You never really think about those two bean-shaped organs called kidneys until something doesn’t feel right. When the kidneys are not working well or are affected by heavy drinking, these vital organs in your body will let you know when you need to curtail your consumption of alcohol.

Alcoholism takes a real toll on your body from your head to feet. Perhaps you never thought about this when you were enjoying the spirits or wine you consumed regularly or heavily.  It is wise to know how alcoholism affects your kidneys and how that can affect the rest of your body.

Your Kidneys: How They Work

Your kidneys are the two bean-shaped organs that are fist-sized located under the rib cage and on both sides of the spine. When your kidneys are healthy, they can filter about a half cup of blood every minute, removing toxins, waste, and extra water to make urine. 


Urine flows from the kidneys to the bladder in two thin tubes of muscles called ureters. These are located on each side of the bladder, which is responsible for storing urine. The kidneys, bladder, and ureters are what make up part of your urinary tract.

Your kidneys also remove acid produced by cells in your body and help maintain a good balance of water, salts, and minerals, like calcium, potassium, and sodium. If the balance of these essential salts and minerals is off, the other tissues in your body might not work normally. The kidneys also make hormones that help control blood pressure, make red blood cells, and keep bones healthy and strong.

Your Kidneys and Alcohol Consumption

One of the toxic substances your kidneys want to filter out is alcohol. Alcohol can make your kidneys less able to filter your blood and less able to regulate the amount of water in your body. Since alcohol is a substance that causes dehydration, the more you drink it, the more dehydrated you become. Dehydration can affect the normal function of your kidneys and the normal functioning of cells and the other organs.

Excessive alcohol consumption also affects your blood pressure. If you drink heavily, you might have high blood pressure. Many blood pressure medications can be affected by alcohol. In fact, the National Kidney Foundation says that, “high blood pressure is a common cause of kidney disease.” 

If you are a chronic drinker, liver disease is a possibility, often forcing the kidneys to work harder. Liver disease creates an imbalance in blood flow regulation. Liver disease and related kidney disruption are often culprits of people who are dependent on alcohol or alcoholic.

Binge drinking causes adverse effects on the kidneys that could lead to acute kidney failure, which is a sudden drop in kidney function. For some people, this could disappear after a while, but for others and heavy or binge drinkers, it could cause lasting kidney damage.

Regular drinking can also cause kidney damage that occurs more slowly. People who are regular heavy drinkers are at risk of developing chronic kidney disease, and the disease does not go away after time. If you smoke and are a heavy drinker, your risk for chronic kidney disease rises by five times over those who do not smoke.

How to Know If  Your Kidneys Are Not Working Right

It is often said that the color of your urine is an indicator of how healthy your kidneys and bladder are. The more clear the urine, the fewer toxins are in it. Darker-colored urine indicates toxins are not being filtered out well.

There are other ways to know when your kidneys are not working right. WebMD reminds you of what those are:

  • Amount of urine produced changes.
  • Urine that is discolored, brown, foamy, or bloody
  • You feel pain when you urinate.
  • There is swelling in your arms, legs, wrists, ankles, abdomen, around your eyes and face.
  • You experience restless legs during sleep.
  • You have joint or bone pain.
  • You feel pain in the middle back area where your kidneys are located.
  • You are tired all the time.

What to Do If You Think Your Kidneys Are Not Working Right

If you experience any, some, or all of the above symptoms of poorly functioning kidneys, call your doctor. In the meantime, it would be wise to reduce the amount of alcohol you drink, increase the amount of water you drink daily, and try to eat healthy meals.

When you drink too much or have alcoholism, your kidneys are working extra hard to rid the body of the excess alcohol, and you might feel some pain. As they work harder, you may be urinating more often, which can lead to dehydration. Dehydration interferes with proper functioning of the kidneys. If this is the case, you may feel kidney, back, and flank pain. The pain can be dull, sharp, or a stabbing-like pain, and it could be mild or severe and felt on one or both sides of the body.

In addition to this pain, you might also be experiencing these other symptoms, according to Healthline:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Painful urination
  • Blood in your urine
  • No appetite
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Chills
  • Fever

What Causes Kidney Pain?

There are different causes of kidney pain. It is vital to know the reason why you have this pain so you can get the right treatment for it.

Kidney Stones

Kidney stones may form due to dehydration caused by drinking alcohol. If you have kidney stones already, drinking causes them to move faster and increases this type of pain.

Kidney Infection

Kidney infections are commonly caused by urinary tract infections (UTIs). UTIs start in the urethra or bladder and move to one of both kidneys. The symptoms and severity could worsen if you drink any alcohol.


Alcohol has diuretic properties that can cause you to urinate more frequently. Frequent urination can lead to dehydration, and more so when you drink heavily. Since alcohol affects the kidney’s ability to balance water and electrolytes in the body, dehydration can lead to kidney stones.

Liver Disease

Liver disease can cause pain or discomfort after drinking alcohol. If you have alcoholism, your liver might be damaged. Liver disease can affect blood flow to the kidneys and cause them to not be as effective in filtering blood.

How Alcoholism Can Cause Kidney Disease

Alcoholism can not only harm your life but your body also. Excessive and/or regular heavy drinking can lead to Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and kidney disease, as noted by the National Kidney Foundation. Excessive drinking is considered as having four or more drinks per day. Excessive drinking also increases your risk of developing chronic kidney disease or long-term kidney damage.

Overworked kidneys from excess alcohol consumption do not function properly. They are less able to filter blood and maintain the proper water balance in the body.

If you struggle with alcoholism and are experiencing any adverse symptoms relating to your kidneys, it is crucial to speak with your doctor. If you want to safely stop drinking, Arete Recovery’s alcohol rehab can put you on the right path. 

Our accredited treatment center in South Florida offers caring, experienced, and professional addiction professionals who will support you through therapies and become a healthier person. Alcoholism is a chronic disease, and it is treatable.

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