ZismanUCThe featured image points to a widespread idea now on the web concerning how cola drinks might promote kidney stone passage. It has been called the ‘Coke Treatment for Kidney Stones.‘ Fluids are valuable for all stone formers, but the suggested usage may not be ideal and this post points out some of the drawbacks.


A few months ago, a delightful 71-year-old woman presented to our clinic for a metabolic evaluation to try to stop her chronic kidney stones. She passed her first kidney stone about 5 years ago. A year later she developed another kidney stone, which required shockwave lithotripsy therapy. Ultimately her stone was analyzed and she was told it was a “calcium stone.” Over the following few years, she continued to pass one stone per year. More recently, the frequency had increased to a few times per year. Frustrated with the frequent stone recurrences, she sought information online regarding potential remedies for recurrent stone disease. On several websites she came across a remedy known as the “Coke treatment,” which was purported to dissolve kidney stones and prevent stone recurrence. She sent in her payment of $39.97 and received a booklet instructing her to do the following:

  • drink 72 ounces of Coca Cola, ideally not diet or caffeine-free, in 15 minutes or as fast as possible
  • steam and puree one-half pound of asparagus and drink immediately
  • repeat as necessary until kidney stone pain is resolved and stones have passed
  • some variations of this treatment that can be found on the web also recommend drinking water for several hours after the treatment

She dutifully followed the instructions provided and found that on the day of her acute pain, her symptoms did, indeed, abate. Unfortunately, over the next year she found the frequency of her stone attacks actually increased – most recently to as often as passing gravel 2 to 3 times weekly (with significant discomfort). To combat this she has been using the “Coke treatment” about 2-3 times weekly over the last year, creating an apparent vicious cycle (more on that later). Finally, her daughter insisted that she see a physician and so she presented to our office, wondering why her treatment hasn’t been effective.


Using the term ‘Coke treatment of kidney stones’ yielded about 108,000 results, and by page 10 the treatment was still prominent. So cola drinks as a treatment is current.

claim in Internet lore is that phosphoric acid, an additive used in dark colas, when consumed in large quantities can facilitate a reaction within the kidney that will dissolve the calcium oxalate or calcium phosphate admixture that is the kidney stone.  One finds variants of this claim in the discussions by patients.

As I pictured this poor older woman chugging a 6-pack of Coke 2-3 times per week with an asparagus chaser, I was curious to determine whether any potential scientific merit to the internet solution exists.

In short, the answer is No.

Allow me take you through some of the details.


Fluids are Useful

I will start with the 72-ounces of Coca Cola that are to be ingested rapidly. Of course, if one is having acute renal colic with a small stone stuck in a tiny structure like the ureter or urethra, drinking over two liter of fluids of any sort is likely to be beneficial in attempting to propel the stone forward and out of the body. But why Coca Cola? Or any cola for that matter? Is there some reason to believe cola drinks have special properties as a stone treatment?

As far as I can tell, no.

Cola Drinks Are Not a Proven Remedy

Phosphoric Acid as a Stone Dissolver

Phosphoric acid, mixed with nitric acid, is used as a cleaner in the beer industry to remove beerstone (calcium oxalate) from beer kegs. It is also used in home cleaning solutions, as an industrial etchant, and as a rust remover. This leads to the false impression that drinking acid phosphates in beverages will create conditions in the kidneys like those in the beer kegs.

In beer kegs, and when you clean your floor with cleaners, high concentrations of a strong acid are applied directly to the unwanted material.

You Can’t Get Phosphoric Acid into the Urine

But when the small quantities of phosphoric acid found in dark colas are ingested, the first thing that will happen is that calcium and magnesium binding will occur in the gastrointestinal tract. By the time the remaining phosphoric acid is absorbed, additional buffering will occur in the blood and bone, so essentially neutral – not acid – phosphate will be delivered to site of the stone. In studies of a neutral phosphate’s effect on crystal inhibition and dissolution, no evidence of crystal dissolution has been noted.

Effects of Cola in People

How about real people, instead of crystals?

Cola Drinks Raise Stone Risk in Urine

Four subjects were asked to drink three quarts (96 oz) of a dark cola over the course of 48 hours. The researchers then compared the amounts of 3 urine constituents that are known to affect the likelihood of stone formation: magnesium (higher levels in the urine are associated with DECREASED likelihood of stone formation), citrate (higher levels are associated with DECREASED likelihood of stone formation) and oxalate (higher levels are associated with INCREASED likelihood of stone formation). In this study, the average 24-hr magnesium excretion decreased by 2.6 mg, the average citrate excretion decreased by 122 mg, and the average oxalate excretion increased by 8.6 mg.  So in fact, in each of the three constituents, the effect of the cola was a worsening of stone risk.

A larger study performed a few years later confirmed these findings, as well as an associated increase in supersaturation for calcium oxalate in a group of 45 subjects.

Cola Drinks Raise Statistical Risk of Stones

In nearly 200,000 individuals who have been followed over time, Ferraro and colleagues analysed the association between consumption of sugar-sweetened colas and kidney stone formation. Subjects consuming the most sugar sweetened colas were 23% more likely to develop a kidney stone than those in the lowest consumption group. In general cola type drinks are exactly the wrong ones for stone prevention.

Cola Drinks May Pose Other Health Hazards

Sugar and Sodium

The suggested amount of regular Coke in the ‘Coke treatment’ has 840 calories, 270 mg of sodium, and 39 grams of sugar. Taking in that many calories from sugar will almost certainly reduce the amount of other nutrients that one is able to eat or drink in a day, while sugar and sodium are both directly linked to higher urine calcium excretion, a key contributor to nephrolithiasis.

Bone Disease

Whether because of substitution for milk-based drinks, or due to the high acidity associated with soft drinks, consumption of increasing quantities of carbonated beverages has been linked to osteoporosis.

Kidney Disease

In addition to the well known association with diabetes and obesity, a recent report has linked higher consumption of dark colas (2 cans or more per day) with risk of chronic kidney disease.


Ancient Beliefs

Asparagus has been cultivated in the Mediterranean region and in Asia for over 2000 years. Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans believed asparagus to have medicinal properties ranging from treating mood disorders to rheumatism, and a 15th century Arabic sex manual entitled “The Perfumed Garden” claimed asparagus has aphrodisiac properties. It is believed by many to have diuretic properties.

Not Our Asparagus

The usual variety of asparagus that we would buy at the store, Asparagus officinales, is a different species than the medicinal Asparagus racemosa, which is commonly grown in Asia. Furthermore, the medicinal use of asparagus typically involves the root, not the shoot that we typically eat. In Germany, for example, asparagus root is approved by an herbal oversight board as a diuretic whereas the shoot is not recommended.

Not Any Asparagus?

How good is the evidence? Despite what the herbal board says, a recent review found no evidence for human use of the asparagus root as a diuretic. And what if it were a potent diuretic, for argument’s sake? It would have to have specific effects in the distal convoluted segment (a particular region of the kidney tubule), like the thiazide diuretics, to have any beneficial effects on stone prevention –and certainly unlikely to be effective in the acute setting.

So What’s the Harm in a Lot of Asparagus? 

Generally, not much. In normal quantities it is  a healthy vegetable loaded with nutrients such as folate, potassium, and vitamin C. For a stone former, however, there may be hidden dangers with a high asparagus intake. Asparagus has a moderate amount of oxalate, and this amount adds up quickly with repeated administrations of such treatments as the ‘Coke treatment.’ Furthermore, vitamin C is also metabolized to oxalate in the body, adding more of the lithogenic substance to the urine. So, as with most things (except water), it seems that moderation is key.


Looking back,our patient appears to have increased her stone attack frequency with the help of the “Coke treatment” from yearly to several times per week. It seems that the remedy was indeed worse than the disease.

During our visit, in preparation for which she performed several 24-hour urine collections, we determined an individualized plan for her kidney stone treatment based on her urine parameters and a thorough history. With a steady increase in her daily fluid intake and the addition of thiazide therapy, at last check she has had no further stone episodes.


On a hot Summer day, a can of Coke can be delightful. As a medical treatment for kidney stones, no cola is as good as plain water. In the very high doses of the ‘Coke treatment’ there is no benefit predicted from what science we have, and no data to show benefit from a clinical trial. In fact, it would be difficult to organize and perform a clinical trial of the ‘Coke treatment’ because of its evident potential for harm. The trial would be unlikely to pass the human subject protection board review.

Don’t do it.

You Might Want to Read:

Kidney Stone Pain

Fluids to Prevent Stones

Citrate to Prevent Stones

What Stones Are

Types of Kidney Stones






  1. Julie

    I think that the Coke treatment that the 71 year old woman was using was way TO MUCH COKE. I use the Coke Treatment every 6 months. The mixture is 10oz pureed asparagus with 2 ltr decarbinated Coke on a empty stomach early in the morning within 2 hours. Than drink water for a hour I have not had any Kidney Stones problems since than. The doctors will only give you Narcotic pain pills and say Good luck. When the time is that you don’t have health insurance. You have to use other objectives that will help. This Asparagus/Coke (decarbinated) concoction has worked wonders for my health. I recommend it to any one that is having Kidney Stone problems. I always say anymore “It’s worth the Try” 😉

  2. Julie

    I use the Coke Treatment every 6 months. I have not had any Kidney Stones problems since than. The doctors will only give you Narcotic pain pills and say Good luck. When the time is that you don’t have health insurance. You have to use other objectives that will help. This Asparagus/Coke (decarbinated) concoction has worked wonders for my health. I recommend it to any one that is having Kidney Stone problems. I always say anymore “It’s worth the Try” 😉

  3. Rich Conrad

    I did this Coke remedy
    and my stone went from a 18mm to a 10mm in 2 weeks

  4. Ken

    The coke treatment didn’t make my 3 mm uric acid kidney stone pass. I had to have operations to remove uric acid stones because Chanca Piedra, hydrangea, citric acid, potassium citrate,magnesium citrate, and commercial herb formulations didn’t help in passing small kidney stones.

  5. Ken

    The coke treatment didn’t make my 3 mm uric acid kidney stone pass. I had to have operations to remove uric acid stones because Chanca Piedra, hydrangea, citric acid, potassium citrate,magnesium citrate, and commercial herb formulationsdidn’t help in passing small kidney stones.

  6. alex keenan

    I have used this off and on since I have had kidney stones for decades.
    The research quoted is about dissolving stones.
    I have used it to move a stone faster. It does work for me.
    What I noticed was using this I tended to get mucus like stuff as the stone went out.
    Just drinking tons of water did not get the mucus like stuff and took longer for the same amount of liquid.
    Need to stop looking at dissolving and start looking at moving stone.
    Take a roller coaster one a year to free stones so they can flush out.
    Then use the coke treatment to get the dam thing moving on its way out.

    • Fredric L Coe

      Hi Alex, Others have said this. I am pleased to post your comment. Fred

  7. Jerry Hogerson

    Yes it absolutely works. I’ve used it 3 times over the last 15 years. I’ve been through emergency rooms, MRI’s, and others but nothing worked. Every time I tell a doctor of this, they give you a cock-eyed look and want to quickly dismiss. But sorry, all you lame urologists, this works at 1% of the cost of the crap you offer..

    • Fredric L Coe

      Hi Jerry, We never said it absolutely does not work, just that there is no evidence that it does work. But if it did work for you I am happy and hope that continues as much as you need it to. Regards, Fred Coe

  8. Henry

    I too have kidney stone attack in 2010 been to ER and released with analgesic and flomax.
    Ready to have procedures to remove the stones. After reading the internet home remedies with coke and asparagus stones passed within 24 hours.
    I told three of my friends they all have stones attack before multiple times and they too tried this remedy and passed their kidney stones without surgery and are happy of the results.
    I know most of the researchers said otherwise.
    Perhaps the increase in fluid intake are the reasons the stone passed. But to those to suffered these pain this one time or two remedies does wonder.
    More research should be done and this remedies is not for prevention rather the treatment of acute attack!
    Therefore the focus should not be just for long term study but how it actually assist stone passing through journey and diuretic effects or dilation of the urethra effects of the materials used in this Coke remedy technique!

  9. John Carter

    PhD chemist. Had first stone 13 years ago. Excruciatingly painful. Could not pass it . . .had to have surgery. Developed another stone 6 years ago. Emergency room gave me narcotic and sent me home. Determined that I could not withstand more pain I did an online search and came across the coke/asparagus treatment. I did not believe it but thought what have I got to lose? Pain gone in 24 hours. I think there is something to it biochemically that is not scientifically understood.

    • Frederic L Coe

      Thanks, John. I cannot find the science, and we both know that stone passage – like all events – is stochastic at heart, so to the coinciding of remedy and benefit. Even so, discovery is always waiting for the right experiment. Regards, Fred

    • den

      It works.. Period…. The drug pushers poo poo it

      • Odetta

        Yeap. Agreed. It works. Period.

      • Mercedes McVey

        A drug is just a natural or synthetic substance which (when taken into a living body) affects its functioning. Administering coke/asparagus is still coming in from the outside with a chemical to cause change (or allopathic) although we don’t call Coke a drug, or sugar a drug, any food is alters your biochemistry. I think some doctors actually want to help people, and they are not all drug pushers/bad people out to get you, or that have huge egos, or just trying to make money off you.
        I think it’s great if it works. Too bad Coke can’t make you a more polite person.
        I was just here doing research for someone else. It’s unlikely she’d be able to drink a lot of coke, being diabetic, and the fact coke has so much sugar in it.

  10. B

    Look. This absolutely worked for me. 5mm stone. Went to hospital & they could do nothing for me except give me drugs….. 7 days of excruciating pain, then I tried this put if desperation. In 20 min. I was pain free.
    No, it does not work all the time. It depends on what type of body chemistry you have and what type of stones your body creates. It is a 50/50 shot. Better than nothing. It absolutely 100% worked for me. I guess I was lucky in the respect that I create the type of stones this works on! I hope the same 4 you!

    • Mercedes McVey

      That’s a good point, since there are different types of stones, this cure may work on some and not others? I think I might try anything if I were in that much pain.


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