Why do we have two kidneys when we can live with just one? Because the organ is that crucial in the life-or-death role of regulating blood. In the discourse of what alcohol does to you, most focus goes to cancer risks and liver problems. Statistically, those are just about the right priorities. But alcohol alters all organs, especially the kidney.
Alcohol can cause changes in the function of the kidneys and make them less able to filter your blood. Filtering isn’t just the liver’s job: There’s a delicate balancing act between the liver and the kidneys. The rate of blood flow to the kidneys is usually kept at a certain level by the liver in order for the kidneys to filter your blood well. A liver occupied with making the alcohol less toxic for the rest of the body’s tissues impairs this important balancing act. In fact, according to the National Kidney Foundation (NKF), most patients in the U.S. who have both liver disease and associated kidney dysfunction are alcohol dependent.
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As part of the blood regulating role, the kidneys make sure all cells in the body get a stable flow of electrolytes. This especially key for brain cells. Sodium, phosphorus, magnesium and potassium are all electrolytes decimated by even a little alcohol.
Another kidney job: Keeping the right amount of water in your body. Alcohol displaces water by blocking the production of anti-diuretic hormone. That’s a fancy way of saying it makes you pee. The drying effect can affect normal kidney function.
Alcohol also affects blood pressure. People who drink are more likely to have high blood pressure, a point covered in a previous Sobriety :60. Some blood pressure meds are even rendered ineffective when they interact with alcohol. Elevated blood pressure is a common cause of kidney disease. The NKF notes daily or binge drinking doubles the risk for kidney disease. and dialysis or a transplant doesn’t seem like something I saw in the beer commercial about being up for whatever comes next.