Jill jpegIn my 13 years of working with stone formers, as a nurse in residence at Litholink Corporation and in my own practice, the number one question has always been: ‘How much water do I really need to drink?’ Maybe as important is: ‘How Do I Do It?’

Tread Slowly

Many patients leave their doctor’s office with the vague instruction to increase their water input. How much are you supposed to drink to reduce your stone risk?

Even more, patients are told to go home and start drinking a gallon of water a day. If you don’t drink more than a couple of glasses per day now, how are you supposed to drink a gallon tomorrow?

Drinking more water is a simple way to reduce your stone risk, but simple does not mean easy. Most of you find this task extremely hard. I tell everyone to start out slowly. If you drink one glass per day now, then drink two tomorrow. Set new goals to increase your water consumption each week. I have seen people go from 1 glass per day to 10 glasses per day within a month.

Understanding how much water to drink and all of the details behind it can be exhausting. I just released a course called The Kidney Stone Prevention Course to help you understand how to implement your physician’s prescribed treatment plans.


Spend Time to Avoid Pain

I can hear you saying now; I don’t have enough time in the day to spend it in the washroom”.

This is a legitimate response and one I have heard many times throughout my career. I will not lie. You will spend more time in the bathroom, but you will get accustomed to your more frequent bathroom visits. The bigger picture is the one to focus on. Better hydration means you will be less likely to form more stones; this means that water can reduce ER and doctor visits, and lost time away from work.  What is going to the bathroom a few more times a day compared to all of the pain, suffering, and expense you will endure if you don’t drink more water?

Be Willful

I have seen my share of pilots, teachers, surgeons, nurses, and traveling salesman all increase water intake despite the time constraints of their occupations. The one thing they all do is make the time.

I have worked with surgeons and surgical nurses before and it is true that they cannot leave the OR to use the bathroom during an 8 hour open heart surgery. Intermittent dehydration can be a real problem in this case. My clients who work in the OR do their best to drink for the rest of the day to try and make up for the loss. Sometimes there is really no choice. Thankfully this is the exception, not the rule.

Once you make up your mind that you do not want to suffer with the severe consequences that kidney stones bring to your life, you will find a way to incorporate more water into your daily routine. It is your choice, your commitment to your health that creates a one day at a time habit of drinking more water.

How Much?

Under the usual conditions of life, 3 – 4 liters of fluids a day will provide 2.5 to 3 liters of urine volume, and this is enough. The average healthy adult bladder holds about 1/2 liter, so this means 7 – 9 bathroom trips in 24 hours.

Input Doesn’t Always Equal Output

Four factors make the answer harder to come by: sodium intake, geographical location, occupation, and exercise.

Sodium intake

High sodium intake can confuse people. It is does not by itself change how much you need to drink, but salt intake can shift the timing of water loss so you think you are not increasing your urine volume even though you are drinking. It does something more. It increases urine calcium losses, a matter we will come back to at a later time.

When you eat a meal that is high in salt, you can count on it decreasing your urine output. I have clients tell me that they drink “a ton” of  water but they never have to use the bathroom. The reason is that water is retained with the excess sodium. High sodium meals will decrease urine output that day and even that night, thus causing bloating, worsened hypertension, and higher risk for stones because of higher urine calcium.

But a steady high sodium intake, not just the effects of one meal, will cause a steady water retention and stable weight gain so after a while the extra water you drink will appear in the urine. In fact, when people lower their salt intake they become less thirsty so they have to focus more on drinking or they will ‘forget’.

Even so, keeping your water intake high and lowering your sodium consumption is best. Stone formers who have no medical contraindications to lower salt diets should be aiming for about 1500 mg of sodium per day. People become accustomed to high water intake and low sodium intake, and can benefit not only from the stone prevention but often from a lower blood pressure. How you lower your sodium intake to this number will be discussed in a future post.

Geographical location

There are actually places on the map that we who deal with kidney stones call the “stone belt”. Basically these are the states that are consistently hot and humid or hot and dry. Why is where you live a problem?  Simply put, you sweat more. If you sweat more, you run the risk of becoming dehydrated, and being dehydrated reduces your urine volume and makes you more prone to form a stone. If you live in a hot, humid or dry state, you need to drink more to compensate.


Are you working construction in the summer in Texas? Are you a camp counselor in Arizona? Do you wash windows for a living in Florida? Your occupation can be the increased risk factor for your stone disease. The reason is the same as above. You are sweating more and need to drink more than the office worker seated in the air conditioned office whose windows you are washing.


I am very proud of you that you are doing your daily exercise. We all know how important that is to maintain good health. Exercise plays an important part in stone prevention so make sure you do it. Just remember to hydrate before, during, and after to balance the water lost from sweating!


Here are few ways to make water drinking more enjoyable.

Stylish water bottle

Find a water bottle  that you really like carrying around. Seems like such a silly thing, but it really does help. I like big ones so I don’t have to keep getting up to fill it and it makes me very proud to see it empty. You may find smaller ones keep you inspired and you can easily go refill it as you make your bathroom pit stop. Here is an awesome water bottle I have found to help

Make Tasty

Add fruit to your water. Adding lemons to your water has the added benefit of increasing your citrate level which is a natural inhibitor of stones, but use fruit that makes you smile most.

Using the product Mio has helped many patients who constantly tell me that water is BORING. My reply is always, “better boring water than excruciating stones”. It is at that point that they take another sip.

Water is the most benign way to increase fluid intake, but don’t forget to include other beverages in your daily intake: Green tea, lemonade (no sugar), flavored waters, even fruit like watermelon, grapes, etc. will be helpful.

Be Techy

If you’re a phone app geek like me, download this app and track your progress


Eat Your Water

Here is a list of foods that are made up of at least 90% water. Be careful. Some of them are high in oxalate and for those of you who need to limit your oxalate intake I have asterisked them: cucumbers, radishes, iceberg lettuce  celery*, tomato*, green peppers, cauliflower, spinach*, starfruit, strawberries, broccoli, grapefruit, baby carrots*, and watermelon.

Channel Your Inner Child

I have straws on my counter top in a cute container. They add color, fun, and make drinking water a much more whimsical experience. They also makes the water go down a bit faster. I find myself downing a glass with ease when I have a straw. My son likes it too. No matter what your age or disposition, straws add fun to an otherwise boring activity.

If you are enjoying some grape or apple juice, dilute it with half water. You will cut down on your sugar and increase your water intake. This is a win-win.

A neat way to add color and zest to your water without added calories or artificial flavors: Freeze grapes, or lemon, lime, or orange peels, and add to your water instead of boring ‘ole ice cubes.

Make new habits

Every time you reach for a diet soda, replace it with water. Soon you will just reach for water and your old diet soda will be a long forgotten bad habit.

Upon waking, drink a glass or two of water with lemon. This helps keep your urine alkaline and gets you feeling ready for the day.

In winter, get some hot water, lemon and honey. It will warm you up on a cold day.

Green tea (yes, low in oxalate).

Le Croix. For those of you who are addicted to bubbles. Try this no calorie, carbonated water. It comes in many flavors and has been a staple in my house for the past year. There are generic versions of it for budget conscience stone formers.

Drink a glass of water before and after a meal. Drink water. Eat less. Yet another win, win. Who knew it would be this fun?

Be Patient and Persist

I want you to know that incorporating large amounts of water into your life takes a bit of time. New habits are built with commitment, patience, and an understanding that you are not perfect. You will have days that you cannot get in the amount of water that you would like to. It is ok. Your goal is to do your best on more days than not. And when you don’t, you can get back on track the next day.

Drinking more water is the number one thing you can do to help prevent further stone formation. It also has no bad side effects. So what do you say?  Let’s raise a glass, a refreshing, ice cold glass of water. It might just save you from your next ER visit.

A Reservation

Water is always the first line of treatment for stones.The most important thing to do about supersaturation is lower it, and water will do just that. In relation to kidney stone prevention, more is better. In a perfectly healthy younger (below age 50) person taking no medications, up to 5 or even 6 liters a day is safe provided it is consumed over the whole day and never all at once. But if you have heart disease, kidney disease, or liver disease, or are elderly, great caution is important and the amount of water needs to be determined individually for you. When diuretic drugs are being used, to lower urine calcium excretion for stone prevention or for blood pressure control, water intake needs to be no more than 3-4 liters a day and testing is necessary at intervals to be sure blood sodium levels have not fallen. Many other medications interfere with water excretion; psychoactive drugs can do this, for example. All drugs in use must be reviewed with  your physician before drinking large volumes of water, above 2.5 liters daily. It is true that most people can easily and safely drink the extra water needed for stone prevention, but the reservations are important, always.

I have recently put together a private FB page called THE Kidney Stone Diet.  It is a group that helps educate you on your physician prescribed treatment plans. I moderate it to keep it clinically sound.  Come on over and join the discussion!


More You Might Like

Jill Harris on Variety of Beverages

Our Page Dedicated to Patients

Tips On How To Get The Most From Your Physician

Supersaturation: The Key To Stone Disease

Understanding how much water to drink and all of the details behind it can be exhausting. I just released a course called The Kidney Stone Prevention Course to help you understand how to implement your physician’s prescribed treatment plans.


267 Responses to “HOW TO DRINK ENOUGH WATER”

  1. David Wagner

    I’m thinking of starting to drink some warm lemon water every morning upon waking. Someone suggested half a lemon (0.5 oz) with 8 oz of water before breakfast. For me I was thinking of starting out with half of that dose. For convenience, I’m planning on getting my lemon juice from a bottle. Does this sound OK? Wish I could afford your course.

  2. Thambi

    I just had a CT scan, and came to know that I have my URETER swollen three times than the actual size. I took Bactrim course for 7 days. I get a thick white discharge now in the morning, and I am starting to feel more urine trips but less urine coming. I’m usually used to drinking tons of hot water and am never tired of it. NOW, my questions are :

    1) Can I still drink more water? I see the water goes back to the kidney. I just don’t want to add additional pain. Please clarify.
    2) My CT Scan follow up with Urologist is scheduled coming Wednesday but I’m concerned. How do they usually remove stones If in case I have stones? I’m surprised though, because as i said earlier I’m a crazy water drinker.
    3) What does my future looks like related to this Ureter swelling? If I’m diagnosed with Prostate, what are all the possible treatment options and how soon I can get cured?
    4) Do I need to worry too much about this?
    5) I drink only hot water. Exactly 16oz on a microwave 90 secs to 2 mins usually. I’m comfortable drinking all that. Usually I get to dispose full urine in an hour, but now it’s probably less than 25% coming. That worries me a lot.

    Looking forward to your advise. Thanks.

    • Fredric Coe, MD

      Hi Thambi, A swollen ureter – one site – usually means obstruction from a stone or other cause. Both ureters swollen can mean other things including bladder outlet obstruction from your prostate gland. Your urologist will figure all this out when you have a procedure to evaluate the cause. Water is never enough for stones, but in fact you do not even know if it is a stone. So right now, everything waits on the next step with your physician. As for worrying, I would let your physician worry as he/she is responsible for your health and needs to take care of whatever is wrong. Regards, Fred Coe

  3. Wanda Buchheit

    I am a 66 yo female who is 5′ 1″ tall and weights about 110lbs who chronically forms kidney stones:
    How many ounces of water should I be drinking each day?
    Is it best to drink most of my water during/after each meal?
    Should my water be mineral?
    Should my water be alkaline and what is the best pH?
    Should my water be negative ORP?
    What time of night can I safely stop drinking water such that I don’t have to get up to go to the bathroom multiple times (after one time, I can’t go back to sleep and can’t do well on only about 5 hours of sleep per night)?
    I take 10 of Potassium Citrate each morning in a cup of coffee to be able to get it down as it tastes so BAD! Can’t swallow the pills; won’t go down.
    Thank you for all your answers!

    Desperate to NOT form more stones!

    • jharris

      Hi Wanda,

      You need to drink enough fluids so you produce about 85 ounces per day of urine. How much you need to drink to get you to that urine volume depends on different variables. Like, how much sugar you are eating, how much sodium you are eating, how much you sweat, etc. So hard to answer. Have you done a urine collection? You need to drink your fluids throughout the day so that you do not have periods of dehydration. We do not care what type of water you drink and buying bottled can be very expensive. Tap is fine if you prefer that. Cut your fluids a couple of hours before bedtime so you are not being disturbed that many times during the night.
      Hope this helps,

    • Fredric Coe, MD

      Hi Wanda, fluids may not be the best single treatment. Take a look at a more complete approach. Be sure of what caused your stones. Treatment is for all of you, not just the stones. Regards, Fred Coe

  4. Linda haigh

    Just had stone removed the pain from the stone was terrible wondering how much calcium should I be taking afraid if taking to much and is 64oz of water a day ok

  5. Dave Joe

    How dehydrated does one have to be to form stones? If the urine is light yellow to a yellow color is that ok compared to a dark yellow with a noticeable odor? I drink water when I eat and at other times during the day but not at the large quantities that are recommended such as 8 to 10 glasses. I also drink coffee and red bulls, and I read that, technically, water is being taken in. When I overdo it with the caffeine, I urinate more frequently, but I assume that “flushing” of my kidneys is happening as water goes through the kidneys more frequently and whatever kidney stone forming particles are becoming present, exit my kidneys. I then drink water later. The headaches that come with dehydration are very rare for me.
    Sorry for the long question(s). I am paranoid about forming stones, but I do not know more besides the general “eat healthy and drink lots and lots of water/fluids” that can be applied to almost all health conditions. From what I understand from reading articles, stones affect 5% of the American population and another article I read states that the majority of Americans are dehydrated. Am I wrong to assume that stones should be very common then?
    Thank you for any assistance.

  6. Arnold Weiss

    If I drink a couple of beers a day does that count as water intake.
    Also I have heard that coffee doesn’t count
    Is that true?
    Finally I take a lot of vitamins C. and D
    Are those contraindicated

  7. shah zaib

    hi, i have gone through the ultrasound and reports says that i do not have stones in kidney but some stone particles are developing or forming. so doctor said to me drink more and more water so that it can pass through urine. i want to know how much water do i need to drink and how much time stone does take to pass on


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