Kidney Disease and Alcohol Consumption


Alcohol can have a significant impact on chronic conditions like kidney disease and diabetes. However, the research can get confusing. There are known risks and benefits associated with alcohol consumption that differ when it comes to the prevention and management of kidney disease and diabetes.

Understanding some of the facts on how alcohol affects kidney health can help you make informed decisions and have more meaningful discussions with your doctor about alcohol consumption and your personal health situation.

How Does Alcohol Impact Kidney Health Overall?

This may seem surprising, but research has shown that alcohol does not directly cause harm to the kidneys, especially when consumed in moderation (1-2 drinks per day). The risk of developing kidney disease is not significantly increased for moderate drinkers compared to non-drinkers.

However, heavy or long-term alcohol consumption can indirectly impact kidney health in several ways by making it harder for them to do their job. The following are a few ways in which alcohol can affect the kidneys:

  1. Alcohol can dehydrate the body. Dehydration can worsen kidney function over time. It impairs the kidneys’ ability to filter waste and maintain fluid balance, especially for those with existing kidney disease.
  2. Alcohol interacts with many medications. Alcohol and drug interaction can exacerbate kidney problems and make certain medications less effective. It can even cause stronger side effects. This is especially true with those used to manage kidney disease.
  3. Alcoholic liver disease. Heavy, long-term alcohol use can lead to conditions like alcoholic liver disease, which can indirectly contribute to kidney damage.
  4. Cardiovascular disease. There is a direct link between excessive alcohol use and cardiovascular disease, which has a direct impact on kidney function and an increased risk of developing kidney disease.

For more insights on how alcohol affects the body overall, check out our blog Alcohol Awareness Month: How Alcohol Affects the Body.

Risks Associated with Alcohol and Diabetes

For people with diabetes, heavy alcohol consumption (more than two drinks per day) is associated with a substantially higher risk of developing end-stage kidney disease (ESKD) compared to non-drinkers with diabetes. The combination of heavy drinking and diabetes appears to increase the risk of kidney failure.

For people without diabetes, moderate alcohol consumption (monthly to weekly drinking) has been shown to decrease the risk of ESKD when compared to non-drinkers. This suggests alcohol may have a protective effect on kidney health for those without diabetes.


While moderate alcohol intake may not significantly impact kidney health in healthy populations, heavy or long-term alcohol use can be problematic for those with kidney disease and diabetes.

Individuals with either condition should be proactive in educating themselves on the effects of alcohol consumption and talk to their doctor before consuming any alcohol to understand the potential risks.

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