Kidney stones can be a real pain. When mineral levels get too high, stones will form inside the kidneys. This post explores what kidney stones are, how they are caused, and whether or not apple cider vinegar for kidney stones is a practical treatment.
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Table of Contents
What Are Kidney Stones?
Kidney stones get their name from the hard compounds that form in the kidneys. High elevations of calcium, oxalate, urate, cystine, xanthine, and phosphate build up in the urine.
These minerals bind together with other substances and become a hard mass.
Stones are then deposited into the kidneys. Some will move through the urinary tract and land in the ureter.
Some kidney stones can pass through the body easily. However, bigger stones will back up urine in the kidney, ureter, bladder and/or urethra. Pain is a direct result of this blockage.
Types of Kidney Stones
There are four main types of kidney stones:
- Calcium oxalate
- Uric acid
A calcium oxalate stone is the most common kidney stone. It forms when calcium binds with oxalate in the urine.
Uric acid stones are the second leading cause of this condition.
Struvite stones are seen less often. Cystine stones are hereditary and also a rare occurrence.
What Causes Kidney Stones?
Kidney stones happen more often than you may realize. According to The National Kidney Foundation, every year more than a half-million people go to the emergency room for this condition.
Consequently, about one in ten people are likely to have a kidney stone at some time in their life.
Typical reasons for kidney stone formation include
- Not getting enough water
- Too little or too much exercise
- Weight loss surgery
- A diet high in sugar (especially fructose)
- Getting too much salt
There are also specific causes as to why different stones may form.
Uric acid stones are a result of a high level of monosodium urate. This compound is formed when foods with high purines like organ meats and shellfish are consumed.
Struvite stones are a consequence of a buildup of ammonia in the urine. Ammonia is produced by bacteria from urinary tract infections.
Poor fluid and calcium intake are other reasons that calcium oxalate stones form.
Risk Factors Increase the Chances of Kidney Stones
Incidences of kidney stones have increased about six percent over the last 40 years. In addition, men are more likely to get this condition with a lifetime risk of 19 percent.
Women, on the other hand, have a lower incidence of kidney stone formation with only a 9 percent risk.
Other things that increase the risk of kidney stones include the following
- Having a relative with kidney stones
- Surgeries that affect your absorption of water and calcium
- High blood pressure
- Being obese
- Diets high in protein, salt, or sugar
- Cystinuria (excess cysteine in the urine)
What are the Symptoms of Kidney Stones?
Symptoms of kidney stones include the following:
- Severe pain on either side of your lower back
- More vague pain or stomach ache that doesn’t go away
- Blood in the urine
- Nausea or vomiting
- Fever and chills
- Urine that smells bad or looks cloudy
Typically, the larger the stone, the more predominant the symptoms.
How Are Kidney Stones Diagnosed?
Kidney stones are diagnosed with a medical history, physical examination, and imaging tests.
A high-resolution CT scan is taken from the kidneys down to the bladder. A kidney-ureter-bladder x-ray (KUB x-ray) may also be done. The KUB x-ray will determine what type of treatment should be done.
Some people will need an intravenous pyelogram (IVP) x-ray. This injects a dye into the urology system to get a better picture of the kidney stone.
In addition, blood and urine tests will evaluate the overall health of the kidneys. After removal, the stone will be analyzed. Then calcium, phosphorus, and uric acid levels will be retested.
Urine samples may also be collected for up to 24 hours to check for the presence of calcium and uric acid.
Treatment Options for Kidney Stones
The size of the stone, its symptoms, and any other complications will determine whether home remedies or medical interventions should be implemented.
Medical Treatment for Kidney Stones
Some people can pass kidney stones without any problems. On the other hand, if the stone causes irritation or blockage.
Your doctor may also prescribe medication. Medicines to prevent uric acid production are often given for uric acid kidney stones.
The stone can also be blasted by shock-wave lithotripsy. This non-invasive procedure uses high-energy sound waves to shatter the stone(s) to bits. Treating kidney stones with this technique makes it easier to pass the stone(s) through the urine.
Ureteroscopy is another procedure done to destroy the kidney stone. An endoscope is inserted into the ureter where it will obliterate the stone.
Surgery is often the last resort and used in only severe cases. This happens when the stone is too large to pass, it blocks the flow of urine, and/or there is infection.
Two surgical procedures that remove kidney stones are nephrolithotomy and nephrolithotripsy.
Nephrolithotomy removes the kidney stone through a surgical tube.
Nephrolithotripsy combines lithotripsy and sugary. The stone is first crushed by sound waves and then vacuumed out of the body.
At Home Remedies for Kidney Stones
If your condition is less severe you can treat kidney stones naturally with at-home remedies. These include
- Olive oil
- Citrate rich foods
- Calcium rich foods
- Avoid foods high in oxalates
- Magnesium-rich foods
- Potassium-rich foods
- Lower salt
- Cut back on sugar
- Reduce animal protein intake
- Apple cider vinegar
Olive Oil for Kidney Stones
Olive oil for kidney stones is a popular at-home remedy. The thought behind this remedy is that the olive oil will lubricate the stone to make it easier to pass. Unfortunately, this has been debunked as a myth.
Staying hydrated improves kidney stones. So be sure to drink plenty of plain unsweetened water throughout the day. Getting even just one 8 ounce glass can decrease your risk of kidney stones. So be sure to sip throughout the day.
Citrate Rich Foods
Citrate is a substance in lemon and oranges. It decreases calcium excretion while increasing citrate levels in the urine. Citrate binds with calcium and prevents calcium oxalate stones from forming. An easy way to get more citrate is by adding citrus foods to your water.
Calcium Rich Foods
Inadequate calcium intake may lead to calcium oxalate stones. More dairy and plant-based calcium foods like fortified bread and cereals, broccoli, seaweed, and beans are recommended for a good source of calcium.
Avoid Foods High in Oxalates
A high intake of oxalate foods can also cause oxalate stones. They include leafy greens, nuts, beans, legumes, and grains. These foods tend to be healthy so you don’t want to avoid them altogether, but you should be aware of their oxalate content.
One thing to note about oxalates is that pairing them with calcium food will lower the likelihood of stones forming. This is because the two minerals bind together before getting to the kidneys. If you’re looking for a full list of oxalate foods you can see this post.
Magnesium and Potassium Rich Foods
Adding magnesium and potassium-rich foods to your diet can prevent calcium oxalate stones from forming. This nutrient may also reduce oxalate absorption in the gut. If you have a restriction in one of these nutrients you can ask your renal RD about other ways to improve kidney stones.
Other dietary measures that can help remedy your kidney stones are cutting back on sugar, salt, and animal proteins.
Apple Cider Vinegar
“How to pass kidney stones fast at home” is a claim often seen attached to apple cider vinegar. The next section will discuss its health benefits and if apple cider vinegar for kidney stones really works.
Apple Cider Vinegar Health Benefits
When you google the words “apple cider vinegar” there is a barrage of health benefits that come up. It is boasted to cure everything from digestion and weight loss to cholesterol and blood pressure.
There is some truth behind the apple cider vinegar weight loss connection. In the short term, people taking apple cider vinegar will feel more full and consume less food.
A small study showed the benefits of drinking apple cider vinegar for weight loss. Consuming 1 or 2 tablespoons of ACV for three months resulted in a weight loss of 3 to 4 pounds.
Apple cider vinegar also has positive effects on blood sugar and insulin sensitivity.
Most of the research on apple cider vinegar and heart health is limited to animal studies. They show positive outcomes in blood pressure, triglycerides, and cholesterol. Consequently, it is hard to know if humans will have the same benefits.
The anti-inflammatory benefits shown in other health conditions are thought to reduce the pain and inflammation that accompanies this condition. There is also a claim that apple cider vinegar helps cleanse the kidney and liver.
Apple Cider Vinegar for Kidney Stones
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is considered an alkaline food. As a result, it should lower acid levels in the urine and blood. It is also credited with increasing stomach acid. All of which should prevent someone from developing kidney stones.
So how does apple cider vinegar dissolve kidney stones? The secret behind apple cider vinegar for kidney stones is acetic acid. It is speculated that this compound will soften and break up kidney stones. Once in small pieces, they can pass easily through the urinary tract.
The question that remains is can you really dissolve kidney stones with this magical elixir? Most of the information on ACV is purely anecdotal. To say this food helps dissolve kidney stones is a bit of a stretch.
The acetic acid in apple cider vinegar does have anti-inflammatory properties which may be helpful for improving kidney stones.
There were only two studies showing an actual correlation between kidney stone prevention and ACV. One found that fermented vinegar was associated with lower incidences of kidney stones.
The other was a test-tube study involving human kidney cells. It showed that acetic acid can prevent calcium oxalate stones from forming. Acetic acid was also responsible for producing higher levels of citrate which we know also can hinder calcium oxalate stones from forming.
If you don’t have calcium oxalate stones, ACV is not of any help to you. There is no research on how apple cider vinegar affects other kidney stones. So we have no idea if it can help other types of kidney stones.
How To Take Apple Cider Vinegar
ACV is taken in the form of a drink. However, it also comes in supplement form (more about that later). Some will take apple cider vinegar when they have kidney stones. Others may use apple cider vinegar for kidney stones prevention.
The time of day does not seem to matter. You can start your day with apple cider vinegar in the morning before breakfast. Or you can cleanse the palate by having apple cider vinegar after meals.
One thing you don’t want to do is drink ACV straight out of the bottle. The apple cider vinegar acidity will do a number on your teeth. It will wash away your enamel. So always dilute it before drinking.
Apple cider vinegar is often paired with
- Baking soda
- Lemon juice
- Olive oil
Apple Cider Vinegar and Water
The simplest way to take ACV is by mixing it with water. If you can’t swallow the taste try adding a teaspoon of honey to sweeten it.
Apple Cider Vinegar and Baking Soda
Baking soda contains sodium bicarbonate. This is an alkaline substance that can reduce acidity. The thought behind using apple cider vinegar and baking soda is that it will neutralize urine.
It is supposed to get rid of stones you have and prevent new ones from forming.
Apple Cider Vinegar and Lemon Juice
The kidney stone lemon juice treatment involves combining apple cider vinegar and lemon juice. As we pointed out earlier, lemon contains citrate which can reduce calcium oxalate stones from forming.
So the combination of ACV and lemon juice might be even better at knocking out those kidney stones.
Apple Cider Vinegar and Olive Oil
There is no information as to why apple cider vinegar and olive oil are taken together. It could be due to its lubricating abilities. However, this was outed as a myth so we are not sure why it’s recommended as one of the ways to take ACV.
Apple cider vinegar and olive oil do make a nice salad dressing though. So if you’re looking for a new way to dress your salads ACV and olive oil are a great pairing.
How Much Apple Cider Vinegar Should I Drink for Kidney Stones?
You want to use just 1 or 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar for kidney stones.
To make a lemon kidney stone treatment you would add the following to 1 to 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar:
- Lemon juice 4 tbsp (2 ounces)
- Olive oil 4 tbsp (2 ounces)
In a glass mix the ACV, lemon juice, and olive oil. Drink it and then follow it with a plain glass of water.
For the apple cider vinegar and baking soda option you just replace lemon juice and olive oil with baking soda. In a glass of warm water, you will mix 1 to 2 tablespoons of ACV with ½ teaspoon of baking soda. Then drink up.
Get an Apple Cider Vinegar With “the Mother”
When choosing apple cider vinegar you want to make sure you get a quality product. It should be organic, unfiltered, and contain “the mother.”
Some apple cider vinegar will have a cloudy and murky look. This is what’s known as “the mother.” It contains beneficial bacteria, yeast, and protein.
“The mother” is also where you get the acetic acid. It is also assumed that the mother is what gives ACV its other health benefits. However, the jury is still out on this research.
One popular quality brand is Braggs.* You may also find high-quality apple cider vinegar products on Amazon.
Apple Cider Vinegar Supplements
Apple cider vinegar has become quite a popular supplement. For anyone who cannot stomach the ACV liquid, it is available in tablet, capsule, and gummy form.
No research has been done on these supplements so their true effects are unknown. In addition, they have been found to have inaccurate dosages.
They may also contain additives that could cause medical interactions if you have any current health conditions.
So when in doubt it’s best to ask your healthcare team about any potential dangers before taking apple cider vinegar supplements.
Other Apple Cider Vinegar Uses
If you’re feeling skirmish about drinking apple cider vinegar there are additional ways to get its benefits.
You can take the same dose and add it to your salad dressings, sauces, mayonnaise, vinaigrette, and smoothies. It also makes a great marinade for your meats and veggies.
If you are not sure how to incorporate apple cider vinegar into your diet ask your renal RD for some meal ideas.
Apple Cider Vinegar Side Effects
In regards to specific apple cider vinegar side effects on kidneys, the National Kidney Foundation has said that apple cider should not cause any damage to the kidneys.
However, there have been some other negative side effects associated with the use of apple cider vinegar.
Long-term use of ACV could shift the body’s acid-base balance. Another potential issue with large doses of apple cider vinegar is nausea.
Drinking eight ounces of ACV for six years resulted in hospitalization for low potassium and weakened bones. Apple cider vinegar also caused skin and throat irritation.
Apple cider vinegar allergies are also something to consider. They are not common but some people can have an intolerance to the salicylates, histamine, sulfites, and acetic acid found in vinegar.
Signs of vinegar intolerance are similar to other allergy symptoms. They include
- Stuffy nose
- Feeling swollen
- Stomach pain
- Fast heart rate
- Itchy skin
- Shortness of breath
- Tightening of the airway muscles
- Tingling sensation
Apple Cider Vinegar Medical and Drug Interactions
Apple cider vinegar can also cause medical and drug interactions. It can lower potassium levels in people on insulin, digoxin, and diuretic drugs like chlorothiazide, chlorthalidone, furosemide, and hydrochlorothiazide.
People with type 1 diabetes who have gastroparesis should also not take apple cider vinegar.
If you have a health condition and/or are on any medications ask your healthcare team if apple cider vinegar is okay to take.
Other Ways to Prevent Kidney Stones
If you’re looking for thorough evidence-backed ways to prevent kidney stones here is a list of some easy things you can do right now.
- Drink more plain unsweetened water
- Limit sugar and high-fructose corn syrup
- Cut out sodium and salted foods
- Eat more fruits and vegetables
- Get enough calcium
- Avoid too many high oxalate foods
- Ditch animal proteins for plant-proteins
- Maintain a healthy weight
When to See A Kidney Doctor and Renal Dietitian
If you have uncontrollable pain and recurring kidney stones it could be an indication of a bigger problem like kidney disease.
If you’re wondering when to enlist the help of a kidney doctor and renal dietitian. It should be when you first notice a kidney stone symptom. They can provide medical advice based on your diagnosis and medical history.
Check out this page to learn about our renal dietitians. For other dietitians, check out this page.
Kidney stones are formed when calcium, oxalate, urate, cystine, xanthine, and/or phosphate levels build up in the kidneys. If the stone gets backed up urine in the kidney, ureter, bladder, and/or urethra becomes blocked and pain will ensue.
When medically reviewed apple cider vinegar for kidney stones may be a good home remedy thanks to the active ingredients acetic acid and citrate. These compounds can dissolve calcium oxalate stones and prevent them from recurring.
However, ACV has no effects on other types of kidney stones. Furthermore, there is also the potential of side effects, intolerance, and/or allergy. ACV is also contraindicated with people on certain medications so it is best to ask your healthcare team before taking apple cider vinegar for kidney stones in any form.
If you have kidney stone pain you should seek the help of a renal RD and kidney doctor. They can diagnose and treat the stones properly.
In the meantime, you can also take some additional steps towards preventing kidney stones from forming. These include increasing water, fruit, and vegetable intake. Cutting back on sugar, salt, and animal proteins has also been shown to reduce incidences of kidney stones.
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2 thoughts on “Apple Cider Vinegar for Kidney Stones”
I understand that it is recommended to take 1-2 tablespoons of ACV per serving to help reduce high levels of oxalate. How many times a day is this amount recommend to be effective?
Hi David! My good friend and colleague Melanie is a renal dietitian and kidney stone expert and has debunked this myth. She teaches a great Kidney Stone Nutrition Course about how to prevent kidney stones – here’s our affiliate link! Highly recommend this course to help eliminate all the confusion around kidney stones.. I know there’s a lot of weird stuff out there.