Kidney stones are one of the most painful health conditions out there.
Since they’re caused by a combination of factors, kidney stones can affect nearly anyone.
How Kidney Stones Form
Kidney stones are small deposits made of minerals and acid salts that form inside your kidneys. The most common cause of kidney stones is dehydration (1).
When urine is too concentrated, the minerals it contains (like calcium, oxalate, and uric acid) crystallize and stick together, forming stones.
These deposits are incredibly painful to pass and may need to be removed through surgery if they get too big.
According to the Mayo clinic, symptoms of kidney stones include:
- Severe pain in the side and back, below the ribs
- Pain that spreads to the lower abdomen and groin
- Pain that comes in waves and fluctuates in intensity
- Pain on urination
- Pink, red or brown urine
- Cloudy or foul-smelling urine
- Nausea and vomiting
- Persistent need to urinate
- Urinating more often than usual
- Fever and chills if an infection is present
- Urinating small amounts of urine
Drinking plenty of water is the most effective way to prevent kidney stones, as water flushes out stone-forming minerals before they get a chance to crystallize (2).
Looking Towards Lemonade For Kidney Stones
One of the ways doctors treat kidney stones is by prescribing potassium citrate.
Since citrate is a derivative of citric acid, natural sources of the acid, like lemons and limes, provide a natural treatment option.
Steven Y. Nakada, chair and professor of urology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, gave the natural remedy a shot in a lab setting. It worked so well that it’s now a staple of his treatment plan: “When treating patients in our kidney stone center, we put everyone on lemonade therapy,” he says(3).
At a news conference on kidney stone research at the American Urological Association’s annual meeting in Atlanta, Nakada presented the results of his case studies. Nakada found that sugar-free lemonade increased the amount of citrate in his patients’ urine and inhibited the formation of kidney stones.
He hopes that the intervention benefits others too.
“The trend is going to be, if you can make a change in your diet and avoid medications, you are going to try to do that,” Nakada said. “We see lemonade therapy as playing a role [in this trend].”
Fellow researcher David Kang, from Duke University’s Comprehensive Kidney Stone Center, studied the long-term effects of the classic summer drink.
Kang and his team followed 12 patients suffering from chronic kidney stones for 4 years. The patients drank lemonade regularly during this period and experienced a lower incidence of kidney stones.
“None of the patients needed medical intervention over a mean treatment period of four years,” Kang said.
While Kang’s study population is small, it’s very promising. Part of the therapy’s success does involve the citrate in lemons, but its main benefits come from staying hydrated.
“To reduce kidney stones, you have to increase your fluid intake so that you pass 1.5 to 2 liters of urine a day,” said Marshall Stoller, MD, vice chairman of urology and medical director of the urinary stone center at the University of California, San Francisco.
Stoller, Nakada, and Kang have suggestions on what lemonade recipe to use. They recommend mixing 1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice with 7 cups of water and a spoonful or two of honey. You should drink the full batch every day, preferably in the morning and evening.
Preventing kidney stones also involves reducing your intake of salt, animal protein, staying hydrated, and skipping out on calcium supplements, which increase the calcium content of your urine.