The People's Perspective on Medicine

Do Supplements Cause Kidney Stones?

Q. I have a friend who was told she probably got her kidney stones from taking vitamin C and calcium supplements. There isn’t a daily vitamin supplement out there that doesn’t contain one or the other, if not both. What’s the story on this?

A. The story is complicated, because the studies have given contradictory results. Calcium supplements appear to increase the risk of kidney stones (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Jul. 2011).

Some people make more kidney-stone forming oxalate after large doses (2,000 mg) of vitamin C (Journal of Nutrition, Jul. 2005). The amount you would get from a multi-vitamin, however, is not likely to cause problems.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I had kidney stones for approx. 10 years. A naturopath tested my parathyroid hormone level and found it to be over 250, normal is 51. Surgery is now done with nuclear scans, it’s no longer exploratory. Since 2003, I have not passed a kidney stone. They are more painful than birthing a baby. Look it up on the internet.

Back in the 80’s and into the 90’s I had repeated stays in the hospital for kidney stones. One year I was in the hospital seven times. The pain was incredible.
At that time I was drinking lots of soda/pop and not eating that well either. I stopped drinking so much soda/pop. I also started to eat better and take more vitamins and supplements. I read that magnesium oxide and vitamin B6 worked so I took those too. Who knows what really worked? I just know I have not had any kidney stone attacks since the early 90’s.

I have a bit of GERD and take a couple or three tums every evening before going to bed. I need this even when taking a Nexium every morning, which I have stopped because the Tums seems to work. Am I likely to get kidney stones from that calcium in Tums? A doctor told me no.

I had a painful bout of kidney stones in my early 20’s that was terrible and did some research to see how that could be prevented again. What I discovered was magnesium along with calcium would prevent those stones. For 55 years now magnesium has always been part of my calcium intake and there has never been a repeat of the stones.

I would like to hear more about this subject.

Does Vitamin D cause kidney stones?

Years ago, my urologist told me that calcium citrate would prevent kidney stones, and other types of calcium pills would cause them.

The calcium study that showed “possible” kidney stone formation was done without also supplementing vitamin K2, which is necessary to deliver the calcium to the bones, instead of other areas of the body where it doesn’t belong (e.g., kidneys, valves, artery walls). As far as vitamin C, according to Dr. Linus Pauling in his books that were written over 20 years ago documenting his vitamin C research, he wrote then that doctors need to stop telling their patients that vitamin C can cause kidney stones–he proved that it didn’t with massive doses that he gave to many people over many years. He also recommended that every healthy person should take a minimum of 6,000mg daily of vitamin C in divided doses to remain healthy, so I’ve been taking that amount for the past 18 years with nothing but positive results.

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