Can Alcohol Cause Kidney Stones?

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Will drinking too much alcohol cause you to have kidney stones? Kidney stones (1) are the buildup of salts and minerals found in urine. These buildups can often stay in the kidneys and go unnoticed for years. Occasionally, however, these buildups may break free from the kidneys to travel throughout the urinary tract. This painful process can be unpleasant at best and dangerous at worst. Though alcohol has not been shown to directly cause kidney stones, it does play an important factor in kidney health and function.

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How Does Alcohol Affect the Renal System?

The renal system (2) is the network of organs responsible for the formation and expulsion of urine. It includes the kidneys, where urine is produced, and the ureters, bladder, and urethra. A properly functioning renal system is crucial to overall health.

Alcohol consumption (3) places added stress on the renal system. Alcohol requires each of the components, especially the kidneys, to work harder than normal filtering out this toxic substance. This added stress causes the kidneys to become less effective at filtering out other potentially harmful substances.

Excessive alcohol consumption can also increase blood pressure. People who drink more than two drinks each day have a significantly higher risk for developing high blood pressure than those who drink less. High blood pressure is a leading cause in kidney diseases affecting the entire renal system.

Common Symptoms Caused by Kidney Stones

Typically, kidney stones will not cause symptoms unless they move around the kidney or ureters (the tubes that connect the kidney to the bladder). These symptoms can include:

  • Severe, sharp pain in the side and back, below the ribs
  • Pain that radiates to the lower abdomen and groin
  • Pain that comes in waves and fluctuates in intensity
  • Pain or burning sensation while urinating

Other signs and symptoms may include:

  • Pink, red or brown urine
  • Cloudy or foul-smelling urine
  • A persistent need to urinate, urinating more often than usual or urinating in small amounts
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever and chills if an infection is present

Risk Factors for Developing Kidney Stones

The most common risk factor (4) for developing kidney stones is not drinking enough water. Adequate water consumption is required for the proper flushing of the renal system. This will keep the organs involved in the renal system free from obstructions causing the buildup of kidney stones.

Other risk factors for kidney stones include:

  • Obesity
  • High sugar or salt foods
  • Genetic predisposition

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How Dehydration From Alcohol Use Affects Development of Kidney Stones

Alcohol is a diuretic. This means that it will cause fluid and mineral loss (5) through excessive urination. These fluids are responsible for the proper function and health of the kidneys. Without proper hydration minerals in the renal system can build up into a kidney stone. Staying away from consuming large amounts of alcohol will allow the body to maintain healthy levels of fluids.

Should You Consume Alcohol if You Have Kidney Stones?

Though moderate amounts of alcohol is considered safe, excessive alcohol consumption can pose potential risks related to kidney stones. Proper hydration is important when addressing kidney stones. As the body attempts to pass these stones, it will require enough fluids to properly flush out the urinary system. The excessive consumption of alcohol can lead to dehydration. This can prevent the kidneys from proper flushing causing prolonged kidney stone symptoms.

Can Drinking Wine Moderately Actually Reduce the Risk of Kidney Stones?

When used in moderation, some alcohol has been shown to decrease the risks of developing kidney stones. According to a recent study (6), wine was shown to reduce the risk for kidney stones by 33%. The appropriate amount of wine recommended was no more than 5 ounces each day. Excessive wine consumption, however,  was shown to increase the chances of kidney stones due to dehydration.

This recent study suggests that wine may be beneficial in reducing the risk of kidney stones because it does not break down into the harmful chemicals that makeup kidney stones. Too much sugar or salt can metabolize into mineral deposits that can build up and become lodged in the kidneys. When wine is consumed, it can provide antioxidants for removing these mineral deposits.

Potential Health & Kidney Issues That Can Be Caused by Alcohol Consumption

When consumed in high amounts, alcohol can be potentially dangerous to the kidneys. The kidneys are the filter of the body. As alcohol is consumed in excess, the kidneys are placed under stress from the amount of filtration required. This risk is also compounded when factoring in the dehydration that comes as a result of alcohol consumption. Alcohol is a diuretic causing increased fluid loss through urination. This fluid loss can cause dehydration that may limit the function and health of the kidneys.

Smoking & Drinking Can Increase Likelihood of Kidney Disease

Smoking and drinking have both been shown to increase blood pressure. High blood pressure has been repeatedly shown to increase the risk for kidney disease. The combination of both smoking and drinking can multiply these risk factors.

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  1. https://www.urologyhealth.org/urology-a-z/k/kidney-stones
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538339/#:~:text=The%20renal%20system%20consists%20of,essential%20substances%20in%20the%20blood.
  3. https://www.kidney.org/news/kidneyCare/winter10/AlcoholAffects
  4. https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/kidneystones#:~:text=Possible%20causes%20include%20drinking%20too,of%20developing%20a%20kidney%20stone.
  5. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/does-alcohol-dehydrate-you#causes
  6. https://urologyspecialistsnc.com/wine-prevent-kidney-stones/

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

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Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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