The kidneys are vital organs that work to filter toxins from the blood, and also play other critical roles. They generally require little attention unless they begin to fail. However, every time a person drinks alcohol, he or she is putting their liver, pancreas, kidneys, and other parts of their body in danger.
The Role of the Kidneys
According to the National Kidney Foundation, the kidneys have many crucial responsibilities and functions, including the following:
- Filter blood to remove toxins and waste
- Activate vitamin D, which is essential for healthy bones
- Regulate the concentration and volume of bodily fluids
- Keep blood pressure stabilized and under control
- Release a hormone that controls the body’s production of red blood cell
- Maintain a balance of blood minerals and electrolytes, including potassium, phosphorus, and sodium
Each individual is born with two kidneys, but most people can survive, and even thrive, with only one.
How Alcohol Affects the Kidneys
Alcohol is one of the many toxins that the kidneys filter from the blood. While an occasional drink is not likely to become problematic, binge drinking or chronic drinking is more apt to wreak havoc on the kidneys. Alcohol undermines the kidneys’ toxin-filtering abilities, therefore setting the stage for damage and an increased risk of many health problems.
In addition to the functions mentioned above, the kidneys also regulate fluid in the body. Alcohol has a dehydrating effect, one that significantly impairs the kidneys’ ability to maintain proper fluid balance.
Another adverse effect of excessive alcohol use on the kidneys is related to increases in blood pressure. Heavy alcohol consumption can lead to elevated blood pressure both temporarily and consistently over time. Alcoholics are more likely to develop hypertension than those who drink moderately or abstain. Eventually, this can result in chronically high blood pressure and is among the most common causes of kidney disease.
Also, it’s has been well-established that there is a risk of developing liver disease as a consequence of long-term drinking. The kidneys require sufficient blood flow maintained at a certain level to filter the blood correctly. Among alcoholics and those with liver disease, the delicate balance of blood flow filtering by the kidneys is disrupted.
While there are several other possible causes of chronic kidney disease, damage to kidneys from heavy and chronic alcohol use has been shown to contribute to a significant decline in a person’s overall health and quality of life. For example, a five-year study of Australian adults who self-reported as moderate or heavy drinkers concluded that excessive drinking, in particular, was “a significant modifiable risk factor for the development of albuminuria.”
Albumin is an essential protein found in the blood that helps build muscle, repair tissue, and prevent infection. When a person has albumin in their urine, it is called albuminuria. When the kidneys are functioning correctly, there should be very little or no albumin in the urine.
But if the kidneys are damaged, however, protein can leak out of the kidneys into the urine and may be an early indicator of kidney disease. Once chronic kidney disease develops, it can adversely impact nearly every part of the body.
Possible complications related to chronic kidney disease may include the following:
- Bone weakness and fractures
- Nervous system damage that can result in breathing difficulties, personality changes, and seizures
- Cardiovascular disease
- End-stage kidney disease that requires either dialysis or transplantation
- Immune response impairment, increasing the risk of infection
- Retention of fluid, which can cause swelling in the feet, legs, and arms, or fluid buildup in the lungs
- Hyperkalemia, a sudden spike in blood potassium levels, a potentially life-threatening condition that can compromise the heart’s ability to function
- Pericarditis, an inflammation of two layers of tissue that surround the heart
- Sexual issues, including decreased libido and erectile dysfunction
Getting Treatment for Alcoholism
The best solution to protect the kidneys and other vital organs from the damaging effect of chronic alcohol use is to stop drinking as soon as possible. If you have an alcohol use disorder, we urge you to change your lifestyle and seek professional treatment as soon as possible.
Harmony Recovery Centers offers integrated treatment for alcoholism in both partial-hospitalization and outpatient formats. Our programs feature psychotherapy, group support, and counseling, services that have been clinically proven to be highly beneficial for the process of recovery.
Also, we employ highly-trained addiction professionals who render services to clients with care and expertise. We are committed to providing those we treat with all the tools and support they need to achieve a full recovery and foster long-lasting wellness and sobriety.
If you or someone you love is suffering from alcoholism, please contact us today! Discover how we help people who need it most free themselves from the shackles of addiction and reclaim the happy and fulfilling lives they deserve!