1 in 11 people in the United States is affected by kidney stones (1). Kidney stones are a common medical condition where small hard pebble-like deposits form in the kidneys, making it sometimes painful to pass through the urinary tract. It all depends on the size (11).
This medical condition can be serious, as it can increase the risk of kidney disease and hypertension (2). Although, if medically treated immediately, they rarely cause long-term effects. Men and those with specific health conditions are more likely to develop kidney stones (12).
There are four types of kidney stones, including calcium oxalate (the most common), struvite stones, uric acid stones, and cysteine stones (3). Nearly 75 percent of kidney stones are calcium oxalates stones (4). Calcium oxalate is the most common because they are largely spread from overconsumption of certain foods, while some other types are mainly genetic (5), (13).
Since calcium kidney stones are the most common, you can often prevent or lessen kidney stone symptoms by choosing a healthy, balanced diet. But where do coffee and tea fit into that diet? Some believe that caffeine can be a huge trigger for kidney stones, in coffee or tea. However, there is a plethora of research out there saying some caffeinated beverages can help, while others can wreak havoc (14).
Check out the studies and evidence below to see what is out there about coffee and tea consumption.
Tip: Eating a healthy, balanced diet and drinking plenty of water can help reduce risk of developing certain types of kidney stones.
Does Coffee Cause Kidney Stones?
When you think about coffee, you likely automatically think about caffeine. Coffee is one of the most popular beverages on a global level. Although the caffeine in coffee is an addictive stimulant, it is also a diuretic. Some research suggests it can have benefits regarding kidney health (15).
One study shows that those who drank caffeine had less of a chance of developing kidney stones (6). But does that mean caffeine consumption is good for everyone? Not exactly.
Caffeinated beverages extend far beyond coffee. The most common ones include soda, soft drinks, energy drinks, and tea. There is one study that shows only those who drank caffeinated or even decaffeinated coffee had a 10 percent lower risk of developing kidney stones (7).
Although there is some evidence that points to coffee consumption for the prevention of kidney stones, it is important to monitor how much caffeine you can have. Some people can have three cups of coffee a day, without bother (16), (17). While others get jittery and cannot sleep with a half a cup (18), (19).
Everyone’s bodies are different in how we tolerate beverages, food, and especially stimulants like caffeine. If you cannot tolerate caffeine from coffee, there are many other options out there. You can drink decaf, half-caffeinated coffees, or even herbal blends with no caffeine that tastes like coffee.
Even decaffeinated coffee shows to have some promising effects at lowering the chance of kidney stones (20). This proves that the bioactive compounds in coffee can have many protective effects on overall kidney health and function (8).
Although more studies are necessary, there is a decent amount of research proving that coffee can have a significant positive effect on kidney stone prevention.
Tip: Drinking 1-3 cups of coffee per day may help reduce risk of kidney stones. If you are reactive to caffeine, drinking decaf coffee can still provide healthful benefits. Observe how caffeine makes you feel and make adjustments as needed.
Does Tea Cause Kidney Stones?
Although tea can have similar qualities to coffee in that some of it is caffeinated, it is a whole different cup of tea. Tea can negatively affect kidney stones because it is high in oxalates (21), (22).
That is because there are many different varieties of tea, and some can be a whole lot more beneficial than others, caffeinated and decaffeinated (22). Green tea can have powerful beneficial effects for the prevention of kidney stones, for example. Green tea is much lower in oxalates, so there is some research to prove it can help (23).
Green tea has potent antioxidants that can help reduce the risk of kidney stones. In one study, the antioxidant properties in green tea show a preventive effect in renal stone formation. It also prevents oxidative stress in nephrolithiasis, which is another common term to describe kidney stones (9).
However, green tea also contains oxalates, so more research is necessary. No research says it would further damage kidney stones, but some research shows there was no correlation between drinking green tea and lower risk (10), (24).
Tip: Green tea is very high in antioxidants, and is generally lower in oxalates. Enjoy a cup in moderation if you experience kidney stones.
Decaffeinated tea, just like coffee, can also have a 10 percent lower risk of developing kidney stones (7). But black tea has the highest amount of oxalates, so too much of it can have negative consequences for kidney stones. Types of black tea include English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Oolong, and much more.
Teas with a lot of oxalates like black tea are best to stay away from if you have a high risk of kidney stones, or if you have kidney stones. You want to avoid most drinks if you have an active case of kidney stones (25).
So, what should you drink? Besides tea or coffee, water is the most essential beverage you need to drink when you have kidney stones, and to prevent kidney stones. It is also necessary to prevent other kidney issues, as well as urinary tract infections (26), (27).
There is some evidence that green tea and other caffeinated and decaffeinated teas consumption may have positive effects at decreasing the risk of kidney stone formation (28). However, teas such as black tea are highest in oxalates and they can have negative effects or make kidney stones worse (29).
Always choose what works best for you and seek our medical advice if you are uncertain about what to eat or drink if you have kidney stones or are at a high risk of this common medical condition.
Tip: Avoid consuming black tea, which tends to be very high in oxalates. Instead, drink plenty of water throughout the day if you experience chronic kidney stones.
Kidney stones are a complex medical condition because of the types, and they can vary greatly among individuals. Coffee and tea do not cause kidney stones. Drinking each beverage caffeinated or decaffeinated can help decrease the chances of getting kidney stones (30).
If your body reacts poorly to caffeinated beverages, they are likely not for you. But that does not mean you cannot enjoy the decaffeinated options instead. If you have symptoms of kidney stones including pain in the lower back, painful urination such as burning or urine discoloration, bleeding, or a fever, seek out a medical professional immediately (31).
Tip: Drink coffee and tea in moderation, which can help prevent kidney stones. However, black tea is among the highest in oxalates and should be consumed less to prevent kidney stones.
Remember that many foods and beverages can either help to lessen kidney stone pain, or they can work against you creating more pain. Be aware of what your body can take and what it can do without it. Drinks are not the only thing to look at either. The types of food you pick can either be a huge contributor or a healing modality for kidney stones.
Since calcium stones are the most common, make sure you are getting adequate calcium in your diet, but not too much. Look into what foods and drinks may be affecting you, and always seek out professional help if you experience any type of kidney stones (32).
Tip: Drink at least half your body weight in pounds of water each day to prevent kidney stones.