Learn More About Kidney Stones From Drinking Soda

Did you know, one in three Americans drink soda on a daily basis? This statistic is easy to disregard, but it is important to highlight why kidney stones from drinking soda are such a common health issue in many adults today. 

Keep in mind, not all types of soda are equally capable of contributing to kidney stones. Dark cola beverages, artificial fruit punch, and sweet tea are the top drinks that contribute to kidney stones. This is because these beverages contain higher amounts of fructose or phosphoric acid, which are ultimately known to contribute to kidney stones. They also provide zero nutritional value and are not a practical alternative to water. 

In general, most of us understand just how unhealthy soda and other sugary drinks are — but we still consume them on a regular basis. Today, soda is said to be a leading cause of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, gout, has negative effects on bone health, and can even contribute to premature death

Learn why soda and other sugary drinks are bad for your health and what you can drink instead. 

What Soda Does to Your Urological Health

The urinary system is especially affected by soda consumption. Kidney stones from drinking soda are fairly common. One study found that participants who drank one soda everyday had a 23 percent higher chance of forming kidney stones. 

The main purpose of the urological system is to flush out toxins from the body, a process that is heavily dependent on hydration from water. Unfortunately, soda drinkers generally do not drink enough water. As mentioned earlier, soda is never a viable alternative to water, and is not very effective in hydrating our bodies.  

In men, regular soda consumption is known to lower your sperm count. While women who drink at least one soda per day have a harder chance of getting pregnant by up to 25 percent. 

Related: Can Wine Prevent Kidney Stones?

What are Kidney Stones?

Kidney stones are hardened deposits of salt and other minerals that do not properly filter through the kidneys. These deposits result in painful stones that need to be passed through the bladder. Roughly 11 percent of men and 7 percent of women suffer from kidney stones, and they tend to occur more than once. 

Four types of stones can be passed, depending on the type of substance formed in the urinary tract. These include: calcium stones, struvite stones, uric acid stones, and cystine stones. Patients can be prone to certain types depending on underlying factors and certain conditions.

How You Can Get Kidney Stones From Drinking Soda

Sodas are filled with unhealthy chemicals, including high levels of processed bleached sugar, phosphoric acid, caffeine, and high fructose corn syrup. These ingredients can be extremely harmful to your body, especially when consumed in large amounts. 

High fructose corn syrup, in particular, can metabolize into oxalate and increase excretion of uric acid and calcium. This combination of high-level oxalate, uric acid, and calcium encourage kidney stone formation. Phosphoric acid is another culprit found in the average soda. This chemical creates an acidic environment in your kidney tract, enabling kidney stones to form more easily. In addition, many sodas are high in caffeine which is a diuretic that encourages chronic dehydration, which is the most common risk factor for kidney stone formation.

How to Prevent Kidney Stones

Because hydration is key for preventing kidney stones, drinking lots of water (and low-sugar beverages) will help move them along since they need to be flushed out of the body. We recommend consuming any soda in moderation, and if you must, stick to the light citrus types that have less sugar and chemicals. Please note, it’s best to avoid soda altogether if kidney stones run in your family

Alternatives to soda include fresh fruit juices. Orange juice has been studied and shown to decrease the risk of stone formation. Fresh-squeezed lemonade is also great for preventing the formation of kidney stones. These beverages are high in citrate which binds to calcium in the urinary tract, preventing stone formation.

Additionally, improve your diet for optimal urological health in general. Limit meat intake, look for low-sodium options when shopping for food, and make sure you get your daily recommended amount of calcium. This will keep oxalate levels in check.

The Signs and Symptoms of Kidney Stones

Kidney stones have a wide range of symptoms that can be easily mistaken for another health condition. Refer to these symptoms if you believe you have kidney stones.

  •     Severe pain in the side, back, or below the ribs that comes in waves and fluctuates in intensity
  •     Pain that spreads to the lower abdomen and groin areas
  •     Sudden changes in urine, pink or red urine, or cloudy or foul-smelling urine
  •     Urinating more often than usual
  •     Pain during urination
  •     Urinating small amounts of urine
  •     Nausea and vomiting
  •     Fever and chills (Make an appointment with your urologist as an infection may be present)

How to Pass Kidney Stones at Home

While there isn’t a medication that can force the kidney stones out, your doctor may prescribe an alpha blocker to help with the pain. Alpha blockers relax the urinary tract muscles and allow you to pass the stone more easily. However, there are other natural remedies you can try while attempting to pass kidney stones. 

  1. Drink lots of water. Water infused with citrus fruits like lemon, lime, and orange can help break up the stones.
  2. Drink equal parts lemon juice and olive oil. This may help ease the pain associated with passing kidney stones and help break them up.
  3. Drink apple cider vinegar. Take only a few ounces at a time mixed with water. This is also a great prevention practice!
  4. Eat diuretic foods. Watermelon, celery, and cucumber may help you pass kidney stones. 

When to See a Doctor For Kidney Stones

If your kidney stones are relatively small (less than 5mm) they should be able to go through the urethra on their own. However, if your kidney stones are larger than 5mm you will likely need medical assistance to get them out. If this is the case, your urologist may recommend one of these three kidney stone procedures.

  1. Extracorporeal Shock Wave Lithotripsy (ESWL). This surgery involves using shock waves through your body to break up large stones. 
  2. Ureteroscopy with Laser Lithotripsy. This procedure uses powerful miniature lasers to break up kidney stones into “dust” and passable fragments.
  3. Percutaneous Nephrostolithotomy. This is a treatment option for very large stones. This minimally invasive procedure utilizes a puncture directly into the kidney, allowing placement of a stone-pulverizing device to remove large stones.

Staying Healthy: What Else to Consider Besides Kidney Stones From Drinking Soda

We care for your wellbeing and it’s important to stay healthy, not only to prevent kidney stones from forming due to soda consumption, but to protect your urinary system as well. For more information on how to be your healthiest self, download our Nutrition and Lifestyle Guide for tips and tricks to implement into your day-to-day life.

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This content was originally published in 2017 and refreshed in 2020.