Effects of alcohol on kidneys

Updated November 21, 2016

The kidneys are involved in important bodily processes. The consumption of alcohol has the ability to compromise the performance of the kidneys. This in turn has the potential to generate severe consequences for your kidneys and their ability to maintain your bodily processes. Metabolic reactions may also be modified if the kidneys are influenced by alcohol.

Major Functions of the Kidneys

The kidneys regulate the amount and structure of fluids and electrolytes in your body. They help clear waste from cells and help in the contribution of nutrients that help form cells as well as provide stable conditions for the cells to function. They help normalise the acid-base equilibrium of the cell and also produce hormones.

Alcohol's Effect on Hydrogen Ion Concentration

Hydrogen ion concentration or acid-base equilibrium is vital to accurate metabolic reactions. If accurate levels are interrupted by alcohol, disturbances such as low levels of phosphates can cause hyperventilation and low acidity.

Induced Urine Flow

Within 20 minutes, alcohol can have an adverse reaction to urine flow. It can increase urine flow, causing a change in the concentration of electrolytes in the blood, in particular antidiuretic hormone which encourages the kidneys to conserve fluids. This in turn discourages water being taken back in by the body and thus increases electrolyte levels in the blood.

Electrolyte Levels

Sodium, phosphorus, magnesium and potassium are all electrolytes that are affected in a negative manner from the consumption of alcohol. All cells, mainly neurons in your brain, are dependent on levels of these electrolytes being stable. When the electrolyte levels are disrupted, your brain has difficulty regulating bodily processes and modifications in behaviour occur.

Blood Pressure

High blood pressure can cause chronic kidney disease. Drinking alcohol may raise blood pressure to an unhealthy level. Alcohol also contains a lot of calories that can lead to weight gain -- a contributing factor to high blood pressure. Alcohol can also alter the effect of some blood pressure medications.


People with diabetes are at risk for chronic kidney disease. Consuming alcohol can alter the liver's ability to produce glucose. Once alcohol has entered the liver, it will not produce glucose again until all of the alcohol is cleared from the body. This can cause low glucose levels in diabetics. Alcohol also contains a lot of calories; for diabetics trying to control glucose levels with diet and exercise, this could be an issue.

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