Can Alcohol Cause Kidney Stones?

Kidney stones form from materials in your urine that turn into solid stones. They are often painful and can require medical intervention and treatment. Alcohol can contribute to the formation of kidney stones; however, they are not directly linked to kidney stones. Understanding their connection can help you make better decisions for preventing and treating kidney stones.

We will look at how kidney stones form and if alcohol can cause kidney stones.

If you drink alcohol, you might be at risk of developing kidney stones. Learn whether alcohol can cause kidney stones and how to decrease your risk.

What are Kidney Stones?

Kidney stones are built-up minerals collected in your urine and passed from your kidney through your urinary tract. If they are small, your body can pass the stone with little to no pain. However, a larger stone can become lodged in your urinary tract or block urine flow. This blockage can cause bleeding and severe pain.  

Who Is at Risk of Developing Kidney Stones?

About 11% of men and 6% of women in the U.S. will have kidney stones in their lifetime. Men are more likely to develop kidney stones than women. You are also more likely to develop them if you have a family history of kidney stones or have previously developed them.1

Other conditions that contribute to kidney stones include:

  • Urinary tract blockage
  • Inflammation of the bowel
  • Cystic kidney diseases
  • Cystinuria
  • Digestive issues
  • Gout
  • Hypercalciuria
  • Hyperparathyroidism
  • Hyperuricosuria
  • Obesity
  • UTIs
  • Renal tubular acidosis
  • Certain medications

4 Types of Kidney Stones

There are four types of kidney stones that we will explore in more detail.2

Calcium Stones

Calcium stones are the most common type of kidney stone, making up 80% of cases. It develops when calcium combines with other minerals and materials to form a stone. Oxalate is the most common substance to combine with calcium. It comes from your liver or foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and chocolate.

Calcium stones also come from calcium and phosphate. This combination is more prevalent in metabolic conditions or can occur when you are taking seizure medication.

Uric Acid Stones

Uric acid stones happen when there is not enough liquid in your body, causing your urine to be highly acidic. Uric acid crystals turn into stones because they don’t dissolve well in the acidic urine. This often is the result of fluid loss through diarrhea or malabsorption. It may also occur with obesity, diabetes, gout, or a diet high in animal protein. Around 5-10% of cases are uric acid stones.

Struvite Stones

Struvite stones occur quickly and have few symptoms. They are often the result of chronic urinary tract infections and are responsible for about 10% of cases. Certain types of bacteria will reduce the acidity of your urine, which creates a condition ideal for the development of struvite stones.

Cystine Stones

Cystine stones develop in people with cystinuria, a hereditary disorder where the kidneys don’t reabsorb cystine from the urine. Cystine is an amino acid in some food that you eat and is a building block of protein. Cystine stones make up less than 1% of cases.

What Causes Kidney Stones?

Kidney stones have many causes, both direct and indirect.

Low Fluids

Low fluids is one of the most common causes of kidney stones. When you don’t have enough liquids in your urine, salts don’t dissolve as easily and are more likely to turn into kidney stones.

Low fluid can occur for several reasons, including:

  • Dehydration
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Exercise
  • Prolonged exposure to heat
  • Not drinking enough fluids

You can identify low fluids by the dark color of your urine and your daily urine output. You may also experience3

  • Fatigue
  • Dry skin
  • Cracked lips
  • Headaches
  • Light-headedness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Low blood pressure
  • Poor concentration

Diet

Diet can contribute to the formation of kidney stones depending on the minerals in your food.2 Calcium in your diet is not a contributing factor to calcium stones as they are formed because of your body’s inability to reabsorb enough calcium. However, salt negatively impacts your body’s calcium absorption, and high salt intake is directly linked to the formation of calcium stones.

Eating foods high in oxalate can also increase your chances of calcium stones. Some foods with high oxalate include:4

  • Beans
  • Beer
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Dark green vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Soda
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Black tea

Eating too much animal protein such as beef, fish, chicken, and pork is also a contributing factor. This protein raises the acidity of your urine and increases the chance of calcium and uric acid stones.

Medical Conditions

Some medical conditions may increase your chance of developing kidney stones. One of the common culprits is bowel diseases that can cause chronic diarrhea or affect your digestive system’s ability to absorb minerals. Additionally, your parathyroid glands control your calcium metabolism. When they are infected, they can cause kidney stones.

There are several other less common medical conditions that also affect your body’s mineral absorption and might contribute to the formation of kidney stones.

Medication and Supplements

Medications and supplements might influence your body’s absorption or increase the levels of certain minerals in your body. For example, calcium and vitamin C supplements are both possible contributors. However, you should not stop using medications with a risk of kidney stones without your doctor’s approval.

Genetics

Genetics play a role in the development of kidney stones as those with a family history of kidney stones are at a higher risk of developing some themselves. In addition, if you have previously had kidney stones, you are also at an increased risk of having a reoccurrence.

Symptoms of Kidney Stones

If your kidney stones are small, you may not experience any symptoms and usually will not need treatment. If your kidney stones are larger and stuck in your urinary tract, you are more likely to feel signs indicating the need for medical care. Symptoms of kidney stones include:5

  • Severe lower back, abdomen, and groin pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Blood in the urine
  • Urge to urinate more often
  • Burning sensation during urination
  • Cloudy urine and urine with a foul smell
  • Fever and chills

If you or a loved one experiences any of these symptoms, see your doctor immediately or go to the ER.

Alcohol and Kidney Stones Risk Factors

Alcohol does not directly cause kidney stones. However, it can be a contributing factor because of its adverse health effects. Alcohol is a diuretic that causes fluids to move through your body faster than other liquids. Therefore, when you consistently drink alcohol without drinking other fluids, you are more likely to become dehydrated – the leading cause of kidney stones.6

Alcohol also causes health conditions that increase your chances of kidney stones, such as obesity, bowel inflammation, and health issues that require medications.7 Beer has a more direct connection to kidney stones because of its high concentration of oxalate, which increases your susceptibility to calcium stones.

Researchers found that alcohol decreases kidney stones when consumed in small amounts in some cases. However, experts do not recommend using alcohol to reduce kidney stones because of its other harmful risks and addictive properties.

If you or a loved one is addicted to alcohol, contact a local treatment center to help overcome your addiction and improve your quality of life.

How to Prevent Kidney Stones

You can reduce your chances of kidney stones by taking care of your body and mind. Here are some specific steps you can take to protect your body better.

Drink Enough Water

Staying hydrated is the best way to prevent kidney stones. The average adult should drink between 74 and 100 ounces of water a day to prevent kidney stones. That amount will vary depending on your weight and other health conditions.8

Improve Your Diet

Reducing your salt intake will help decrease your chances of developing calcium stones. Other diet changes to consider include:9

  • Increasing your intake of citrus foods
  • Limiting your protein consumption
  • Eating a low-fat diet

Know Your Medications

Understand the medications you are taking, especially those with extra calcium. If you have a known disposition towards developing kidney stones, ask your doctor before taking supplements and medications to avoid unnecessarily increasing your risk of kidney stones.

Improve Your Health Through Addiction Treatment

Alcohol both directly and indirectly contributes to many health conditions beyond kidney stones. If you or your loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction, you can receive help through our treatment facility.

Contact us to find out about our treatment options for alcohol addiction.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can alcohol cause kidney stones?

Alcohol does not directly cause kidney stones but can indirectly increase your chances of developing them. It is a diuretic and can decrease the fluids in your body, a known cause of kidney stones.

Can beer cause kidney stones?

Beer is high in oxalate and can contribute to kidney stones. It is linked to the development of calcium stones in particular.

What are the common symptoms of kidney stones?

The most common symptom of kidney stones is persistent pain in your back or side. Other symptoms include blood in your urine, fever and chills, vomiting, cloudy urine, and a burning sensation.

When should I see a doctor for kidney stones?

You should always let your doctor know if you pass kidney stones. However, if you are experiencing consistent pain and other kidney stone symptoms, you may require medical intervention and should see your doctor immediately.

Resources

1. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2017, May). Definition & Facts for Kidney Stones. NIH. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/kidney-stones/definition-facts

2. Urology Care Foundation. (n.a.). Kidney Stones. https://www.urologyhealth.org/urology-a-z/k/kidney-stones

3. Khatri, Minesh MD. (2021, May 20). What is Dehydration? What Causes It? WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/dehydration-adults

4. Healthwise Staff. (2020, December 17). Foods High in Oxalate. University of Michigan Health. https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/aa166321

5. US San Diego Health. (n.a.). Kidney Stones. https://health.ucsd.edu/specialties/urology/kidney-stones/Pages/default.aspx

6. Weatherspoon, Deborah Ph.D., R.N., CRNA; Jewell, Tim. (2019, May 23). Does Alcohol Dehydrate You? Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/does-alcohol-dehydrate-you

7. Swanson GR, Sedghi S, Farhadi A, Keshavarzian (2010, May). Pattern of alcohol consumption and its effect on gastrointestinal symptoms in inflammatory bowel disease. NIH. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20682190/

8. Meinders AJ, Meinders AE. (2010).  Hoeveel water moeten we eigenlijk drinken? [How much water do we really need to drink?]. NIH. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20356431/

9. Stratton, Kelly L. MD. (2020, August 10). Kidney Stones – Self-Care. MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000135.htm

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