Alcohol and Kidney Disease: Can you drink alcohol while on dialysis?

How does alcohol affect our kidneys?

Can I drink alcohol when I’m on dialysis? What are the recommended alcohol consumption guidelines for CKD patients?

These are very good and valid questions whether you have an acute kidney injury (AKI) or chronic kidney disease (CKD).

Below you will find how to manage alcohol intake for your kidney health, the impact of alcohol on medications, and alcohol and kidney transplant. 

Let’s dive into it!

How does alcohol affect the kidneys?

Our kidneys have an important job to filter toxins in our body.  Alcohol creates changes in kidney functions, causing it to reduce kidney ability to filter our blood. Alcohol dehydrates our body, changing the hormones that affect kidney function, and causing an increase in blood pressure [1]. High blood pressure is a common cause of kidney disease.

Recommended Alcohol Consumption Guidelines

How much alcohol is little alcohol and how much alcohol is A LOT  alcohol? Average American adults (I’m talking about two out of three) drink 5 alcoholic beverages in a day [2]. This “binge” drinking leads to a sudden drop of kidney function known as acute kidney failure that leads to a lasting chronic kidney damage.

General rule of thumb is no more than two drinks a day. Now, when we talk about drinks, we are talking about a 12 ounces of beer OR a one glass of wine, OR one ounce ( 1 SHOT) of “hard liquor. 

Some adults should not be drinking at all, especially if they are taking medications such as blood pressure medications. And pregnant women should not be drinking alcoholic drinks that interfere with baby’s development. Even when it’s safe to say drinking in moderation, a recommended alcohol consumption guideline is no more than one to two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women and elderly with a smaller body frame.

Tips and Tricks for Managing Alcohol Intake for Kidney Health

This is easier said than done. BUT I do believe that prioritizing a healthy lifestyle reduces the desire to use alcohol as a coping mechanism. It all starts with a healthy mindset. Setting your own personal limit is part of success. Considering factors like your own health, medications you may be taking, and any potential interactions with alcohol helps.

Knowledge is power. Understanding the recommended amount as listed above, choosing low alcohol by volume (ABV%) label helps you stay within your set limits more easily.

Avoid binge drinking and alternate with water to stay hydrated and pace yourself, can help reduce overall alcohol consumption during social gatherings. Again, easier said than done but you can always seek professional help if you find it difficult to control your alcohol intake on your own. Seeking support from a healthcare professional or a support group that understands you and has been in your position will give you guidance and assistance in managing and reducing alcohol consumption. No judgment here.

Alcohol And Medications 

What happens if you mix alcohol and take medicine? The DANGER is R-E-A-L. You can suffer from aggravated side effects, increase risk of liver damage, GI irritation like ulcers or gastritis, heart and breathing issues, and overdose.

Read your medication labels carefully and follow the instructions provided by your doctor or pharmacist. If you have questions or concerns about drinking alcohol while taking medication, consult with your healthcare professional before making any decisions. 

Can I drink alcohol after kidney transplant?

You just got a kidney transplant and slowly return to normal life. Kidney transplant patients continue taking medications including immunosuppressants. And as we know above that alcohol and medication is dangerous. Bottom line is alcohol and transplant do not mix well together. 

Not only does alcohol have A LOT of calories, possibly causing new ONSET diabetes [3], it also raises your blood pressure that puts your kidney injured in the first place. It is best for you to have a healthy lifestyle, avoid alcohol, be kind to yourself and make informed right choices to support your kidney health.

So, CAN WE?

In the end, it’s essential to note that moderate alcohol consumption may not have severe detrimental effects on kidney function, especially in individuals with healthy kidneys. However, for individuals with existing kidney conditions or at risk of kidney problems, and after receiving kidney transplant, it’s best to consult with your doctor regarding alcohol consumption to ensure it is safe and within recommended limit.

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