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Alcohol and Kidneys – What are the Reasons Why Your Kidneys Hurt After Drinking Alcohol?

Alcohol Liver Disease

Liver disease makes you more likely to experience discomfort or pain after alcohol consumption. This is particularly possible if your liver is affected by alcoholism. Alcohol liver damage can also affect blood flow to the kidneys and be less effective in filtering blood.

To treat liver diseases, such as alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis, your doctor may suggest that you quit drinking alcohol, lose weight, and follow a healthy and nutritious diet. Some cases of liver disease may need medications or surgery. In addition, a liver transplant may be necessary in cases of liver failure.

Kidney Stones

Kidney stones may form because of alcohol-induced dehydration. Alcohol consumption if you already have kidney stones may lead them to move quickly, increasing or contributing to kidney pain. It may be possible to treat small kidney stones by taking medication, drinking more water, or using home remedies.

Alcohol and Kidneys
Your kidneys have an important role to fill. They filter waste from your blood, regulate the balance of water and minerals in your body and produce hormones. 

Kidney Infection

A kidney infection is a type of urinary tract infection (UTI). It forms in the urethra or bladder and travels to one or both kidneys.

The condition and symptoms of a urinary tract infection may worsen after drinking alcohol. If you have a kidney infection, drink plenty of water and consult your doctor straight away.

You can use pain medication to relieve discomfort. Severe or recurring kidney infections may need surgery or hospitalization.


Alcohol features diuretic properties that lead you to urinate more frequently. This leads to dehydration, particularly with extreme alcohol consumption.

Alcohol affects the kidneys’ function to maintain electrolytes and water balance in the body. This results in damaged kidney function and increases the risk of forming kidney stones. Regular dehydration leads you to a greater risk for these damaging effects.

Treat dehydration by drinking lost fluids and electrolytes, such as a sports drink with electrolytes and a carbohydrate solution. Avoid sugary beverages. In some cases, dehydration needs a visit to the doctor.

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Alcohol and Kidney Disease Symptoms 

The surrounding areas of your kidneys may feel sore after alcohol consumption. This is the area under your ribcage, at the back of your abdomen, on both sides of your spine. This pain may be felt as a sharp, sudden, stabbing pain or more of a dull ache. It may be mild or severe and can be felt on one or both sides of the body.

The pain in your kidneys may be felt in the upper or lower back or between the buttocks and lower ribs. The pain may be felt immediately after drinking alcohol or after you’ve quit drinking. Sometimes it gets worse at night.

Other symptoms include:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Painful urination
  • Blood in the urine
  • Loss of appetite
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Chills

How Alcohol Affects Your Kidneys?

Alcohol consumption affects many parts of your body, including your kidneys. A small amount of alcohol—one or two drinks now and then—usually has no severe effects. However, excessive drinking–more than four drinks daily—can affect your health and worsen kidney disease. When experts talk about one drink, they are talking about one 12–ounce bottle of beer, one glass of wine, or one ounce (one-shot) of “hard liquor.”

Binge drinking has harmful effects on the kidney, leading to acute kidney failure. A sudden drop in kidney function is called acute kidney failure. This often goes away, but it can occasionally lead to lasting kidney damage. Regularly drinking too much too often can also damage the kidneys. However, the damage occurs more slowly. Regular heavy drinking has been found to double the risk of chronic kidney disease.

Even higher risk of kidney problems has been found for heavy drinkers who also smoke. Smokers who are heavy drinkers have about five times the chance of developing chronic kidney disease than people who don’t smoke or drink alcohol to excess.

The kidneys have an essential job as a filter for toxic substances. One of these substances is alcohol. The kidneys of heavy drinkers have to work harder. Alcohol causes changes in the role of the kidneys and makes them less able to filter the blood.

Alcohol also affects the capacity to control fluid and electrolytes in the body. When alcohol dehydrates the body, the drying effect can impact the normal operation of cells and organs, including the kidneys. In addition, alcohol can disrupt hormones that affect kidney function.

Alcohol and Kidneys
Threats to the normal functioning of the kidneys are serious medical problems, and alcoholism is a contributing factor to kidney disease.

Effects on Body Fluid Volume and Blood Pressure

Excessive drinking can also affect your blood pressure. Individuals who consume too much alcohol are more likely to have high blood pressure. And medications for high blood pressure can have harmful interactions with alcohol. High blood pressure is a typical cause of kidney disease.

More than two drinks a day can increase your chance of developing high blood pressure. In addition, drinking alcohol in these amounts is a risk factor for developing a sign of kidney disease protein in the urine (albuminuria).

By promoting liver disease, chronic drinking adds to the kidney’s job. The blood flow rate to the kidneys is usually kept at a certain level so that the kidney can filter the blood well. Established liver disease impairs this critical balancing act. Most patients in the United States diagnosed with both liver disease and associated kidney dysfunction are alcohol dependent.

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Effects on Fluid and Electrolyte Balance 

One of the main functions of the kidneys is to regulate both the composition and the volume of body fluid, including electrically charged particles (i.e., ions), such as potassium, sodium, and chloride ions (i.e., electrolytes). However, the ability of alcohol to increase urine volume (i.e., its diuretic effect) alters the body’s fluid level, causing dehydration and producing an imbalance in electrolyte concentrations. These effects vary depending on factors such as the duration and amount of drinking, the drinker’s nutritional status, and the presence of other diseases.


Alcohol can produce urine flow within 20 minutes of intake; as a result of urinary fluid losses, the concentration of electrolytes in blood serum increases. These changes can be dangerous in alcoholics, who may show clinical evidence of dehydration.

Increased urine flow results from alcohol’s acute inhibition of the release of antidiuretic hormone (ADH), a hormone also known as vasopressin, which normally promotes the formation of concentrated urine by inducing the kidneys to conserve fluids. 

In the absence of antidiuretic hormone (ADH), segments of the kidney’s tubule system become impermeable to water, thus preventing it from being reabsorbed into the body. A rising blood alcohol level disrupts this regulatory response by suppressing ADH secretion into the blood.


The serum sodium level is determined by the balance of fluid in relation to that of sodium. Not enough fluid in the body results in a sodium concentration that is too high (i.e., hypernatremia). Whereas excessive amounts of fluid produce a sodium concentration that is too low (i.e., hyponatremia). Hyponatremia may cause neurological symptoms, impaired mental activity, and, in extreme instances, seizures).

“Beer drinkers’ hyponatremia” is a syndrome that appears to result from an intake of excessive fluid in the form of beer. Hyponatremia was observed in five patients who drank at least 5 liters of beer per day (L/d) without any other nourishment. (For comparison, a person’s normal fluid intake averages a little more than 2 L/d.) Because beer contains few dissolved substances (i.e., solutes), such as sodium, these patients apparently lacked a sufficient quantity of solutes to stimulate the kidneys to eliminate excess fluid.


Normally the kidneys are a major route of potassium ion excretion and serve as an important site of potassium regulation. Alcohol consumption historically has been found to reduce the amount of potassium excreted by the kidneys, although the body’s hydration state may help determine whether potassium excretion will increase or decrease in response to alcohol. Levels of potassium, like those of sodium, also can affect the way the kidneys handle fluid elimination or retention. 

Potassium depletion has been linked to hyponatremia For example, potassium losses may stimulate antidiuretic hormone (ADH) activity, thereby increasing the amount of fluid reabsorbed and causing the body’s sodium concentration to decrease as a result. Alternatively, potassium losses may increase thirst through hormonal mechanisms, thereby promoting increased fluid intake.


Low blood levels of phosphate commonly occur acutely in hospitalized alcoholic patients. Indeed, when the condition does not appear, clinicians treating alcoholics should suspect that another problem is masking the recognition of low phosphate levels, such as ongoing muscle dissolution, excess blood acidity (i.e., acidosis), inadequate blood volume, or kidney failure. For severely alcoholic patients who eat poorly, such a nutritional deficit may be an important contributor to hypophosphatemia.

Another potential cause of hypophosphatemia in alcoholic patients is hyperventilation, which can occur during alcohol withdrawal. Prolonged rapid, shallow breathing resulted in excessive loss of carbon dioxide and decreased blood acidity (i.e., alkalosis), which in turn activates an enzyme that enhances glucose breakdown. 


Chronic Alcoholism is the leading cause of low blood levels of magnesium (i.e., hypomagnesemia) in the United States. Often it co-occurs with phosphate deficiencies, also frequently encountered among alcoholics.

Alcohol intake can result in hypomagnesemia. Alcohol consumption markedly increases magnesium excretion in the urine and may affect magnesium levels in other ways as well. For instance, when rats are given alcohol, they also require significant magnesium in their diets, suggesting that alcohol disrupts the absorption of this nutrient from the gut. Investigators have speculated that alcohol or an intermediate metabolite directly affects magnesium exchange in the kidney tubules.

Alcohol and Kidneys
Alcohol is capable of undoing the kidneys’ ability to filter out toxins, and while this is not usually a problem with normal drinking, it becomes a serious problem when the drinking is abusive or excessive.


Alcohol consumption markedly increases calcium loss in urine. In severely ill alcoholics, low blood calcium levels occur about as often as low blood levels of phosphate and can cause convulsions or potentially life-threatening muscle spasms when respiratory muscles are involved. 

Alcoholics with liver disease often have abnormally low levels of a calcium-binding protein, albumin, and also may have impaired vitamin D metabolism; either of these two factors could result in reduced blood levels of calcium (i.e., hypocalcemia). Muscle breakdown and magnesium deficiency are other potential causes of hypocalcemia in alcoholics.

How Much Alcohol is Too Much? 

It’s best to first check with your renal dietitian or nephrologist to find out if alcohol is safe for you. If you’re able to drink alcohol safely, your healthcare team will advise you on the types and amounts that are right for you.

Alcohol has no nutritional benefit, but it does have calories that can add up quickly. Take this into consideration when planning your daily menus. Some medicines, both prescription and over-the-counter, may interact with alcohol. and cause the medicines not to work properly. 

There are other medicines that may cause your blood alcohol level to rise. Check drug labels and ask your pharmacist or doctor to review your medications to make sure alcohol will not be harmful to your medication.

Safe Levels of Drinking

The federal government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans defines moderate drinking as:

  • One drink per day for women and older people
  • Two drinks per day for men

The limits are different for men and women because men usually weigh more and alcohol is processed differently by the sexes. Women tend to have a stronger reaction to alcohol. One reason is that women have less water in their bodies, so the alcohol becomes more concentrated. The risk for alcohol-related diseases is also higher in women than in men.

The following count as one drink and each contains the same amount of alcohol:

  • 12 ounces of beer or wine cooler
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits (whiskey, bourbon, scotch, vodka, gin, tequila, rum)

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Long-Term Alcohol Effects on the Kidneys

Your kidneys are a pair of organs that perform many essential bodily functions and are responsible for the regulation of pH, the production of hormones, and the excretion of wastes and toxins, such as alcohol. Drinking excessively can cause your kidneys to decrease their ability to filter your blood.

In addition, your kidneys also ensure your body’s hydration. Consuming alcohol dehydrates your body, which can have negative effects on the function of your kidneys and other vital organs.

Excessive alcohol use can also lead to high blood pressure, which can increase your risk of developing kidney disease. After you drink an alcoholic beverage, your body experiences an acute spike in blood pressure for up to two hours. Over time, alcohol use can lead to a sustained rise in blood pressure.

Alcohol and Kidney Failure 

Binge drinking has harmful effects on the kidney that can even lead to acute kidney failure. A sudden drop in kidney function is called acute kidney failure.

What is Kidney Failure?

Having kidney failure means that 85-90% of your kidney function is gone, and they don’t work well enough to keep you alive. There is no cure for kidney failure, but it is possible to live a long life with treatment. Having kidney failure is not a death sentence, and people with kidney failure live active lives and continue to do the things they love.

What Causes Kidney Failure?

High blood pressure and diabetes are the two most common causes of kidney failure. They can also become damaged from physical injury, diseases, or other disorders. 

What Happens When Kidneys Fail?

Kidney failure does not happen overnight. It is the result of a gradual loss of kidney function. Some people do not even know they have kidney disease until their kidneys fail. Why not? Because people with early kidney disease may not have any symptoms. Symptoms usually show up later in the progression of the disease and may include:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Poor appetite
  • Weakness
  • Tiredness
  • Itching
  • Weight loss
  • Muscle cramps (especially in the legs)
  • Swelling of your feet or ankles
  • Anemia (a low blood count)
  • Trouble sleeping

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Preventing Kidney Damage and Disease 

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) cannot always be prevented, but you can take steps to reduce the chances of getting the condition.

Following the advice below can reduce your risk.

Manage underlying conditions

If you have a long-term condition that could lead to chronic kidney diseases (CDK), such as diabetes or high blood pressure, it’s important this is managed carefully.

Follow your doctor’s advice, take any medicine you’re prescribed, and keep all appointments relating to your condition.

Stop smoking

Smoking increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks or strokes, which is associated with a higher risk of CKD.

Stopping smoking will improve your general health and reduce your risk of these serious conditions.

Healthy diet

A healthy, balanced diet can reduce your risk of kidney disease by keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol at a healthy level.

You may also be given advice about dietary changes that can specifically help with kidney disease, such as limiting the amount of potassium or phosphate in your diet.

Manage alcohol intake

Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can cause your blood pressure and cholesterol levels to rise to unhealthy levels. Sticking to the recommended alcohol limit is the best way to reduce your risk.

Exercise regularly

Regular exercise should help lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of developing kidney disease.

Be careful with painkillers

Kidney disease can be caused by taking too many non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen, or taking them for longer than recommended.

Alcohol and Kidneys Treatment

The CDC warns that binge drinking can cause acute kidney failure, but the damage can often be reversed if you stop drinking and allow your kidneys time to heal. Depending on how long and how much you drank, this recovery timeline can vary.

Some of the damage can be irreversible, however. Regular heavy drinking doubles your risk for chronic kidney disease. This risk quadruples if you also smoke. Alcohol and kidneys have direct connections. Alcohol can raise your blood pressure, and regular heavy drinking can cause chronic high blood pressure. This is another risk factor for kidney disease.

Kidney disease can lead to kidney failure. You may then need to endure regular kidney dialysis to filter your blood and keep things properly balanced, or undergo a kidney transplant. Heavy drinking can make it hard for you to qualify for a kidney transplant.

Reducing the amount of alcohol you drink can positively impact your body and brain, and allow your kidneys a chance to be healthy. Get help to stop heavy drinking and give your kidneys the best chances of a full recovery.

We Level Up NJ provides proper care with round-the-clock medical staff to assist your recovery through a medically-assisted detox program. Reclaim your life, call to speak with a knowledgeable treatment specialist. Our counselors know what you are going through and will answer any of your questions.

Alcohol and Kidneys
The reality of alcoholism is a significant and serious contributor to the risk of kidney disease means that people who struggle with alcohol use disorders must make kidney care part of their long-term treatment.

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[1] NCBI –

[2] NCBI –