Alcohol and Kidney Stones

The effects of alcohol are widely known. Though many people can drink without a problem, most people are aware that binge drinking and misuse can adversely affect a person’s life.

It 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.

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.

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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:

  • Infection
  • Taking a lot of calcium
  • Dehydration

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.
  • Struvite: These stones form after infections.
  • Calcium: These are the most common stones. These are formed when calcium binds with other minerals and forms a cluster.
  • 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.

Alcohol Cause 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.

HEAVY DRINKING

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.

BINGE DRINKING

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.

Signs of Possible Kidney Stones

Common signs of kidney stones, according to the Mayo Clinic, include the following:

  • Pain during urination
  • Urinating more frequently
  • Pain near the abdomen and pelvic area
  • Infection that causes fever and chills
  • A strong smell in urine
  • Cloudy urine
  • Pain that comes in spurts and changes in intensity
  • Blood in urine
  • Burning pain or feeling during urination

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.

DRINK FLUIDS

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

Excess calcium and vitamin D may contribute to the formation of kidney stones. It is best to get these vitamins and minerals from natural foods, such as milk and yogurt.

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.

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