Current research suggests that drinking coffee may actually decrease your overall risk of developing kidney stones.

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A kidney stone is a small, hard substance made from waste products in your urine that haven’t been adequately flushed out.

Although researchers are still examining the connection between drinking coffee and the risk of kidney stones, recent studies show that caffeine consumption may help prevent the formation of kidney stones.

This article breaks down what we currently know about the connection between coffee and kidney stones along with known risk factors and prevention strategies for kidney stones.

Fast facts about kidney stones

  • Kidney stones affect people of all ages, including children and teens.
  • Kidney stones form twice as often in people assigned male at birth as in people assigned female at birth. The risk peaks at around age 30 for all genders.
  • Experts recommend drinking more water and closely watching your sodium and calcium intake to reduce your risk of developing kidney stones.
  • Most kidney stones can be passed without medical intervention. However, for larger kidney stones, you may need to see a doctor for treatment.
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Because coffee has diuretic properties (meaning it may cause you to pee more often), people often assume that drinking coffee may be dehydrating, thus increasing your risk for kidney stones. However, data suggests the opposite.

In fact, recent research on kidney stones shows that the use of caffeine may actually prevent kidney stones.

According to a 2021 study through the National Kidney Foundation, caffeine, whether in tea, soda, coffee, or alcohol, is protective and may decrease the risk of kidney stones. Even going from drinking 1 cup to 1.5 cups a day may reduce the odds of potential kidney stones by up to 40%.

Another study published in 2021 showed that those who drank coffee or tea were less likely to develop kidney stones than those who didn’t drink caffeinated liquids. In this study, water was shown to increase urine flow, which led to increased protection against kidney stones.

A systematic review and meta-analysis published in 2022 also found that a higher caffeine intake may be associated with a lower risk of kidney stones.

Kidney stones are a byproduct of your body’s inability to adequately flush waste products through your urine. When certain minerals in your urine are not flushed out, they can form crystals. These small crystals continue to collect other types of waste until a stone develops.

There are four types of kidney stones, those made of:

  • Calcium oxalate: This is the most common type of kidney stone. A low-oxalate diet can help reduce your risk of developing this type of stone.
  • Uric acid: This is the second most common type of kidney stone. They often develop in people with gout, diabetes, or metabolic syndromes.
  • Struvite: This type of kidney stone often occurs in people with urinary tract infections (UTIs), kidney infections, or both.
  • Cystine: This type of kidney stone forms from cystine, an amino acid that leaks from the kidneys into the urine. It occurs in people who have a genetic disorder called cystinuria.

Kidney stones affect people of all ages, but there are a few known risk factors. These include:

What are the symptoms of a kidney stone and when should you seek medical help?

You may notice a few uncomfortable or painful symptoms when a kidney stone develops. These symptoms can include:

  • lower back pain
  • stomach pain
  • blood in your urine
  • nausea and vomiting

Contact a doctor if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms. Get medical help right away if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • fever and chills
  • nausea, vomiting
  • pain so severe that you can’t get comfortable
  • nausea, vomiting
  • blood in your urine
  • difficulty urinating
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Your diet appears to have the biggest effect on your risk of developing kidney stones. Research has shown that what you eat and how much you drink are directly related to your risk of developing kidney stones.

A 2020 study found that increased fluid, fruit, and fiber consumption was associated with a lower risk of hospitalization for kidney stones, suggesting that modifying what one eats, and drinks can help prevent kidney stones.

Drink more fluids

A 2021 study suggests that the more coffee, tea, or alcohol you drink, the lower your chances of kidney stones. For every additional 200 ml drink a participant consumed, the risk of kidney stone development declined by 13%.

If you’re prone to developing kidney stones, experts recommend always drinking plenty of water. Water and other liquids — including tea and coffee — keep your kidneys functioning by helping flush out waste, which is vital to preventing kidney stones.

Reduce the amount of sodium and meat you eat

It’s also essential to watch your sodium and meat intake.

This 2020 study found a direct link between sodium (salt) consumption and an increase in kidney stones. The study also found that a 50 gram (1.76 ounces) increase in meat consumption led to a 1.17% increase in the chance of kidney stone development.

Eat more fruit and fiber

Another 2014 study also found that eating more fiber, fruit, and vegetables decreased the risk of kidney stones in postmenopausal women. However, the protective effects of this diet did not benefit those who had known risk factors for kidney stones or a history of kidney stones.

Kidney stones have become more common worldwide. Drinking more fluids can decrease your risk of kidney stones. Eating more fruits and fiber, and less salt, sugar, and animal proteins can also help you avoid kidney stones.

When it comes to coffee, having an occasional cup might be a good choice for those looking to reduce their risk of kidney stones. Though more research is still needed, current studies show that coffee can help prevent kidney stone development.