Substance Use

Does Alcohol Affect Your Kidneys? Understanding The Risks

man with kidney pain drinking alcohol

Drinking Alcohol and Kidney Function

Drinking alcohol, especially excessive drinking, can have a significant impact on your kidneys.

Heavy drinking over an extended period can lead to an increased risk of proteinuria (excess protein in the urine). This condition may indicate chronic kidney disease and other harmful effects.

Alcohol drinking also has long-term effects on kidney function, and if you have a pre-existing kidney condition, alcohol can exacerbate it. Talk to your doctor about how much alcohol you can drink without causing further damage.

Worried about your alcohol use? Zinnia Healing offers comprehensive programs, including inpatient facilities that provide one-on-one counseling, group therapy, and other supportive care options. No two addiction journeys are the same. Call us today at (855) 430-9439 to start yours.

How Does Alcohol Affect Your Kidneys?

When you drink alcohol, it’s broken down by your liver and excreted into your urine. This process increases the strain on your kidneys, leading to damage over time.

1. Dehydration

Alcohol is a diuretic. This means that the more alcohol you consume, the more water is pulled from your body, leading to dehydration. Dehydration further stresses your kidneys as they attempt to regulate your body’s water and electrolyte levels.

2. Hormones

Alcohol can also increase the production of certain hormones, such as vasopressin and aldosterone, which further tax your kidneys by forcing them to work overtime.

3. How Excessive Drinking Affects Women’s Kidneys

According to a study published in the National Library of Medicine, daily high alcohol intake among women is linked to a higher risk of proteinuria and a decrease in eGFR (estimated glomerular filtration rate, a measure of how well your kidneys are functioning).

In short, excessive alcohol consumption can significantly affect the function of the kidneys, leading to dialysis, kidney stones, and kidney pain.

How Much Alcohol Does It Take to Damage Your Kidneys?

According to a study of adult male drinkers published in the National Library of Medicine, moderate drinkers exhibited a lower prevalence of chronic kidney disease compared with non-drinkers and heavy drinkers.

However, the risk of chronic kidney disease (CKD) rises sharply when alcohol consumption surpasses 18 standard drinks per week.

What is a Standard Drink?

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) maintains that a standard alcoholic beverage contains approximately 14 grams of pure alcohol, which is found in:

  • 12 ounces of regular beer
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 1.5 ounces of hard liquor

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Zinnia Healing provides the best in inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment. Call Zinnia Healing at (855) 430-9439 for more information.

How Do You Know if Alcohol Is Affecting Your Kidneys?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that proteinuria, or the presence of protein in your urine, is one of the earliest signs of kidney dysfunction. It can be detected quickly with a dipstick urine test.

1. Dipstick Urine Test

In this test, a dipstick infused with chemicals is used to determine whether levels of albumin (a protein produced by your liver) are normal or not. If abnormal levels are found, the dipstick changes color.

This test only evaluates the presence of proteins. It does not provide an exact measurement, so your doctor may order further testing if abnormal results are present. 

2. Albumin-to-Creatinine Ratio Test

Another important kidney health test is the urine albumin-to-creatinine ratio test, or UACR. This test measures the amount of albumin in the urine relative to creatinine, allowing a doctor to track how much albumin is passing into the urine on a daily basis.

A result of 30 or higher may be indicative of kidney disease, although further testing is needed to confirm any diagnosis. 

What Are the Signs of Kidney Damage?

The signs of severe kidney damage, according to a study published in the National Library of Medicine, include:

  • Nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite
  • Fatigue, weakness, and trouble sleeping
  • Decreased urine output
  • Deterioration of cognitive functioning
  • Muscle twitches, cramps, and swelling in feet or ankles
  • Itchiness
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty controlling hypertension

What is the Difference Between Acute and Chronic Kidney Disease?

According to MedlinePlus, acute kidney failure can disorient your body in a short timeframe (less than 48 hours), impairing the kidneys’ function to filter waste and maintain balance between fluids, electrolytes, and other factors.

Chronic kidney disease, however, is characterized by a slow decline of kidney function. It slowly gets worse over months or years, and the loss of function may be so slow that you don’t notice any symptoms until your kidneys have almost stopped working.

What Are the Risks of Drinking Alcohol if You Have Kidney Disease?

If you have pre-existing kidney disease, drinking alcohol can further damage your kidneys and increase the risk of developing serious health problems. Additionally, alcohol can interact with medications used to treat kidney disease, making them less effective or even dangerous.

If you have kidney disease, talk to your doctor about how much alcohol is safe for you to drink. Regular heavy drinking can also worsen other conditions that may lead to kidney disease, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

How Can I Drink Alcohol Without Damaging My Kidneys?

If you choose to drink alcohol, stay within the recommended guidelines. NIAAA recommends no more than two drinks per day for men and no more than one drink per day for women.

These guidelines may seem strict. However, the effects of alcohol on health can be serious, even for moderate drinkers.

Alcohol is also a known carcinogen, meaning it can cause cancer, and chronic drinking can cause liver damage.

Avoid Heavy Drinking and Get the Help You Need

While moderate drinking may not cause noticeable damage to your kidneys, excessive drinking or binge drinking can lead to serious problems like chronic kidney disease and acute kidney injury. If you experience any changes in urination patterns or other symptoms after drinking alcohol, talk to your doctor.

If you have been struggling with chronic alcohol use, know that you are not alone. At Zinnia Healing, we understand that the road to a life free of addiction can be difficult. That’s why we provide tailored strategies and support during all stages of overcoming alcoholism. Don’t hesitate to call our 24/7 alcohol addiction hotline at (855) 430-9439 for more information about how we can help you quit drinking for good.

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