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Updated on February 2, 2023
6 min read

Alcohol and Kidney Stones

What is the Role of the Kidneys?

Kidneys are essential to your overall health, serving multiple essential functions such as:

  • Filtering toxins from the blood and turning the waste into urine
  • Regulating the body's electrolyte and water levels
  • Secreting important hormones for proper bodily function

If your kidneys stop working properly, a build-up of harmful toxins and waste products can occur. This can lead to various side effects and dangerous conditions.

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What are Kidney Stones? Are They Serious?

Urine consists of dissolved salts and minerals that are waste byproducts of cell metabolism. Typically, your kidneys filter these salts and minerals out of your body through urine.

If your kidneys can't filter out these minerals, the build-up leads to kidney stones. A kidney stone can be as small as a grain of sand, but they can become large enough to block urine flow. This can make it difficult to urinate without experiencing severe pain.

Although they're not life-threatening, kidney stones can be extremely painful. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to prevent infection. Such cases include people with:

  • Chronic diarrhea
  • High-protein diets
  • Diabetic or metabolic syndrome

Types of Kidney Stones

There are four main types of kidney stones:

  • Calcium stones: The most common kind of kidney stones formed from an excess of calcium and oxalate in urine. Two types of calcium stones include calcium oxalate and calcium phosphate.
  • Uric acid stones: Formed when the acidic content in your urine gets too high. Uric acid kidney stones make up 5 to 10% of all kidney stones.
  • Struvite stones: Caused by urinary tract infections (UTIs) and are known for developing quickly. Struvite stones can also form when urine is too basic or alkaline.
  • Cystine stones: Cystine stones develop from cystinuria, a rare, inherited disorder involving too much cystine in the urine. Cystine is an amino acid found in certain foods and is one of the building blocks of protein.

What Causes Kidney Stones?

Some people are at higher risk due to genetic factors, such as family history. If you have had a kidney stone before, there is an increased chance another may develop later.

However, there are two main reasons kidney stones may develop: dehydration and diet.

Dehydration

Dehydration results in low urine volume. The lack of fluid in the urine causes it to turn dark and concentrated. This means salt minerals don't dissolve easily and form kidney stones.

Factors that affect dehydration include:

  • Excessive exercise
  • Hot climate
  • Alcohol consumption

Diet

On the other hand, highly acidic urine causes the formation of calcium oxalate and uric acid stones. This is mainly caused by dietary factors such as:

  • High protein
  • High sodium
  • High sugar
  • Lack of fruits and vegetables
  • High blood pressure and obesity
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Symptoms of Kidney Stones

The most prominent symptom of kidney stones is severe pain and cramping in the back and sides. This pain often moves to the abdomen and groin, coming and going in waves as your body tries to remove the stone. 

Other symptoms may include: 

  • Feeling a persistent and intense urge to urinate
  • Pink, brown, or red-colored urine, often foul-smelling
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fever or chills

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Why Do My Kidneys Hurt After Drinking Alcohol?

The purpose of the kidneys is to filter waste from the body, and proper water intake is required. Alcohol dehydrates you, which makes it difficult for this to happen. On top of that, alcohol has a significant amount of toxins, which also strains kidneys.

This is one reason you may feel pain after a having a drink. The best way to avoid this pain is to drink plenty of water after drinking.

Can Alcohol Cause Kidney Stones? 

Alcohol does not directly cause kidney stones. However, excessive alcohol consumption can increase your risk of developing kidney stones in several ways. The most common way this happens is through dehydration. 

Other factors associated with excessive alcohol use, such as weight gain and poor diet, can be risk factors for kidney stones. Alcohol is a source of weight gain because it has empty calories.

Should I Drink Alcohol if I Have Kidney Stones?

If you already have kidney stones, drinking alcohol may worsen your condition. Drinking alcohol can cause kidney stones to move around faster, causing increased pain. 

How to Prevent Alcohol-Related Kidney Stones

Scientists believe alcohol-related kidney stones may occur due to alcohol being a diuretic. This makes you more likely to urinate. It may also reduce the kidney stone risk associated with low urine output.

However, the results of some studies are contradictory. Some claim that alcohol-induced diuresis can worsen kidney stones.

The best way to prevent kidney stones from alcohol include:1

  • Drinking in moderation
  • Staying hydrated
  • Abstaining from alcohol

Are Alcoholics More Prone to Kidney Stones?

Alcohol use disorder (AUD), also known as alcoholism, increases your risk for kidney stones in several ways. Aside from dehydration, intoxication can weaken your kidneys' effectiveness at filtering waste.

Also, alcoholic drinks such as beer contain a substance called purines. Purines are the building blocks of uric acid, increasing the risk of developing uric acid stones. In addition, heavy drinking is associated with poor diet and obesity, two risk factors for kidney stones. 

Treatment Options for Alcohol-Related Kidney Stones

Alcohol-related or not, kidney stones have several treatment options. Depending on their size, you can simply pass them when you urinate. 

If it is too large or painful to pass naturally, you may need to seek advanced medical care. There are surgeries available to help you pass the stones, these include:

  • Shock wave lithotripsy: Non-invasive treatment that uses shock waves to target the area of the body with kidney stones
  • Laser lithotripsy: Non-invasive treatment that uses a laser to fragment the stones into tiny pieces
  • Ureteroscopy: Involves passing a telescope along the urinary tract to locate the stone and remove it
  • Nephrolithotomy: Consists of making a small incision into the back to physically remove the stone
  • Open surgery: The most invasive option, only used in rare cases

Do I Have a Drinking Problem?

Symptoms of AUD include:

  • Drinking more or for longer than you originally intended
  • Allowing alcohol consumption to interfere with daily responsibilities
  • Drinking alone
  • Craving alcohol
  • High alcohol tolerance
  • Using alcohol as an escape from problems
  • Hiding the real amount of alcohol consumed

If you feel any of these symptoms, it may be time to get help from an addiction treatment professional.

Treatment for AUD

There are a variety of resources available for those suffering from AUD. Mental health treatment approaches such as behavioral therapy can address underlying behaviors that drive some people to drink. 

Mutual support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) can provide a strong support network for those in addiction treatment for alcohol misuse.

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Updated on February 2, 2023
6 sources cited
Updated on February 2, 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. Ferraro, et al. “Soda and other beverages and the risk of kidney stones.Clinical journal of the American Society of Nephrology, v2013.
  2. Mayo Clinic. “Alcohol use disorder.www.mayoclinic.org.
  3. Mayo Clinic. “Kidney Stones.www.mayoclinic.org.
  4. National Kidney Foundation. “Kidney Stone Treatment: Shock Wave Lithotripsy.www.kidney.org.
  5. Urology Care Foundation. “What are Kidney Stones?www.urologyhealth.org.
  6. WebMD. “What Are the Treatments for Alcohol Use Disorder?” www.webmd.com.

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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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