Can Coffee Cause Kidney Stones?
Anyone who has suffered through the pain of kidney stones will no doubt be keen to avoid getting them again, likewise, while many of us haven’t gone through it yet we don’t feel the need to experience it firsthand and may take active measures to prevent them forming. Dietary changes are often recommended to this end but does that include coffee? Do you really need to ditch your morning pick-me-up just to steer clear of kidney stones? Have you ever wondered, can coffee cause kidney stones?
While coffee does have all the hallmarks of a drink you’d want to avoid, science suggests that it is not a major factor in the creation of kidney stones. Some evidence seems to show that it can even reduce your chances of getting them!
First things first, let’s cover the basics –
What are Kidney Stones?
Kidney stones are tiny clusters of minerals and salts that form within your kidneys. There are many potential causes for them but once they begin to form they can cause great discomfort.
Some are extremely small and may go completely unnoticed, others may start to grow and create blockages as they move from the kidney towards the bladder. At any point in this journey, the stones may become lodged in a ureter, one of two small tubes that transport urine from the kidney to the bladder. This blockage, along with the subsequent muscle spasms and build-up of pressure, is usually the source of the intense pain felt during this experience.
What are the causes of Kidney Stones?
As kidney stones are essentially mineral formations within the body, the most common cause is an uptick in the number of said materials entering or remaining present within your system.
One’s own diet is often the main culprit. If you consume foods and drinks with high concentrations of calcium, oxalate and uric acid the crystals are more likely to form. Additionally, if these chemicals are never given an opportunity to exit the body (say, for instance, you don’t drink enough liquids to flush them out) or if your body lacks the necessary chemicals to prevent their formation, the odds that you will encounter kidney stones will increase.
For these reasons, the most common advice for kidney stone avoidance is to drink lots of liquids, preferably water, while making changes to your diet that will either lower the number of these chemical culprits or increase the ones that help to fight them off.
Just remember, there are a plethora of other factors ranging from pre-existing conditions such as diabetes to climate (hot weather makes you sweat which lowers the amount of water in your system).
How does this relate to Coffee and Kidney stones?
As you may have guessed, coffee contains oxalate, one of our no-no chemicals that can cause kidney stones to form. The answer then seems simple. Coffee contains oxalate, oxalate causes kidney stones, thus, coffee causes kidney stones.
But it’s not that simple.
Remember, drinking lots of fluids lowers your chances of getting kidney stones so maybe, just maybe, the coffee ends up flushing out your kidneys and doing more good than bad.
Many studies have been conducted covering this very topic but one stands out (mainly due to the sample size). This study involving a whopping 217,883 participants showed that coffee drinkers actually had a lower association with kidney stones than non-coffee drinkers.
This study showed a lower risk of kidney stones of around 26% in individuals who consumed coffee.
The data would seem to indicate that while coffee may contain certain undesirable chemicals, the increase in fluid intake by coffee drinkers helps to dilute and remove many of these same chemicals, which may even help prevent kidney stones from forming.
The logic seems quite sound – If you drink lots of coffee, you won’t get dehydrated, if you aren’t dehydrated, you’ll be taking more trips to the toilet, more trips to the toilet means you’re less likely to develop kidney stones. Simple, right?
But if it’s not Coffee, what is it?
As mentioned previously, certain foods contain the chemicals which can trigger kidney stones, but that’s not all. Many factors such as hereditary influences and even past surgeries can also make you prone to the stones. When it comes to coffee and kidney stones, what factors should one consider?
The most common influencing factors are –
- Dehydration – You need to drink enough water to flush out the unwanted chemicals.
- High levels of sodium and/or protein – Salt and certain types of meat are thought to be associated with kidney stone formation.
- Obesity – Overweight individuals are often more likely to develop kidney stones.
- Certain surgeries – Gastric Bypass Surgery along with other intestinal procedures are believed to increase your likelihood to encounter kidney stones.
- Conditions that result in an increased rate of stone-related chemicals – Calcium, oxalate and uric acid are usually to blame for kidney stone development, as such, any condition that increases the concentration of these elements will naturally give rise to a surge in kidney stones.
There are also certain high-oxalate foods that should be avoided if you’re worried about kidney stones, namely;
- Almonds and cashews
- Baked potatoes
Other high-oxalate foods exist but just remember, kidney stones are usually caused by quite a large intake of the aforementioned foods, so cutting out your favourite snacks isn’t necessarily the only way to stay healthy, you may just need to cut back a bit and drink lots of water (or maybe even coffee!).
Home Remedies For Kidney Stones
If prevention via cutting back isn’t up your alley you may want to try some home remedies that are supposed to either prevent kidney stone formation, or ideally, even break down kidney stones once they have formed.
- Apple Cider Vinegar – The acetic acid of the vinegar is thought to be able to break down crystal formations in the kidney which should enable you to pass the smaller pieces.
- Lemon juice – The citrate contained within the lemon juice is said to prevent kidney stones from forming.
- Pomegranate juice – It is believed that pomegranate juice can lower the acidity of the urine which, if left too high, can be a major cause of kidney stones.
- Wheatgrass juice – Much like coffee, this drink is supposed to increase urine flow and regularity which should lower your chances of developing kidney stones.
- Basil juice – Like Apple Cider Vinegar this juice contains acetic acid which may break down the kidney stones before they grow too large.
- Celery juice – Celery juice is another drink that is thought to flush out the kidneys and increase urine flow.
It is important to note that ingestion of large amounts of these liquids can lead to a negative reaction with specific medications and may exacerbate certain underlying conditions such as low blood pressure, low blood sugar levels, etc.
Always do your own research first to ensure that you do not suffer any adverse consequences.
In Conclusion – What are kidney stones and can you get them from drinking coffee?
Kidney stones are small crystalised collections of minerals such as calcium, oxalate and uric acid that build up in the kidneys before making their way down the ureters and into the bladder, during this movement, the stones may become stuck in the ureters and cause mild to severe discomfort.
Most kidney stones pass naturally but in some cases, medical treatment may be required.
There are many factors that may lead to the development of kidney stones, however, it is believed that one of the primary causes is the consumption of large amounts of the minerals that go on to form them. Certain foods do indeed contain large quantities of these minerals including coffee.
Research conducted on this topic seems to show that, while coffee is relatively high in oxalate, it does not negatively impact the process and may even raise your chances of flushing out the stones before they become noticeable.
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