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Can Whey Protein Cause Kidney Stones?

author image Antonius Ortega
Antonius Ortega is a 13-year veteran of the fitness industry and an athletic trainer certified by the American Council on Exercise. His articles on fitness, health and travel have appeared in newspapers such as the "The Hornet," "The Daily Bruin," and "Stars and Stripes." Ortega trains in Orange County.
Can Whey Protein Cause Kidney Stones?
Too much protein can have long-term health effects. Photo Credit: deymos/iStock/Getty Images

Whey protein typically comes in powder form and is used as a supplement to daily protein consumption. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, eating too much protein can have long-term health effects, including the development of kidney stones and liver damage. If you already have liver or kidney damage, adding whey protein may cause more stress to these organs. Always consult your physician prior to supplementing with protein.

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Protein Amounts

Generally, consuming regular amounts of protein on a daily basis will not increase your risk of kidney stones unless you have a preexisting condition. Once you begin ingesting more protein than your body can handle, it can become a problem. You should try to get 10 to 35 percent of your daily total calories from protein, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For men this is roughly 56 grams per day, and 46 grams per day for women. Getting more than 30 percent of your daily total calories from protein can increase your risk of developing kidney stones.

Kidney Stones

According to the National Institute of Diabetes Digestive and Kidney Diseases, or NIDDK, kidney stones occur when components of urine -- calcium, oxalate, uric acid and phosphorus -- rise and get out of balance. When the levels of these components become too concentrated, they can harden and form tiny stones or mineral deposits. These stones can block the flow of liquids and cause damage or infection. When you consume too much protein, your kidneys can get overworked and become less effective at flushing and diluting byproducts from the breakdown of protein.

Who is at Risk

If you are already susceptible to developing kidney stones, adding extra protein in the form of whey may increase your risk of kidney stones. According to the NIDDK, risks of developing kidney stones include having a family history of kidney stones, repeated urinary tract infections, not drinking enough fluids and obesity. If you already have kidney stones, you should avoid consuming extra protein.

Dietary Considerations

High-protein diets can increase your risk of kidney stones, and even more so when you don’t eat enough fiber or drink enough water. Both water and fiber help with the digestion and breakdown of protein. Not drinking enough water makes it harder for your kidneys to flush out toxins and other protein byproducts. Fiber can help your stomach digest protein, and it keeps your stools from becoming too hard. Hard stools can lead to hemorrhoids and anal fissures. Try to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day, and get 25 grams of fiber.

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