Twenty-six episodes of ‘The A-Files’ will run throughout Alcohol Awareness Month on YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Alcohologist.com and AddictedMinds.com, among other web and social media sites. Episode K is on the Kindey: Kidney disease is the ninth leading cause of death in the country. Today there are more than 95,000 people waiting for kidney transplants and more than 590,000 people have diagnosed kidney failure. One single drink affects the normal function of a person’s kidneys in a chain of events that begins with alcohol dehydrating the body.
Alcohol alters the filtering ability of the kidneys. The organs filter about 200 quarts (189 liters) of blood daily. The body gets rid of cellular waste through them, ultimately in urine, and the organs also regulate the concentrations of sodium, potassium, magnesium, chloride and phosphate. Sodium and potassium are needed within the body to maintain water concentrations within the cells. Magnesium is used for enzyme activity. Chloride is needed for nerves. Phosphate ions help to maintain a stable pH and sugar in the blood. All are thrown into imbalance with a single drink. Ironically, low potassium increases thirst… and what beverage is nearby? More alcohol.
Even though alcohol displaces water, the drug at the same time signals the brain to stop releasing a certain hormone (vasopressin or ADH) which in turn makes a person urinate more, getting rid of the water. Research indicates that older people overcome this suppression of ADH more quickly than younger people do, so younger drinkers can lose more water. More water leaving the body affects all the concentrations of the chemicals and ions in the body.
The type of alcohol consumed can either increase or decrease the concentrations of nutrients in the blood stream. When a person drinks beer, large amounts of water enter the body. That lowers the nutrient concentration. When a person drinks hard alcohol, it has less water and has a more severe drying effect and the nutrient concentrations can increase. This drying effect also can harm the normal function of cells and other organs. It’s a complex balance the body maintains, which is thrown out of whack within 20 minutes of consuming the first drink.
One last dagger to kidney health: Alcohol bumps up blood pressure. Your kidneys are made of tiny blood vessels, called glomeruli. High blood pressure rams blood flow through these delicate blood vessels, which will damage them and and cause kidney disease.