If you are a tea professional, there’s nothing worse than having your urologist tell you to quit drinking tea because you’ve been diagnosed with a kidney stone. That’s what happened to me a couple of years ago.
I was surprised to find tea on my doctor’s list of Foods to Avoid, a list I’m sure is found in urologists’ offices worldwide.
Thank goodness tea wasn’t as high on the list as a few of my other favorite foods such as rhubarb, spinach, and chocolate!
Ten to fifteen percent of the population will develop stones in their lifetime. Men are more at risk than women and residents of the southeast are more susceptible than westerners. I fall into both of those categories.
80 percent of stones are calcium based and 80 percent of those are calcium oxalate. Diet and genetics are also key factors.
The reason tea is listed on the Foods to Avoid list is because it is considered to be an “oxalate-containing” beverage. But, do most urologists know there is a difference in oxalate levels found in different families of tea?
I’ve listened to research scientists deliver papers about tea and health at the International Tea & Health Symposium and often wondered, “Do they really know there is a difference between green and black tea? (Black tea is oxidized green tea.) Are they using fresh loose tea or store brand teabags for their experiments? And at what temperature did they brew their tea and for what length of time?” Those are all important details.
My skepticism led me on a path of discovery that helped make sense of this inconvenient health predicament.
I discovered several studies which found that soluble oxalate contents of black tea in tea bags and loose tea leaves were between 4.68 and 5.11 milligrams per gram of tea. Green and oolong teas had lower oxalate amounts, ranging from .23 to 1.15 milligrams per gram of tea.
What should a dedicated tea drinker do?
Here are my findings: (Just remember, I have two degrees in music and neither qualifies me to prescribe medical advice.)
- White, green and oolong teas have a low amount of oxalate and are not considered harmful.
- Black tea has a higher rate of oxalate. However, this factor can be tempered by adding milk to your black tea or to your meal. Calcium inhibits the intestinal absorption of oxalate.
- Increase your daily fluid intake – water, tea, and other beverages – to two liters.
- Add lemon or other citric acids to your fluids to help reduce the retention of oxalates. But be cautioned that oxalate also can be generated in the body when someone is getting high doses of vitamin C or consuming high levels of fructose. Read this National Institutes of Health assessment.
- Moderate your consumption of spinach, kale, specific nuts, chocolate, beats, dried beans – all those things you’ve been told to add to your diet over the past few years.
- Lower your intake of salt.
Take it from me, you don’t want to undergo surgery!
As always, anyone with kidney stones should check with their doctor or specialist first. For further information, read this article from Trends in Urological Health.
You might also be interested in these related posts from The Tea Maestro:
Is tea a diuretic?
De-bunking the at home tea de-caffeination myth.