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What Does Alcohol Do To Your Kidneys

The Role Of The Kidneys

Alcohol and Kidney Damage – How Does Alcohol Affect Your Kidneys?

Kidneys filter toxins and harmful chemicals out of your blood, which makes up about 25% of the fluid in your body. Your blood is located in your blood vessels, and the amount of blood can change slightly throughout the day. Since your kidneys are a literal filter for blood, the amount of fluid and how fast it is moving through your bloodstream impacts how well your kidneys work.

Each person is typically born with two kidneys, and they have the same set of functions. In general, most people can survive with only one kidney. However, some people may need to adjust their medication doses or eat special diets, but this is not common. Other than filter toxins, your kidneys also help regulate blood pressure, and the attached adrenal glands control hormone levels.

Gross And Microscopic Changes

One way in which alcohol directly affects the kidneys is by altering the form and structure of this pair of organs, as demonstrated by various animal studies. For example, in an early study on dogs , investigators observed several striking alterations after chronic alcohol administration. The basement membrane of the glomerulus became abnormally thickened and was characterized by cell proliferation. Further changes included enlarged and altered cells in the kidney tubules. In another study, compared kidney structure and function in alcohol-fed and control rats. The alcohol-fed group experienced kidney swelling and significantly reduced kidney function in addition, under microscopic examination, the kidneys of alcohol-fed rats were found to have cells enlarged with increased amounts of protein, fat, and water, compared with those of the control animals.

Tips For Safe Drinking

Overall, too much alcohol appears to have a damaging effect on nearly every part of the body. So, how to avoid the negative impacts of alcohol on your body and mind? Here are several steps you can take to keep your drinking in a safer zone:

  • Stick to moderate drinking: No more than one drink per day for women, and maximum two per day for men.
  • If you have multiple drinks in one night, dont have more than one per hour
  • Eat when you drink to slow alcohol absorption
  • Alternate each drink with a glass of water to keep hydrated

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Does Alcohol Cause Kidney Stones

No direct link between alcohol and kidney stones has been proven. However, alcohol can cause dehydration, which is linked to kidney stone formation. For this reason, alcohol use is not recommended if you have kidney stones or are trying to prevent them.

In addition, there are other factors to consider:

  • Dehydration: If you drink, particularly in excess, it can cause dehydration, which is linked to kidney stone formation.
  • Weight gain: Drinking excessively means you are getting a lot of empty calories, which can cause weight gain. Being overweight or obese are also risk factors for kidney stones.
  • Uric acid: Alcohol like beer contains something called purines, which are the building blocks of uric acid. Purines can lead to the formation of uric acid kidney stones, and beer could exacerbate problems that you have with high purine levels.

Kidney stones and beer might not be directly associated with one another in a causal way, but there are a lot of reasons to watch your alcohol consumption if youre concerned about kidney stones.

Preventing Kidney Damage And Disease

Alcohol and Kidneys

To keep your kidneys healthy, it is important to always check with your healthcare provider to ensure it is safe for you to consume alcohol. Even if it is safe, moderation is key. At Summit Medical Clinic, we provide consultation and ongoing care for the prevention and treatment of kidney-related diseases. Schedule an appointment by calling 630-1006 or visiting our website.

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Binge Drinking Alcohol And Kidney Disease

If you are a binge drinker, then you put yourself in the increasing danger of kidney disease. Binge drinking is consuming 4 to 5 plus drinks an hour. However, binge drinking floods your body with alcohol and increases BAC drastically. As a result, your kidneys cant keep up and lose their function. This damage from alcohol on your kidneys causes lasting damage.

Kidney Pain After Drinking: Is It Normal

The areas around your kidneys may feel sore or uncomfortable after you drink alcohol. These areas include the back of your abdomen and under your rib cage on both sides of your spine.

This sensation may be experienced as a sudden, sharp, or stabbing pain. Or, it may feel like a dull ache. The pain may be mild or severe and can be experienced on one or both sides of the body.

Kidney pain may be experienced immediately after drinking alcohol or after you have stopped drinking. In some circumstances, it worsens at night.

Other symptoms that may come with kidney pain include:

  • Vomiting

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What Causes Kidney Stones

There are many different reasons a person might get kidney stones throughout their life, ranging from genetics to lifestyle.

  • Genetics can cause kidney stones, which are often made from cystine.
  • Acidic urine can cause kidney stones, often made from uric acid.
  • Diet can be linked to kidney stones, often formed from calcium oxalate.
  • Infections can cause kidney stones, often formed from struvite.
  • Dehydration can cause kidney stones by making it harder to flush out crystals in your urine.

Common Symptoms Of Kidney Disease Include:

How Does Alcohol Affect Your Kidneys? | Alcohol Effects on Body | Kidney Expert
  • It is swelling in the legs and feet from fluid retention, also known as edema. This may be because of a low protein diet or too much salt intake.
  • Nausea and vomiting occur without an apparent cause. People who have alcohol use problems often experience nausea after drinking alcohol due to the toxic effects of alcohol on the liver.
  • Itching skin, especially around the hands and feet. This may be caused by a build-up of toxins in the blood that cant be adequately eliminated because of damaged kidneys.
  • Feeling tired and weak all the time. This is due to anemia, a common complication of kidney disease.
  • Changes in sleep patterns include sleeping more than usual or having trouble falling asleep because of restless leg syndrome. This is common in people with alcohol use problems due to alcohols toxic effects on the brain and nervous system when consumed excessively over time.
  • Muscle cramps that occur without an apparent reason may be a sign of kidney disease.
  • A decrease in the amount or absence of urine output. This may be due to the kidneys not producing enough urine because of the disease or using diuretics to control high blood pressure.
  • Persistent pain in the back, side or lower abdomen is not relieved by taking over-the-counter pain medication. This is a common symptom of kidney stones, which can form when the kidneys are not working correctly.

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Chronic Kidney Disease: Alcohols Effect On Kidneys

If you continue to drink regularly or have a chronic alcohol use disorder, youre at risk of chronic kidney disease. The stress put on your kidneys over time forces them to work harder. This stress also damages the liver.

Chronic kidney disease is a severe condition. But, above all, it is life-threatening. If you have chronic kidney disease from alcohol, its essential to seek treatment for both conditions.

Drink To Your Kidneys’ Health

Drinking Alcohol in Moderation May Actually Be Good for Your Kidneys

May 12, 2005 — A drink a day may do your kidneys more good than harm, rather than the other way around.

Although some previous studies show that alcohol use may be harmful to the kidneys and increase the risk of kidney failure, a large new study indicates that the reverse might be true — at least when alcohol is consumed in moderation.

If those results hold up to further scrutiny, researchers say preventing kidney failure may be yet another benefit of drinking alcohol in moderation, in addition to other recently discovered perks, such as reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke. Moderation is defined as no more than two alcoholic drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. A “standard drink” is defined as 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.

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Alcohol Risks: A Body Out Of Balance

Heavy drinking also has an indirect effect on kidney health. The body is a big domino set, says Dr. Bobart. If you have one part of your body thats not in balance, it can cause problems in many other parts of the body.

Drinking heavily can increase the risk of high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes, for example. Both of those conditions are the mostcommon causes of chronic kidney disease in the United States.

Chronic alcohol use is also a major cause of liver disease. When your liver isnt functioning well, it can impair blood flow to your kidneys. Liver disease can have significant impacts on the kidneys, says Dr. Bobart.

Alcohol And The Kidneys

Kidney Failure Caused By Alcohol

Alcohol consumption in nearly any form, mild to excessive, can lead to compromised liver function, but what does this exactly mean?

One of the functions of the kidneys is to filter harmful substances from the blood, this includes alcohol. The more alcohol you drink, the more the it affects the functioning of this organ leading to less filtration of the blood. Along with this, alcohol also dehydrates your body, further hindering the normal functioning of your kidneys and other organs.

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Alcohol And Kidney Disease: Prevention

To help prevent kidney disease from alcohol, you can reduce how much you drink. This includes avoiding binge drinking. If you do drink alcohol, its crucial also to drink water.

However, if you have chronic kidney disease, you shouldnt drink at all. So, if you struggle with misusing alcohol, its vital to seek treatment. If you only treat the kidney disease and continue to drink, you will not get better.

Alcohol And Acute Kidney Failure

The amount of alcohol being consumed is an important factor when it comes to kidney health.The general consensus of what makes up one drink is twelve ounces of beer, one glass of wine, or a 1.5 ounces shot of liquor. Binge drinking occurs when more than five drinks are consumed in about two hours. Binge drinking can lead to a sudden drop in kidney function referred to as acute kidney failure. While acute kidney failure typically subsides over time, it can occasionally lead to lasting kidney damage.

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Do Not Smoke Or Drink Too Much Alcohol

Try to stop smoking completely and limit the amount of alcohol you drink.

Both men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week on a regular basis.

Drinking too much alcohol and smoking both raise your blood pressure. High blood pressure is one of the most common causes of kidney disease.

Is Drinking A Lot Of Water Good For Your Kidneys

Real Question: Can Daily Drinking Damage My Kidneys?

Water helps the kidneys remove wastes from your blood in the form of urine. Water also helps keep your blood vessels open so that blood can travel freely to your kidneys, and deliver essential nutrients to them. But if you become dehydrated, then it is more difficult for this delivery system to work.

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Alcohols Effects On The Pancreas

Like the stomach, the pancreas can help with alcohol metabolism, and can also take a hit during and after drinking.

Your pancreas helps regulate your blood sugar levels by releasing insulin. Since alcohol puts tons of carbs into your body, this can kick your pancreas into high gear. The resulting spike and drop in blood sugar can give you the munchies. Short-term, this is only a minor issue. But long-term, there is a link between excessive drinking and diabetes.

Alcohol can also cause the overproduction of digestive enzymes. This can damage pancreatic cells and clog ducts to the point of painful swelling and inflammation, also known as pancreatitis7. This may last just a few days, or become permanent.

What Are Diseases Developed Due To Excessive Alcohol Intake

Many alcohol-related diseases can be developed due to alcohol intake. Excessive alcohol consumption has been shown to cause:

  • Liver disease
  • Heart problems
  • Cancer in different organs of the body
  • Low blood sugar
  • Alcohol poisoning dehydrates the body, which further exacerbates conditions such as heart failure or kidney disease.
  • Kidney stone disease. One alcohol-related disease that can specifically affect the kidneys is kidney stone disease. Kidney stones are hard, crystalline masses that form in the urinary system. They can cause pain and obstruction in the urinary tract. The most common type of kidney stone is calcium oxalate stones, formed when calcium and oxalate combine.
  • Extreme alcohol intake has also been shown to cause ones memory of events while under the influence without passing out or losing consciousness due to alcohol.

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Body Fluid Volume And Blood Pressure

Chronic alcohol consumption may cause both fluid and solutes to accumulate, thereby increasing the overall volume of body fluids. In turn, such expansion of body fluid volume can contribute to high blood pressure, a condition often seen among chronic alcoholic patients.

The association between increased blood pressure and alcohol consumption has been recognized at least since 1915, when Lian reported the prevalence of high blood pressure in relation to the drinking habits of French army officers. More recent studies have substantiated this link. For example, in the large-scale Kaiser-Permanente study, in which blood pressure measurements and alcohol histories were obtained from more than 80,000 men and women, the association between blood pressure and drinking was found to be independent of age, sex, ethnicity, weight, smoking habit, and social class .

What Other Kidney Issues Are Associated With Alcohol/drinking

Kidney Pain After Drinking Alcohol

Kidneys are vital to the overall healthy functioning of the human body and serve as filtration devices for any harmful or toxic substance that enters your bloodstream. When someone drinks in excess, the kidneys have to work harder to filter the bodys blood and can cause immense stress on the kidneys. The dehydrating effect of alcohol can negatively impact your bodys cell and organ functions. Additionally, alcohol in the body can impact the hormones that contribute to healthy kidney function in your body.3

Regular heavy drinking has been known to double the risk of developing chronic kidney disease. Those who smoke cigarettes in addition to drinking heavily are about five times more likely to develop kidney disease than those who only drink excessively.3

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Symptoms Of Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are hard clumps of waste made up of chemicals in the urine. Stones are most commonly made of calcium oxalate and the concentration of these salts increases when the body is dehydrated. Symptoms of kidney stones usually involve severe pain and may include:1

  • severe lower back pain
  • chills
  • and more.

If you are curious about whether your drinking may be negatively impacting your renal system and overall body, you may benefit from this article.

Kidney stones can form for several reasons. This page will inform you about kidney stones, their relation to alcohol use, how to treat kidney stones, and how to find treatment for an alcohol use disorder.

How To Prevent Alcohol

The best way to prevent alcohol-related kidney stones is to drink in moderation, meaning no more than one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. In addition, it is important to keep well-hydrated and avoid dehydration. That said, if your doctor tells you that your kidney stones are formed from uric acid, you may need to avoid alcohol entirely.

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Causes Of Low Phosphate Levels In Alcoholics

The following causes may underlie low phosphate levels in severe alcoholics:

  • Phosphorus deficiency in the diet

  • Increased blood pH due to prolonged rapid breathing

  • Insulin administration

  • Administration of nutrients beyond normal requirements

  • Excessive excretion in urine

  • Magnesium deficiency.

SOURCE: Adapted from Epstein, M. Alcohol and the kidney. In: Lieber, C.S., ed. Medical and Nutritional Complications of Alcoholism: Mechanisms and Management. New York: Plenum Medical Book Company, 1992. p. 498.

Another potential cause of hypophosphatemia in alcoholic patients is hyperventilation, which can occur during alcohol withdrawal. Prolonged rapid, shallow breathing results in excessive loss of carbon dioxide and decreased blood acidity , which in turn activates an enzyme that enhances glucose breakdown. In glucose breakdown, phosphate becomes incorporated into various metabolic compounds, ultimately lowering blood levels of phosphate. As the rate of glucose breakdown increases, profound hypophosphatemia potentially can result.

How Does Alcohol Affect The Kidneys


Alcohol has several adverse effects on the kidneys, leading to kidney disease over time. Alcohol can:

  • Damage the filtering units in the kidneys
  • Cause inflammation in the kidneys
  • Reduce blood flow to the kidneys
  • Prevent the kidneys from clearing out waste products and excess fluid

These effects can lead to a decline in kidney function over time.

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Does Alcohol Affect The Kidneys

The kidneys are hard at work on any given day in a healthy person, but the kidneys of a heavy drinker work overtime. A heavy drinker is defined as a woman who drinks more than seven times a week or a man who drinks more than 14 times a week. People who maintain this kind of drinking habit are at double the risk for developing kidney disease compared to the general population, including moderate drinkers.

One form of alcohol abuse that contributes to kidney disease is binge drinking, usually defined as consuming four or five drinks within two hours. Binge drinking causes a persons blood alcohol content to rise to dangerous levels, which in turn causes the kidneys to lose their function so much, the term for this is acute kidney injury. Japans Internal Medicine journal noted that binge drinking can be a risk factor for such an emergency, including acute kidney injury , a condition whereby the kidneys are unable to stop dangerous levels of waste from accumulating in the blood, according to Mayo Clinic.

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