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Home Remedies for Kidney Stones: Natural Ways to Ease Pain + Prevent Future Issues

Citrus water or rollercoasters, anyone? Plus: tips for working to prevent kidney stones in the future

One moment you’re fine, but the next you’re doubled over with a sharp, stabbing pain radiating from your back to your abdomen. It goes away, but then it returns just as searing. Is it what you ate, stress or something more serious? If it turns out to be a kidney stone, these home remedies for kidneys stones can help ease the pain so you can pass the stone as quickly and comfortably as possible.

“Pretty much everybody is surprised when they have the first stone,” says urologist Timothy D. Averch, MD, FACS, Chief of the Division of Urology with Prisma Health-Midlands in Columbia, South Carolina. “For most, it’s found when they have symptoms.”

Beyond the pain, you may have blood in your urine, experience frequent urges to urinate or feel nauseated to the point of vomiting. And if fevers and chills accompany these symptoms, absolutely call your doctor or head to the emergency room, Dr. Averch cautions. “But if you’ve had kidney stones before, or the symptoms are milder, there are certainly ways to manage at home,” he adds.

Here we explain what causes the kidney stones, plus home remedies that ease the discomfort and speed healing.

What are kidney stones?

Kidney stones are hard deposits of minerals and salts that form in the kidneys – organs that remove waste from the blood and produce urine. Stones develop when urine is unable to dilute high concentrations of substances that form crystals and clump together.

Dr. Averch draws a comparison to a classic childhood experiment. “Think back to when you made rock candy as a kid,” he says. “Just like sugar crystals form on a string when submerged in a supersaturated solution, that’s what’s happening in your kidneys when conditions favor stone formation.”

doctor using ultrasound scanner on a woman with a kidney stone
Historically, men got more calcium stones than women, but the gender gap is closing. Getty

Those conditions include a family history of stones, dietary habits, some medical conditions, inadequate hydration as well as the use of certain supplements. Kidney stones can range in size from as small as a grain of sand to as large as a pea. Most will pass unnoticed. However, if a stone lodges in the ureter — the narrow tube connecting the kidney to the bladder — it can obstruct the flow of urine and trigger severe pain and other symptoms.

Most small stones, less than about a quarter of an inch in diameter, pass naturally, with 90% of small kidney stones resolving without intervention. About 60% of larger stones (those about a quarter of an inch) also pass without getting stuck. If a stone is too large or blocks urine flow, you might need a medical procedure to break it up or remove it. Once you’ve had a kidney stone, there’s a 50% chance of recurrence.

The best home remedies for kidney stones

1. Stay hydrated

“Water is a great choice, although there’s no data that says any particular fluid is better. It’s more about generating more urine,” says Dr. Averch. The goal is to produce about 2 liters of urine daily, which corresponds to roughly 2 quarts, he says. To monitor hydration levels, keep an eye on the color of your urine — it should be a very light, pale yellow. Dark yellow urine is often a sign of dehydration.

Beyond water, other liquids count towards your daily hydration. Studies show coffee, tea, and even moderate amounts of alcohol can reduce the risk of developing kidney stones. However, limit soda drinking to one can per day.

lemons and limes can be a home remedy for kidney stones
Citrate, a chemical found in lemons and limes, may help break up small stones, making them easier to pass.Getty

“Just constantly drink,” he says. “The more you drink, the more urine you’ll produce. If there’s a stone stuck and there’s a chance the stone will move or pass by creating more volume, some more pressure behind this stone will hopefully wedge it forward,” says Dr. Averch.

2. Add a squeeze of citrus juice

Adding freshly-squeezed lemon to your water can be one of the most beneficial home remedies for kidney stones. Both contain citrate, a chemical that may help prevent the formation of calcium stones. Drinking about half a cup of pure lemon juice per day diluted with water (the equivalent of two lemons or limes per day) can significantly increase citrate levels in the urine.

“Lemons, limes and other citric fruits help balance pH levels,” Dr. Averch says, noting that citrate leads to a less acidic (or more alkaline) urine environment. This reduces the likelihood of uric acid stones from forming.

3. Ride a roller coaster (yes, really!)

Patients coping with kidney stone discomfort often explore a variety of relief methods. “Some patients find relief lying in a hot tub or using a heating pad, while others prefer to stay active” says Dr. Averch. “There have been two studies of note. One found that riding a roller coaster might help pass a kidney stone, and the other noted that sex could have a similar effect.”

According to the intercourse study, your best chance to pass a small stone naturally is with vigorous sex three to four times a week when symptoms are flaring. “It’s about what makes you feel better and what you can tolerate,” Dr. Averch says.

On the more conventional side, pain relief can be effectively managed with over-the-counter medications including Advil and Tylenol. “The pain typically stems from inflammation and irritation, and these medications can be quite effective,” Dr. Averch says, noting to take these pain killers as directed.

How to prevent kidney stones

Say yes to calcium carbonate

Calcium plays a dual role when it comes to kidney stones that can be confusing. “It’s an old wives’ tale that calcium will cause kidney stones,” says Dr. Averch. “Calcium consumption is almost never the reason they form and calcium is important, particularly for post-menopausal women, both for stone prevention and to prevent osteoporosis.”

Calcium carbonate, found in products like Tums, can prevent stone formation. It works by binding with oxalates in the gut, reducing their absorption into the bloodstream and their subsequent passage through the kidneys. For postmenopausal women, Dr. Averch recommends a daily calcium carbonate (such as Tums) intake of up to 1200 mg.

John Rodman, MD, a New York City-based urologist, says he advises stone formers to take calcium carbonate tablets with meals as opposed to on an empty stomach. “If you take them separate from food you do absorb a little bit more, but taking them with food decreases chances of stones forming,” he notes.

Fill up on fresh produce

Reducing sodium and limiting meat can help keep your urine composition favorable to prevent stone crystallization. “It’s really about moderation,” says Dr. Averch. “Limit the size of meat cuts to the palm of your hand.” Also, incorporating more fiber, fruits, and vegetables into your diet is also beneficial for overall health and stone prevention.

Still, Dr. Averch cautions, such strategies are no guarantees. “If we tell them to stay hydrated, avoid salts, limit the amount of oxalates and all the basic food things, there is no science whatsoever that says you won’t have a kidney stone if you do all that.”

When to see a doctor for kidney stones

Unrelenting pain or fever are signs of a potential emergency and it’s crucial to seek immediate medical care, says Dr. Averch, noting a CT scan is typically used. “We will have an answer in a couple of minutes,” he says. For larger stones, medical interventions might include lithotripsy (breaking the stone with sound waves) or surgical removal.

Dr. Rodman emphasizes the urgency for women to seek prompt medical attention if you run a fever. “Since women get more urinary infections, if you have a fever with the pain, run to the doctor. Because you could have a blocking stone with an infection behind it. That can be lethal.”

For more ways to keep your kidneys healthy:

If You Notice Your Nails Turn This Color, It Could Be an Early Warning Sign of Kidney Disease

MD Reveals the Kitchen Staple That Outsmarts Painful Kidney Stones For Pennies

The 7 Best Ways To Prevent Kidney Stones, According to MDs

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

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