Alkaline Diet: Potential Benefits for Those Dealing With Kidney Stones

Eating foods that are less acidic — otherwise known as alkaline foods — decreases acid production in the body, improving health. At least, that’s the theory behind the alkaline diet made popular by celebrities like Victoria Beckham, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Jennifer Aniston.

Though the purported health benefits of the alkaline diet aren’t clear, eating alkaline foods that make the urine less acidic may benefit those dealing with kidney stones.

What is an alkaline diet?

The alkaline diet is based on pH, or how acidic or basic (alkaline) something is. The pH scale runs from 0 to 14. A pH between 0 and 6 is acidic, 7 is neutral, while a pH between 8 and 14 is alkaline.

The alkaline diet encourages eating foods with a higher pH. The thinking behind this is that eating more alkaline foods changes the body’s chemistry so it’s more alkaline than acidic.

Foods to eat on an alkaline diet

Foods considered alkaline include:

  • Fruits (apples, bananas, cantaloupe)
  • Avocados
  • Nonstarchy vegetables (broccoli, carrots, and lettuce)
  • Soy, beans, and lentils
  • Quinoa
  • Oats
  • Wild rice
  • Alkaline water

Foods to avoid on an alkaline diet

Foods too acidic that you should avoid on the alkaline diet include:

  • Wheat
  • Dairy
  • Eggs
  • Meat
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Peanuts and walnuts

An alkaline diet encourages you to consume healthy, nutrient-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and plant proteins. Eating more of these foods boosts nutritional health and wellness.

However, an alkaline diet is restrictive and may not provide an adequate supply of essential nutrients like iron, calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin E. The limited food choices may also make the diet hard to follow long-term.

How the alkaline diet affects kidney stones

Despite what proponents of the alkaline diet claim, eating more alkaline foods doesn’t change your body’s pH. However, the type of foods you eat can change the pH of your urine. In fact, your kidneys are largely responsible for maintaining the body’s pH balance.

Your urine’s pH may impact the formation of kidney stones, hard deposits made up of minerals and salts that form in the kidneys. Urine that’s more acidic may escalate the development of certain types of kidney stones — namely calcium oxalate stones, uric acid stones, and cystine stones. However, alkaline urine can raise the risk of calcium phosphate kidney stones.

For individuals dealing with kidney stones, an alkaline diet may still offer benefits. Eating foods that neutralize acid — like fruits and vegetables — in the body may increase urine pH and reduce the risk of kidney stones. Meat, poultry, fish, and seafood, on the other hand, decrease urine pH, so limiting your intake of these animal proteins may help prevent kidney stones.

Nonetheless, don’t limit your intake of calcium-rich foods as recommended by the celebrity-backed alkaline diet. Contrary to popular belief, consuming too much calcium doesn’t increase the risk of calcium oxalate stones.

Foods rich in calcium may prevent the formation of these stones by binding with oxalate in the intestines and excreting it in feces, so it isn’t absorbed into the blood where it can travel to the kidneys.

How to implement an alkaline diet for kidney stones

There’s no special alkaline diet for kidney stones. However, following a diet that emphasizes alkaline foods — fruits, vegetables, and plant-based proteins — may help those dealing with kidney stones by increasing urine pH.

Alkaline diet daily meal plan

An alkaline diet for kidney stones isn’t the same restrictive diet promoted by celebrities. It’s a balanced plan that encourages more fruits and vegetables, less nondairy animal proteins, and an adequate amount of calcium.

  • Breakfast. Oatmeal made with low-fat milk or calcium-enriched soy milk, topped with blueberries and chia seeds
  • Mid-morning snack. 100% whole-grain crackers with low-fat yogurt
  • Lunch. Grilled vegetable salad with avocados, zucchini, eggplant, and red peppers on a bed of Romaine lettuce with lentils and balsamic vinaigrette
  • Afternoon snack. Hummus with sliced cucumbers, carrots, and celery
  • Dinner. Tofu stir-fry with broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower, served with quinoa and wild rice
  • Evening snack. Air-popped popcorn

Tips for eating out on an alkaline diet

When eating out, select plant-based items like salads, vegetarian meals, and whole-grain dishes. You don’t need to avoid animal proteins on an alkaline diet for kidney stones, but you should eat more plant-based proteins.

Consuming too much sodium also increases the risk of kidney stones. Limit sodium intake by asking for sauces on the side, not adding extra salt to your food, and using low-sodium options when available.

Hydration, alkaline diet, and kidney stones

Adequate hydration is also important for preventing kidney stones. Staying hydrated dilutes urine, reducing the risk of stone formation. Although most people should drink at least 12 glasses of water a day, individual needs may vary, so it’s best to consult your medical provider for advice.

Alkaline water consumption is on the rise, going from 635 million liters in 2018 to a projected 2.2 billion liters in 2023. But can alkaline water benefit those dealing with kidney stones? Most of the water you drink is neutral. Alkaline water has a pH between 8 and 9 and contains alkaline minerals like calcium and potassium.

The thinking is that alkaline water increases alkalinity in the body, decreasing the risk of kidney stones. However, a 2024 study published in The Journal of Urology found that alkaline water has little influence over urine pH and offers no additional benefits for people with kidney stones.

Alkaline diet compared to other diets for kidney stones

While the alkaline diet promoted by celebrities may increase urine pH, it’s too restrictive to follow long-term. The diet for kidney stones encourages you to eat more alkaline foods and limit the intake of animal proteins that lower urine pH.

However, the diet recommended for those suffering from kidney stones includes calcium-rich foods (the alkaline diet restricts dairy and cheese) and whole grains, limits salt, and encourages an adequate amount of fluid.

You may need to make other diet modifications if you have certain types of kidney stones. If you’re prone to oxalate kidney stones, you may need to limit foods high in oxalate like spinach, nuts, and wheat bran.

Organ meats, red meat, and shellfish are foods high in purines that may increase uric acid levels in the blood, leading to uric acid kidney stones. You may want to avoid or limit your intake of these foods if you have uric acid kidney stones.

Should you follow the alkaline diet?

You should talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian before following any special diet like an alkaline diet. They may suggest eating more alkaline foods if you have a history of kidney stones, but can provide individual guidance that best fits your needs.

Drinking an adequate amount of water every day is the best thing you can do to prevent kidney stones.

Alkaline diet’s benefits for healthy people

There’s little evidence to support any of the touted benefits of the alkaline diet for healthy people, and claims aren’t backed by any scientific studies. Despite what the diet claims, you can’t change your body’s pH by eating foods that are more alkaline. The body has its own system for balancing pH.

Like most fad diets, the alkaline diet is restrictive, complicated, and hard to follow for any length. Eating a diet that includes more fruits, vegetables, and plant proteins (alkaline foods) and limits animal proteins may benefit those dealing with kidney stones.

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