Is Citric Acid the Key to Fighting and Preventing Kidney Stones?

7 minute read

If you have a kidney stone right now and want to get rid of it, or if you’re looking to prevent future stones, you’re probably looking for all the remedies you can find.

Citric acid is often mentioned in connection with kidney stones, but is this the answer you’ve been seeking? The good news is that there’s a chance it might be. So, let’s take a deeper look and see how citric acid can aid in the prevention of kidney stones and in helping you pass ones that you currently have.

What Are Kidney Stones?

It helps to take a little step backward and first discuss what kidney stones are. Kidney stones are hard deposits of minerals and salts that build up inside your kidneys. They can cause pain and problems anywhere along the urinary tract.

Most people can pass their kidney stones on their own with an increase in fluid intake and some pain relievers. You might also be prescribed an alpha blocker, which is a medication that relaxes the ureter so it’s easier to pass the stone.

On some rare occasions kidney stones will get stuck or there might be an infection and additional treatment is needed. Surgery is one option, or sound waves are used to break up the stones, or a scope is used to remove them.

Whether you’ve had a kidney stone or are looking to prevent them, in addition to increasing your fluid intake, your doctor may suggest adding more citric acid to your diet.

What Is Citric Acid?

Citric acid is found in many fruits and fruit juices, particularly citrus fruits, and is an organic acid. While citric acid is not required in the human diet it can be very beneficial for people with issues with kidney stones.

Citric acid helps break up smaller stones as they’re beginning to form. It has protective qualities that help prevent the formation of stones. It’s very similar to citrate which is found in calcium citrate supplements, and which also helps protect the body from the formation of kidney stones.

How Does Citric Acid Work?

When citric acid moves into the urine it creates an unfavorable environment for kidney stones. It does this by cloaking the small beginnings of stones in acid that clings to the stone and makes it difficult for other material to attach and begin building a larger stone.

If you really want to make the most of citric acid, stick to juice from a lemon or a lime. Oranges, grapefruits, and berries also have citric acid, but not as potent a dose.

Supplements, like potassium citrate, can give you the citric acid you need but you may need up to 12 pills a day to get it. Whereas 4 ounces of pure lemon or lime juice provide that same amount. You can also try simply drinking more lemon water.

How to Add Citric Acid to Your Diet

If you’re now sold on the benefits of using citric acid to prevent further kidney stones from forming but a little confused on how you’re going to stick to a diet that includes citric acid, the following tips will help:

More fruits and vegetables: Increasing your intake of all fruits and vegetables will add citric acid to your diet. It will also add other beneficial nutrients, water from foods, and fiber that help protect you from stones.

Professional juicer: There are electric and hand-held juicers that will help you extract the most liquid from your favorite citrus fruits. Not only do they reduce waste, but they’re easy to use, so it’s not the chore it could be with an old-fashioned twisty juicer.

Make ice cubes: When lemons and limes are on sale, stock up and freeze them. They add zip to drinks and a healthy dose of citric acid. If a full lemon or lime ice cube is too tart for you, fill your ice cube tray about half full with water and then add some lemon and lime juice and freeze.

A spoonful of sugar: As Mary Poppins says, just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. You want to have four ounces of lemon or lime juice a day. You can do it all at once by mixing it with water and a little sugar and making a homemade lemonade. The key is to use just a little bit of sugar.

Marinade: The acid in lemons and limes is perfect for making fish marinades, but it can also work on other meats. It adds a nice level of brightness that contrasts with the savory meat taste.

| Related: Stop Eating These 17 Foods for Better Kidney Health |

Dressing: Try skipping your standard salad dressing and using a freshly squeezed lemon or lime instead. If you just can’t find an appreciation for this, try making a homemade salad dressing that features lemon and lime juice but has other ingredients that you love as well.

Ingredients: Check the ingredients on premade foods to see if they’re high in citric acid. Some of them already are, like lemon-lime soda, making it a convenient option, provided you choose a low-sugar one.

The Bottom Line

Remember, the National Kidney Foundation says, “When life hands you kidney stones, make lemonade.” You don’t get a more resounding recommendation than that.

But as they point out, when opting for lemon and/or lime juice to support kidney health, look for sugar-free or low-sugar options. Sugar can actually increase kidney stone risk, so an overly sweetened lemonade might negate the benefits of citric acid.

While you’re working to increase your citric acid intake, you should also try to boost your fluid intake. The best way to flush out kidney stones and prevent new ones from forming is to have an adequate amount of urine passing through your body regularly, so there’s simply no time for stones to form.

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