How are alcohol and kidneys related? Alcohol use significantly affects the kidneys because alcohol influences the fluid levels in your body.
Kidneys filter toxins and harmful chemicals out of your blood and your blood makes up about 25% of the fluid in your body. Your blood is located in your intravascular space (or blood vessels), and the amount 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.
The Relationship Between Alcohol and Kidneys
Alcohol causes kidney damage indirectly. You may wonder why alcohol seems to do different functions at the same time. Alcohol is a diuretic and causes your body to lose fluid a couple of different ways:
- Alcohol acts on the kidneys by increasing how much urine your kidneys produce. Alcohol falsely tells your kidneys to make more urine than is necessary. This effect is the answer to, “Why does alcohol make me use the bathroom more?”
- Alcohol tricks the cells in other parts of your body to retain more water. The net result is that your blood has less water in it. This effect is what’s going on in the body when you’re wondering, “Why does alcohol also make me feel bloated?” Your kidneys then have to filter a slower and thicker fluid and are exposed to more harmful toxins in a smaller amount of time than usual, which can cause both mechanical and chemical damage to your kidneys.
So are kidneys, alcohol, and back pain related in any way? They can be. Sometimes, back pain is your body telling you there is damage to your kidneys. To know for sure how these factors are related in your body, speak with your doctor about any back pain and concerns about your alcohol use.
How to Prevent Alcohol and Kidney Problems
Consume alcohol in moderation to avoid kidney problems. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “If alcohol is consumed, it should be in moderation — up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men — and only by adults of legal drinking age.” So, the only safe way to drink alcohol and not affect your kidneys is to drink in moderation.
Does Alcohol Cause Kidney Stones?
Are alcohol and kidney stones related? First, what is a kidney stone? A kidney stone is a stone that has formed inside one of your kidneys. It may be the size of a grain of sand or as large as the end of your thumb. A kidney stone can be made out of different types of minerals but is most often made of calcium and oxalate. Both of these are found in food, and should not be crystallizing in your kidneys.
Kidney stones are usually passed through the urine and out of the body without any complications. However, if a stone is large, a physician can prescribe medications to relax the ureter muscles or pain medication.
Some common symptoms of kidney stones include:
- Cloudy or foul-smelling urine
- Pain in the lower abdomen and groin
- Pain on urination
- Pink, red or brown urine
- Severe pain in the side and back, below the ribs
- Urinating a lot more than normal
- Urinating less than normal
Relationship Between Alcohol and Kidney Stones
Alcohol can increase your risk of developing kidney stones because of the impact it has on your diet. People who drink alcohol are usually dehydrated, which contributes to the formation of kidney stones.
One of the single best ways to avoid kidney stones is to drink a lot of water, and alcohol works against this by acting as a diuretic and by acting as a water replacement. People who drink alcohol regularly sometimes substitute it for water, which can lead to dehydration and can contribute to the development of kidney stones.
Key Points: Alcohol, Kidneys and Kidney Stones
Several important points to remember about alcohol, kidneys and kidney stones include:
- Avoid stone-forming foods: Avoid foods high in oxalate, such as beets, french fries, nuts, potato chips, and spinach. Also avoid foods high in phosphates like milk products, beans, and nuts.
- Drinks lots of water: If you do no other recommendation, do this one. Drinking water helps dilute stone-forming substances. Try to drink about eight standard eight-ounce cups of water per day. This amount is the gold standard advice for preventing kidney stones.
- Eat less salt: A diet that is high in salt can increase the amount of calcium in your urine. According to Harvard Health Publishing, you should limit your daily sodium intake to 2,300 mg, or to 1,500 mg per day if you’ve had kidney stone issues before. This limitation also benefits the heart and blood pressure.
- Get plenty of calcium: Make sure you get enough calcium in your diet, which will help ensure that calcium and oxalate stay out of your kidneys and do not form stones. Speak with your physician to check whether you get enough calcium from your diet or if you need supplementation.
To summarize the list above, you can prevent kidney stones by drinking plenty of water and maintaining a healthy diet. Therefore, the way alcohol increases the risk of kidney stones is because it dehydrates you and impacts your diet. Alcohol can indirectly cause kidney stones so alcohol abuse can be a risk factor for these stones and other issues.
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Health.gov. “Appendix 9. Alcohol – 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines – Health.Gov.” 2015. Accessed 30 Apr. 2019. MedlinePlus. “Kidney Stones.” 2019. Accessed 30 Apr. 2019. The Mayo Clinic. “Kidney Stones – Symptoms and Causes.” 2019. Accessed 30 Apr. 2019. Pendick, Daniel. “5 Steps for Preventing Kidney Stones – Harvard Health Blog.” Harvard Health Blog, 26 Oct. 2018, Accessed 30 Apr. 2019. Physiologyweb.com. “Physiology Figure: Body Fluid Compartments of a 70-Kg Adult Man. – PhysiologyWeb.” 2015. Accessed 30 Apr. 2019. Polhuis, Kristel, et al. “The Diuretic Action of Weak and Strong Alcoholic Beverages in Elderly Men: A Randomized Diet-Controlled Crossover Trial.” Nutrients, 2017. Accessed 30 Apr. 2019.
Health.gov. “Appendix 9. Alcohol – 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines – Health.Gov.” 2015. Accessed 30 Apr. 2019.
MedlinePlus. “Kidney Stones.” 2019. Accessed 30 Apr. 2019.
The Mayo Clinic. “Kidney Stones – Symptoms and Causes.” 2019. Accessed 30 Apr. 2019.
Pendick, Daniel. “5 Steps for Preventing Kidney Stones – Harvard Health Blog.” Harvard Health Blog, 26 Oct. 2018, Accessed 30 Apr. 2019.
Physiologyweb.com. “Physiology Figure: Body Fluid Compartments of a 70-Kg Adult Man. – PhysiologyWeb.” 2015. Accessed 30 Apr. 2019.
Polhuis, Kristel, et al. “The Diuretic Action of Weak and Strong Alcoholic Beverages in Elderly Men: A Randomized Diet-Controlled Crossover Trial.” Nutrients, 2017. Accessed 30 Apr. 2019.