Alcohol and Kidneys: Short-Term and Long-Term Effects

Last Updated: August 7, 2019

woman whose kidneys hurt after drinking alcohol

Interested in learning how that sip of alcohol affects the kidneys? Keep reading to find out more about the effects of alcohol on kidney health. The intoxicant not only affects the cognitive function of the body but also damages the vital organ. Excess consumption has been a significant contributor to various kidney diseases, some of them can be cured by simply decreasing the amount of ethanol consumed, the other ones put the life of an alcoholic at risk.

How Alcohol Affects Kidneys

Is alcohol bad for your kidneys? The answer is yes, although the damage is not always noticed at once.

Kidneys serve as a body filter, removing the harmful substances from the system. Alcohol is one of such toxic elements and is mainly excreted through kidneys and liver – thus, these organs suffer the most. Alcohol negatively affects the body part in the following ways.

Alcohol dehydrates the body which affects the ability of kidneys to function properly

Excessive liquor consumption can have a short-term effect on the kidneys, which is dehydration. This affects the ability of the organ to regulate the acid-base, body’s fluids, and also the electrolyte balance.  This is because liquor selectively increases renal perfusion and basal metabolic rates of renal tubes hence causing an increase in diuresis, leading to massive dehydration. Dehydrated kidneys are unable to function properly, and the subsequent consumption of the next portion of ethanol makes this situation even worse, which eventually leads to the malfunction of the organ.

Alcohol causes high blood pressure, which is harmful to kidneys

The effects of alcohol on blood pressure cannot be ignored.  It affects medicines that are used to treat high blood pressure, thus rendering them inefficient in treating the disease. High consumption of ethanol also adds up as a risk factor for kidney diseases.

Alcohol affects the liver which makes kidneys work harder to filter blood

A liver is a major organ which can be affected by excess alcohol consumption. When the liver is affected and unable to handle the amount of ethanol consumed, the kidneys take over some part of its work. The rate of blood flow to the part of the body is kept at a constant level for it to filter blood. When the liver is impaired, the balancing act is affected, hence overworking the organ, which leads to its dysfunction.

Alcohol may cause type 2 diabetes which also affects kidneys

Diabetes has proven to be a severe condition which affects many people worldwide. It is a condition which affects the blood sugar, by either spiking it or decreasing it.
Can alcohol cause type 2 diabetes? If that is you’re your question, the answer is yes. Type 2 diabetes can be as a result of the effects of alcohol on the body, especially when consumed excessively. Alcoholic drinks, especially beer, are usually rich in carbohydrates, which can raise blood sugar levels, leading to type 2 diabetes.
The intoxicant increases the risks of developing type 2 diabetes by excessive amounts of calories and carbohydrates. Drinking heavily also makes the body less sensitive to insulin. Liquor can also lead to type 2 diabetes by stimulating appetite, leading one to eat more than normal. It also affects food choices.

Alcohol may affect the acid-base balance

Kidneys play an essential role in determining the rate at which metabolic reactions take place by regulating acidity. This is because substantial metabolic reactions that are important in life are sensitive to the acidity of the surrounding fluid.
The bodies’ metabolic balance interferes with the use of liquor, which changes the regulation of acidity.
torso of a man whose kidney hurts

Can Alcohol Cause Kidney Stones?

Kidney stones are crystals that form from some of the materials in urine. While liquor does not directly cause them, it can contribute to the increased risk for the formation of the stones. This is because the intoxicant has a high purine count. Purines are the chemical compounds that result in uric acid kidney stones. The presence of excessive amounts of purines can lead to the accumulation of uric acid, hence resulting in a kidney stone.
Dehydration generally can lead to the formation of the stones. With ethanol being a dehydrating agent, calcium oxalate stones can form as a result.

Is Beer Good or Bad for Your Kidneys?

Despite the risks associated with alcohol consumption, there are some benefits associated with taking a beer.  Several research studies show that drinking beer can be beneficial for kidney stones because beer causes frequent urination, thus preventing their formation.
Beer also develops the volume of liquid in the patient’s body and forces the kidney stones to pass in the urine. Hence, some amount of beer can help in the expulsion of small sized stones.
This, however, does not outweigh the dangers associated with the drink as the consumption of beer can cause kidney stones through the dehydrating effect. Moreover, beer consumption does not allow to control the stone expulsion speed which can cause urinal trauma, especially if the concretes are big. It is therefore not advisable to treat these stones with beer.

How Much is Too Much?

According to research, a lady should have less than three drinks in a day to keep the kidneys healthy, which translates to less than seven drinks per week. For a man, less than four drinks in a day and less than fourteen in a week is considered to be an amount that will not hurt.  Excessive drinking overworks the organ, thus increasing the risk of kidney diseases.
Blood alcohol levels can also shoot to a dangerous level through binge drinking. This results in a quick kidney malfunction for which dialysis is administered to return the kidneys to normal function.
It is important to always consult the health provider on the amount that one can take, without compromising their health. This depends not only on the personal health conditions but also on medications prescribed. Many medications can seriously harm kidneys when combined with alcohol.  It is important to always drink in moderation.

Why Kidneys Hurt After Taking Alcohol

Does alcohol damage the kidneys? After indulging in drinking, some people may complain of pain in the upper or lower back or between the buttocks and lower ribs. This is because of the effects of alcohol on back pain, which is an effect of alcohol poisoning. The pain may be accompanied by painful urination, fever, vomiting, loss of appetite and fatigue. This pain can also be caused by several conditions such as liver disease, kidney disease or infection, dehydration and hydronephrosis. Most of these conditions are as a result of the diuretic effect of the drink, hence the importance of limiting its consumption. It is important to seek medical care if kidneys hurt after drinking alcohol.

Treatment for Alcohol-Induced Kidney Diseases

In conclusion, the effects of alcohol on the kidneys cannot be ignored. Excessive consumption of alcohol can be detrimental to the overall health. Therefore, moderate consumption or total abstinence is preferred. Kidney problems experienced after consumption of spirits are a red flag to seek medical attention in case of any symptoms of kidney diseases. To prevent kidney damage in adolescents, teenagers drinking should not be allowed by their parents.

In the case of alcohol dependency, patients need professional counseling and also rehabilitation services to receive guidance through detoxification and other types of treatment depending on the condition.

In case of alcohol addiction and failure to stop drinking or start drinking moderately, there are many professional rehabilitation consultation providers that will assist in choosing the right treatment approach among the dozens of alcohol abuse programs to treat alcoholism. The easiest way to get the professional assistance of the medical representatives is to call one of the hundreds of alcohol treatment facilities available.



Marixie Ann Manarang-Obsioma

Content Writer

Marixie Ann Manarang-Obsioma is a licensed Medical Technologist (Medical Laboratory Science) and an undergraduate of Doctor of Medicine (MD). She took her Bachelor’s Degree in Medical Technology at Angeles University Foundation and graduated with flying colors.

The combination of having a good medical background, being a mom, and wanting to help people, especially the elderly has cultivated her passion for working in remote areas with love and compassion.
Marixie likes to travel, read, and watch movies.

Medical review by Brian Obodeze

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