The National Kidney Foundation reports that as many as one out of every 10 people will pass a kidney stone at some point in their lifetime. Kidney stones are formed when crystals collect and solidify within the urine forming a little “rock” that is then often passed out of the body through the urinary tract. This can be very painful. Tenderness, fever and chills, difficulty urinating, blood in the urine, nausea, and vomiting are all potential signs of a kidney stone.
When waste builds up too fast for the liquid urine to dissolve it, kidney stones may be the result. Crystal-forming chemicals include oxalate, cystine, urate, phosphate, and xanthine. As published by Mayo Clinic, the four main types of kidney stones are calcium stones, uric acid stones, struvite stones, and cystine stones.
Several factors can contribute to the buildup of these waste products in urine, which can cause kidney stones to form. Drinking alcohol is not thought to cause kidney stones directly, but alcohol use may increase a person’s vulnerability to them.
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Alcohol and the Link to Kidney Stones
It is inconclusive whether or not alcohol consumption specifically leads to the formation of kidney stones; however, there are several ways in which alcohol use can contribute to factors that increase the risk for developing them. These include:
- The buildup of purine, which is converted into uric acid: Alcohol contains purine, and this chemical is converted into uric acid, a buildup of which can lead to the formation of uric acid kidney stones.
- Obesity: Alcohol can contribute to unhealthy weight gain due to the consumption of empty calories and poor nutrition, which can raise the risk for developing kidney stones.
- Dehydration: Alcohol consumption can lead to dehydration, which means there will be less liquid to dissolve waste safely in the urine and can therefore result in the formation of kidney stones.
- Destabilization of the acid/base balance in the body: Alcohol can throw off a body’s chemical makeup and cause levels of sodium to build up in the urine, leading to decreased urine output and a higher risk for kidney stones.
- Damage to the kidneys or kidney disease: Prolonged alcohol abuse can damage many internal organs, including the kidneys, which can contribute to the onset of kidney disease and an elevated vulnerability to develop kidney stones.
- Poor diet: Excessive alcohol consumption is often tied to poor nutrition, which can then be linked to the formation of kidney stones. Eating foods that are high in sodium or protein, consuming dark green veggies that contain high levels of oxalate, and not getting enough calcium can increase the risk for developing kidney stones.
Kidney stones may be genetic, Harvard Health publishes. Certain medical conditions or combinations of medications can increase the risks for developing kidney stones as well. A person should always check with their doctor if they struggle with medical complications or take medications regarding how these factors may interact with alcohol and whether or not it is safe to drink. In order to prevent kidney stones, it may be best to limit alcohol intake, drink plenty of water, stay conscious of weight gain, and eat a balanced and nutritious diet that is low in sodium.