Just when you think you can eat or drink your favorite foods and beverages without worry, something surprising makes you think twice. When researchers asked the question about whether or not coffee causes kidney stones, the world took notice.

What’s the Answer?

coffee

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So, does coffee cause kidney stones? The short answer is no. While some food and drinks cause kidney stones, coffee is not one of them. Coffee actually can help prevent kidney stones.

Researchers have studied nearly 50,000 people to see what type of beverages increased the risk of kidney stones. They found that coffee, in its caffeinated form, was not harmful. It actually reduced the chances of kidney stones forming by over 25 percent. In a later study, researchers found the same results with decaffeinated coffee, although the percentage was smaller.

What are Kidney Stones?

So, does coffee cause kidney stones? The short answer is no. While some food and drinks cause kidney stones, coffee is not one of them. Coffee actually can help prevent kidney stones.

Researchers have studied nearly 50,000 people to see what type of beverages increased the risk of kidney stones. They found that coffee, in its caffeinated form, was not harmful. It actually reduced the chances of kidney stones forming by over 25 percent. In a later study, researchers found the same results with decaffeinated coffee, although the percentage was smaller.

What Causes Kidney Stones?

almonds

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Several types of foods encourage the growth of kidney stones. Animal proteins, salty foods, and foods that have high levels of oxalate which is a substance in many foods. Oxalate attaches to calcium as food is digesting to help it move through the digestive system. If oxalate does not bind to calcium, it will move into the kidneys.

When oxalate moves through the kidneys, it can become a kidney stone. The stones form when you do not have enough urine in your kidneys. Calcium oxalate will crystalize, then the crystals join to form a kidney stone.

Oxalate Kidney Stones

cocoa powder

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There are several different types of foods that are high in oxalate. So, instead of avoiding these foods, it is better to drink plenty of water. Some of the high-oxalate foods include:

  • Tree nuts, like almonds and cashews
  • Beets
  • Bran cereal
  • Spinach
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Baked potatoes
  • Cocoa powder
  • Raspberries
  • French friends
  • Vitamin C

Calcium Phosphate Kidney Stones

Calcium phosphate kidney stones are caused by different foods than oxalate stones. These are caused by calcium in the urinary tract binding with phosphate. They tend to occur when urine is not hydrated, and you eat animal proteins, highly processed foods, and too much sodium. Pair this with high-alkaline urine and calcium phosphate stones are likely to happen.

Urine can become higher in alkaline when you drink fruit or vegetable juice. Processed foods often include a high level of phosphorus, so watch your intake of processed lunch meat, colas, and fast foods. If you read the ingredients, stay on the lookout for “phos” in the list.

Cystine Kidney Stones

The third type of kidney stone is called a cystine stone. These are hereditary. Cystine stones are also the most painful because they are the largest of the three types. Some people develop these because their bodies make cysteine and it enters their urinary tract.

Cystine stones prefer acidic urine, which is the complete opposite of what calcium phosphate stones find beneficial for their growth. Urine can become acidic when you eat lots of meat. Cystine stones will not develop if urine is hydrated. These stones also tend to form when there is too much salt in the digestive system.  

While coffee has been found to reduce the chance of kidney stones developing, researchers have yet to determine how the beverage actually does it. Researchers do know that caffeine and coffee can actually cause dehydration as both have diuretic properties. So, if you drink coffee throughout the day, be sure to drink water, too.

Researchers advise drinking less than 10 cups of coffee each day. They recommend drinking no more than three 8-ounce cups per day. If you find that coffee keeps you up at night, you should drink less.

Coffee actually has some beneficial nutrients. One of those is potassium. While it is technically considered a low-potassium food, drinking several cups can improve your potassium levels. Do not want to drink too much coffee, because the caffeine will increase your blood pressure and keep you awake at night.

Caffeine will spike blood pressure. So, people who are taking medication to control their blood pressure should watch their caffeine intake. For some people, the blood pressure spike can be problematic.

People often add sweeteners and different milk to their coffees. These additives can take away the health benefits of coffee. Creamers usually include phosphates. So if you are drinking coffee to avoid kidney stones, read your creamer ingredients! There are phosphate-free creamers, like this dairy-free half-and-half creamer.

How to Avoid Getting Kidney Stones

Unfortunately, people who have had kidney stones tend to get them again. But there are some preventative measures that people can take to avoid getting more — understanding what you eat and what type of stones you have had can help you learn how to prevent getting them again.

The best recommendation is to drink around 64 ounces of water each day. You do not have to drink only water, either. Citrate found in lemonade or other citrus-based juices can help prevent kidney stones from forming. But, do not consume too much vitamin C, because it can also encourage kidney stone growth.

Nearly every beverage can help keep you hydrated. Since kidney stones develop when the body is dehydrated, and urine is not dilute. When you drink water and other liquids, your urine gets enough water, so tiny crystals that could become kidney stones are flushed out of the system before they are problematic.

Get Enough Calcium Each Day

Doctors also recommend eating food that is loaded with calcium or to take a supplement. If you do not have enough calcium, oxalate doesn’t have enough to bind to so it moves into the urinary tract. Adult men need at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily. To metabolize it, they should pair it with at least 800 international units of vitamin D.

Women over 50 need at least 1,200 milligrams of calcium paired with 1000 international units of vitamin D. Women under 50 need the same as adult men. It is best to eat foods that are high in calcium because supplements do not help the body prevent kidney stones.

Watch Your Sodium

Along with eating calcium-rich foods, you should reduce your sodium intake. American diets have way too much sodium, and most people get more than the recommended daily intake of 2,300 mg. To reduce kidney stones from developing, try not to eat more than 1,500 mg each day.

The biggest problem with Americans and their sodium intake is not the salt shaker. Heavily processed foods contain the most sodium So, before you stop shaking salt over your eggs in the morning, take a look at the ingredients in the pre-packaged meals you eat. You might be surprised.

Limit Your Animal Protein

Health care providers recommend decreasing animal protein in your diet. If you must eat eggs, seafood, and meat, you should be sure that your portions are about the size of a deck of playing cards. Animal protein increases uric acid which helps kidney stones develop and grow. But, remember that you do not need to avoid all of these foods, eat them in small amounts.

Interestingly, healthy foods contain oxalates. Many of the foods that have high levels of oxalate also have other beneficial minerals like magnesium and potassium. Many also are loaded with healthy fiber. Instead of removing high-oxalate foods from your diet, consider eating a balanced diet, so your digestive tract functions properly.

Eat Plenty of Healthy Foods

vegetables and fruits

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Eat more fruits and vegetables to decrease your chances of developing kidney stones. Both have plenty of water, so they can help keep the body hydrated. They also include beneficial nutrients that reduce the risk of kidney stones, too.

Also, add healthy bacteria to the diet. Researchers are looking closely at the microbiome in the gut to see if fermented and cultured foods can reduce the risk of kidney stones, too. Yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut add healthy bacteria into the digestive tract.

If you get kidney stones regularly, you should schedule a visit to your urologist. You should also see a registered dietician for help with analyzing your diet so you can make the necessary changes.

Some people can eat whatever they want and never develop kidney stones. But, there are also people who eat balanced diets and drink plenty of fluids and still develop kidney stones. Fortunately, both camps of people can benefit from the knowledge that coffee, both caffeinated and decaffeinated, does not cause kidney stones.

Just watch the amount you drink daily, so you do not get dehydrated. And, watch the additives that you put into your coffee, so you do not decrease the benefits of your daily cup of joe.

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