Kidney stones are widely known for the excruciating pain they can cause. According to the Better Health Channel, these “stones” are actually crystals that form from some of the materials in urine. Formation of kidney stones occurs when there is too much waste material and not enough liquid, and elements of the urine join together to form these crystals. The most common materials involved in kidney stones are calcium, urate, cystine, phosphate, oxalate, and xanthine.
There are four different kinds of kidney stones:
- Calcium oxalate: the most common type, often the result of a calcium deficiency and/or dehydration
- Uric acid: another common type, usually a result of high purine intake
- Cystine: rare and often hereditary
- Struvite: a less common stone caused by infection
Even a kidney stone the size of a grain of sand can be extremely painful, and very noticeable symptoms often follow the formation of a stone. Once a stone causes any kind of blockage or irritation, the following symptoms may present:
- Blood in urine
- Sever pain in the lower back
- Unrelenting stomach pain
- Foul-smelling urine
- Urine that is cloudy in appearance
If any of these symptoms are present, consult a doctor immediately. There are multiple tests that can detect a kidney stone, and the sooner one is detected, the better. Untreated stones can increase a person’s risk for chronic kidney disease.
Alcohol and Kidney Stones
While no direct causality has been found between drinking alcohol and the formation of kidney stones, alcohol can contribute to increased risk for the formation of stones through a variety of avenues. Beer and grain alcohol have an especially high purine count, according to iTriage. Purines are chemical compounds that can result in uric acid kidney stones. Uric acid is normally released from the body in the urine, but the presence of excessive purines can lead to the accumulation of the acid and eventually result in a kidney stone.
Dehydration can also contribute to the formation of kidney stones. Calcium oxalate stones can form as a result of being dehydrated, and alcohol is known to dehydrate the system as a diuretic. More concentrated urine can lead to the formation of crystals.
According to Johns Hopkins University, obesity, whether mild or severe, can drastically increase an individual’s risk for kidney stones. Consuming alcohol can result in weight gain, which could put a person on the road to obesity, thereby increasing their risk for kidney stones.
Alcohol abuse over a long period of time can damage the kidneys and put them at risk for kidney disease. That can also result in an increased risk for kidney stones.
While excessive consumption of alcohol could put someone at a greater risk for kidney stones, moderate consumption has actually been shown to potentially prevent kidney stones. Research has shown that beer, white wine, and red wine may all help reduce a person’s risk for kidney stones when consumed at a moderate rate.
So does alcohol cause kidney stones? The answer is “no, not directly.” However, consuming alcohol at an excessive rate could put one at risk for kidney stones due to a number of contributing factors. The best prevention for kidney stones is to stay hydrated by drinking lots of water, and to eat more fruits and vegetables in order to balance acid levels in the body.