Alcohol’s Effect on the Kidneys

Healthy, functioning kidneys are essential for maintaining the health of the human body. Since everyone has two kidneys, people will naturally ask this question at some point: Can you drink alcohol with one kidney?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, or CDC, two-thirds of adults in the United States participate in the consumption of alcohol. Out of these users, many of them will ingest five or more drinks before sleeping. One-fourth of this population sample had indulged in this heavy drinking activity at least one time during the previous year.

alcohols effects on your kidneys

This activity is also known as binge drinking, and it can have an accumulated effect on various internal organs over time. The kidneys and liver are both susceptible to damage from binge drinking. In some cases, the damage to the kidneys can be temporary; however, there are also people who have experienced permanent damage to one or both kidneys.

Acute renal failure and related conditions are associated with alcohol use disorder or AUD. It’s important to mention that moderate drinkers rarely experience this level of damage to the kidneys, liver, and other internal organs. Understanding the role of the kidneys and how they are affected by AUD is helpful when attempting to grasp this topic: Can you drink alcohol with one kidney?

Kidney Function and Alcoholism

Kidneys are responsible for cleaning the blood from the toxins that accumulate through food, drinks, and even air. The kidney filtration system works in tandem with the liver in order to ensure that a baseline of functionality is maintained for these vital organs. There are two kidneys, and this ensures that a person is able to survive if one of them is damaged beyond repair.

Reduced function of the kidneys pair means that the person will be more susceptible to renal diseases and failure if binge drinking continues. This amounts to a higher level of risk for alcohol drinkers to continue drinking while having only one kidney fully functioning. This basic idea, can you still drink alcohol with only one kidney, is only complicated by the health of the organ, your overall health, and the quantity and frequency of your alcohol consumption.

Binge drinking will affect all the functions of the vital organs. The kidney and liver are the most important. The filtration system of the body relies on both kidneys and the liver to maintain the body’s health. Kidneys also regulate the water level within the body; hormonal triggers the kidneys and ureters to retain or release fluids, for example.

When only one kidney is functioning, it must effectively carry the load of both kidneys. Think about how much harder the single kidney would have to work just to do the same job of filtering out the alcohol through your body. Binge drinkers who have both kidneys put an extra load on their kidneys; this workload is effectively doubled for binge drinkers with only one kidney. The remaining organ will also work even harder if there are compounding health problems or other toxins being introduced to your system.

Alcohol can actually impair the remaining kidney’s ability to filter and clean your blood. Heavy drinkers who reduce their alcohol consumption will benefit more dramatically than binge drinkers with both kidneys. This disproportion is explained by the need for both kidneys to work together in order to optimize the effect. When only one organ is tasked with doing the job of both kidneys, it can become damaged much quicker.

Secondary Effects, Drinking with One Kidney

Drinking with one kidney also introduces secondary problems, which might not be as obvious as the issue of long-term renal damage. All of the normal functions must be done with a single kidney, and this burden includes a variety of tasks. For example, regulating the levels of electrolytes and other fluids in the body must now be done by a single kidney.

If binge drinking happens frequently, the damage will compound over time. Since one kidney now carries the full workload of both kidneys, the chance of damaging the remaining kidney increase over time. This problem is intensified when the effect of dehydration begins to disrupt the normal functioning of the tissues in your body. It also impacts hormones as well as the interaction between other organs.

Alcohol’s Impact on the Kidneys

Binge drinkers who have both kidneys will also experience a decrease in the ability of the kidneys to do their job. The changes in the kidneys are imposed by the presence of large quantities of alcohol in the system. The presence of both kidneys will still work much harder than normal just to deal with the increase in the toxins that accumulate. Toxins in the blood can cause secondary damage over time.

There are other types of damage that also follow this pattern. Dehydration is a concern for binge drinkers, for example. People who wonder can you drink alcohol with one kidney will understand the issue better when visualizing the situation. Every issue that can be objectively observed in binge drinkers with both kidneys are compounded in drinkers with only one functioning kidney.

Alcohol Dehydration, One Kidney

The levels of water in the human body are regulated by the kidneys. Since an alcohol drinker with only one kidney will impose twice the workload onto that organ, this can severely affect the internal regulatory system. The end result is a greater chance of dehydration in drinkers with only one functioning kidney. This will impact the other organs and tissues in the body, and it can even cause secondary damage.

Alcohol and the Liver, Blood Pressure

Blood pressure levels can also be affected by heavy drinking. Individuals who have more than two drinks per day risk elevating their blood pressure. This risk increases dramatically if the person drinking only has one kidney. High blood pressure is closely linked to various diseases of the liver and kidneys.


Alcohol use disorder, or AUD, can exacerbate related disorders. Once the liver is damaged, the kidneys must work harder to maintain the ideal rate of blood filtration. People who drink with only one kidney are placing an incredible burden on one organ to filter the blood. This burden will only increase if the liver is also suffering from damage. The actual risks of drinking will therefore depend on the rate of alcohol use, frequency, and health of the internal organs. The link between liver disease and kidney disorders is clear; most cases are found in patients with alcohol dependency.

Can You Drink Alcohol With One Kidney?

This question, can you drink alcohol with one kidney, must be understood in the context of the overall health of the alcohol user. This is often a function of age and other medical complications. The longer the alcohol user continues to impose high levels of alcohol on the kidney and liver, the more likely it is that blood pressure levels will rise, cells and other tissues will be damaged, and toxins will accumulate. The filtration system of the liver and kidneys must work together in order to keep your body healthy. Alcohol is absorbed right into the bloodstream, and this causes the kidneys to work harder than they must when filtering other substances.

Alcohol use disorder is unlikely to dissuade drinkers from continuing to drink. However, if it’s not presently possible to stop drinking entirely, there are many actions you can take to minimize the damage. This one kidney is now tasked with all of the responsibilities of two kidneys; if the burden is too high for too long a period of time, it could fail. The risks of adrenal failure for a person with one kidney is potentially lethal.

Here are some tips you can take to minimize the damage:

  • Regulate your diet, and remove any additional toxic substances that you might be ingesting in your food.
  • Select an exercise style that is compatible with your current health condition. Regular practice helps the blood to circulate, and this helps the kidneys during the blood filtration process.
  • Research other stories about people who live with a single kidney; there’s no need to learn everything the hard way. Tap into the existing body of knowledge that exists.
  • Reach your proportional body weight, and stay hydrated.
  • Monitor your blood sugar and blood pressure levels, if applicable.
  • Get a regular medical exam to detect early problems.


So, can you drink alcohol with one kidney? While you can still indulge in occasional drinking with one kidney, you should understand that your risks are higher than normal. Take the necessary precautions to protect yourself. Other protective measures also include reducing toxic substances from your diet. You can also avoid certain kinds of medications. If your kidney fails, you might end up requiring dialysis or a transplant procedure.