Alcohol Addiction

What Alcohol Does to Your Kidneys

Illustrated picture of kidneys with blue, purple and pink

While drinking alcohol in moderation (one or two drinks every once in a while), probably won’t harm your body, excessive alcohol consumption can have negative effects on your physical and mental health. It can also do serious damage to your organs, including your kidneys.

About Your Kidneys

In order to understand the effects of alcohol on kidney health, you need to understand what purpose kidneys serve in the body. The primary function of the kidneys is to remove waste products and excess fluid from the body. Kidneys are responsible for maintaining a healthy balance of water and electrolytes in the body. Your kidneys also control the production of red blood cells, produce vitamin D, release hormones to regulate blood pressure, and remove drugs from the body.

How Much Alcohol is Too Much?

Moderate drinking is defined as one alcoholic beverage per day for women and two per day for men, and is generally considered safe for most healthy adults. Heavy drinking is more than three drinks per day (or seven per week) for women, and more than four drinks per day (or 14 per week) for men. Binge drinking is drinking more than four or five drinks at one time.

It is not safe for everyone to drink, even in moderation. Talk to your healthcare provider to determine if it is safe for you to drink alcohol.

How Drinking Alcohol Affects Your Kidneys

Kidneys act to filter out harmful substances, including alcohol, from your blood. Alcohol consumption causes your kidneys to be less efficient at filtering your blood. In addition, the dehydrating effects of alcohol impact your kidneys’ ability to maintain the optimal amount of water in your body. This can have negative effects on all of the cells and organs in the body.

While experts aren’t sure if there is a link between excessive alcohol use and kidney stones, we do know that alcohol causes dehydration, which is a risk factor for developing kidney stones. Similarly, we don’t know if there is a link between heavy drinking and the kidney pain that some people associate with it, but it could also be attributed to dehydration.

In some cases, binge drinking can lead to acute kidney failure. Acute kidney failure is characterized by a sudden drop in kidney function, which usually goes away over time, but can sometimes lead to permanent kidney damage.

What Long-Term Effects Does Alcohol Have on the Kidneys?

Excessive drinking can have serious long-term effects on your health. People who drink too much often have high blood pressure. According to the National Kidney Foundation, consuming more than two alcoholic drinks per day increases your risk of high blood pressure, and high blood pressure is a common cause of chronic kidney disease. Chronic kidney disease, or CKD, is a condition where your kidneys are damaged so that they cannot filter blood properly.

Excessive alcohol use can also cause liver disease, which in turn puts more stress on the kidneys. For this reason, chronic alcohol use can lead to both liver and kidney disease.

How Long Do You Have to Drink Alcohol to Damage Your Kidneys?

Acute kidney failure or acute kidney injury is rare but it can occur with binge drinking, and usually can be corrected. Permanent damage to your kidneys happens with regular heavy drinking over time. The amount of time that it takes for kidneys to become damaged depends on genetics, the amount of alcohol consumed, and many other factors.

Can Kidneys Recover From Alcohol Damage?

If it is caught early, acute kidney injury can usually heal over time. Sometimes, however, damage to your kidneys is irreversible. Kidney disease can often be managed with medication and diet. If you have kidney disease that leads to kidney failure, you will need regular dialysis or a kidney transplant.

If you or a loved one are concerned about your alcohol consumption, you may be suffering fromalcohol use disorder. At Caron, we offer individualized, comprehensive treatment programs that are designed to help those struggling with alcohol and drug addiction. ContactCaron today to learn more.

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