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One Major Side Effect Drinking Alcohol Has on Your Kidneys, Expert Says

Before you get lost in summer fun, a Cleveland Clinic kidney specialist provides some concrete cautions.
FACT CHECKED BY Faye Brennan

Kidney damage is one of those thoughts that seems a little visceral: Just the thought of hurting your kidneys might make you feel a twinge of pain. A Cleveland Clinic kidney specialist is explaining how one habit—that is, drinking—can cause long-term harm to your kidneys, in addition to what you might have already heard about its effects on your liver.

Dr. Shane Bobart, MD, is a nephrologist at a Florida campus of the Cleveland Clinic. Bobart explains, via the hospital system's blog, that your liver isn't the only organ that gets affected when you drink. Alcohol also does a number to the kidneys, which, according to the Clinic, are responsible for filtering waste out of your blood, regulating the balance of water and minerals in the body, and producing hormones.

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Those make for some seriously important tasks, right? Well, get this: The Cleveland Clinic explains that downing five or more drinks in a short period can cause toxins from alcohol to "build up in your blood so fast your kidneys can't maintain the proper fluid balance." This can cause what's known as "acute kidney injury," and it can lead to chronic kidney disease.

Binge-drinking isn't the only danger: An alcohol habit over time can double your risk of developing kidney disease, as the Clinic credits the National Kidney Foundation with pointing out.

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Further, while Bobart said that evidence has been minimal to demonstrate that alcohol is directly responsible for kidney stones and kidney pain, what we do know that is alcohol can dehydrate the body, which, in effect, can lead to these issues. (Ouch.)

And last, says the Cleveland Clinic, "chronic alcohol use" can be a cause of liver disease, which can impede proper blood flow to the kidneys.

All this to say, while our liver might seem ironclad, it's not—but the kidneys also do a ton of important work to detox your system when you drink. It's a good reminder that even though summer's back on this year, keeping the body healthy and balanced is one good reason not to lose count of how much you drink.

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Krissy Gasbarre
Krissy is a senior news editor at <em>Eat This, Not That!</em>, managing morning and weekend news related to nutrition, wellness, restaurants and groceries (with a focus on beverages), and more. Read more