Kidney stones are among the earliest recorded and most painful urological disorders in the world. According to the National Kidney and Urologic Disease Information Clearinghouse, kidney stones account for 500,000 visits to the emergency room each year. Though specific strategies for prevention or treatment of stone formation require a consultation with your physician, research indicates that drinking orange juice may inhibit a certain type of kidney stone.
Approximately one million people get kidney stones in the United States each year, according to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Kidney stones commonly begin as tiny deposits in the center of your kidney where urine collects before traveling to the ureter -- the tube connecting your kidney and bladder. Over a period of years, as more material clings to the deposit, it can create a solid crystal. These crystals can consist of calcium salts, uric acid or struvite -- a type of crystal composed of magnesium. Kidney stones generally do not cause discomfort until they pass from your kidney to your ureter. A dislodged stone can result in intense pain, chills, fever, sweating, nausea and vomiting.
Orange Juice Benefits
Theoretically, vitamin C-rich orange juice could help prevent certain kidney stones. According to "The New York Times," the juice works much the same way as the kidney stone medication potassium citrate. Orange juice has high levels of citric acids that appear to decrease calcium levels in your urine, reducing the amount of calcium kidney stones. According to Dr. Clarita Odvina, assistant professor of internal medicine at the Charles and Jane Pak Center for Mineral Metabolism and Clinical Research, "Orange juice could potentially play an important role in the management of kidney stone disease and may be considered an option for patients who are intolerant of potassium citrate."
A 2006 study conducted at UT Southwestern General Clinical Research Center in Dallas, Texas observed 13 volunteers -- some with a history of kidney stones -- as they consumed 13 oz. of orange juice, lemonade or distilled water three times a day with low-calcium, low-oxalate meals. Lemonade did not boost the levels of citrate -- a natural inhibitor of kidney stone formation. Orange juice, however, increased the amount of citrate in the urine while reducing the crystallization of uric acid and calcium oxalate -- the most prominent compound found in kidney stones. Researchers theorize that the potassium ion found in orange juice citrate may be the key to the effectiveness of orange juice in preventing calcium oxalate kidney stones. More scientific research is needed, however.
Large doses of orange juice can cause mouth ulcers, stomach upset, diarrhea, bloating, vomiting, indigestion, headaches and strong smelling urine. More significant side effects include back pain, insomnia, dental cavities and copper deficiency. Extreme overdoses of vitamin C may cause an increased risk of iron poisoning, especially in people with hereditary hemochromatosis. Additionally, according to Phyllis A. Balch, certified nutritional consultant and author of the book "Prescription for Herbal Healing," continuous high doses of vitamin C might actually contribute to kidney stone formation.