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Effects of Alcohol on Kidneys

Peter March 16, 2014 No Comments
Effects of Alcohol on Kidneys

The main function of the kidneys is to regulate body fluids and electrolytes. The kidneys control how much fluid is absorbed and how much is released. The kidneys determine what the body fluids are composed of by regulating the absorption of electrolytes such as sodium, chloride and potassium.

Effects of Alcohol  

When an individual consumes excessive amounts of alcohol, there can be many detrimental effects of alcohol on the kidneys and their function. As the kidneys are responsible for purifying the body’s fluids and are constantly keeping the body in  a normal and balanced state, negative effects of alcohol on the kidney can pose great health risks to those who over-consume alcohol.

Hepatorenal Failure

The kidneys are very strong and resilient organs. However, they begin to deteriorate after long-term alcohol abuse and dependence. One of the most common and life threatening effects of alcohol on the kidneys is hepatorenal failure. This occurs in individuals who are suffering from cirrhosis of the liver due to heavy alcohol consumption. The blood vessels in the kidneys are constricted and blood flow to the kidneys is limited. The kidneys do not produce any urine output and toxic levels increase in the body. Creatinine levels increase and the kidneys begin to fail. Eventually, hepatorenal failure leads to death.

Ionic concentrations

Short-term effects of alcohol on the kidneys include increased urine output, pressure on kidneys to work harder and possible dehydration. Within only 20 minutes of alcohol consumption, urine flow can increase. Depending on what type of alcohol is consumed, ionic concentration can increase or decrease in the body.

Beer has a low level of nutrients. When beer is consumed, there is an increased amount of fluid entering the body, decreasing the level of metabolic nutrients in the blood. This can lead to mental impairments, increased thirst, dehydration, low blood sugar and in extreme cases, seizures. In individuals with previous liver complications, these effects of alcohol can have serious implications.

With other forms of alcohol such as hard liquor, more fluids are released through urinary output, increasing the ionic concentration. Alcohol can also cause muscle cells in the body to release more ions, which further increases the levels of ions in the blood. Due to the low level of water in the blood, the cells in the body are drained of their fluid through osmosis. This can negatively affect the functions of the cells and their organs.

All for One, and One for All

Healthy kidneys are vital for the systems and the organs of the body to function properly. If one main organ begins to fail or is affected by alcohol, eventually the others will be affected as well. For example, in hepatorenal failure, the problem begins in the liver but eventually extends to the kidneys as well. Ultimately, the vital organs and systems begin to fail and the body expires.

Both short term and long-term effects of alcohol can cause negative changes in the kidneys. Short-term effects of alcohol on the kidneys can be repaired with time. If there is no further alcohol consumption, the body is able to excrete the toxins and the kidneys are able to return the body to homeostasis. 

With long term heavy drinking, however, the effects of alcohol are aggressive. At this point, the organs have been severely damaged. In some cases, the body can try to repair itself with help from medication and treatment. In severe cases, however, a liver or kidney transplant may be required.

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