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Can apple cider vinegar cause kidney stones?

Apple cider vinegar has become a popular health food trend, with claims that it can help with weight loss, improve digestion, and lower blood sugar levels. Some people also believe that apple cider vinegar has benefits for kidney health and can help prevent kidney stones from forming.

What are kidney stones?

Kidney stones are hard deposits made up of minerals and salt that form inside the kidneys. They develop when there is an imbalance in the concentration of minerals, such as calcium, oxalate, and phosphorus, in the urine. Small stones may pass through the urinary tract on their own, but larger ones can become lodged in the ureters, blocking the flow of urine and causing severe pain.

Some of the common factors that can increase the risk of developing kidney stones include:

  • Dehydration – Low fluid intake allows minerals to crystallize and stick together.
  • Diet high in oxalates – Oxalate is found in many foods including spinach, beets, nuts, and chocolate.
  • Diet high in animal protein – Can increase excretion of calcium and uric acid.
  • Obesity – Associated with increased excretion of stone-forming minerals.
  • Certain medical conditions like hyperparathyroidism and gout.
  • Some medications.
  • Family history of kidney stones.

Kidney stones can cause severe pain in the back, abdominal area, or groin as they pass through the urinary tract. Other symptoms may include:

  • Pain or burning sensation during urination.
  • Pink, red, or brown urine from blood in the urine.
  • Cloudy or foul-smelling urine.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Frequent need to urinate.
  • Fever and chills if there is an infection.

If the stone completely blocks urine flow and causes a kidney infection, prompt medical attention is required. Smaller stones may be managed with pain medication, drinking lots of fluids, and straining urine to capture the stone. Larger stones often require procedures like lithotripsy to break up the stone or surgery to remove it.

Does apple cider vinegar help prevent kidney stones?

Apple cider vinegar is made by fermenting the sugars from apples into acetic acid. It contains vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, the most abundant being acetic acid. Advocates claim it can help dissolve kidney stones and prevent their formation due to the following properties:

  • Acetic acid – May help break down kidney stones and prevent crystallization of minerals.
  • Potassium – Plays a role in balancing acidity and preventing calcium buildup.
  • Magnesium – Deficiency can contribute to kidney stones.
  • Water – Helps flush out the kidneys and urinary tract.

However, there is limited scientific evidence that apple cider vinegar truly prevents kidney stones. A few small studies have shown promise:

  • A 2016 rat study found that giving potassium magnesium citrate supplements (common kidney stone therapy) along with apple cider vinegar reduced kidney crystal formation more than the supplement alone.
  • A 2017 study in rats with kidney stones found that apple cider vinegar inhibited stone formation compared to controls.
  • A study in urolithic rats found less calcium oxalate crystal buildup in the kidneys when given apple cider vinegar compared to controls.

However, this research has only been done in animals so far. Well-designed human studies are still needed.

Can apple cider vinegar cause kidney stones?

There is no evidence that apple cider vinegar itself can cause kidney stones in most people. However, there are a few potential risks to be aware of:

  • Potassium levels – Apple cider vinegar is high in potassium. For those prone to high potassium, it could potentially elevate levels enough to contribute to kidney stone formation.
  • Tooth enamel erosion – Apple cider vinegar is highly acidic. Over time, swishing or drinking diluted vinegar can erode tooth enamel. This releases more calcium into the saliva, which can end up in the kidneys and form stones.
  • Low urine pH – Acidic urine below 5.8 pH can increase the risk of kidney stones. Vinegar may lower urine pH.

For people already prone to calcium kidney stones, the acidity of apple cider vinegar could contribute to stone formation by releasing calcium from bones and teeth. Those with a history of kidney stones may want to exercise caution with long-term use.

Recommended dosage

There is no standardized dosage recommendation for apple cider vinegar and kidney health. However, these are general guidelines based on research:

  • 2-4 tsp apple cider vinegar per day diluted in water or juice.
  • Do not take undiluted shots of apple cider vinegar.
  • Take with meals for best effects.
  • Maximum dosage is 4 tsp (20 mL) per day.

Start with 1 teaspoon (5mL) diluted in water once per day and gradually work up to 2-4 tsp maximum over 1-2 weeks. Too much too soon can cause throat irritation or digestive distress. Do not attempt to make your own apple cider vinegar at home, which is unregulated. Purchase a brand labeled as organic, unfiltered, and containing the “mother.”

Other potential remedies

While evidence is still preliminary on apple cider vinegar, other home remedies may be beneficial for preventing kidney stones:

  • Lemon juice – Provides citrate to alkalize urine and inhibit stone formation.
  • Basil – May help prevent kidney injury and dissolve kidney stones.
  • Wheatgrass – Reduces calcium oxalate deposits in urine.
  • Pomegranate juice – Contains antioxidants that may inhibit stone formation.
  • Dandelion root tea – Acts as a diuretic and increases urine output.

When to see a doctor

Dietary remedies should not replace medical evaluation and treatment for kidney stones. See a urologist or nephrologist if you experience symptoms like:

  • Severe pain in the back/abdomen.
  • Painful urination.
  • Nausea, vomiting, fever.
  • Pink, red, or brown urine.
  • Inability to urinate despite urgency.

Recurring kidney stones may warrant testing to identify causes, including blood tests, urine analysis, imaging, and genetic testing.


Early evidence suggests apple cider vinegar may offer some protective benefits against kidney stones, but more research is needed. It’s thought to help break down mineral deposits and provide minerals that play a role in kidney health.

However, there are also some risks that it could potentially contribute to kidney stones in susceptible individuals. Stick to a maximum dosage of 2-4 teaspoons per day diluted in water or juice.

While apple cider vinegar may be a helpful addition for stone prevention, increase fluid intake, follow a low-sodium diet, and eat a balanced diet low in animal protein and oxalates. See a doctor if you have symptoms of a kidney stone. Lifestyle changes and sometimes medications/procedures are needed to reduce recurrence.

Apple Cider Vinegar and Kidney Stones
Potential benefits Potential risks
  • Acetic acid breaks down mineral deposits
  • Provides magnesium and potassium
  • Increases urine acidity
  • High potassium could elevate levels
  • Erodes tooth enamel, releasing calcium
  • May lower urine pH
Apple Cider Vinegar Dosage
Form Dosage Frequency
Diluted in water or juice 1-4 tsp Once or twice per day

Key Points

  • Animal studies show vinegar may help prevent kidney stones, but more human research is needed.
  • It could potentially cause stones in those prone to high calcium levels.
  • Stick to a dosage of 1-4 tsp per day diluted in liquid.
  • See a doctor for symptoms like severe back/abdominal pain, bloody urine, fever, or inability to urinate.
  • Prevention involves drinking enough fluids, limiting sodium, and restricting foods high in oxalate and animal protein.