Drinking alcohol affects many parts of your body, including your kidneys. A little alcohol—one or two drinks now and then—usually has no serious effects. However, excessive drinking–more than four drinks daily—can affect your health and worsen kidney disease. When experts talk about one drink, they are talking about one 12–ounce bottle of beer, one glass of wine, or one ounce (one shot) of “hard liquor.”
The Centers for Disease Control estimates that most American adults (two out of three) drink alcohol. Too often, some of these regular drinkers have more than five drinks at one time. In fact, about a quarter of drinkers reported they had done this on at least one day in the past year. “Binge” drinking has harmful effects on the kidney that can even lead to acute kidney failure. A sudden drop in kidney function is called acute kidney failure. This often goes away after a time, but it can occasionally lead to lasting kidney damage.
Even without binge drinking, regularly drinking too much too often can also damage the kidneys. The damage occurs more slowly. Regular heavy drinking has been found to double the risk chronic kidney disease, which does not go away over time. Even higher risk of kidney problems has been found for heavy drinkers who also smoke. Smokers who are heavy drinkers have about five times the chance of developing CKD than people who don’t smoke or drink alcohol to excess.
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