How Does Alcohol Affect the Kidneys?

alcohol and kidneys
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While alcohol can affect many different parts of the body both directly and indirectly, the one part of the body that it can do the most damage to directly is the kidneys. While the occasional drink or two isn’t likely to damage the kidneys, excessive drinking will over a prolonged period of time. As a result, you can develop issues such as kidney stones, kidney disease, and even total kidney failure.

It’s important to take a look at the correlation between alcohol and kidneys, including the damage that alcohol can do to the kidneys and how you can get treatment for your alcoholism.

What are the Kidneys and What Do They Do?

Your kidneys are a pair of bean-shaped organs that are located on both sides of the spine. Each kidney is about 4 or 5 inches long, roughly the size of a large fist. The job of the kidney is to filter your blood, remove waste, control the body’s fluid balance, and maintain the appropriate amount of electrolytes. In fact, every ounce of blood in your body passes through your kidneys several times a day.

During the filtering process, the blood enters the kidney at which time, waste gets removed and the salt, water, and mineral levels are adjusted if needed. The filtered blood then goes back into the body and the waste gets turned into urine. The urine collects in the kidney’s pelvis which then drains down to the bladder.

How Does Alcohol Affect the Kidneys?

Needless to say, the kidneys are incredibly vital to the overall function of the body. Because they are so crucial though, even the slightest issue involving them can result in significant health and body function issues. 

Alcohol is one of those things that can affect your kidneys in a negative way. Large amounts of alcohol can decrease the kidney’s ability to properly filter out harmful substances. That includes the alcohol itself. It can also cause changes in the overall shape and makeup of the kidney itself, thus reducing its ability to function at its optimal capacity. This results in the kidneys having to work harder than normal which can lead to toxins building up in the bloodstream.

Another way that alcohol can negatively impact the kidneys is through its dehydrating effects. This can negatively impact your kidneys’ ability to maintain normal water levels throughout the body. This can lead to health problems extending beyond just the kidneys themselves.

What Health Problems Can Be Linked to the Damage Alcohol Does to the Kidneys?

Since your kidneys are so vital to the overall performance and functionality of your body, damage to them as a result of prolonged alcohol use and abuse can lead to significant health complications. Here are some of the most significant health issues that can develop as a result of kidney damage:

Alcohol and Kidney Stones

Anyone that has either had kidney stones or knows someone that has had kidney stones knows just how excruciatingly painful having them is. While they are called kidney stones, they are actually crystals that form from some of the materials in urine and come together in the shape of a stone.

Kidney stones typically form as a result of there being too much waste material and not enough liquid in the kidneys. This causes the urine to join together to form these crystals. The most common materials involved in kidney stones are calcium, urate, cystine, phosphate, oxalate, and xanthine.

While there is no definitive correlation between alcohol and the formation of kidney stones, alcohol can contribute to increased risk for the formation of stones in a variety of ways. The biggest contributor to the formation of kidney stones is through beer and grain alcohol. These two types of alcohols have high purine counts which can lead to the build-up and formation of uric acid kidney stones.

Alcohol and Kidney Disease

While there are a number of things that can lead to the development of kidney disease, one of the most common ways it develops is through the prolonged use and abuse of alcohol. One of the biggest alcohol-related factors to kidney disease and damage is binge drinking.

Binge drinking involves drinking large amounts of alcohol in a relatively short time window. When a person binge drinks, it essentially overloads the kidneys and floods them. This can not only cause short-term functionality issues but can also result in significant, long-term damage. 

When someone suffers from kidney disease, it can result in the formation of other significant health complications, including:

  • Seizures
  • Anemia
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Bone weakness
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • A weakened immune system
  • Swelling in certain parts of the body
  • Damage to the central nervous system

Alcohol and Acute Kidney Failure

When too much alcohol gets ingested to a point where it floods the kidneys, it can cause overall kidney failure. This is known as acute kidney failure. When the kidneys begin to fail, this can result in the accumulation of dangerous levels of waste to build up inside the kidneys. 

Liver Disease

You might be thinking to yourself, how can the alcohol affect my liver too? Well, not only can alcohol have adverse effects on your kidneys, but it can also do damage to your liver as well.

Prolonged alcohol use and abuse can lead to liver disease. This, in turn, can lead to issues with your kidneys as well. That’s because damage to the liver can reduce the kidneys’ ability to maintain a healthy blood flow. This can then affect the kidneys’ ability to filter the blood in a healthy and normal way. In many cases, the correlation between liver disease and kidney trouble goes hand-in-hand.

Getting Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder

For many people, it can be tough to admit that they have a problem and get the help that they need. They might be in denial and think that they have their drinking under control, or they might even be embarrassed by the fact that they have allowed alcohol to take over their lives and are afraid to ask for help.

For friends, family, and loved ones of a person suffering it can be even more difficult. They see someone they care about struggling and they can’t do much in the way of helping to fix it. 

The good news is that there are many different treatment options out there should you decide that it is time to get the help you need in addressing your alcoholism. It’s helpful to look at some of the steps you can take to get treated for alcoholism.

Detox

Before beginning treatment for any type of addiction, the first step is to undergo detox. The detox process is done so that the body can get rid of any and all harmful substances before addiction treatment begins. The detox process can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks depending on the severity of the addiction and how much of the substance you have in your system. 

Due to the nature of the entire detox process and the ways in which it can affect your body, it is important that you undergo all detox treatment under the constant care and supervision of trained medical professionals. This can be done at either a medical facility like a hospital, a dedicated detox facility, or a treatment center that also provides detox services such as Harmony Place. Attempting to self-detox can be incredibly dangerous and can also increase the chances of a relapse.

Alcohol Addiction Treatment

Once detox has been completed, the next step is to enter into a treatment program. At Harmony Place, we offer both inpatient residential and outpatient treatment to all our clients. Based on your needs and what option works best for you, your treatment professional will likely recommend that you enter either inpatient or outpatient treatment. 

Whether you choose the inpatient or outpatient route, the main component of your treatment will be therapy sessions, both in one-on-one and group settings. Your one-on-one therapy sessions will get to the bottom of what exactly led to your addiction as well as teach you ways in which you can live a healthy and sober life without succumbing to alcohol again in the future.

The group sessions are designed as a way to build a support system while in treatment. Group sessions can also be a great way to talk to others who have gone through similar experiences as you and even learn ways to deal with your alcoholism from people who have lived it themselves.

Avoiding Issues Related to Alcohol and the Kidneys: Receive Help Today!

If you or someone you know is suffering from alcoholism, it’s important to get help before it is too late. Not addressing your alcohol-related issues in a timely manner can result in significant health complications including kidney and liver disease. Reach out to us today to learn more about the treatment programs that we offer and how we can help you get on the road to recovery.