Kidney stones are hard deposits made of minerals and salts that form inside your kidneys. They develop when your urine contains more crystal-forming substances, such as calcium, oxalate and uric acid, than the fluid in your urine can dilute. Small kidney stones may pass through your urinary tract on their own, but larger ones can get stuck and cause severe pain.
Drinking certain juices may help prevent kidney stones from forming and facilitate their passage when present. Some of the best juices for kidney stones include:
Lemon juice is rich in citrate, a natural chemical that helps prevent kidney stones from forming. Citrate binds to calcium and stops crystals from growing larger. Multiple studies show that lemon juice increases urinary citrate and urine volume, creating an environment that discourages kidney stones.
One study gave people with recurring calcium oxalate stones lemonade made with freshly squeezed lemon juice. Drinking lemonade raised their urinary citrate levels and reduced calcium crystal formation compared to drinking plain water.
Drinking pure lemon juice or lemonade made from real lemons is best. Bottled varieties often contain artificial flavors instead of real lemon juice.
Pomegranate juice contains antioxidants and other plant compounds that may help prevent calcium oxalate crystals from turning into stones. Research shows that drinking pomegranate juice raises urine pH and magnesium levels, while lowering calcium and oxalate levels — chemical changes that discourage kidney stones.
In one study, people with recurrent kidney stones who drank around 10 ounces (300 ml) of pomegranate juice daily for nearly 3 years had a lower risk of developing new stones, compared to the control group.
Choose fresh pomegranate juice with no added sugar. You can also eat whole pomegranates — the seeds are the edible part.
Drinking cranberry juice regularly may reduce your risk of calcium oxalate kidney stones. Cranberries contain quinic acid, an organic compound with antioxidant effects. Quinic acid is thought to inhibit the crystallization of calcium oxalate, preventing stones.
A recent 9-year study in over 190,000 healthcare professionals found a 16% lower risk of kidney stones in those who consumed the most cranberries, compared with the lowest consumers. The beneficial effects were linked to juice over other cranberry products.
Choose cranberry juice with no added sugar and avoid cranberry cocktail blends which are high in added sugars. You can also eat cranberries whole or dried.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) may prevent kidney stones and help pass them more quickly. ACV contains acetic acid, which increases urine acidity and makes conditions less hospitable to kidney stone formation. The acetic acid in ACV may also break down kidney stones into smaller pieces so they can pass more easily.
A study in rats with kidney stones found that treatment with ACV significantly increased urine output and stone-passing, compared to the control group. Another rat study showed that giving potassium citrate and ACV together was more effective than potassium citrate alone.
To use ACV for kidney stones, add 2 teaspoons (10 ml) to a large glass of water and drink it with meals. You can also find ACV capsules if you don’t like the taste.
Drinking lemon-lime soda may be an easy way to increase fluid intake and citrate levels to prevent kidney stones. Lemon-lime soda is naturally high in citrate due to the citric acid and fruit juice concentrates used to flavor it.
One study had people with recurrent kidney stones drink at least 2 liters of lemon-lime soda daily, which raised their urinary citrate significantly. After 1 year, only 1 person out of 12 developed a kidney stone.
Choose soda sweetened with real sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup. Avoid cola and dark sodas, which contain phosphoric acid that may promote stones.
Tart Cherry Juice
Tart cherry juice is rich in antioxidants and may discourage kidney stone formation. One study gave people prone to stones tart cherry juice concentrate or a placebo daily for 4 weeks. Those who drank cherry juice increased their urinary pH and oxalate levels while lowering uric acid levels.
Tart cherry juice may also help relieve pain associated with kidney stones. In another study, taking tart cherry capsules reduced pain levels in people passing kidney stones.
Look for tart cherry juice concentrate without added sugars. You can also eat fresh or dried tart cherries.
Drinking grapefruit juice daily may help prevent calcium oxalate kidney stones. Grapefruit juice is rich in citrate, which bind to calcium and prevent stones from forming.
One study gave people prone to calcium oxalate stones about 10 ounces (300 ml) of grapefruit juice concentrate daily for 3 days, followed by a week of 100% grapefruit juice. Both treatments significantly increased their urinary citrate and pH.
Choose freshly squeezed grapefruit juice and avoid juice blends with added sugars. Eat whole grapefruits as well.
Some herbal teas may protect against kidney stones by increasing your fluid intake and urine production. Popular choices include:
- Dandelion tea: Dandelion acts as a diuretic, meaning it increases urine output to flush out your kidneys. It also raises magnesium levels while reducing calcium.
- Nettle leaf tea: Nettle increases urine volume and the flow of urine, helping flush the kidneys.
- Chamomile tea: Chamomile is smooth muscle relaxant that may help soothe urinary tract muscles to facilitate passing kidney stones.
- Lemon balm tea: Lemon balm contains citrate so it may discourage kidney stone formation like lemon juice.
Herbal teas are a low calorie option to increase your fluid intake. Steep the dried herbs according to package directions.
One of the most important things you can do to prevent kidney stones is stay hydrated. Dehydration is a major risk factor for kidney stones, as low fluid intake decreases urine volume. This allows stone-forming minerals to crystallize and clump together.
Drinking adequate water dilutes your urine and flushes out your kidneys. This helps prevent stones from forming and allows small ones to pass easily.
Health authorities recommend drinking about 13 cups (3 liters) of fluids daily, mainly from water. Include other healthy beverages like herbal tea and juices recommended for kidney stones.
Other Tips to Prevent Kidney Stones
Drinking certain juices may lower your risk of developing painful kidney stones. Here are some other ways to keep your kidneys healthy and stone-free:
- Eat a diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Reduce salt, red meat and animal protein.
- Get enough calcium daily, but avoid calcium supplements if you have a history of stones.
- Limit foods high in oxalates like spinach, nuts and chocolate if you tend to form oxalate stones.
- Eat foods rich in magnesium like avocados, bananas, beans and quinoa.
- Avoid crash diets and rapid weight loss, which increase uric acid and calcium in the urine.
- Stay physically active and maintain a healthy body weight.
See a healthcare professional regularly to monitor your kidney health. Some medications can also help prevent recurrent kidney stones.
When to See a Doctor
Make sure to consult your healthcare provider about persistent symptoms. Seek urgent medical attention if you experience:
- Severe pain that comes in waves and won’t go away with painkillers
- Pain accompanied by fever, chills, vomiting or bleeding
- Cloudy or foul-smelling urine
- Difficulty passing urine
Small stones under 5 mm may pass naturally. However, larger ones may require medications or surgical procedures. Your doctor can help determine any underlying causes and recommend specific treatment.
Kidney stones develop when minerals crystallize and form hard deposits in your kidneys. Drinking juices high in citrate and antioxidants may help prevent kidney stones from forming and facilitate their passage if present.
The best juices for kidney stones include lemon, pomegranate, cranberry, apple cider vinegar, lemon-lime soda, tart cherry, grapefruit juice and herbal teas. Staying hydrated with water and following preventative diet and lifestyle measures are also important.
See your doctor for evaluation if you experience severe symptoms like pain or difficulty urinating. Small stones may pass naturally with increased fluids, while larger ones may require medical treatment.