When life gives you lemons— or kidney stones— make lemonade, researchers say.
Kidney stones, hard masses formed in the kidneys that usually consist of insoluble calcium compounds, are on the rise among children and teenagers, according to the Cleveland Clinic. But sipping naturally sweet lemonade, which is rich in citric acid, may help ward off the painful masses, said Dr. Jeffrey Donohoe, a pediatric urologist at Cleveland Clinic Children’s.
“[Lemonade] has the stuff that stabilizes stones, but it has a lot less of the stuff that can form stones,” Donohoe said in a news release.
Kidney stones often form when oxalate, a byproduct from some foods, binds with urine. Lemon juice, which is low in oxalate, can stunt the growth of pre-existing stones and prevent crystal deposits in the kidneys from developing into stones. The masses are usually treated with pain relievers like Advil and Tylenol or with prescribed alpha blockers— which relax muscles in the ureter, and help patients pass their kidney stones more rapidly and with less pain.
Donohoe recommended reaching for natural, unsweetened lemonade to prevent stones, and, most important, to stay hydrated. According to the Mayo Clinic, dehydration and a diet high in protein, sodium and sugar may increase the risk of kidney stones. Other risk factors include obesity, having digestive diseases, or other medical conditions like renal tubular acidosis and hyperparathyroidism.
If lemonade or water alone aren’t your thing, try combining the best of both worlds to lower your risk of kidney stones: Squeeze half a lemon into a glass of plain water.