Alcohol isn’t good for you. While consuming alcohol may cause minimal effects if it’s consumed on occasion, alcoholics consume it at a rate that can lead to negative health consequences. One of the main organs of the body that will suffer is your kidneys.
In this article, we’re going to discuss:
- The impact of alcohol on the kidneys
- Can alcohol give you kidney stones?
- Much more
How Alcohol Affects the Kidneys
If you’ve woken up from a night of drinking, you have likely felt slight discomfort in your sides. This may be your body telling you that you overdid it, and your kidneys are suffering as a result.
Many addicts know all about alcohol withdrawal and the increased risk of liver disease from drinking.
However, there’s also a hidden risk in the kidneys that people don’t think about.
What Happens When Consuming Alcohol?
Drinking heavily will demand more from your organs, especially the kidneys. The main role of this organ is to help your body regulate water and minerals, filter waste and help you produce hormones.
If you have a wild night out where you drink five or more drinks, this is when acute kidney injury can occur.
A series of events will cause this injury:
- During your first drink, the kidney will function normally and eliminate waste
- As you continue on to your second, third and subsequent drinks, the kidneys will need to work harder
- In extreme circumstances, the kidney will have a sudden drop in function
The drop in function is when the injury occurs because your kidneys simply cannot keep up with the filtration process. The toxins in the alcohol will cause fluid imbalances, and then the kidneys will suffer in the long term.
While this condition is rare, it does happen more frequently in people who are alcoholics because they continually put their bodies at risk. If you or someone you know is sufferinf from alcoholism, they may want to consider a Partial Hospitalization Program.
Can the Kidney Injury Be Treated?
Yes. In the initial stages of the injury, your kidneys can be treated with the expectation of a full recovery. However, if you’re a heavy drinker, you may continue to damage the kidneys time and time again.
Eventually, the kidneys will have undergone abuse to the point where you have to start worrying about kidney disease.
The risk of kidney disease rises when you continually damage the organ. In fact, the National Kidney Foundation reports that:
- Chronic kidney disease risks are 100% higher than non-drinkers
- Risks are even higher for anyone who drinks and smokes
Note that the report states that the risks are higher for heavy drinkers, so an occasional drink may not be concerning. However, if you are a recovering alcoholic or are a current addict, it’s important to seek treatment.
Ceasing alcohol use and seeking out a rehabilitation center will help you stop damaging the kidneys and begin to restore your life.
Due to alcohol withdrawal and the hardships that you’ll face along the way, it’s best to seek professional rehab. The right facility will provide you with the support and tools you need to find success in beating your addiction.
How is Kidney Injury Treated?
Acute kidney injuries need to be treated in a professional setting to reduce the risk of the damage being long-term. You’ll need to undergo dialysis to filter what your kidneys cannot. You’ll need to go to dialysis until the point that your kidney function returns to normal levels and can confidently filter toxins from the body.
The CDC notes that binge drinking can lead to eventual kidney failure.
However, they also mention that if you stop drinking and allow the kidneys to heal, they can often maintain proper function. Some of the damage may be irreversible, and recovery timelines vary drastically, depending on:
- Person’s age
- Extent of the injury
- History of abuse
- Other factors
If you suspect that you’ve damaged your kidneys or have a history of alcohol abuse, you may want to schedule an appointment with your doctor. A kidney exam and blood work may be necessary to ensure that your kidneys are filtering out waste properly.
Can Alcohol Give You Kidney Stones?
There’s a lot of misinformation about alcohol and kidney stones. In fact, some sources state that your risk of kidney stones increases drastically due to alcohol consumption. However, when you look at medical sources, they state:
- Alcohol-induced dehydration may increase your risk of getting kidney stones
- If you do have kidney stones and consume alcohol, it may be more difficult for your body to pass them
One study from 1996 looked at data from 45,000 men between the ages of 40 and 75. Interestingly beer and wine both decreased the risk of getting kidney stones. However, it’s important to note that the authors used an 8-ounce increment of these drinks in their study.
The authors did not focus specifically on alcoholics, so it may not reflect the same results for someone who continually damages their kidneys through drinking.
With that said, if you have severe dehydration due to alcohol consumption or continue to suffer from acute kidney injuries, this may increase the risk of getting kidney stones.
Defining Heavy Drinking
Heavy drinking is often underestimated by anyone who thinks that they’re just unwinding by having a drink or two per day. However, based on the data, even just a few drinks a day will impact the body dramatically.
The definition of heavy drinking is:
- 7+ drinks for women per week; 3 or more drinks in a single day for women
- 14+ drinks for men per week; 4 or more drinks in a day for men
If you have two beers a night at dinner or three, you can easily hit these thresholds as a man or woman. Reducing your alcohol consumption or going to rehab may help you break the cycle and allow your kidneys time to heal before the damage becomes permanent.
Alcohol use, especially when excessive, is not good for your body or organs. If you have an addiction, it’s important to seek professional help as soon as possible. Overcoming addiction is a lifelong battle, but if you begin the process today, you’ll be one step closer to getting clean.