Kidneys are essential to keeping the body healthy and free of harmful substances such as alcohol. They filter and rid the body of waste though the urine. The kidneys also maintain the proper balance of fluid and electrolytes.
For these reasons, it’s natural that when your kidneys have to work extra hard to rid the body of excess alcohol, you may experience pain. Frequent urination that goes along with this flushing of the system can lead to dehydration. This can interfere with the functioning of the kidneys and other organs. You may have symptoms such as kidney, flank, and back pain.
The areas around your kidneys may feel sore after you drink alcohol. This is the area at the back of your abdomen, under your ribcage on both sides of your spine. This pain may be felt as a sudden, sharp, stabbing pain or more of a dull ache. It may be mild or severe and can be felt on one or both sides of the body.
Kidney pain may be felt in the upper or lower back or between the buttocks and lower ribs. The pain may be felt immediately after consuming alcohol or after you’ve stopped drinking. Sometimes it gets worse at night.
Other symptoms include:
- painful urination
- blood in the urine
- loss of appetite
- trouble sleeping
There are many causes of kidney pain. It’s important to understand the reason for your discomfort in case it’s a sign of something serious. Read on to learn more about these conditions and how to treat them.
Liver disease makes you susceptible to pain or discomfort after drinking alcohol. This is especially likely if your liver is impaired due to alcoholism. The disease can also affect blood flow to the kidneys and cause them to be less effective in filtering blood.
To treat liver disease, you may be advised to stop drinking alcohol, lose weight, and follow a nutritional diet. Some cases may require medications or surgery. A liver transplant may be necessary in cases of liver failure.
Kidney stones may form due to alcohol-induced dehydration. Drinking alcohol if you already have kidney stones may cause them to move quickly. This can contribute to and increase kidney pain.
A kidney infection is a type of urinary tract infection (UTI) that starts in the urethra or bladder and moves to one or both kidneys. The symptoms and severity of a UTI may get worse after drinking alcohol.
Drink plenty of water and see a doctor right away. You can use heat or pain medicine to reduce discomfort. You’ll usually be prescribed antibiotics. Severe or recurring kidney infections may require hospitalization or surgery.
Alcohol has diuretic properties that cause you to urinate more. This leads to dehydration, especially when you drink alcohol in excess.
Alcohol affects the kidneys’ ability to keep the correct balance of water and electrolytes in the body. This leads to impaired function of the kidneys and increases the risk of developing kidney stones. Chronic dehydration puts you at greater risk for these adverse effects.
Treat dehydration by replacing lost fluids and electrolytes. You can have a sports drink that has electrolytes and a carbohydrate solution. Avoid sugary drinks.
In some cases, dehydration will require a visit to the doctor.
Ureteropelvic junction (UPJ) obstruction
If you have UPJ obstruction, you may have kidney pain after drinking alcohol. This condition impedes the proper functioning of the kidneys and bladder. Pain is sometimes felt in the side, lower back, or abdomen. Sometimes it travels to the groin. Drinking alcohol can intensify any pain.
Sometimes this condition will get better on its own. UPJ obstruction can be treated with a minimally invasive procedure. Some cases may require surgery.
Hydronephrosis is the result of one or two swollen kidneys due to an accumulation of urine. A blockage or obstruction prevents urine from properly draining from the kidney to the bladder. This can cause the renal pelvis to become swollen or enlarged. You may experience flank pain and pain or difficulty during urination.
Having kidney stones increases your risk of developing hydronephrosis.
It’s best to treat hydronephrosis as quickly as possible. See your doctor to treat kidney stones or a kidney infection if they are the cause. This may require antibiotics.
Drinking too much alcohol can lead to gastritis, which causes the lining of the stomach to become inflamed or swollen. Though this isn’t directly related to the kidneys, the pain may be felt in the upper abdomen and associated with kidney pain.
Treat gastritis by avoiding alcohol, pain medications, and recreational drugs. You can take antacids to relieve symptoms and pain. Your doctor may prescribe proton pump inhibitors or H2 antagonists to reduce the production of stomach acid.
Drinking alcohol heavily can have several long-term health consequences including type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. These conditions commonly lead to kidney disease. Excessive drinking is considered to be more than four drinks per day. This doubles your risk of developing chronic kidney disease or long-term kidney damage. The risk increases if you’re a smoker.
Kidneys that have been overworked due to excess alcohol consumption don’t function properly. This makes them less able to filter blood and maintain the correct water balance in the body. The hormones that control kidney function can also be adversely affected.
Heavy drinking can also cause liver disease, which makes your kidneys have to work harder. When you have liver disease, your body doesn’t balance the flow and filtering of blood as well as it should. This has a harmful effect on your overall health and can increase the chance of complications.
If you experience kidney pain after drinking alcohol, it’s essential that you pay attention to your body and what it’s telling you. You may need to take a complete break from alcohol for a set amount of time or reduce the amount of alcohol you consume.
You may wish to swap out hard liquor for beer or wine, since these have a lower alcohol content. Regardless, you should avoid drinking in excess. Keep track of your drinks using an app or a diary so you can monitor your progress.
Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Try swapping out alcoholic drinks for alternative beverages such as juices and teas. Coconut water, apple cider vinegar drinks, and hot chocolate are great options. You can make mocktails in a fancy glass if you want to drink something special, especially in social situations.
Follow a low-fat, healthy diet that has plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Limit your sugar, salt, and caffeine intake.
Exercise regularly and take on a pastime that inspires you to drink less.
See a doctor or therapist if you feel you’re dependent on alcohol or if it’s interfering with your life in some way. Your doctor may prescribe kidney medication or recommend programs in your area to help you.