Does drinking milk increase my risk of kidney stones?


Since the most common type of kidney stone is calcium oxalate, it is a common misconception that a high intake of calcium can increase one’s risk of developing kidney stones. In fact, including foods rich in dietary calcium, such as milk, yogurt, cheese, fortified milk alternatives, white beans, tahini, almonds and chia seeds, will actually decrease your risk of developing kidney stones. Dietary calcium binds to oxalate before it gets to the kidneys helping to prevent stones. It is unclear whether taking calcium in the form of a supplement will have the same beneficial effect.

What is a kidney stone?

A kidney stone is a hard object made from calcium, oxalate, urate, cystine, xanthine, and phosphate in the urine. In most people, other chemicals in urine will stop a stone from forming, or liquids will allow the chemicals to be passed out by the kidney. If a stone does form and cannot be passed out in the urine, it will cause a back-up of urine, which causes pain.

Risk factors for developing a kidney stone

  • A family history of kidney stones
  • Not drinking enough water
  • Too much or too little exercise
  • High intake of sugar or salt

What can I do to help prevent the development of a kidney stone?

  • Drink enough water to allow for pale yellow urine
  • Increase your intake of fruits and veggies. This will increase the pH of your urine, making stones less likely to form
  • Decrease your intake of processed foods high in sugar and salt. Compare labels on foods like soups, sauces, breads, granola bars and cereals to find brands that are lower in sugar and salt
  • Include good sources of dietary calcium everyday
  • If you’ve had a uric acid kidney stone, you may need to limit your intake of alcohol, red meat, or shellfish
  • Drinking one cup of coffee per day seems to result in slightly lower incidence of stones
  • Choose legumes as a protein alternative in place of meat a couple times per week. Very high intake of animal protein can increase one’s risk of stones
  • Avoid the use of vitamin C supplements as excess vitamin C can convert to oxalate


Finkielstein VA and Goldfarb DS. Strategies for preventing calcium oxalate stones CMAJ

National Kidney Foundation. 2016. Kidney stones. Accessed May 10, 2016.