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Alcohol and Health

Can Drinking Too Much Alcohol Cause Kidney Stones?

July 10, 2023
9 min read
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Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
July 10, 2023
9 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
July 10, 2023
9 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
July 10, 2023
9 min read
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Reframe Content Team
July 10, 2023
9 min read

It’s finally the weekend! You’re at a lively barbecue on a balmy afternoon, the grill sizzling with succulent delicacies, and laughter echoing around. An icy cooler brimming with canned beers tempts you, promising to quench your thirst and elevate your already high spirits. A single can swiftly becomes two, two morph into three, and before you realize it, you've downed quite a few. 

But amid the joyous occasion, have you ever stopped to consider what ramifications such indulgences might have on our health? We're not merely discussing the inevitable hangover that follows but a consequence seldom talked about: the formation of kidney stones. Can alcohol cause kidney stones? Let’s dive in and explore the link between alcohol and kidney stones.

What Are Kidney Stones?

Kidney stones, despite their small size, can cause major discomfort. These are hard deposits, akin to small, jagged pebbles, formed inside the kidneys when certain substances like calcium, oxalate, and uric acid accumulate and crystalize. Various factors may predispose us to these unwelcome formations. These include genetic disposition, chronic dehydration, a diet high in protein and salt, and, of course, alcohol misuse. 

Can you die from a kidney stone?

Kidney stones might often pass out of the body naturally through urine, but not before causing considerable discomfort and pain. On occasion, kidney stones are dangerous: they may lead to more serious complications, including urinary tract infections or even kidney damage, especially if left unaddressed.

How Does Alcohol Lead to Kidney Stones?

Alcohol enters this narrative as a potential risk factor for the development of kidney stones. How does alcohol affect kidneys? Despite the relaxation and social bonding it facilitates, excessive alcohol consumption can contribute to the formation of kidney stones in a couple of ways. One primary reason is that alcohol acts as a diuretic: it increases urine production. At first glance, this might seem like a positive thing, as more liquid passing through the kidneys might flush out the substances that could form stones. However, excessive alcohol consumption can lead to dehydration, which backfires. Chronic dehydration can concentrate the substances in our urine, increasing the likelihood of kidney stone formation. Even though it feels so refreshing and thirst-quenching, beer can cause kidney stones.

Certain types of alcoholic beverages might further compound this risk. For instance, beer is known to be high in purines — compounds that break down into uric acid in our bodies. High uric acid concentration in the urine is a recipe for specific types of kidney stones. Moreover, studies have shown that chronic heavy drinking can result in high blood pressure and liver disease, both of which have been linked to kidney disease and, consequently, an increased risk of kidney stones.

Treating Kidney Stones 

In the unfortunate event of a kidney stone diagnosis, it's comforting to know that there's a wide range of treatment options available. The nature of treatment largely depends on the size of the stone and the severity of symptoms. Small stones often pass through the urinary tract without causing much trouble or with minor discomfort manageable with pain relievers. Drinking plenty of water is encouraged to facilitate the passage of these stones. For larger or more troublesome stones, medical interventions may be necessary. These could range from sound wave therapy (lithotripsy) that breaks the stone into pieces small enough to pass naturally in the urine, to more invasive procedures like surgery in severe cases.

Preventing Kidney Stones

Despite the availability of these treatments, it's always better to prevent the formation of kidney stones in the first place. A significant part of prevention hinges on the concept of drinking moderately and mindfully, aware of the risks. Ensuring we stay hydrated is crucial: for every alcoholic beverage we consume, we should balance it out with a glass of water. This helps counteract alcohol’s dehydrating effects and maintain a healthier environment within our kidneys by diluting stone-forming substances in our urine.

Additionally, adhering to a balanced diet low in salt and sufficient in calcium is important (contrary to what one might think, a diet low in calcium actually increases the risk of stone formation). Other strategies, such as getting regular physical activity and reducing the consumption of oxalate-rich foods (like spinach, rhubarb, and almonds) can help prevent the occurrence of these pesky stones.

Alcohol and Kidney Stones: Final Thoughts

Ultimately, the crux of the matter is this: our actions have consequences, and it is essential to live our lives with a balance of enjoyment and mindfulness. Just as we nurture relationships, engage in hobbies, and engage in work that brings us joy and fulfillment, we must also remember to care for our bodies — after all, they’re the vessels that allow us to experience the many joys life has to offer.

Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to a multitude of health problems, and kidney stones are just one among them. By drinking mindfully and maintaining a balanced and healthy lifestyle, we can mitigate these risks while still being able to enjoy the occasional drink at a party or gathering. Our kidneys, and indeed our overall health are well worth this effort. After all, who wants to leave the party early due to a health issue that could have been prevented? So here's to responsible and mindful enjoyment!

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At Reframe, we do science, not stigma. We base our articles on the latest peer-reviewed research in psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral science. We follow the Reframe Content Creation Guidelines, to ensure that we share accurate and actionable information with our readers. This aids them in making informed decisions on their wellness journey.
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