It’s no secret that alcohol can have some serious effects on your body and your mind. A night of drinking can lead to intoxication, headaches, nausea, and many other effects. Heavy drinking that leads to alcoholism can cause even more chronic problems. Though many people can drink without a problem, most people are aware that binge drinking and misuse can adversely affect a person’s life. But did you know that one of alcohol’s potential effects is kidney stones?
Anyone who has ever experienced a kidney stone knows it’s one of the most painful experiences the average person might encounter. If you aren’t sure what’s causing the pain when it’s happening, it can also be frightening. It is well-documented that alcohol can cause dehydration, and people under the influence of alcohol do not always drink enough water. This results in a hangover and a lack of energy the day after drinking. But dehydration and other alcohol effects can also contribute to kidney stones.
In 2011, Medical News Today reported that smoking and regular alcohol consumption were key reasons why women were developing kidney stones at higher rates.
Alcohol plays an important role in the formation of uncomfortable kidney stones.
Can Alcohol Cause Kidney Stones?
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center explains that kidney stones can be of different sizes, equal to a grain of salt or up to the size of the entire kidney. They are made up of minerals and salts that bind and form a stone.
Though they are not life-threatening, they can be uncomfortable. The pain can be difficult to bear as they pass through a person’s urinary tract.
A few factors that contribute to the formation of kidney stones include:
- Taking a lot of calcium
If a kidney stone is small enough, a person may pass it without incident. Larger kidney stones may require intervention.
Though alcohol is not the sole cause of kidney stones, it can contribute to their formation.
Per MedlinePlus, there are four kinds of kidney stones.
- Uric acid: These appear if a person’s urine is too acidic.
- Calcium: These are the most common stones. These are formed when calcium binds with other minerals and forms a cluster.
- Struvite: These stones form after infections.
- Cystine: These are rare and usually run in a person’s family.
Mixed Drinks and Kidney Stones
In 2013, the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology found that carbonated drinks (soda) posed the highest risks for forming kidney stones.
The study looked at beer and wine, which were determined to have the lowest risk of forming kidney stones.
The study did not look at mixed drinks, but these usually have added ingredients, such as simple syrup, sugar-laden juices, and other sweeteners.
On April 2018, the Independent created a list of worst alcohols to drink. The list overwhelmingly includes popular sweet cocktails, such as Long Island iced tea, mojitos, piña coladas, margaritas, gin and tonic, and sweet white wine.
Alcohol Effect on Kidney Stones
The National Kidney Foundation reports that an occasional drink or two should pose no problem in most circumstances. Alcohol affects the entire body, and it can strain the kidneys because they separate damaging substances from the blood.
The kidneys also make sure a person’s water content is balanced correctly. Alcohol is associated with dehydration and affects their ability to work correctly.
There are other ways alcohol affects the kidneys.
Increase In Blood Pressure
Having more than two drinks per day is known to increase blood pressure. People who take blood pressure medication may also be affected by alcohol because it changes how these prescriptions work.
Frequent (Chronic) Drinking
Drinking in excess causes liver damage and disease that forces the kidneys to work harder. The liver must have a certain amount of blood to do its job, and changes can alter the ability of the kidneys to filter blood.
Certain amounts of alcohol can have an impact on the kidneys.
The National Kidney Foundation defines heavy drinking as three or more drinks in one day for women, or seven or more drinks per week. For men, this amount is four or more drinks in one day or 14 or more drinks per week. A heavy drinker’s kidneys have to work harder.
Thisconsists of four to five drinks in roughly two hours. In some people, binge drinking causes acute kidney injury — a sudden decrease in the kidney’s ability to work. An acute kidney injury requires dialysis. It usually goes away with time, but it is known to have more permanent effects in some people.
People who take certain medications or have certain conditions will benefit from not drinking at all.
Can You Drink Alcohol with Kidney Stones?
If you believe you have a kidney stone now, it’s important to see a doctor. Some kidney stones are large enough that they will not pass on their own. There are non-invasive medical procedures that can break down the stone so that it can pass. In severe cases, you may need to have a stone surgically removed. But if you see a doctor and they determine your kidney stones are small enough to pass on your own, you’ll have to play the waiting game.
In the meantime, do you need to avoid alcohol? Can you drink alcohol while passing a kidney stone? It’s a good idea to avoid drinking until your kidney stones are gone. Kidney stones need to go from your kidney, through the tube that leads to your bladder called the ureter, into your bladder, and then through the urethra. These passages can be narrow, especially where the ureter meets the bladder.
Staying hydrated and drinking plenty of water is a good way to flush your system and provide easy passage for the stones. Drinking alcohol will make you pee a lot, but it will also dry you out. Dehydration while passing kidney stones can make it more painful and more likely to get stuck.
But can you ever drink if you’ve had kidney stones in the past?
If you’ve experienced kidney stones, you may want to do everything you can to avoid them in the future. Alcohol use can increase your likelihood of forming new kidney stones, especially if you drink heavily or develop an alcohol use disorder. However, moderated alcohol use may be OK without significantly increasing your risk for kidney stones. It’s important to take other precautions like regular hydration, moderated sodium intake, and eating more calcium.
Signs of Possible Kidney Stones
Common signs of kidney stones, according to the Mayo Clinic, include the following:
- Pain during urination
- Pain near the abdomen and pelvic area
- A strong smell in urine
- Pain that comes in spurts and changes in intensity
- Burning pain or feeling during urination
- Urinating more frequently
- Infection that causes fever and chills
- Cloudy urine
- Blood in urine
Healthline explains that it is also common to feel kidney pain after drinking, and this could be a symptom of kidney stones. Consistent dehydration can cause pain in the kidneys and increase the chances of forming kidney stones.
How To Take Care of Kidney Stones
Kidney stones should not be self-diagnosed. MedlinePlus states that a professional can provide answers if you suspect you have a kidney stone.
Thankfully, not all kidney stones require surgery. Basic self-care tips can help patients pass kidney stones safely and prevent them in the future.
Choose water, fruit juices, ginger ale, and lemon-lime flavored sodas. Liquid intake should allow you to urinate at least two liters every day. Cutting back on tea, coffee, and carbonated drinks that contain caffeine can help you stay hydrated. Caffeine promotes dehydration and may make it harder to maintain the right levels of water in the body.
Change Your Diet
Red meat, high salt content, and a diet high in fats could contribute to the formation of kidney stones. Eating lean meat, a diet low in fat, and less salt is recommended to pass stones.
Citrus fruits could also reduce the chance of forming kidney stones. Eating lemons and oranges is recommended. Avoiding salad dressings, ice cream, and other high-fat foods is helpful.
Reduce Your Intake of Supplements
Not everyone can pass kidney stones without additional help. Physicians may prescribe medication that could help their patient pass stones, such as alpha blockers.
In other cases, doctors may need to perform small procedures to break up a large stone so it can pass or to remove a large stone altogether.
Alcohol Abuse Can Hurt Your Kidneys
Long-term alcohol abuse can affect your kidneys in ways beyond kidney stones. Alcohol can affect blood pressure, and chronic alcohol misuse can lead to issues like hypertension. High blood pressure can damage the kidneys over time. That can make kidney stones more likely, but it can also eventually lead to kidney failure and renal disease.
Alcohol is primarily processed in the liver, but if alcoholism causes liver disease, it may become less efficient. If your liver cannot effectively process alcohol, it may start to damage the kidneys directly. Chronic alcohol addiction can damage multiple organs. That’s one of the many reasons it’s important to address alcohol use problems before they lead to chronic health problems like kidney disease.