The effects of alcohol on kidneys are well understood. Research has shown the various ways in which alcohol subdues kidney function from organ enlargement to hormone dysfunction. Of course, responsible, moderate drinking will not have a negative impact on the body’s organ systems, but long-term, heavy drinking can destroy the body beginning with the urinary system and moving on through the digestive, muscular, endocrine, and nervous and integument systems. The only way to arrest the process is for a heavy drinker to cease all use of alcohol.
Excess alcohol begins with the effects of alcohol on kidneys and the liver first. Normal functioning kidneys filter metabolic wastes from the body’s blood supply. They also serve to control the water solute ratios in every organ system. However, the process is complex, in simple terms, the blood deposits this waste as it travels through the arterioles in the kidney. The waste product is drained of excess water and the leftover product exits the kidney into the bladder to be excreted. Alcohol hinders every step of this process.
Alcohol is a diuretic. The exact inhibition mechanism is not fully understood, but years of study have shown that as the kidneys are exposed to alcohol they lose the ability to filter water back into the blood stream. Within twenty minutes of consuming a hard beverage, a person may experience a need to urinate. This is caused by the disabling of kidneys to recapture water. As water escapes in unequal proportion to electrolytes (sodium, potassium, calcium and phosphates), the internal ionic balance is disrupted.
Anyone who has been drunk has experienced a hangover. The hangover results from excessive dehydration in concert with imbalanced electrolyte proportions. Alcoholics cause this imbalance in their bodies for so long that their kidneys begin to mutate in an effort to perform under the alcohol saturated conditions. The entire organ enlarges, increasing the pathways that water must filter through before exiting the organ. However, this does not adequately solve the problem. Alcohol still inhibits water retention and the urinary system is never able to stay sufficiently balanced.
The effect of alcohol on kidneys becomes worse when an alcoholic’s liver has been rendered ineffective. During a heavy drinking process, both organs are impacted acutely. Because the liver is primarily responsible for the metabolism of alcohol, every swallow of a hard beverage directly affects this massive organ. Once cirrhosis or another liver disease has occurred, the kidney is left to function under higher toxicity levels, further complicating the problem.
After twenty or more years of daily, heavy alcohol use, the kidney will no longer be able to filter electrolytes or water effectively. When this occurs, a person will become pH imbalanced. Kidney failure will not be far behind. Once the kidney fails, not only will the alcoholic have to rely on dialysis for waste filtration, but also his or her body will be distinctly broken down. The effects of alcohol on kidneys will then spread to every body system. The skin will lose elasticity. A person will eventually become incontinent. Cognitive process will slow. Hormones will become imbalanced and the recognizable tremors of advanced alcoholism will be the least of a person’s worries.