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Updated on August 11, 2023
7 min read

Kidney Pain After Drinking Alcohol

Ellie Swain
Dr P. E. Pancoast, MD
Written by 
11 Sources Cited
Ellie Swain
Written by 
11 Sources Cited

How Does Alcohol Affect Kidney Health?

Alcohol can dehydrate your system and impair your kidney’s ability to function. Threats to proper kidney function lead to severe medical issues and negatively impact other body parts.

Some of alcohol’s effects on kidney function include:

  • Keep your kidney from maintaining the right balance of fluids in your blood
  • Prevent your kidneys from filtering your blood properly
  • Severe damage to the kidney can lead to serious conditions like kidney failure

What is Heavy Drinking?

A woman who drinks more than 7 standard drinks per week or a man who drinks more than 14 standard drinks per week is considered a heavy drinker.11

Binge drinking contributes to kidney disease and is typically defined as drinking four or five drinks within two hours.

Binge drinking causes a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) to heighten to dangerous levels, causing the kidneys to lose function and potentially leading to acute kidney injury or chronic kidney disease.


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Is Kidney Pain After Drinking Normal?

Yes, the areas around your kidneys may feel sore or uncomfortable after you drink alcohol. These areas include the back of your abdomen and under your rib cage on both sides of your spine. 

You may feel a dull ache or sudden, sharp, stabbing pain. The discomfort may be mild or severe and manifest on one or both sides of the body.

You may also experience kidney pain immediately after drinking alcohol or after you have stopped drinking. In some circumstances, it worsens at night.

Symptoms of Kidney Pain

Other symptoms that may come with kidney pain include:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Painful urination
  • Blood in the urine
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleeping issues
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Chills

There are many causes of kidney pain. Understanding why you’re experiencing discomfort is essential, as it may signify something serious. 

7 Reasons Why Your Kidneys Hurt After Drinking Alcohol

Alcohol consumption can intensify any pain. Here are the most common causes of kidney pain after drinking alcohol:

1. Liver Disease

Liver disease makes you more likely to experience pain or discomfort after drinking alcohol. This is especially likely if you have alcoholism or engage in heavy drinking. 

Liver disease can also affect blood flow to the kidneys, making them less effective in filtering blood.8

To treat liver disease, your doctor may suggest the following:

  • Stop drinking alcohol
  • Lose weight
  • Follow a nutritious diet

Some cases of liver disease may require surgery or medications. A liver transplant may also be necessary in cases of liver failure.

2. Kidney Stones

Kidney stones may develop due to alcohol-induced dehydration. If you already have kidney stones, drinking alcohol can contribute to or increase kidney pain. It may be possible to treat small kidney stones by:7

  • Drinking more water
  • Taking medication
  • Using home remedies

3. Kidney Infection

A kidney infection is a type of urinary tract infection (UTI). It begins in the urethra or bladder and travels to one or both kidneys.6

The symptoms and condition of a urinary tract infection may worsen after drinking alcohol. If you have a kidney infection, drink plenty of water and contact your doctor immediately. You can use heat or pain medication to reduce discomfort. 

Doctors will also usually prescribe you antibiotics. However, severe or recurring kidney infections may need surgery or hospitalization.

4. Dehydration

Alcohol features diuretic properties that make you urinate more often than usual, making you prone to dehydration.

Alcohol affects the kidneys' function to maintain water balance and electrolytes.4 This results in impaired kidney function and increases the risk of developing kidney stones. Chronic dehydration leads you to a greater risk for these adverse effects.

Treat dehydration by drinking fluids and electrolytes, such as a sports drink with electrolytes and a carbohydrate solution. Avoid sugary beverages. In some circumstances, dehydration requires a visit to the doctor.

5. Ureteropelvic Junction (UPJ) Obstruction

If you have UPJ obstruction, you may experience kidney pain after drinking alcohol. UPJ affects the proper functioning of the kidneys and bladder. You may experience pain in the side, lower back, or abdomen. In some cases, pain may travel to the groin.

Sometimes, UPJ will improve independently or be treated with a minimally invasive procedure. For more extreme cases, it may already require surgery.

6. Hydronephrosis

Hydronephrosis occurs in one or two swollen kidneys because of an accumulation of urine. A blockage stops urine from draining from the kidney to the bladder. This obstruction can lead the renal pelvis to become swollen or enlarged.

You may feel flank pain and difficulty or discomfort during urination. Having kidney stones heightens your risk of developing hydronephrosis. It is best to treat hydronephrosis as quickly as possible.

Meet with your doctor to receive treatment for kidney stones or infections if they are the cause. These conditions may require antibiotics or other treatments.

7. Gastritis

Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to gastritis, where the stomach lining becomes swollen or inflamed. While it’s not directly related to the kidneys, you may feel pain in the upper abdomen, which may seem like kidney pain.5

Treat gastritis by avoiding pain medications, alcohol, and recreational drugs. Antacids may help relieve symptoms and pain. Your doctor may also prescribe H2 antagonists or proton pump inhibitors to lessen the production of stomach acid.


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Can You Flush Your Kidneys After Drinking Alcohol?

Kidney cleanses involve eating specific foods and herbs that may help remove toxins from the body and encourage improved kidney health. Kidney-cleansing programs vary but usually follow a restricted and healthy diet for several days.

However, there’s currently limited scientific research to support the claims that certain foods, drinks, and diets can detoxify your kidneys and body.1

The Nature of Kidney-Cleansing Programs

A kidney-cleansing diet may include:

  • Teas
  • Juices
  • Smoothies
  • Herbs
  • Foods that help detoxify the body

Most people can keep their kidneys healthy by remaining hydrated and eating a balanced diet. Some herbs and foods that are commonly used in kidney-cleansing programs may have properties that help enhance kidney health.


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How to Prevent Kidney Pain After Drinking

If you want to avoid kidney-related pain after drinking, consider reducing your alcohol intake. You can even choose to stop drinking altogether.

However, if you don’t want to stop drinking, here are a few tips to help prevent kidney pain after drinking:

  • Avoid binge drinking
  • Swap out hard liquor for beer or wine
  • Swap out alcohol for juices or teas
  • Stay hydrated
  • Follow a low-fat diet
  • Limit your sugar, salt, and caffeine intake
  • Exercise regularly
  • Avoid smoking

Consider seeing a doctor for severe pain. Your doctor may prescribe kidney medication or recommend programs in your area to help you.

Can Alcohol Cause Kidney Damage?

Consuming alcohol affects various parts of your body, including your kidneys. Moderate drinking, such as one or two drinks now and then, usually has no severe effects. However, too much alcohol (more than four drinks daily) can affect your health and worsen kidney disease.

How Much Alcohol Leads to Kidney Damage?

Even without binge drinking, regularly drinking too much can lead to kidney problems.

Regular excessive drinking doubles the risk of chronic kidney disease, which doesn’t disappear over time. Even higher risks of kidney problems have been found in heavy drinkers who also smoke. 

What are the Signs of Alcohol-Induced Kidney Damage?

Aside from kidney pain, a person with acute kidney injury may also notice the following signs and symptoms:

  • Decreased urination
  • Exhaustion
  • Swollen legs, ankles, or face 
  • Problems breathing or shortness of breath
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Chest pressure or pain

When to See a Doctor

The kidneys are the body’s essential tool for filtering out harmful substances. Problems affecting the kidneys can quickly impact the rest of the body, potentially leading to problems in multiple organs.

Contact a doctor if you experience:

  • Pain in the kidneys
  • Symptoms of a UTI
  • A recent blow to the back that leads to pain in the kidneys
  • A fever with kidney pain
  • Decreased urination, even when drinking enough water

Go to the emergency room or urgent care for:

  • Signs of acute kidney injury following drinking
  • Intense pain in the back or kidneys
  • A high fever and kidney pain 
  • High blood pressure and kidney pain 
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Blurred vision
  • Changes in awareness
  • A seizure

Treatment for Kidney Damage

Depending on the underlying cause, you can treat some kidney damage. However, chronic kidney disease often has no cure.

Kidney damage treatment usually includes measures to help control symptoms and reduce complications. If your kidneys are severely damaged, you may require treatment for end-stage kidney disease.

Available treatment options for kidney damage include:6

  • Medicine: used to control blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Dialysis: a treatment used to replicate some of the kidney's functions
  • Kidney transplant: a procedure that involves transferring a healthy kidney from one person to another

Treatment Options for Alcohol Misuse & Addiction 

There are various treatment options for alcohol misuse and addiction, including:10

Updated on August 11, 2023
11 sources cited
Updated on August 11, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Detoxes” and “Cleanses”: What You Need To Know, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, 2019.
  2. Fan et al. “Alcohol Consumption Can be a "Double-Edged Sword" for Chronic Kidney Disease Patients.” Medical Science Monitor: International Medical Journal of Experimental and Clinical Research, 2019.
  3. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. “Alcohol use disorder.” Mayo Clinic, 2022.
  4. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. “Dehydration.” Mayo Clinic, 2021.
  5. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. “Gastritis.” Mayo Clinic, 2022.
  6. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. “Kidney infection.” Mayo Clinic, 2022.
  7. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. “Kidney stones.” Mayo Clinic, 2022.
  8. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. “Liver disease.” Mayo Clinic,  2023.
  9. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. “Chronic kidney disease.” Mayo Clinic, 2021.
  10. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2022.
  11. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Drinking Levels Defined.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2021.
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All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice.
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