Lemonade Helps Kidney Stones
The Latest Way to Treat and Prevent Kidney Stones: Drink Lemonade
May 24, 2006 - If life gives you kidney
stoneskidney stones, make
New research shows that lemonade is an effective -- and delicious -- way for
kidney-stone-prone people to slow the development of new stones.
"When treating patients in our kidney
stone center, we put everyone on lemonade therapy," says Steven Y. Nakada,
chair and professor of urology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Nakada spoke during a news conference on kidney stone research at this
week's annual meeting of the American Urological Association in Atlanta.
Stones as Painful as Childbirth
If you've ever passed a kidney stone, you won't forget the sudden, intense
pain in your flank. Some patients compare the pain with that of childbirth.
Kidney stones form when urine in the kidney becomes supersaturated with
stone-forming salts -- and when the urine doesn't contain enough
stone-preventing substances. One of these substances is citrate.
For people prone to stones, doctors usually prescribe potassium citrate. It
can be taken as a pill or in liquid form. But lemon juice is full of natural
When made into low-sugar or sugar-free lemonade, Nakada and colleagues
found, lemon juice increases the amount of citrate in the urine to levels known
to inhibit kidney stones. It doesn't work quite as well as potassium citrate.
But for patients who'd rather avoid yet another medication, lemonade is
an attractive alternative.
"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."
David Kang, a medical student and researcher at the Duke University
Comprehensive Kidney Stone Center, found that this role can play for a long
time. Kang and colleagues followed 12 kidney-stone patients who had been on
lemonade therapy for up to four years.
Over the time they drank lemonade they had a lower burden of kidney stones
and appeared to form kidney stones at a slower rate than they did before
starting lemonade therapy. Kang says a large-scale clinical trial will be
needed to confirm these findings.
"None of the patients needed medical intervention over a mean treatment
period of four years," Kang said.
How Much Lemonade?
Lemonade also does something else needed by people prone to kidney stoneskidney
stones. It helps them pass a lot of urine, said conference moderator
Marshall Stoller, MD, vice chairman of urology and medical director of the
urinary stone center at the University of California, San Francisco.
"To reduce kidney stones, you have to increase your fluid intake so that you
pass 1.5 to 2 liters of urine a day," Stoller said. "If you live in sunny
Atlanta, you may need to drink more than if you live in foggy San
To make lemonade, Stoller, Nakada, and Kang recommend mixing 1/2 cup of
concentrated lemon juice with 7 cups of water. A sugar substitute may be added
to taste. Sugar should be avoided, as the extra calories in sugared lemonade
are too much for most people's health.