Alcohol Dehydration: How to Deal with Dehydration & Myths?


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Evidence Based - Facts Checked

This content is medically reviewed by Dr. Sharwari Dabhade Dua and written by Puneet Utreja

Last Medical Review Date - 4th October 2020



Dehydration due to excessive consumption of alcohol is very common. Typical symptoms after drinking alcoholic beverages (in high quantities) include a dry mouth, fatigue, or headache. In some cases1Swift, R., & Davidson, D. (1998). 'Alcohol hangover: Mechanisms and mediators' Source-PubMed, it could also lead to nausea and vomiting

Why do I experience Hangover and Alcohol Dehydration During the Day Time?

Typically, what is perceived as a ‘Hangover’ after a big night, is when the blood alcohol concentration becomes zero. Well, in fact, according to a new study, a hangover can happen at any time of the day2Verster JC;Scholey A;van de Loo AJAE;Benson S;Stock AK;. (2020, March). 'Updating the Definition of the Alcohol Hangover' Source-PubMed. The moment the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) becomes zero, hangover symptoms3Swift, R., & Davidson, D. (1998). 'Alcohol hangover: Mechanisms and mediators' Source-PubMed such as dehydration, headache, abdominal pain, etc. start appearing and it may last upto 24 hours.

How to Manage / Deal with  Alcohol Dehydration  and Hangover 4Swift, R., & Davidson, D. (1998). 'Alcohol hangover: Mechanisms and mediators' Source-PubMed.

How to Manage / Deal with  Alcohol Dehydration  and Hangover

There are several tried and tested remedies to cure the effects of Alcohol Dehydration. Most of them are basic and can be practiced at home.

The following remedies/ behaviors can help prevent or reduce the effects of Alcohol Dehydration:

1 - Water

There is a proven connection between the consumption of alcohol and dehydration5B;, I. C. (2013, May). 'The effects of dehydration, moderate alcohol consumption, and rehydration on cognitive functions' Source-PubMed. Alcohol dehydration can most effectively be dealt by replacing the lost fluids in the body.

The most solicited method to do this is by sipping on adequate quantities of water alongside/after your alcoholic beverage. This helps replace the fluids that the body can lose with alcohol, thereby leading to reduced or lesser dehydration6Hobson, R. M., & Maughan, R. J. (2010, May 24). 'Hydration Status and the Diuretic Action of a Small Dose of Alcohol' Source

How much water should I drink after alcohol?

As per Anthony Gigilo (The author of Boston’s Official Bartender’s Guide), it is recommended that for every alcoholic drink consumed, you should consume equivalent glasses of water.

I’m not particularly eager to Drink Water With Alcohol. Can I skip it?

No, you should not skip drinking water. The human body is made up of 75 percent water and, therefore, cannot survive without it. Since alcohol consumption causes dehydration, the body is thrown into recovery mode with symptoms such as fatigue and headaches.

It is also pertinent to note that though alcohol dehydration is common and usually not a cause of worry however it could lead to severe effects and even hospitalization in some cases, if not taken care of, well on time. The most straightforward trick to reduce or cure alcohol dehydration is drinking water

2 - Rehydration Powders

In addition to drinking water, sports drinks, fruit juices that contain electrolytes or rehydration powders7Swift, R., & Davidson, D. (1998). 'Alcohol hangover: Mechanisms and mediators' Source-PubMed8Seppälä, T., Leino, T., Linnoila, M., Huttunen, M., & YIikahri, R. (2009, March 13). 'Effects of Hangover on Psychomotor Skills Related to Driving: Modification by Fructose and Glucose'  Source, can also help in restoring the balance of electrolytes and fluid in human bodies. Consuming these can lead to rapid rehydration and help in managing your hangover

Quick Note

It is essential to consult a Doctor if you intend to consume rehydration supplements for more than three days in a row.

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3 - Bland Foods / Complex Carbohydrates

Bland Foods / Complex Carbohydrates like grain, beans, fibre rich vegetables etc. help in managing the low blood sugar levels for individuals who are hypoglycemic, especially during hangover.9Swift, R., & Davidson, D. (1998). 'Alcohol hangover: Mechanisms and mediators' Source-PubMed.

4 - Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug (NSAID)

Over the counter medicines such as  ibuprofen limit the production of enzymes that lead to migraine and headaches caused by alcohol dehydration.

However, NSAIDs like Aspirin, Ibuprofen, naproxen etc. should be consumed in moderation and preferably on a doctor’s advice.

5 - Adequate Sleep and Caffeine

Adequate Sleep and Caffeine are generally required to counter fatigue caused due to hangover.10Swift, R., & Davidson, D. (1998). 'Alcohol hangover: Mechanisms and mediators' Source-PubMed

6 - Vitamin Rich Foods/Drinks

Consuming healthy and vitamin-rich foods and supplements can help balance the vitamins11Swift, R., & Davidson, D. (1998). 'Alcohol hangover: Mechanisms and mediators' Source-PubMed that one loses due to alcohol consumption/dehydration. Consuming liquids such as cranberry juice and freshly squeezed lime juice can also aid in curing dehydration.

What Causes Alcohol Dehydration

What Causes Alcohol Dehydration

It is now known that alcohol can dehydrate your body and lead you to experience various undesirable symptoms. Therefore, it becomes important to know as to what is it in your alcoholic beverage that leads to dehydration?

Alcohol interferes with the mechanism that regulates the water levels in our body. It reduces how much ADH12Epstein, M. (1997). 'Alcohol's impact on kidney function' Source or antidiuretic hormone (Vasopressin) you make and, as a result, increases the urine output.

Quick Note 

Alcohol produces a large amount of acetaldehyde which can become highly toxic in high doses. In order to dispense it, the liver turns it into acetate. In addition to this, alcohol reduces how much vasopressin (an antidiuretic hormone) your body makes. Vasopressin limits how much urine your kidneys make and since alcohol limits its production, the diuretic effect is aggravated, leading to dehydration. However, its important to note here that this pathway gets triggered only in cases of chronic alcoholism and liver cell failure13Source - Sherlock’s Textbook of Hepatic and Biliary Diseases , 10th Edit.

All types of alcohol are diuretic or, in simple words, can cause an increased urine output in the body. This is known to be one of the biggest reasons behind Alcohol Dehydration. As per the research studies14Hobson, R. M., & Maughan, R. J. (2010, May 24). 'Hydration Status and the Diuretic Action of a Small Dose of Alcohol' Source, it has been found that the higher the percentage of alcohol content in your drink, the higher is the urine output volume. Further, the studies suggest that with every increase of 10 grams of alcohol intake, the urine output increases by 100 ml.

Am I Actually Experiencing Alcohol Dehydration, or is It Something Else?

The following signs and symptoms indicate a possibility of Alcohol Dehydration:

  • Dry Mouth/ Excessive Thirst·  
  • Weakness
  • Tiredness
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Pain in the body

Also, a study15Van de Loo, A., Mackus, M., Korte-Bouws, G., Brookhuis, K., Garssen, J., & Verster, J. (2017, January). 'Urine ethanol concentration and alcohol hangover severity' Source-PubMed on ‘Alcohol Hangover’ indicates that in severe cases, alcohol dehydration leads to changes in the sleep pattern, irritability, sensitivity to sound and light, reduced cognitive attention, sweating, anxiety, changes in the blood pressure, depression, irritability and sensory vertigo.

However, if the symptoms continue for over more than 24 hours, please consult a physician immediately.

How Long Does Dehydration Lasts After Drinking?

There is no standard correlation16Van de Loo, A., Mackus, M., Korte-Bouws, G., Brookhuis, K., Garssen, J., & Verster, J. (2017, January). 'Urine ethanol concentration and alcohol hangover severity' Source-PubMeds between the volume of alcohol and the duration of dehydration. Typically, dehydration can last anywhere between a few hours to 24 hours, post the consumption of Alcoholic beverages. The severity and duration of dehydration is higher if the consumption of alcohol is more and vice versa. It also depends on several other factors such as age, sex, underlying health, body type, biological factors, and more.

What Happens when you are Dehydrated and Drink alcohol?

Drinking alcohol when you are already dehydrated can increase the blood alcohol concentration levels and thereby lead to even more dehydration and worsening of the hangover symptoms17Swift, R., & Davidson, D. (1998). 'Alcohol hangover: Mechanisms and mediators' Source-PubMed

What Happens When you Drink Alcohol, Empty Stomach?

Drinking alcohol on an empty stomach leads to absorption of alcohol into your bloodstream at a faster rate. This leads to a higher Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) and thereby increases the possibility of dehydration.18Paton, A. (2005, January 08). 'Alcohol in the body' Source

Which Alcohol Drink Causes less dehydration?

Drinks with high alcohol content are more likely to cause a hangover, including whiskey, cognac, and tequila. Beer is a low-congener drink and is therefore known to cause lesser dehydration.

The lower the content of alcohol in the drink, the lesser it acts as a diuretic. This means you will lose less fluid by drinking beverages with a low alcohol content.

Average Alcohol Contents: Gin - 37.5 to 50 per cent, Rum - 40 per cent, Whisky - 40 to 68 per cent, Beer - 4 to 8 per cent, Wine - 12.5 -to 14.5 per cent, Vodka - 40 per cent

How Can I Decrease the Severity of Dehydration?

Drinking Slowly

It is recommended to sip one drink per hour so that the body gets enough time to process the alcohol and lower the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). Doing so can help in reducing the effects and severity of Alcohol Dehydration.

Limiting your intake

As per The National Health and Medical Research Council (Australia), adult men and women should not drink more than 4 standard drinks on any drinking occasion. Similarly, the Mayo Clinic19Source suggests one drink (30 ml) a day for women of all ages and two for men under the age of 65.

Summary

The bottom line is to understand the impact of alcohol on your body in order to deal with the ill-effects in an efficient way. Following a healthy lifestyle, limiting alcohol consumption and consuming water intermittently when drinking alcohol are the best ways to avoid dehydration.

References

  1. 1
    Swift, R., & Davidson, D. (1998).
    Alcohol hangover: Mechanisms and mediators 
    Retrieved October 5, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6761819/
  2. 2
    Verster JC;Scholey A;van de Loo AJAE;Benson S;Stock AK;. (2020, March). Updating the Definition of the Alcohol Hangover
    Retrieved October 5, 2020, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32197381/
  3. 3
    B;, I. C. (2013, May).
    The effects of dehydration, moderate alcohol consumption, and rehydration on cognitive functions
    Retrieved October 5, 2020, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23352231/
  4. 4
    Hobson, R. M., & Maughan, R. J. (2010, May 24).
    Hydration Status and the Diuretic Action of a Small Dose of Alcohol
    Retrieved October 5, 2020, from https://academic.oup.com/alcalc/article/45/4/366/155478
  5. 5
    Seppälä, T., Leino, T., Linnoila, M., Huttunen, M., & YIikahri, R. (2009, March 13)
    Effects of Hangover on Psychomotor Skills Related to Driving: Modification by Fructose and Glucose.
    Retrieved October 5, 2020, from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1600-0773.1976.tb03113.x 
  6. 6
    Epstein, M. (1997).
    Alcohol's impact on kidney function
    Retrieved October 5, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6826793/
  7. 7
    Van de Loo, A., Mackus, M., Korte-Bouws, G., Brookhuis, K., Garssen, J., & Verster, J. (2017, January).
    Urine ethanol concentration and alcohol hangover severity
    Retrieved October 5, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5203841/
  8. 8
    Paton, A. (2005, January 08)
    Alcohol in the body
    Retrieved October 6, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC543875/

This content is only for educational purpose and should not be considered as a substitute for your Physician's/Doctor's clinical judgement

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