What Effects Do Caffeine & Alcohol Have on the Urinary System?

Caffeine and alcohol in small doses can be perfectly acceptable parts of your diet, but too much can negatively affect your health. A nutritious and well-balanced diet helps keep the kidneys, bladder and ureters healthy, but too much alcohol or caffeine can interfere with the normal function of your urinary system. Mild symptoms include an increase in trips to the bathroom, but more severe health problems, such as kidney troubles, are also possible.

Caffeine and the Urinary System

Caffeine is a stimulant present in soda, coffee, tea, energy drinks and chocolate. It's also a diuretic, which means it rids your body of fluids. If you consume large amounts of caffeine, you'll probably need to urinate more often, according to MedlinePlus. While this can be a nuisance during the day, consuming caffeine before bedtime can cause you to wake up several times during the night to urinate, which can interfere with a good night's sleep. Caffeine consumption increases the risk of urinary incontinence, which is loss of bladder control, in women. Women who consume more than 204 milligrams of caffeine per day are more likely to experience urinary incontinence, according to a 2013 study conducted with 4,309 women and published in the "International Urogynecological Journal."

Alcohol and the Urinary System

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Alcohol consumption can interfere with the normal function of your kidneys. Acute or chronic alcohol consumption can also damage the kidneys, according to Rin Yoshida, author of "Trends in Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Research." Drinking alcohol can interfere with electrolyte and acid balances in the body, and long-term chronic alcohol use can also lead to renal failure. Chronic alcohol use might also cause the body to hold onto salt and water, which makes cells swell, according to a 2008 article published in "Advances in Psychiatric Treatment." Alcohol use can also interfere with the proper absorption of vitamins and minerals.

Alcohol and Caffeine Together

Drinking alcohol with caffeinated beverages, such as cola or energy drinks, can increase the risk of health consequences. When alcohol intake is acute, caffeine can exacerbate the negative side effects of drinking, according to a 2011 study published in the "Journal of Caffeine Research." The study notes that drinking alcohol and caffeine at the same time can increase the amount of alcohol consumed, as well as the alcohol-related effects on the body. This has to do with the urinary system because researchers theorize that these unwanted side effects of mixing alcohol and caffeine are due to an interference with the proper function of adenosine. Adenosine plays a role in the kidneys' ability to filter waste, so if adenosine function is impaired, the kidneys might not work as efficiently as they need to.

Protecting Your Health

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Always speak to your doctor about how much caffeine and alcohol, if any, is appropriate for your diet based on your health history and what medications and supplements you take. This is particularly important if you're pregnant because both caffeine and alcohol can pass through the placenta to your unborn baby. Moderate amounts of caffeine and alcohol can be part of a well-balanced diet if you're in good health. Moderate caffeine intake is between 200 and 300 milligrams per day, which is equal to two or three cups of coffee, MedlinePlus notes. Moderate alcohol intake is one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.