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does drinking affect your kidneys

How Alcohol Affects Your Kidneys

So you enjoy throwing back a few beers or glasses of wine on the weekends to unwind and de-stress. Most people drink occasionally without a problem. But did you know that excessive alcohol use over time could hurt one of your most vital organs, your kidneys? Your kidneys filter waste and excess fluid from your blood to keep your body in balance. Drinking too much alcohol, especially over many years, can take a toll on your kidneys and cause damage that may become permanent if left untreated.

In this article, we’ll explore how alcohol affects your kidneys, the warning signs to watch out for, and what you can do to prevent or reverse damage before it’s too late. The good news is, your kidneys are resilient organs and the damage may be reversible if you make some changes now. The not-so-good news is that continued heavy drinking will only make the problem worse down the road.

Knowing how binge drinking might impact your health and what steps you can take to ensure many more years of happy, healthy kidneys. Alcohol takes a major toll on your kidneys, even in moderate amounts. Here’s how:

  • Alcohol dehydrates you, reducing the amount of blood flowing to your kidneys. Your kidneys depend on good blood flow to filter waste and excess fluid from your blood. Less blood means your kidneys can’t function properly.

  • Alcohol also damages the tubes and filters in your kidneys that remove waste and excess fluids. This makes it harder for your kidneys to filter blood and can lead to waste buildup.

The effects start right away and get worse over time:

  • In the short term, drinking too much at once can cause acute kidney injury, putting strain on your kidneys. Symptoms include decreased urine, swelling, and tiredness.
  • Long-term, frequent alcohol use leads to alcoholic kidney disease. Your kidneys become inflamed and scarred, losing the ability to function. This often has no symptoms until significant damage has occurred.

While some kidney function can be recovered by quitting drinking, the damage can be permanent. The more you drink and the longer you drink, the greater the harm. Most experts recommend limiting alcohol to 1 drink per day for women and 2 per day for men to avoid hurting your kidneys.

The bottom line: your kidneys work hard to keep you healthy, so do them a favor and avoid drinking in excess. Moderation is key if you want your kidneys to keep filtering for life. Make the smart choice – your kidneys will thank you!

What Kidney Problems Can Alcohol Cause?

Excessive and prolonged alcohol consumption can lead to various kidney problems, including:

  • Acute Kidney Injury (AKI)
  • Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)
  • Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
  • Electrolyte Imbalances
  • Glomerulonephritis
  • Interference with Medications
  • Increased Risk of Kidney Stones
  • Liver Disease-Related Kidney Issues

Chronic alcohol use can lead to liver disease, which, in turn, can impact kidney function. Seeking medical attention and making lifestyle changes, including quitting or reducing alcohol intake, can help mitigate the risk of kidney damage and promote overall kidney health.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Kidney Damage From Alcohol?

If your kidneys start acting up, your drinking habit could be to blame. Some signs your kidneys aren’t happy include:

Fatigue and Lack of Energy

Damaged kidneys may struggle to produce an adequate amount of erythropoietin, a hormone crucial for red blood cell production. Reduced red blood cells mean less oxygen delivery to tissues, leading to fatigue and a general lack of energy.

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

Chronic alcohol consumption can contribute to elevated blood pressure, putting additional strain on the kidneys and potentially leading to kidney damage over time.

Swelling in Ankles, Face, and Abdomen

Kidney damage impairs the proper filtration of fluids, resulting in the accumulation of excess fluid in various parts of the body. This can manifest as swelling in the ankles, face, and even the abdomen.

Foamy or Bubbly Urine

The presence of an excessive amount of protein in the urine, a condition known as proteinuria, can cause the urine to appear foamy. This is indicative of the kidneys leaking protein, a critical sign of kidney dysfunction.

Dark Urine

Concentrated urine can be a sign that the kidneys are not effectively filtering waste and excess substances from the blood. Dark urine, ranging from deep yellow to brownish, may suggest impaired kidney function.

Increased Frequency of Urination

Kidney damage can lead to alterations in urinary habits, including more frequent urination, especially during the night. This can be a result of the kidneys struggling to regulate fluid balance.

Metallic Taste in Mouth

The accumulation of waste products in the blood can lead to a metallic taste in the mouth, altering the sense of taste and causing an unpleasant flavor.

Difficulty Sleeping

Disrupted kidney function may lead to imbalances in hormones and electrolytes, potentially affecting sleep patterns and causing insomnia or difficulty staying asleep.

Bone Pain and Weakness

Impaired kidney function can disrupt the balance of minerals in the body, leading to bone problems. Chronic kidney disease can contribute to bone pain and weakness due to alterations in calcium and phosphorus metabolism.

High Levels of Uric Acid

Kidney damage may result in the inadequate excretion of uric acid, contributing to its buildup in the blood. Elevated levels of uric acid can lead to conditions like gout, causing joint pain and swelling.

If you notice any of these signs, see your doctor right away and consider seeking support from addiction resources. Kidney damage from long-term, excessive alcohol use can often be slowed or prevented by quitting drinking, but some damage may be permanent. The sooner you make changes, the better your chances of avoiding severe problems down the road.

Reversing Kidney Damage and Getting Treatment for Alcoholism

drinking affect kidneys

In many cases, kidney damage from alcohol can be reversed by quitting drinking, especially if caught early. However, the more you drink and the longer you’ve been drinking heavily, the greater the damage. The key is to stop drinking as soon as possible.

Once you stop drinking, your kidneys can start to heal and function properly again. Kidney function may improve significantly within a month of quitting and continue to get better over time. Some damage may be permanent after many years of heavy alcohol use, but stopping drinking can still help prevent further harm.

Seeing a doctor for treatment of alcoholism and any related health issues is critical. Treatment options include:

Medical Detox

Medical detox for those facing persistent alcohol misuse. It is a process that focuses on removing harmful substances from the body. Following detox, the treatment may encompass a range of therapies, available in both inpatient and outpatient settings.

Counseling and Therapy

Engaging in counseling and therapeutic approaches, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), plays a pivotal role in the holistic treatment process.  Talking with a counselor or therapist, using methods like CBT, helps change unhealthy thoughts and behaviors linked to alcohol misuse. This approach is crucial for building skills, self-awareness, and supporting long-term

Support Groups

Participating in support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), offers a valuable sense of community and encouragement, fostering commitment to the journey of sobriety.


Prescribed medications like naltrexone or acamprosate play a significant role in the treatment of alcohol addiction by diminishing cravings and alleviating withdrawal symptoms, supporting a smoother path toward recovery.

Holistic Therapies

Exploring holistic therapies, including practices like acupuncture, massage, or art therapy, can enhance the effectiveness of conventional treatments. These approaches contribute to overall well-being, addressing both the physical and emotional aspects of the recovery process.

Relapse Prevention Strategies

Developing and implementing strategies to prevent relapse is crucial for maintaining long-term recovery. This may involve ongoing therapy, support group participation, and the identification of potential triggers.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Addressing co-occurring mental health issues Numerous individuals grappling with alcohol misuse also contend with mental disorders. Consequently, dual diagnosis treatment provides comprehensive care for the entire person, contributing to a reduced risk of relapse.

The most important first step is to stop drinking. From there, making necessary lifestyle changes and getting proper treatment and support can help reverse the damage and maintain long-term sobriety and health. While the kidneys can be quite resilient, the sooner you take action, the better your chances of avoiding permanent harm. With time and dedication, you can heal your body and turn your life around.

Break the Cycle of Addiction at Santa Barbara Recovery

Take the courageous step to break the cycle of alcohol addiction at Santa Barbara Recovery. If you’re concerned about the impact of alcohol on your health, particularly its effects on the kidneys, it’s time to regain command. Our dedicated team is here to support your journey to lasting recovery. Reach out for assistance, embrace change, and reclaim your life from the grip of alcohol dependency, understanding the potential alcohol effects on kidney health. Call us today to start your transformative path toward a healthier and brighter future.

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