also contributing factors.
According to the most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) kidney stones affect an estimated 8.8 percent of adults in the United States (U.S.).
African Americans and Hispanic Americans are also considered less likely to report kidney stones.
Some medical conditions, including kidney disease or Crohn's disease, can cause or increase the likelihood of developing the condition. In addition, some medications, including diuretics, HIV treatments, anti-seizure medications, and calcium-based antacids, can increase the risk of kidney stones.
Diets high in dehydrating foods and compounds, such as sugar, salt, and alcohol, can contribute to the development of kidney stones. Certain foods, though otherwise nutritious, are also naturally rich in oxalate.
Individuals with a high risk of developing kidney stones may choose to avoid:
- potato chips
- nut butters
- bran flakes
When to see a doctor
A person should seek immediate medical attention if severe pain presents 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 urinary tissues, which usually requires immediate surgery.
Symptoms that should be assessed by a doctor include: