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Does vitamin D help with kidney stones?

Posted on: December 21, 2012   by  John Cannell, MD


Should people with kidney stones take vitamin D?

Recently, Dr Jie Tang and colleagues from the University of Colorado School of Medicine attempted to answer that question by studying more than 16,000 people, about 700 of whom had kidney stones. The authors wanted to see if vitamin D blood levels were related to kidney stones.

Tang J, McFann KK, Chonchol MB. Association between serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D and nephrolithiasis: the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III, 1988-94. Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2012 Dec;27(12):4385-9

The question of whether or not to supplement patients with kidney stones is a common and important question. As Dr. Tang wrote,

“At this time, there is no consensus in the management of nutritional vitamin D supplementation in patients with kidney stone disease. In clinical practice, physicians often withhold calcium and vitamin D supplementation in stone formers.”

The authors added,

“However, this practice has become a health-care challenge because of the overwhelming epidemiological evidence of health benefits from nutritional vitamin D supplementation in the general population. It is especially problematic with regard to bone health, as reduced bone mineral density is more prevalent in patients with kidney stone disease, and nutritional vitamin D supplementation is important in maintaining a dynamic calcium and bone balance.”

The authors looked for any association of vitamin D levels to kidney stones in the NHANES III group of patients. They found no relationship between vitamin D blood levels and kidney stones. Even when they used a cutoff of 50 ng/ml, they found no association between 25(OH)D and kidney stones.

The sad thing is that the prevention of kidney stone is easy; just alkalize the body by increasing the magnesium and potassium in the diet. The best way to do this is to eat foods rich in potassium and magnesium such as vegetables, fruit, seeds and nuts. In fact, over three years, those on a potassium-magnesium citrate preparation had a five-fold reduction in kidney stones.

Ettinger B, Pak CY, Citron JT, Thomas C, Adams-Huet B, Vangessel A. Potassium-magnesium citrate is an effective prophylaxis against recurrent calcium oxalate nephrolithiasis. J Urol. 1997 Dec;158(6):2069-73.

It is important that the salt preparation be an alkalizing one like citrate. The problem is that such a preparation cannot be patented, so doctors treating kidney stone patients know little or nothing about it.

The present study implies that if you have kidney stones, your risk of recurrent kidney stones will not be affected by whether or not you take vitamin D. However, you can reduce the risk dramatically by keeping hydrated and by alkalizing your body, and the best way to do that is by a diet rich in magnesium and potassium containing foods.

5 Responses to Does vitamin D help with kidney stones?

  1. [email protected]

    I have been using potassium bicarbonate to alkalinize my body using pH strips to check saliva and urine. Works well but wondering if this may upset my mineral balance. I also take apple cider vinegar and the bicarbonate to neutralize the acid, and mg malate.

  2. Rita and Misty

    Dear Dr. Cannell:

    As someone who may have recently suffered from kidney stones, this article holds particular interest for me. Thank you!

    Coincidentally, upon my first experiencing the excruciatingly painful attack, I commenced drinking a solution of water and sodium bicarbonate–in hopes to alkalize my body. I was just operating out of common sense…. Glad to know I was thinking in the right direction.

    Is daily consumption of water & baking soda a good way to control kidney stones? I would prefer never to experience such pain again….



    Rita Umile

  3. [email protected]

    Vitamin D does reduce the incidence of kidney stones, especially if you also decrease Calcium when increasing vitamin D.

    Magnesium has a long history of being able to both prevent and treat kidney stones.

    Recent studies show that vitamin K2 might also be able to prevent and treat not only kidney stones but also Calcium deposits in the arteries.

    Details at http://www.vitamindwiki.com/tiki-index.php?page_id=623

  4. Rita and Misty

    Still wondering about consuming a solution of baking soda & water on a daily basis in order to alkalize the body?

    My concern is possible side effect on Vitamin B levels….

    Thoughts, anyone? (thanks)….

  5. [email protected]

    Here’s the theory. First, we know that most of the people in the study who had levels up to 50 ng. really mostly have levels in the 20’s or less, another words most have vitamin D isufficiency.

    We know that vitamin D deficiency increases parathyroid hormone, which goes to the bones and dissolves microscopic areas of bone to maintain a normal calcium level. (too high a level causes sleepiness and coma, too low a level causes seizures, so it’s a very high priority function of the human body.

    Well, with this calcium being release from the bones, it could lead to the formation of calcium stones. Of course, there are other factors, Many stones are not calcium, Dehydration that is not really detectable in hot climates can lead to the precipitation of this excess calcium. (however this excess calcium usually does’t lead to an excess calcium level, it just maintains most of the time a normal calcium level in the blood),

    Perhaps as more people maintain a higher level of vitamin D, a study will eventually be done comparing those with levels over 50 ng with those with levels less than 30 ng. I would expect
    that their will then be a big difference in at least calcium kidney stones.

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