Does Cranberry Juice Work for Kidney Stones?

person pouring cranberry juice into glass

It may seem too simplistic and even ridiculous, but we’ve all been told that cranberries and their juice effectively prevent kidney stones. However, before you go out and drink liters of cranberry juice at a time, we must discuss some other ways to mitigate kidney stones and what you should do if you develop them.

Kidney stones are hardened crystals that develop within the kidneys for several potential reasons. Kidney stones do not cause pain for many as they are small enough to pass through the urinary system without us ever knowing. For some, however, kidney stones can develop to be quite large. While the stones remain in the kidneys themselves, they are usually asymptomatic. However, if they begin to migrate into the ureters – the tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder – they can cause significant pain and other complications. For some, kidney stones represent a harrowing circumstance, which may require passing the stone over a day or two or intervention from a urologist using shockwave therapy or lithotripsy. However, it’s important to remember that if you develop a fever or other signs of infection, this is an emergency that must be treated at the hospital. Kidney infections progress very rapidly and can be devastating if not treated early.

The Pros and Cons of Cranberry Juice

Cranberries and cranberry juice may help prevent and treat urinary tract infections, support healthy gut function, and improve the immune system. They may work against you when it comes to kidney stones, however. Cranberries contain significant amounts of oxalate, a primary component of the most common calcium-based kidney stones. That said, cranberry juice can prevent brushite kidney stones by lowering urine pH; however, these stones are less common than others. Bear in mind that cranberries are naturally quite bitter, and cranberry juices contain relatively little cranberry and lots of sugar, so this can create its own set of concerns, especially in those with diabetes or other metabolic diseases.

Other Ways, Other Therapies Versus Cranberry Juice

So, it seems cranberry juice may not be a thing after all…but what can you do to prevent or treat kidney stones?

  • First and foremost is staying well hydrated. Most of us are chronically dehydrated; even slight dehydration can significantly affect overall health and increase the risk of kidney stones. Drink at least 64 ounces and up to 80 ounces of water daily to ensure that you are flushing the kidneys.
  • Kidney stones can also be exacerbated by eating certain leafy greens. One such vegetable is spinach. If you develop kidney stones, reduce your consumption of spinach and try a different vegetable in your salads.
  • Specific medications can also increase the likelihood of developing kidney stones. Once you’ve spoken to your doctor about your kidney stone, they will likely evaluate the medicines you are taking and suggest any available alternatives.

Evaluation, Observation, and Treatment

While kidney stones may not seem incredibly concerning; they can be extremely painful and develop rapidly into a problem if they cause a kidney infection. As such, if you form kidney stones, you should visit your primary care physician or urologist to monitor any stones you have. In most cases, if the condition doesn’t threaten your health, we will observe them and look for you to pass them within a few days. However, we also have very effective interventions if the kidney stones should be excruciatingly painful or at risk of causing more severe complications. There are several effective and safe procedures, including:

  1. Shockwave lithotripsy breaks up larger kidney stones, allowing them to pass through the urinary system.
  2. Cystoscopy and ureteroscopy use specialized scopes to find and break the stone into smaller pieces.
  3. Percutaneous nephrolithotomy uses a small incision in the back to access the kidney directly. At this point, the stone can be removed, or lasers can be used to break it into smaller pieces.

We encourage anyone experiencing the discomfort and pain of kidney stones to visit us and learn more about potential treatment options.