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Can You Drink Alcohol with Chronic Kidney Disease?

Alcohol is a part of many cultures and commonly consumed at various social events like weddings and other celebrations. The challenge for people living with kidney disease is that drinking alcohol can put additional strain on your kidneys, which over time, can impact your kidney function and/or lead to other chronic health conditions like high blood pressure. Understanding the relationship between alcohol and chronic kidney disease will help you take control of your health and protect your kidneys. If you are experiencing symptoms of kidney disease, or are living with chronic kidney disease, limiting your alcohol consumption can help you preserve your kidney function.

Does Alcohol Affect Your Kidneys?

Healthy kidneys work to remove excess waste, toxins, and fluid from your blood. When functioning properly, alcohol is one of the toxins that your kidneys filter from your body. However, alcohol can dehydrate your system, impairing your kidneys’ ability to function and maintain the right balance of fluids in your blood. Excessive alcohol consumption can also weaken or damage your kidneys, preventing them from filtering your blood properly. Drinking alcohol excessively can also increase your blood pressure, which over time, can cause damage to your kidneys.

When living with kidney disease, alcohol can take a toll on your body and your health. Especially when consumed excessively, alcohol can impair kidney function and may lead to serious health conditions like kidney failure. And when one part of your body is impacted, it can have an effect on other parts of your body. For example, if alcohol impacts your kidney function, it may make it difficult for your kidneys to support your heart. This can put you at an increased risk for a heart attack or even heart disease.

Another thing to consider is that alcohol can impair your judgement and motor skills, making you more susceptible to a fall or injury. It may even be a factor in forgetting to take your medications. For these reasons, if you are planning to drink alcohol, drink in moderation and talk to your doctor before you do.

4 Considerations When Drinking Alcohol with Chronic Kidney Disease

Experts consider one drink of alcohol to be 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounce of hard liquor.1 Consuming an occasional glass or 2 of an alcoholic beverage usually won’t cause harmful effects to individuals with full kidney function. However, when drinking alcohol with chronic kidney disease, even a modest amount of alcohol could have an impact on your health.

For people living with kidney disease, you also have to consider your fluid intake, medications, and other health conditions. Below are a few tips to keep in mind to protect your kidney function if you plan to drink alcohol.

  1. Watch your fluid intake
    When living with kidney disease, you must be mindful of how much fluid you consume since your kidneys are not able to remove excess fluid from your blood as well as fully functioning kidneys. Drinking too much fluid can lead to fluid overload and cause serious health concerns. Alcohol is a liquid and needs to be factored into your daily fluid intake. However, alcohol is also a diuretic which causes your body to remove fluid at a faster rate from your body, leaving you dehydrated if you don’t drink enough water.2 This is an added challenge for people with kidney disease who have to limit their fluid intake. If you do choose to have an occasional glass or two of alcohol, make sure to factor that into your daily fluid intake so you don’t exceed your daily allowance.
  2. Be mindful of your medications
    When living with kidney disease, your doctor may prescribe certain medications to help you manage your health. You may also be taking medications for other health conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes. Since alcohol can impact specific medications you are taking, it is important to be careful not to mix the two. Talk to your doctor to understand the impact alcohol has on the medications you’re taking.
  3. Manage your blood sugar
    Over time, high blood sugar levels can cause damage to your kidneys and blood vessels, so it’s important to keep your blood sugar levels balanced to protect your kidney function. Drinking alcohol can make it difficult to control your blood sugar since most drinks contain carbohydrates that can cause your blood sugar levels to spike. What you mix with alcohol, such as juice or other sweeteners, can also impact your blood sugar levels. Limiting how much alcohol you drink will help you keep your blood sugar levels balanced.
  4. Talk to your doctor and renal dietitian
    If you have questions about drinking alcohol, talk to your nephrologist, also known as a kidney doctor, and your renal dietitian. They can provide personalized guidance on your alcohol consumption based on your diet and health needs.

Risks of Alcohol Abuse with Kidney Disease

For women, more than 3 glasses of alcohol a day, and for men, more than 4 glasses a day, is considered excessive drinking.3 Drinking large quantities of alcohol and binge drinking have been associated with higher risk of kidney disease. Excessive alcohol consumption can also increase your chances of experiencing high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for kidney disease. And, if you’re already taking medications for high blood pressure, drinking alcohol could affect them. Talk to your nephrologist about the safety and impact of drinking alcohol with kidney disease. If you choose to drink, remember to drink in moderation to protect your kidney function and overall health.

Put Your Health First

Alcohol is common at many social gatherings, and the desire to have a glass or two is understandable, but your health should always come first. Remember to keep track of your alcohol consumption and monitor your overall fluid intake. Being mindful of the effects of alcohol and chronic kidney disease and making smart decisions will help you preserve your kidney function so you can maintain an active, healthy lifestyle.


1 “What's a Standard Drink?” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Accessed October 28, 2021.

2 Jewell, Tim. “Does Alcohol Dehydrate You?” Healthline. Healthline Media, May 23, 2019.

3 “Alcohol and Your Kidneys.” National Kidney Foundation, October 20, 2021.



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