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June Russell's Health Facts

Alcohol - Kidney and Bladder


Drinking alcohol can dull the nerves in the bladder and keep them from signaling the brain when the bladder is full. Without this message the bladder overflows. Alcohol (beer, wine, etc.) sometimes can cause the bladder to become too active. This is called “urge incontinence.” (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases pamphlet, Jan. 1997)

Common stressors for kidney and urinary system disorders are alcohol and tobacco. (“Spontaneous Healing,” book by Dr. Andrew Weil, 1995)

Alcohol increases urinary output and can cause problems getting up in the night. (“Incontinence,” Self Healing newsletter, Dr. Andrew Weil, Feb. 1997)

The pituitary gland secretes a hormone that regulates the amount of urine produced. When it is affected by alcohol, too little of the hormone is released and causes more urination. (“Understanding Alcohol,” 1992 book by Jean Kinney.

Incontinence affects 10 - 30 % of all women under age 64. It is more common in women because of their anatomy. If alcohol or tranquilizers are used, the signals to the bladder get mixed up. (Senior Center lecture, Charlottesville, VA, by Pat Huston and Sarah Barbee who are nurses who did a program on incontinence, May 1997)

Bladder control problems that send older women rushing to the bathroom at night may also increase their risk of falls and fractures, researchers report in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, July, 2000. They had a one-third greater risk of fractures not involving the spine - 6,000 women age 72 and older. (, July 12, 2000)

Cystitis, which is a condition most common in women between the ages of 40 and 60, and is characterized by disabling urinary frequency and urgency, painful urination and occasional blood in the urine: Give up bladder irritants such as coffee, cigarettes and alcohol. (Dr. Christiane Lothrup’s “Health Wisdom for Women” newsletter, April 1997)

Facilitate treatment and help prevent recurrent bladder infections by not consuming alcohol. Alcohol is a bladder irritant. (“Ask the Experts,” - ‘Bladder Infections,’ Dr. Andrew Weil, Natural Health, Nov./Dec. 1999)

To help manage urinary incontinence: Avoid caffeine and alcohol at least 4 hours before bedtime. ( CBS HealthWatch Library by Medscape, "Help for Bladder Control," Don Powell, PhD, June 17, 2000)

“Urge” incontinence: Alcohol can act as a trigger or an irritant, and avoiding alcohol is sometimes enough to restore continence. (The Center for Women’s Healthcare, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, March 2000)

Frequent urination can be pressure from the bladder on the prostate, and can have an irritable bladder. Alcohol can irritate. (“Health Talk,” Ronald Hoffman, M.D., nutritionist and author of many books about health, WINA radio, May 19, 2000)

Avoid alcohol as it is an irritant to the bladder. ( - Dec. 1999)

It is estimated that between 11 million and 17 million Americans cannot hold their urine (urinary incontinence) - 85% of them female - and more common in older people. Consume less alcohol. (“When You Can't Control Your Bladder,” by Dr. Isadore Rosenfeld, Parade Magazine, June 27, 1999)

Urinary tract infections often flare up on a trip. One reason is that you get dehydrated on airplanes - a situation that makes you vulnerable to UTIs. Pass on the wine or mixed drinks, as alcohol is dehydrating. (“Nutrition News,” Prevention magazine, August 1999)

A recently published survey suggests that even though Americans are drinking an average of 4.6 eight-ounce servings of water and other beverages daily, they may be drinking themselves to dehydration. The survey found that many people undermine their own hydration efforts by consuming caffeinated or alcoholic beverages. Caffeine and alcohol are diuretics, which mean they cause the body to lose water through the excretion of urine. (“How Dry We Are,” The Cutting Edge, Washington Post Health, Nov. 24, 1998)

Urinary incontinence affects more than 13 million people nationwide - with women outnumbering the men by 2-to-1. The use of alcohol makes this condition worse. ("Incontinence: You can fix it," Marvin M. Lipton, M.D., Consumer Reports on Health, May 2002) Another estimate in this same year is over 17 million, says Marion Eure of, "Senior Health."

Limit your intake of caffeine and alcohol, which are diuretics and can worsen incontinence. To reduce trips to the bathroom, try not to drink anything after 6 p.m. ("Treat Stubborn Incontinence," by Virender Sodhi, M.D., N.D., in Natural Health magazine, Sept. 2002)

Alcohol changes the structure and function of the kidneys and interferes with the volume and make up of fluid and salts in the body. Alcohol can also interrupt the bodies of other systems that govern how the kidney works, and one way in which alcohol directly affects the kidneys is by altering their form and structure. Alcohol increases urine volume and can produce urine flow within 20 minutes of consumption. The urine formed is dilute and electrolyte concentration in the blood rises causing electrolyte imbalance. (Alcohol Research Center,, August 2002)


Kidney Stones: Sufficient fluid keeps the urine diluted and decreases the risk of stone formation. Go easy on alcoholic and caffeine beverages, which tend to dehydrate. (“Kidney Stones: Myths and Facts,” UC Berkeley Wellness Letter, March 1998)

Kidney Stones: By itself, alcohol does not contribute to stone formation. But it does have two effects that may set the stage for stone formation. First, alcohol makes you pass more urine and can lead to dehydration. Second, alcohol indirectly inhibits the ability of the kidneys to excrete uric acid. (“No More Kidney Stones!” by John S. Rodman 1996. Prevention May, 1997)

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