The kidneys are essential organs of the human body. Their role is to keep the body free from harmful substances like alcohol. They filter out waste from the body and remove it through the urine.
If you drink alcohol, the kidneys play a huge role in eliminating the substance from your body. But if you drink too much, your kidneys may have a hard time doing its job properly.
At best, drinking heavily may cause you to pee more frequently, which could lead to dehydration. At worst, heavy drinking may lead to irreversible kidney damage later on.
Other times, you may experience pain on your sides. This may be kidney pain due to alcohol consumption. Read on to find out the different causes of that pain.
What symptoms indicate alcohol related kidney pain?
After drinking, you may experience some pain at the back of your abdomen, under your ribcage, or either side of the spine. The pain may range from a dull aching sensation to a sharp, stabbing pain. You may also feel it on one or both sides of your body.
The pain may happen either immediately after you take your first shot or after you’ve stopped drinking. The pain may also get worse at night.
Aside from this pain, you may also have the following symptoms:
- Pain when peeing
- Blood in the urine
- Trouble sleeping
- Loss of appetite
What causes kidney pain after drinking alcohol?
There are many causes of this pain, and they may tell you of any underlying conditions you have. Here are some of them.
One is liver disease. This can be related to alcohol, especially if you drink heavily. If your liver is damaged because of alcohol, blood flow to your kidneys is also affected. Consequently, your kidneys will not be as effective in filtering blood and flushing out waste.
If you have this condition, your doctor will usually advise you to stop drinking alcohol. Along with a proper diet and exercise, you may be able to save your liver from further damage.
Kidney stones are another common cause of this pain. They usually form if there is excess salt in the body, but they can also form due to alcohol-induced dehydration. If you already have kidney stones, and you drink alcohol, the stones may move more quickly, making your kidney pain worse.
Drinking more water is a good way of dealing with kidney stones. Keeping yourself hydrated even prevents these stones from forming in the first place.
A urinary tract infection may also cause kidney pain, especially if the infection has spread to the kidneys. Alcohol makes the symptoms of this infection even worse.
If you have this condition, consult your doctor right away. In most cases, antibiotics would be prescribed to you. In severe cases, you may need to undergo surgery. Also, in any case, you need to drink plenty of water.
Gastritis is another cause of pain in the upper abdomen, and it can be caused by excessive alcohol intake. This condition is due to inflammation or swelling of the lining of the stomach. It isn’t a disease of the kidney, but it can cause pain in the same areas as kidney pain.
What is acute kidney injury?
Acute kidney injury is a condition directly caused by consuming excessive amounts of alcohol. Binge drinking, or taking several drinks in a few hours, is a major cause of this injury.
During acute kidney injury, the kidneys cannot handle all of the alcohol that accumulated in your blood. Your kidneys can only filter a limited amount of waste material at a time, so too much alcohol will overwhelm them.
Kidney pain is one clear sign of acute kidney injury. Aside from that, you may also have the following symptoms:
- Less frequent urination
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea / vomiting
- Pressure or pain in the chest
- Swollen ankles, legs, or face
Anyone who has this condition must seek medical help right away. If not, it may lead to a seizure, or worse, a coma.
Can alcohol damage my kidneys?
Yes, alcohol can cause kidney disease. This is usually a complication of other alcohol-related conditions, such as type II diabetes and hypertension.
If you are a heavy drinker, your risk of developing kidney damage in the long term is much higher.
Primarily, alcohol damages the liver, the main organ that filters out toxins from the blood. If your liver is damaged, your kidneys have to work harder to filter your blood. Overworked kidneys can become damaged more easily. Also, this can cause more frequent pain on your sides and abdomen.
If kidney damage is not addressed early, it may lead to irreversible kidney failure. At this point, you will require dialysis or a kidney transplant.
What can I do to prevent kidney pain when drinking alcohol?
The best way to prevent kidney pain is to limit your intake of alcohol. Based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drinking moderately is defined as a maximum of two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.
One standard drink is any amount of beverage containing 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol. This translates to:
- 12 ounces of beer (containing 5% alcohol)
- 5 ounces of wine (containing 12% alcohol)
- 5 ounces or one shot of vodka, tequila, whiskey, or other hard liquors (containing 40% alcohol)
Drinking moderately ensures that your body has enough time to process all the alcohol you consume. Eventually, these will be eliminated through the urine.
If you already have an existing condition affecting your kidneys (like the conditions above), it’s best to avoid drinking alcohol. Instead, drink lots of water and eat a healthy diet.
You may drink painkillers to relieve the pain, but this does not address the root cause. If you have an underlying condition, it may get worse. Consult your doctor and follow his advice to prevent any further damage.