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Diet and Nutrition

Kidney and gall bladder

11/20/2007

Question:

my family has a history of kidney and gall bladder problems. in fact i had a kidney stone last year. are there things i can do and foods i can eat to prevent my own problems. thank you

Answer:

This is a great question as these conditions may be genetically predispositioned.

For your gallbladder, it's important to maintain a healthy body weight.  Cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder) is more common in individuals that are overweight or obese.  If you are overweight, losing just 10 lbs can reduce your risk of gallstones.  Cutting back on dietary fat will also help reduce your risk of gallstones by limiting the need for bile in the body.  Limit red meat and choose lean cuts of poultry, pork and fish.  Grill, bake or broil in place of frying foods and choose low fat or skim dairy products.  Go easy on foods high in trans fat such as margarine, processed snack cakes, crackers and fast food.

As for kidney stones, there are several types.  It is important for you to find out what type of stones you experienced in the past.  Calcium oxalate stones are the most common.  They are caused by excess oxalate in your diet.  Instead of excreting calcium, your kidneys hold onto it, and it binds with oxalate or phosphorus.  To prevent these stones, you should avoid foods high in oxalate.  These include: baked beans, beer, chocolate, pecans and peanuts, raspberries, rhubarb, spinach, strawberries, tea of all kinds, and worchestershire sauce.

While you may think that avoiding calcium will help, the opposite is actually true.  Your diet must include adequate calcium to prevent calcium oxalate stones.  Be sure to consume at least 3 servings of low fat dairy foods per day (milk, or low fat yogurt and cheese, calcium-fortified soy milk or calcium-fortified orange juice).  Calcium helps bind oxalate and it is excreted in stool, therefore preventing stone formation.

Limiting high sodium foods will also aid in preventing stones.  A high sodium diet increases calcium loss in the urine, which can increase risk of stone formation.  Limit table salt, soy sauce, processed meats and salted canned foods.  Fast food and frozen meals are also high in sodium.  Finally, drinking plenty of fluids will also aid in preventing kidney stones.

I hope this information was helpful.  Take care.

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Response by:

Lisa Cicciarello Andrews, MEd, RD, LD Lisa Cicciarello Andrews, MEd, RD, LD
Adjunct Faculty
University of Cincinnati