Does Alcohol Use Cause Kidney Stones?
Kidney stones are crystallized masses of waste products from urine. Minerals and salts are naturally found in the urine, but high levels of these substances can lead to the development of kidney stones. Kidney stones may grow in size. They can be extremely painful and prevent you from passing urine.1, 2
You may have heard that alcohol and kidney stones are related. Read on to learn more about kidney stones and how chronic drinking may contribute to kidney disease and dysfunction.
What is the Main Function of a Kidney?
The kidneys are part of the urinary/renal system, which also includes the ureters, bladder, and urethra. You have 2 kidneys to help to filter waste and water from your blood and turn it into urine so that it can be removed from the body.1, 2, 3, 4
The kidneys ensure that your nerves and muscles work properly by maintaining a delicate balance of water, salts, and minerals. The kidneys release hormones that influence the production of red blood cells, maintain healthy blood pressure, and play a role in strengthening your bones.2, 3
The kidneys work around-the-clock to filter waste, water, and acid out of your blood. This ensures that the proper levels of water, salts, and electrolytes—including sodium, phosphorus, potassium, and calcium—are in your blood.1, 2, 3
This is accomplished through tiny filtering cells known as nephrons that separate the waste products from the substances you need. Proteins, blood cells, nutrients, and minerals that you need are reabsorbed into the bloodstream, while the waste products are turned to urine.3, 4
Can Alcohol Cause Kidney Stones?
You may be wondering, does alcohol cause kidney stones? Alcohol use has not been shown to directly cause or be associated with kidney stones; in fact, studies point to an inverse association and even a potential protective role.5, 6, 7 However, regular alcohol use may influence some of the known risk factors for the development of kidney stones, including chronic low-urine output .1, 2, 8, 9
How Does Alcohol Affect Your Kidneys?
Research has shown that long-term consumption of heavy amounts of alcohol can negatively affect the kidneys.10, 11
Heavy drinking can, over time, increase a person’s likelihood to develop chronic kidney disease. High levels of alcohol consumption may initiate or promote cardiovascular-related risk factors for kidney disease such as high blood pressure, insulin resistance, diabetes, and excess uric acid in the blood.10,
The main function of the kidneys is to filter waste from the blood. When the kidney malfunctions, it can lead to an imbalance of fluids and certain electrolytes. Chronic alcohol use, subsequent nutritional deficits, and associated hormonal imbalance may further contribute to renal dysfunction.14, 15
Other ways chronic alcohol use can affect your renal system and how your kidneys work include:14
- Renal tubular acidosis, which occurs when the kidneys fail to excrete acids into the urine, which causes a person’s blood to remain too acidic.
- Hypomagnesemia, an electrolyte disturbance caused by a low level of serum magnesium in the blood.
- Anion gap acidosis, or liver failure.
- Decreased serum potassium levels.
- Hypophosphatemia, an electrolyte disorder in which there is a low level of phosphate in the blood.
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