Can Alcohol Cause Kidney Stones?
Symptoms of Kidney Stones
Kidney stones are hard clumps of waste made up of chemicals in the urine. Stones are most commonly made of calcium oxalate and the concentration of these salts increases when the body is dehydrated. Symptoms of kidney stones usually involve severe pain and may include:1
- severe lower back pain
- blood in the urine
- and more.
If you are curious about whether your drinking may be negatively impacting your renal system and overall body, you may benefit from this article.
Kidney stones can form for several reasons. This page will inform you about kidney stones, their relation to alcohol use, how to treat kidney stones, and how to find treatment for an alcohol use disorder.
Can Alcohol Cause Kidney Stones?
There is not significant evidence that alcohol directly causes kidney stones. Alcohol use – particularly excessive alcohol use in which a woman drinks four or more alcoholic drinks in a single occasion or a man drinks five or more drinks during a single session– is, however, linked to the development of a variety of other health problems. Some of these health issues include kidney damage, kidney failure, high blood pressure, various cancers, weakened immune system, mental health problems, social problems, and alcohol use disorders (AUDs).2,3 Some of these issues directly or indirectly negatively impact the renal system.
Concentrated urine can occur when the body is dehydrated—a leading cause of kidney stones.3 Dehydration can occur when people do not drink enough water to help the kidneys remove waste from the blood.3 And though we know alcohol consumption whether it be beer, wines, or spirits can contribute to dehydration, we can not link kidney stone development directly to alcohol use and abuse.
Other Kidney Stone Causes & Risk Factors
Other causes and risk factors of kidney stones include:
- Past kidney stones.
- High-protein diets.
- Being overweight or obese.
- Having had a gastric bypass.
- Polycystic kidney disease.
- Conditions that causes your urine to contain high levels of cystine, oxalate, uric acid or calcium.
- Conditions that cause swelling or irritation in your bowel or your joints.
- Certain medicines, such as diuretics or calcium-based antacids.
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Can Alcohol Help Kidney Stones?
Alcohol does not help one pass a kidney stone. In some studies, alcohol has been proven to, in light-to-moderate amounts, benefit some aspects of health. However, evidence does not suggest that alcohol can help someone prevent, nor pass, a kidney stone.
Do Certain Drinks, Foods, or Medication Cause Kidney Stones?
Experts have found that certain drinks, foods, and medication may increase one’s risk of developing a kidney stone:4
- Animal proteins (e.g., beef, pork, chicken).
- Oxalate-rich foods (e.g., spinach, okra, beets, rhubarb, Swiss chard, sweet potatoes, nuts, tea, chocolate, black pepper, and soy products).
- Sodium (salty foods).
- Diuretic drinks (e.g., alcohol, wine, beer, spirits, caffeine, tea).
- Medication (e.g., Lasix, calcium antacids, calcium supplements).
It’s important to talk with your doctor about all your health concerns including proper diet, exercise, and alcohol consumption. Brief health screenings by your provider can help determine if you are at increased risk for developing these types of health problems.
Kidney Stone Treatments
Small kidney stones will usually pass with time and treatment may include drinking more water and prescribed pain relievers. For larger stones, there are a variety of surgical treatments in order to break up or remove the stones.
Can You Die From Kidney Stones?
If left untreated, kidney stones can cause major health complications including hypertension and a reduced filtration rate (glomerular filtration rate), the process of removing enough wastes and fluids from the body to keep you healthy.5 (p4)Kidney failure, although rare,6,7 is a complication of reduced filtration rate that can be life-threatening over time.5 Experts highly recommend prevention efforts to reduce or stop the formation of stones by treating other health conditions that cause the forming of stones such as high blood pressure.6
What Other Kidney Issues are Associated with Alcohol/Drinking?
Kidneys are vital to the overall healthy functioning of the human body and serve as filtration devices for any harmful or toxic substance that enters your bloodstream. When someone drinks in excess, the kidneys have to work harder to filter the body’s blood and can cause immense stress on the kidneys. The dehydrating effect of alcohol can negatively impact your body’s cell and organ functions. Additionally, alcohol in the body can impact the hormones that contribute to healthy kidney function in your body.3
Regular heavy drinking has been known to double the risk of developing chronic kidney disease. Those who smoke cigarettes in addition to drinking heavily are about five times more likely to develop kidney disease than those who only drink excessively.3
Health Issues Associated with Drinking Outside of Renal System
Even a small amount of alcohol can impact your health in a negative way and is associated with an increased risk for death and other health problems. Short-term risks of excessive alcohol use include injuries, such as motor vehicle crash injuries, alcohol poisoning, risky sexual behaviors, miscarriage, and stillbirth.2
In the long-term, drinking can cause high blood pressure, heart disease, liver disease, digestive issues, cancer (breast cancer, mouth cancer, throat cancer, esophageal cancer, and more), weakening immune system, learning and memory issues, mental health problems, social problems, and alcohol use disorders (AUDs).2
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- National Kidney Foundation. (2021). Kidney Stones.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Alcohol Use and Your Health.
- National Kidney Foundations. (2021). Drinking Alcohol Affects Your Health.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. (August 2020). Kidney stones.
- American Kidney Fund. (2020). Kidney Stone Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment.
- Fan, Z., Yun, J., Yu, S., Yang, Q., & Song, L. (2019). Alcohol Consumption Can be a “Double-Edged Sword” for Chronic Kidney Disease Patients. Medical science monitor : international medical journal of experimental and clinical research, 25, 7059–7072.