Alcohol and the Kidneys


The kidneys perform a number of key functions in the body and drinking too much alcohol can stop them from performing these functions.

The kidneys regulate fluid and electrolytes in the body and clear it of toxins. They produce hormones too and are an essential organ for the maintenance of healthy cells.

Alcohol can increase the flow of urine in the body, leading to a greater concentration of electrolytes in the blood. These electrolytes include:

• sodium

• phosphorus

• magnesium

• potassium

The human body needs electrolyte levels to be stable. When they are not, bodily process regulation can be difficult and there can be some changes in behaviour. Alcohol can also cause kidney cell damage and lead to kidney swelling. It can also cause imbalances which disrupt metabolic processes.

Drinking alcohol can cause an increase in blood sugar which can bring on kidney disease. The fact alcohol is high in calories means that it can lead to putting weight on, which is linked to raised blood pressure. Alcohol can also reduce the effectiveness of medication prescribed to manage blood pressure. It can also cause dehydration because of the increased need to urinate.

Some research suggests that in moderation drinking alcohol can bring health benefits. One study from Sweden found that in some cases it could help prevent kidney cancer in women. Another found it could reduce the risk of kidney failure.

However, it is known that excessive drinking can lead to failure of the kidneys.

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