Can Keto Cause Kidney Stones?

The keto diet has gained enormous popularity over recent years. It not only helps to shed those extra pounds quickly but also helps with certain health problems like type-2 diabetes and high blood pressure. However, there is a buzz about keto that it causes kidney related issues. If you too have this doubt, check out the below section! 

Basically, a ketogenic diet is a diet that puts stress on eating a lot of healthy fats, enough protein and almost negligible carbohydrates. The main goal is to get the required calories from fats and sugar instead of carbs. 

The keto diet works by attacking your body’s sugar stores. Hence, your body starts processing fats for energy. The fat breakdown produces ketone molecules which the body uses as fuel. This way your body loses weight by burning down fat. 

Can Keto Cause Kidney Stones? 

Coming to this most asked question, a simple answer is – No. A well-formulated keto diet doesn’t cause kidney stones. However, there are some common mistakes most people make while they’re on keto that can potentially result in kidney stones. Let’s discuss it in detail.

What Are Kidney Stones And How Do They Occur? 

Kidney stones are basically the deposits of mineral salts. They happen when the supersaturated minerals in the urine get collected in the form of hard crystals. These crystals are as small as a sand grain at the beginning stage but can grow into big stones over time. In severe cases, they can grow as large as a golf ball. 

Most of the kidney stones are made of either calcium phosphate or calcium oxalate. The people with a genetic issue, their stones are made of cystine. 

There is not much risk if the stones are diagnosed and treated at early stages as a single stroke is unlikely to damage the kidneys. However, if the size of stones has grown up significantly, it can cause deadly pain and require immediate treatment and even surgery. 

Talking about the risk factors, the main cause of kidney stones are high blood pressure, obesity, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. These factors alone can lead to serious kidney diseases. As a matter of fact, a person who gets frequent stone attacks is at a high risk of renal failure and other chronic kidney issues.

Is There Any Evidence That Proves The Increasing Risk Of Kidney Stones Due To Keto? 

We can understand your curiosity and hence, we have gathered all the information about the bits and pieces of evidence regarding keto and kidney stones. Don’t worry, we have covered you well. At the end of this article, you will get the answers to all your questions. 

According to a study, kidney stones are found in children with epilepsy. They have used extreme versions of keto diets. However, potassium citrate supplements can reduce the risk of kidney stones to an extent.

Apart from this study, there has been NO evidence that shows that kidney stones are caused by keto or other low-carb diets.

But as we all know, the internet is full of anecdotal evidence. Every person comes up with his own theory which has no base, to be honest. Isn’t it? C’mon, who are we lying!! 

This case is no different, many individuals have reported that they’ve developed kidney stones after following ketogenic diets. 

But know that, kidney stones are very common in America. About 10% of male and 7% of females suffer from this problem due to the standard American diet. It has nothing to do with keto or other low carb diets. You can sigh in relief now! 

Apart from these self-proclaimed experts, there are a few other factors that can be the root cause of kidney stones in individuals. The biggest potential risk is to those individuals who are already suffering from kidney issues, going on keto may result in stones. Another reason is the hereditary cause.

So, this was all the information regarding proofs and the evidence. Let’s talk about the common mistakes during keto that can be harsh on your kidneys and can result in kidney stones. These mistakes include less water intake, excessive consumption of oxalate-rich greens, lack of magnesium and calcium, higher intake of vitamin C, loading on protein etc.

Below is the detailed note on these mistakes.

Possible Causes Of Kidney Stones During Keto

1. Less Water Intake

This is the biggest potential cause of kidney stones during the ketogenic diet. The reason is, your body is transitioning into ketosis which leads to fluid loss in the tissues. This results in deposits of mineral concentration in urine that form the hard crystal or kidney stones. Lower water intake is the common factor that most people on keto ignore which increases the risk of kidney issues. 

2. Excessive Consumption Of Oxalate Rich Vegetables 

Yes, you’ve read it right. While vegetables are the best weight loss food one can have on diets, they can do more harm than good if consumed in large quantities. Certain oxalate rich vegetables such as avocados, turnips, spinach, celery, Brussels sprout and even tomatoes can increase the concentration of oxalate in your blood that can further result in stones. 

Not only the vegetables but also some fruits and nuts including almonds, cashews, raspberries, pine nuts, brazil nuts etc. can also increase the amount of oxalate in blood tissues. 

This doesn’t mean that you should avoid these vegetables and other foods. These foods are rich in nutrients and are extremely healthy. It’s just they can trigger the stone formation in individuals who are already suffering from kidney stones. Therefore, if you have no history of kidney stones you can definitely eat these items.

3. Lack Of Dietary Calcium 

Calcium plays a very important role in controlling the oxalate absorption in the blood. Thus, lack of calcium means increased absorption of oxalate that may lead to the formation of calcium oxalate stones. This risk is more prevalent to people who are lactose intolerant as they can’t get calcium from dairy products. However, dairy can be replaced by other calcium-rich foods like salmon, sardines, pistachios, dried figs, pecans, macadamia nuts etc. Some leafy veggies like bok choy, cabbage and kale are also good sources of calcium. 

4. Higher Doses Of Vitamin C Supplements 

Some individuals believe that by cutting their fruit intake on a ketogenic diet, they won’t get enough Vitamin C and hence start taking external vitamin c supplements. But the problem is, higher doses of vitamin c can again increase the concentration of oxalate in the urine leading to the formation of kidney stones. 

However, the good news is you can get enough vitamin C from other natural sources even after cutting fruit intake. Some vegetables like bell peppers, broccoli, kale, bok choy are excellent sources of vitamin C. So, instead of relying on supplements, try to include these lovely food items in your keto diet.

5. Lack Of Magnesium 

Although there are no official reports that prove that magnesium deficiency can lead to the formation of kidney stones, some reports have suggested that enough doses of calcium can prevent kidney stones. Because while transitioning to a keto diet, your body can suffer from magnesium deficiency. Therefore, mineral supplementation is very important on a keto diet. 

6. Excessive Protein Intake

Protein is considered as the best bodybuilding component. Hence, people start loading on the protein which is not a very good idea. While individuals with healthy kidneys can handle their higher protein intake, the ones with kidney issues can make their kidney problem worse. The reason is, a high-protein diet can promote the uric acid excretion which may further result in stone formation. Also, protein demands higher water intake to get dissolved into the body. If you’re taking excessive protein and not consuming enough water, your kidneys may get affected. 

Here is a point to remember, the keto diet is rich in fats and not in protein. You only require moderate and not high doses of protein on keto. 

So, these were the six factors that may lead to the formation of stones on a keto diet. Now, to help you more, here are some important tips for a well-formulated ketogenic diet to prevent the kidney stones. 

  1. First and foremost, stay hydrated. Because you’re losing weight, your body needs to balance and wash out the metabolic products. For this reason, drink plenty of water even when you’re not feeling thirsty. Also, try having lemon-infused water. It will suffice the vitamin c needs of your body and will bind the calcium molecules.
  2. Don’t Load On Meats. Limit your protein intake if you’re consuming in large quantities. Your diet should be high in fats and moderate in protein. 
  3. Try To fulfil your micros with natural food items instead of relying solely on supplements. 
  4. Consult your doctor before taking any mineral or vitamin supplements. 
  5. Most importantly, get your kidney checkup done. It will help you to determine whether you’re at risk or not. If you’re at risk then please stay away from ketogenic and low carb diets. However, if you’re safe then you can go on keto well. 

In Conclusion

In essence, a well-formulated keto diet is totally safe for people who don’t have any kidney-related issues. A keto diet even helps in preventing high blood pressure and diabetes which are the major causes behind the formation of kidney stones. As an exception, those who have a history of stone formation or are at risk of it should avoid going on a keto diet. 

Apart from it, anyone can safely dip his toes into this amazing diet for getting quick and effective results.

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