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Risk Factors for Kidney Stones

Risk Factors for Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are chemical deposits that form in a person’s kidneys. These are usually caused by a buildup of chemicals, oftentimes the result of an unhealthy diet.

Kidney stones are “stones” that have formed from certain chemicals. These chemicals come to a point of concentration when they form into crystals. When these masses make their way through the urinary tract and get stuck, they can cause intense pain.

Aside from pain, kidney stones can cause infection which can also have fatal. It’s important to address this issue immediately to mitigate the risk factors for kidney stones to keep the kidneys healthy.

4 Types of kidney stones

There are four main types of kidney stones depending on the chemical buildup. These are the following:

Calcium oxalate stones

These types of kidney stones are the most common, and result from the buildup of calcium oxalate in the kidneys. Calcium oxalate is usually found in green leafy vegetables and nuts.

Struvite stones

These are the result of a buildup of magnesium and ammonia, which are waste products of the body. Struvite stones are usually caused by urinary tract infections or UTIs.

Uric acid stones

Uric acid stones are most common in people who have gout, because of the high concentration of uric acid in their urine.

Cystine stones

These are the least common type of kidney stones. These are caused by the build-up of cystine, which is a type of amino acid. Cystine stones are usually hereditary.

Calcium phosphate stones

These are primarily caused by having too much sodium in the diet. This is commonly caused by eating too much salty or processed foods.

What are the risk factors for kidney stones?

Factors that increase your risk of developing kidney stones include:

Family and genetics

If someone in your family has experienced it, you are most likely to experience it too.

Personal history

If you’ve already had kidney stones before, you may experience them again. You are at a higher risk of developing them.

Not drinking enough fluids

If you are often dehydrated, you put yourself at higher risk of developing the condition because your urine can become concentrated. People who exercise and sweat a lot are more susceptible to kidney stones.

Certain diets

Those who consume a lot of protein, sugar, and salty food are more likely to develop kidney stones, especially with the latter. Too much sodium in your diet can overwork your kidneys and increase the calcium your organs must filter.


Being overweight has been seen to increase risk of kidney stones.

Digestive diseases

Those who suffer from inflammatory bowel disease or chronic diarrhea may experience changes in their digestion, affecting how calcium and stone-forming substances are filtered in your system. Those seen to be at higher risk of developing kidney disease are those with renal tubular acidosis, cystinuria, hyperparathyroidism, and repeated urinary tract infections also can increase your risk of kidney stones.

Certain supplements and medication

The following have also been shown to be linked to higher kidney stone cases – vitamin C, laxatives, dietary supplements, calcium-based antacids and medication used for depression and migraines.

Among the risk factors of kidney stones, a person’s diet is the major factor for the development of kidney stones.

How can you lower your risk of kidney stones?

Now that we know the risk factors of kidney stones, knowing how to lower that risk.

Here are some ways to lower the risk of kidney stones:

  1. Eat a balanced diet

Having a balanced diet helps ensure that you don’t eat too much stone-forming foods. This also helps keep your weight under control.

Being at a healthy weight lowers your chances of health problems that might make you more prone to having kidney stones.

  1. Exercise more

Along with eating healthy foods, exercising for at least 30 minutes each day is essential if you want to stay fit and healthy. This helps keep your weight down, and lowers the risk of having conditions that can potentially cause you to develop stones in your kidney.

  1. Drink more water

When you’re dehydrated, the body is unable to flush out the substances that cause kidney stones. Try to drink plenty of fluids, around eight standard 8oz cups. Lemonade and orange juice are also known to help prevent kidney stone formation.

Drinking water is very important if you’re particularly active, since you lose more water when you exercise. This water loss can potentially contribute to kidney stones, so be sure to keep yourself hydrated at all times.

  1. Make sure to have enough calcium in your diet

Contrary to popular belief, calcium can actually help prevent kidney stones from forming. If you have too little calcium in your body, the levels of oxalates will rise, and this can contribute to the development of kidney stones.

You can take supplements to get your daily requirement of calcium, but it would be best to get it from natural sources such as milk, cheese, broccoli, spinach, and tofu.Taking calcium via supplements has been linked to higher kidney stone occurrence.

As recommended, men (50 and older) should get 1,000mg of calcium daily, along with 800-1,000 IU of vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium.

  1. Lower your salt intake

Too much sodium can cause kidney stones because sodium increases the levels of calcium in your urine. Calcium can build up and cause kidney stones as well.

  1. Avoid eating too much meat

Eating too much animal protein like meat, eggs, and seafood can increase the levels of uric acid in your body, which can contribute to the growth of kidney stones. In addition, a high-protein diet reduces citrate levels in the body which help in the prevention of stone formation. If you are at higher risk of developing kidney stones, limit meat consumption to portions no bigger than a pack of playing cards daily.

risk factors for kidney stones

  1. Limit your consumption of stone-forming foods

Eating too many nuts, chocolate, as well as drinking tea or coffee can all contribute to the development of kidney stones in your body. Avoid or consumer in smaller amounts the following which is high in oxalate:

  • Beets
  • Chocolate
  • Spinach
  • Rhubarb
  • Tea
  • Nuts
  • Cola (rich in phosphate)

It’s okay to eat these foods in moderate amounts, but be sure to monitor your intake and not eat too much.

Learn more about Kidney Disease here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Kidney Stones: Symptoms and causes, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/kidney-stones/symptoms-causes/syc-20355755, Accessed Dec 15, 2020

How to prevent kidney stones, https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/how-to-prevent-kidney-stones, Accessed Dec 15, 2020

Kidney stones: A to Z, https://www.health.harvard.edu/a_to_z/kidney-stones-a-to-z, Accessed Dec 15, 2020

Eating, Diet, & Nutrition for Kidney Stones – Can I help prevent kidney stones by changing what I eat or drink?, https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/kidney-stones/eating-diet-nutrition, Accessed Dec 15, 2020

The Kidney Stone Diet: Not as restrictive as you may think, https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-kidney-stone-diet-not-as-restrictive-as-you-may-think, Accessed Dec 15, 2020

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Written by Jan Alwyn Batara Updated Apr 19
Medically reviewed by John Paul Ferolino Abrina, M.D.