Kidney stones (also referred to as renal calculi, nephrolithiasis, or urolithiasis) are hard crystalline deposits formed from too much waste material in the urine and not enough liquid. Certain salts and minerals (often calcium, urate, cystine, phosphate, oxalate, and xanthine) combine to form kidney stones, which are infamous for causing excruciating pain until they passed.
Moreover, kidney stones form when a person’s urine contains more crystal-forming substances than the urine’s fluid can dilute. Simultaneously, the urine may lack substances that would naturally help prevent crystals from sticking together, resulting in an ideal environment for kidney stone development.
Diet, excess body weight, certain medical conditions, and some supplements and medications are among the many causes of kidney stones.
There are four different types of kidney stones:
- Calcium oxalate – the most common type, often the result of calcium deficiency or dehydration
- Uric acid – also common, usually resulting from high purine intake
- Struvite – less common and caused by infection
- Cystine – uncommon and often inherited
Kidney Stone Symptoms
Even a crystal the size of a grain of sand can be painful, and very noticeable symptoms can follow it’s formation. Once a stone causes noticeable irritation or a blockage, the following symptoms may be experienced:
- Severe, sharp lower back pain
- Severe side pain below the ribs
- Continuous pain in the stomach and groin
- Pain that is experienced in waves and fluctuates in severity
- Cloudy, pink, red, brown, or bloody-looking urine
- Foul-smelling urine
- Pain or burning sensation while urinating
- A persistent need to urinate
- Urinating frequently or in small amounts
- Nausea and vomiting
- Fever and chills when infection is present
If any of these symptoms are present, you should consult a doctor immediately. Multiple tests can detect a kidney stone’s presence, and the sooner one is identified, the better the outcome may be. Untreated stones can increase an individual’s risk for chronic kidney disease.
Passing kidney stones can be exceedingly painful, but they do not usually cause permanent damage if detected quickly. Depending on a person’s situation, they may not need to do anything more than take pain medication and consume lots of water to pass a kidney stone.
Alcohol and Kidney Stones
There is no direct causality found between drinking and the formation of kidney stones. However, alcohol use can indirectly contribute to increased risk for the construction of stones through other mechanisms.
For example, beer and grain alcohol have an exceptionally high purine count. Purines are chemical compounds that can lead to increased production of uric acid. Uric acid is usually expelled from the body through urine, but the presence of excessive purines can cause a buildup of the acid and eventually cause kidney stones to develop.
Dehydration is also a significant contributor to the formation of kidney stones. Calcium oxalate stones can develop due to dehydration, and alcohol is a diuretic known to dehydrate the body.
Also, being overweight can significantly increase a person’s risk of kidney stones. Alcohol is high in calories, and consuming it in excess can result in weight gain and obesity, thereby increasing a person’s risk for kidney stones.
Finally, over a prolonged period, alcohol abuse can damage the kidneys and place them at risk for kidney disease and the formation of kidney stones.
While excessive alcohol consumption could put someone at a greater risk of kidney stones, moderate consumption has actually been clinically shown to have the potential to prevent them. Beer and wine are believed to have the potential to reduce a person’s risk for kidney stones when consumed in moderation.
The Bottom Line
Does alcohol directly cause kidney stones? The answer is no, not directly—however, excessive use could indirectly increase one’s risk for stones formation due to several contributing factors. The best way to prevent kidney stones is to stay hydrated by consuming an adequate amount of water and eating fruits and vegetables to balance acid levels in the body.
Getting Treatment for Substance Abuse
Whether or not you have kidney stones or are concerned about their development, if you are abusing alcohol or other intoxicating substances and have found yourself unable to quit, we urge you to seek professional help as soon as possible.
Just Believe Recovery is a licensed and accredited rehab center that offers comprehensive programs designed to meet each individual’s unique needs. We provide those we treat with therapeutic services and activities vital for the process of recovery, including behavioral therapy, individual and group counseling, 12-step program support, substance abuse education, art and music therapy, aftercare planning, and much more.