Citric acid is a component of ordinary lemons and limes, and may be beneficial for reducing the risk of kidney stones. It appears to do this by preventing calcium from binding to other substances that form stones, and by coating existing stones and preventing them from binding to each other and becoming larger. Citric acid may also help to break up existing stones.
Citrate – a derivative of citric acid found in some medications and supplements – may have a similar effect. However, it’s probably a lot more pleasant for most of us (and a lot cheaper) to drink some home-made lemonade than to swallow pills several times a day!
Suggestions for increasing citric acid intake
- Squeeze half a lemon into a glass of water a couple of times a day and drink.
- Include lemon in dressings for salad. For instance, you can make a simple dressing from lemon juice and pure olive oil, or just use the lemon juice straight.
- Use lemon or lime juice as an ingredient in marinades for fish or chicken dishes.
- If you have lots of lemons on hand, squeeze the juice and make it into ice cubes for adding to water or other drinks along with some citrus slices.
- You can also consider including other foods that contain citric acid in your diet. These include oranges, most berries, pineapple, tomatoes and capsicum. Increasing your dietary fruit and vegetables in general can help reduce the risk of developing stones.
- Make your own lemonade by combining half a cup of lemon juice to a jug of water with some sugar or sugar substitute to taste. Add some sparkling water if you want a fizzy lemonade drink. Don’t overdo the sweetened drinks if you are at a high risk of developing kidney stones though, or if you need to reduce your sugar intake or lose weight.
- As always, if you have health issues that might be affected a change in your diet or food intake speak to your GP or specialist before you make any changes.
Of course lemon juice on its own may not be enough to combat kidney stones. According to the US National Kidney Foundation, other measures include reducing your intake of salt, and also purines (found in organ meats and shellfish). Alcohol reduces the removal of uric acid from your body so it should be kept to a minimum. It’s also important to keep well hydrated.
Excessive sweating can also increase the risk of kidney stones as it reduces the production of urine. If you produce a lot of sweat – such as through exercise or hot weather – make sure you drink plenty of plain water to compensate.
If you have or suspect you may have kidney stones, consult with a kidney stone specialist to discuss treatments, management and prevention.