Drinking alcohol leads to increased urination, larger amounts of urine in the body than normal and more frequent trips to the bathroom. Even a single drink can create more urine than might be expected with a drink of water the same size.
A combination of two factors causes the increased urinary frequency that happens with alcohol consumption:
- Chemical changes in the kidneys
- The increased amount of fluid in the body from alcoholic beverages
The frequent urination issues that alcohol causes are primarily due to chemical changes that occur when drinking alcohol. Alcohol suppresses areas of the brain that release a chemical called vasopressin. In normal conditions, this chemical causes the kidneys to reabsorb some of the fluid that is filtered through the kidneys.
This effect helps to regulate the amount of urine produced. When the amount of vasopressin in the body is lowered, the body does not reabsorb as much fluid from the kidneys, causing the kidneys to increase the amount of urine produced.
In addition to the effects of alcohol on vasopressin, the volume of alcohol also contributes to the amount of urine produced. While the effects of vasopressin on the kidneys have the greatest effect on urine production, the amount of alcohol consumed also increases urine production, as the body must get rid of that extra fluid. Essentially, the more a person drinks, the more frequently they will have to urinate.
Long-Term Urinary Effects of Alcohol
While alcohol may cause a short-term increase in the amount of urine produced, it can also lead to long-term kidney damage that can permanently alter how much urine the body produces and can reduce the body’s ability to filter out harmful substances.
Kidney damage from alcohol use occurs in two different ways and is more common with long-term alcohol use.
Unhealthy Byproducts from Alcohol Use
Alcohol produces unhealthy byproducts as it is used up within the body. As the harmful byproducts pass through the kidneys on a regular basis, the kidneys must filter out these byproducts, as well as maintaining their normal filtering functions.
The increased stress on the kidneys can damage them, to the point where they are unable to filter out the normal waste products of the body. This damage can lead to increased urination and can cause normal waste products to build up in the body.
As alcohol causes short-term increased urination, it dehydrates the body. The changes in the brain and decreased levels of vasopressin artificially dehydrate the body, removing more fluid than should normally be removed. To function normally, the kidneys must have a certain amount of fluid passing through them constantly.
When the body becomes dehydrated with alcohol use, the amount of fluid passing through the kidneys decreases. When the effects of dehydration are coupled with the increased filtering demands on the kidneys, kidney damage may occur. While it is unlikely that kidney damage will occur after a single night of drinking, long-term alcohol use will likely lead to irreversible kidney problems.
Avoiding Long-Term Kidney Damage From Alcohol
The risk of long-term kidney damage that alcohol can cause can be reduced by frequently drinking water while consuming alcohol. Some medical scientists recommend that whatever the amount of alcohol consumed, a person should drink twice that amount in water. Drinking this amount of water helps lessen the stress of dehydration on the kidneys and dilute the harmful byproducts that the kidneys produce.
While staying hydrated may reduce the risk of long-term kidney damage, the fact remains that regular alcohol use increases the risk of kidney damage and long-term urinary changes. The only way to truly eliminate the risk of increased kidney damage caused by alcohol is to stop using alcohol.
Ceasing alcohol use will reduce the strain on the kidneys and help to avoid the long-term damage that may occur. However, stopping alcohol use may cause withdrawal symptoms, and if these occur, seek immediate medical attention as alcohol withdrawal can be deadly.
Key Points: Alcohol and Frequent Urination
Several important takeaways about alcohol and frequent urination include:
- Alcohol use causes frequent urination because of chemical changes in the kidneys and an increased amount of fluid from alcoholic beverages
- Alcohol use can cause harmful byproducts and dehydration
- Long-term alcohol abuse can lead to kidney problems
- The only way to eliminate all risk of alcohol-related kidney damage is to stop drinking alcohol
- Drinking water while drinking alcohol helps keep the body hydrated and reduces the risk of long-term kidney damage
- Seek immediate medical help for alcohol withdrawal symptoms
If you or a loved one are struggling to stop using alcohol or are experiencing withdrawal symptoms when attempting to quit alcohol use, The Recovery Village is here for you. Our caring and understanding professionals have the experience and resources to help make recovery possible.