Your kidneys are two bean-shaped organs, each about the size of your fist, located below your ribcage. Their primary purpose is to remove waste and excess fluid from your blood, but they also help regulate blood pressure, produce red blood cells, and maintain bone health. One of the most common conditions affecting the kidneys is known as kidney stones. Despite this condition’s various causes, alcohol can play a role in the development and progression of kidney stones and other kidney conditions.
What are Kidney Stones?
Kidney stones are hard deposits made up of minerals and acids that crystallize in the kidney, usually affecting 10-20% of people at one point in their lives. There are four different types of stones:
- Calcium oxalate: most common type of kidney stone, comprised of calcium and oxalate, usually develop due to a combination of genetic and dietary factors.
- Uric acid: second most common type of kidney stone, more frequently found in men. They form when your urine contains excess amounts of uric acid that cannot adequately be filtered out.
- Struvite: often develop due to a urinary tract infection and are more common in women. These stones are composed of magnesium, ammonium, and phosphate.
- Cystine: rarest type of kidney stone. They typically occur from a genetic mutation where the kidneys excrete excessive levels of cysteine.
What are the Symptoms of Kidney Stones?
If you develop a kidney stone, you may experience the following symptoms:
- Blood in your urine
- Nausea or vomiting
- Cloudy or pink urine
- Severe pain in your back
- Fever and chills
- Stomach aches
What Causes Kidney Stones?
Kidney stones can be caused by various factors, including:
- Weight loss surgery
- Too much salt or sugar intake
- Genetic predisposition
- Medical conditions like diabetes or inflammatory bowel disease
How Alcohol May Affect the Kidneys
Although alcohol consumption is not directly linked to causing kidney stones, it can contribute to the development and progression of kidney stones in some ways. For example, alcohol is a diuretic, which increases urine production while inhibiting water absorption in the kidneys.
As a result, alcohol can lead to dehydration, causing an increase in the concentration of minerals and acids in the urine, which raises the chances of developing a kidney stone. In addition, the high caloric count in most alcoholic beverages can also lead to weight gain, another risk factor for this condition.
Alcohol is a toxin that can damage the kidneys and lead to inflammation and scar tissue over time. Heavy alcohol consumption frequently causes long-term health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, which both commonly lead to kidney disease.
What is Kidney Disease?
Kidney disease is a condition that causes the kidneys to malfunction and eventually fail. There are various types of kidney disease, including chronic kidney disease, a progressive condition that damages the kidneys over time until they eventually stop working. When your kidneys stop working, it’s known as kidney failure and can only be treated with dialysis and eventually a kidney transplant.
If you drink alcohol, it’s crucial to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, which can help dilute the minerals and acids in your urine and reduce the risk of kidney stones and other kidney conditions. Generally, it’s recommended to drink a 16-ounce glass of water with every alcoholic beverage.
Can You Drink Alcohol with Kidney Stones?
If your kidney stone is small enough, you can often pass it on your own without surgical intervention. Although alcohol makes you urine more frequently, it can also dehydrate you. Dehydration when passing a kidney stone can make the experience more painful and make the stone more likely to get stuck in your urinary tract system.
Treat Kidney Stones at The Kidney and Hypertension Center
If you are at risk of developing kidney stones or any other kidney condition, it may be a good idea to talk to your doctor about how safe alcohol consumption is for you. At The Kidney and Hypertension Center, we have been providing patients with their kidney care needs for nearly 50 years. If you or a loved one are concerned about your kidney health, make an appointment today.