Alcohol and Kidneys: Can Alcohol Cause Kidney Stones?

There are few things in life as painful as passing kidney stones. Because of how painful it is to have kidney stones, people should try to do everything that they can to avoid them. One thing that you can do to stop your body from forming kidney stones is to minimize the amount of alcohol that you drink and maximize the amount of water that you drink. This is because kidney stones and alcohol often develop an unwelcome yet unavoidable pair in some people’s bodies. 

Unlike alcohol, water in the body often results in the absence of kidney stones. This is because your kidneys (and the rest of your body, for that matter) need a certain amount of water in order to function properly. Water also hydrates your body and helps your kidneys flush out harmful substances from your blood. 

Alcohol has the opposite effect on the kidneys and body. Not only does your body consider alcohol a harmful substance that needs to be flushed out, but alcohol also dries up parts of the body such as your kidneys. While kidney stones and alcohol are often synonymous with one another, the question now becomes, can alcohol cause kidney stones?

What Are Kidney Stones?

Kidney stones are crystals that form from some materials in your urine. The most common materials that form kidney stones include calcium, urate, cystine, phosphate, oxalate, and xanthine. 

Although kidney stones are typically quite small in size, they cause your body to experience enormous amounts of pain to get through your body’s system. Sometimes, your body will have so much trouble passing kidney stones that the kidney stones will form a blockage in your body’s system or cause your body some irritation. Once this happens, you must consult a doctor. 

When kidney stones are small, they can pass through your urine naturally. But when kidney stones are larger in size, they can cause blockage or irritation in the body and such an excruciating level of pain that emergency attention from a doctor is necessary to remove them. Untreated kidney stones heighten the chances of a person developing chronic kidney disease. 

Exploring the Cause of Kidney Stones

The cause of kidney stones is having too much waste and too little liquid in your body. As a result, parts of your urine join together and create the crystals that we call kidney stones. Once these kidney stones form, you must pass them through your urine to get rid of them. It is this passing of kidney stones through your body’s system that causes the body excruciating pain. 

Types of Kidney Stones

There are four main types of kidney stones. These four types of kidney stones include calcium oxalate, uric acid, cystine, and struvite. 

Calcium oxalate is the most common type of kidney stone. This type of kidney stone forms because of calcium deficiency or dehydration. Uric acid is also a common type of kidney stone. Uric acid forms because of high purine intake. 

Cystine is a rare type of kidney stone. Cystine forms because of a person’s hereditary genes and thus, genetic predisposition to form it. Struvite is also a less common type of kidney stone. Struvite forms due to infection. 

What Role Do Kidneys Play in the Body?

The human body has two kidneys. Your kidneys are about the size of your fists and are located on each side of your spine, below the rib cage. 

The purpose of your kidneys is to filter out toxins and harmful chemicals from your blood and body. Kidneys also remove some waste and extra fluid from your body, along with acid that the cells of your body produce. 

Your kidneys remove and flush out all of these substances from your blood and body is to keep a healthy balance of water, salts, and minerals in your blood. Your kidneys even create hormones that help control your blood pressure, make red blood cells, and maintain bone strength and health.  

The amount of fluid in your body and how fast that fluid moves through your bloodstream impacts how well your kidneys will work. Thus, it’s good to have a solid amount of fluids in your body at all times. 

Although the human body has two kidneys, a person can technically survive with just one. (That’s why you often hear about people donating a kidney to another person in need. By donating a kidney to someone, you’re ensuring that you each have at least one healthy kidney that you can function with.) 

Some people with only one kidney must take certain medications or stick to a certain kind of diet. Having to do so isn’t common though. 

Kidney Stones Symptoms

As we briefly mentioned, the pain that a person feels when passing kidney stones is excruciatingly painful. In fact, many women say that they would rather go through childbirth than pass a kidney stone. That’s how painful passing kidney stones can be. 

Some of the specific symptoms of kidney stones include:

  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Cloudy urine
  • Blood in urine
  • Poor smelling urine
  • Pain when urinating
  • Severe lower back pain
  • Severe pain below ribs
  • Pink, red, or brown urine
  • Unrelenting stomach pain
  • Pain in the abdomen or groin
  • Urinating a lot more or less than normal

These symptoms are especially apparent when kidney stones form a blockage or irritation in the body. 

alcohol and kidney stones

Kidney Stones and Alcohol

Since kidney stones can develop due to a lack of hydration in the body and alcohol dries out bodily organs, it only makes sense that there is some correlation between kidney stones and alcohol use. When excessive alcohol consumption dries out your kidneys, it causes the kidneys to work less efficiently.

As a result, your kidneys struggle to regulate your body’s water intake and flush out all of the appropriate toxins from your blood and body’s system. The dehydration of your kidneys that excessive alcohol use causes combined with the excessive amount of toxins and materials in your body due to the kidneys not working efficiently makes it easy for your body to develop kidney stones. 

The ingredients in some alcoholic beverages can also contribute to the correlation between kidney stones and alcohol. For example, beer and grain alcohol are high in purine count. A high purine intake just so happens to be the cause of uric acid kidney stones. Thus, it makes sense that consuming numerous alcoholic beers while being dehydrated can lead to the development of uric acid kidney stones. 

Excessive alcohol consumption can also result in weight gain, which can, in turn, increase a person’s chances of obtaining kidney stones as well. Alcohol abuse over an extended period of time can even lead to kidney disease. This too can increase a person’s chances of obtaining kidney stones. On the other hand, a moderate amount of beer and wine consumption can help prevent kidney stones. 

Can Alcohol Cause Kidney Stones

Although there is a correlation between kidney stones and alcohol use, when asking the direct question, can alcohol cause kidney stones, the answer is … no. This is because consuming alcohol alone cannot cause kidney problems. If consuming alcohol was all that was needed to cause kidney stones, then many more people would’ve developed kidney stones by now. Thus, it’s excessive amounts of alcohol use combined with other factors that create the perfect environment for kidney stones to develop. 

How to Prevent Alcohol-Related Kidney Stones

kidney stones and alcohol

To prevent alcohol-related kidney stones, use moderation when consuming alcohol. You should also drink tons of water and foods that aren’t salty throughout the day that you plan on drinking. This is so that your body and kidneys don’t become dehydrated. 

Another way to prevent alcohol-related kidney stones, you should make sure that you’re getting an adequate amount of calcium each day. This is because the most popular type of kidney stones, calcium oxalate, can develop due to a calcium deficiency. 

To further avoid forming calcium oxalate kidney stones, you should also try to avoid foods high in oxalate. Oxalate high foods include beets, french fries, nuts, potato chips, and spinach. You should also avoid foods that are high in phosphates. High phosphate foods include milk products, beans, and nuts. These foods can contribute to the development of kidney stones. 

How to Medically Treat Kidney Stones

Whether they’re caused by the correlation between alcohol and kidney stones or something else, when kidney stones are large or block or irritate parts of the body, people must obtain hospital assistance to get rid of them. To medically treat kidney stones, you can receive noninvasive surgery. Noninvasive surgery breaks down kidney stones so that they can easily pass through your body’s system. 

There are two main types of non-invasive procedures for the removal of kidney stones. One is shock wave lithotripsy and the other is laser lithotripsy. Shock wave lithotripsy breaks kidney stones down into tiny pieces from the outside of the body. Laser lithotripsy occurs when a long, thin telescope gets put in your urethra, bladder, and kidneys. Once the telescope is in your kidneys, the laser will shatter kidney stones into many pieces.  

Are Men or Women More Susceptible to Alcohol-Related Kidney Stones?

Men are more susceptible to alcohol-related kidney stones than women. In fact, men are more susceptible to kidney stones in general than women. This is simply because of how the male and female bodies are made.

Alcohol Detox

Alcohol is one of the most abused substances in the world. If you chronically abuse alcohol so much that it’s caused you to develop kidney problems, you likely have an addiction. To overcome an alcohol addiction, the first step is to attend an alcohol detox program. 

When conducting chronic alcohol abuse, It’s imperative that you receive detox and addiction treatment immediately. Alcohol detox will help you get rid of all the toxic alcohol in your body. That way you’ll be clean and ready to receive addiction treatment. 

During alcohol detox, you’ll experience severe withdrawal symptoms. To help you manage such withdrawal symptoms, you can take medications such as benzodiazepines, acamprosate,  disulfiram, or Antabuse, and naltrexone.  

Alcohol Addiction Treatment

While it may be more effective to attend inpatient treatment for alcohol addiction after detox, outpatient alcohol addiction treatment is also an option. During alcohol addiction treatment, you’ll attend different treatment programs and therapy sessions to help you gain skills and coping mechanisms that will help you maintain sobriety once you complete rehab. 

Through alcohol addiction treatment, you’ll also learn your triggers for addiction and change any unhealthy thoughts and behavior patterns that could cause you to start abusing alcohol again. 

If you suffer from a co-occurring mental illness along with your alcoholism, you should attend dual diagnosis treatment. 

By the time that you complete alcohol addiction treatment, you’ll create a support group for yourself that’s filled with therapists, addiction treatment specialists, and other recovering alcoholics. To further grow your support group once you leave addiction treatment, attend aftercare services. 

Coastal Detox Can Help You Overcome Your Addiction and Better Your Overall Health

Coastal Detox is a medical detox facility off the Treasure Coast of Florida that combines medical protocol and knowledge with holistic beliefs to help treat every aspect of the patient’s mind, body, and soul. At Coastal Detox, you can not only attend high-quality and individualized detox programs, but you can also attend high-quality and individualized addiction treatment. Thus, no matter who you are and what substance you’re addicted to, we can help you. 

To learn more about Coastal Detox and the services that we offer, contact us today! 

External References:

https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/alcohol

https://www.hackensackmeridianhealth.org/HealthU/2020/09/09/why-people-get-kidney-stones/#:~:text=Men%20are%20more%20likely%20than,are%20identical%20regardless%20of%20gender.

https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/kidneys-how-they-work#:~:text=Healthy%20kidneys%20filter%20about%20a,Your%20bladder%20stores%20urine.

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  • Can not say enough nice things about Coastal Detox & staff. Family member was there, told me five stars for the facility & all whom she interacted with. Said the facilities, ambience..., cleanliness, grounds, food, (think their chef is five stars), were all top shelf. All I interacted with personally & on the phone were patient, professional, responsive & caring. Kudos to so many: Jeannie Jones, Clinical Director whom I spent the most face to face time with: great oversight, patience & follow thru. Raquel Barker, Therapist was so understanding & on spot with her assessments/care. Kris Garrigus Admissions Director, another Coastal professional whom I cannot say enough nice things about, always so patient & responsive to my probably too frequent inquires. Not to be forgotten is Judy Tucker, Director of Operations she too so patiently "put up with me"
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