People drink a lot of iced tea in the summertime to stay hydrated and healthy. But iced tea contains high concentrations of oxalate, a key ingredient in the recipe for kidney stones. If you’re susceptible to kidney stones, stay away from iced tea and lower your risk by drinking water or real lemonade.
Dehydration and kidney stones
People who have had kidney stones will tell you they are the most painful experience known to man. Unfortunately, it’s an experience that has a 50-50 chance of reoccurring within five years. Dehydration is the most common contributing factor to kidney stones and people at risk are told to drink a lot of fluids to keep them from forming, especially in the summertime–peak iced tea season.
The iced tea hazard
About 85 percent of the tea Americans drink is iced, according to the Tea Association of the USA. According to Dr. John Milner, for about 10 percent of Americans who deal with kidney stones, iced tea is probably the worst thing they can drink.
In a press release Milner, an assistant professor in the Department of Urology at Loyola University’s Chicago Stritch School of Medicine warns that iced tea contains high concentrations of oxalate. Kidney stones are formed when calcium and either oxalate or phosphate crystallize from urine.
They’re usually small and are flushed away without notice. But sometimes the crystals grow large enough to become lodged in the ureters—small tubes that drain urine from the kidney into the bladder. Then the excruciating pain begins and continues until the stone is passed.
Drink real lemonade
People love iced tea because it’s very low in calories and has a refreshing flavor. But for people with kidney stones, plain water is the best hydrating beverage. For those at risk who need some flavor, Milner recommends lemonade made from real lemons.
Lemons are very high in citrates, which actually inhibit the formation of kidney stones. But Miller advises those at risk not to confuse citrate with citric acid (vitamin C) and start using vitamin C supplements., because the body metabolizes vitamin C into oxalate.
Get more calcium from food
Another mineral that inhibits the formation of kidney stones is calcium. Kidney stones contain calcium and it was once thought that a lot of calcium increases the risk. We know now that calcium binds to oxalate in the digestive tract to keep it from entering the blood stream and then the urinary tract, where it can crystallize into stones.
How do you know whether to cut down on iced tea? Men are four times more likely to develop kidney stones than women, and the risk rises sharply after age 40. Postmenopausal women with low estrogen levels and women who have had their ovaries removed also are at increased risk.
Avoid high oxalate foods
If that’s you, ask your doctor to run a simple test that checks your system for an overproduction of oxalate. Play it safe and cut back on high oxalate foods like spinach, chocolate, rhubarb and nuts. Start eating less meat, cut down on sodium and get more calcium from foods like dairy and oranges. Milk made from soy or almonds is an excellent calcium source if you’re lactose intolerant.
Drink lots of water and if you must, enjoy an occasional iced tea in moderation.