Can Alcohol Cause Diarrhoea and Vomiting?

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Drinking alcohol with your close friends and family members is the most common and fun way to talk with them.

According to the professionals, at least 70 per cent of American people ages 18 years old and above drink alcohol for the past years.  

But only a few of them show interest in knowing and further understand the aftereffects of drinking alcoholic beverages, including vomiting and diarrhoea. 

Vomiting or throwing up is the typical response of the drinker's body to remove the excess alcohol content.

Even though both vomiting and diarrhoea is a terrible experience, the risks that the excess alcohol content can cause can damage one's health. This is the reason an alcohol drinker should allow his body to do what is necessary.

If a person vomits or has frequent visits to the comfort room, it is important to drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration.  

Moreover, don't hesitate to seek counselling for alcoholism from the  experts instead of ignoring those symptoms or trying to self medicate.

Who are at the higher risk to experience vomiting and diarrhoea after drinking?

In most cases, individuals who have bowel diseases are usually more susceptible to diarrhoea after alcohol drinking than those who don't.  

The following are the common bowel diseases that could make a person throw up or experience diarrhoea:

  • Crohn’s disease 
  • Irritable bowel syndrome 
  • Celiac disease

A lot of people may be asking why. This is because these individuals already have a sensitive digestive system that will immediately react after consuming an alcoholic beverage.

With that, it could make their disease symptoms worse, which includes diarrhoea and vomiting.  

Besides that, individuals who have night work shifts or those who lack sleep are also prone to diarrhoea and vomiting when drinking alcohol.

According to professionals, not having seven to eight hours of sleep can make a person's digestive system more reactive to alcohol, usually due to not having enough body rest.  

Why does a person experience diarrhoea after drinking alcoholic beverages? 

A person's stomach will catch everything he eats or drink, including alcohol.

If he eats his meal before drinking, the food nutrients and the alcohol content will travel through the bloodstream and be absorbed by the cells inside the stomach wall. This is the reason a person digest alcohol a little longer.  

On the other hand, if a person does not eat, the alcohol will directly go through your small intestine and pass through the stomach cells more quickly.

This is why persons who drink without eating their meal feel a buzz faster than those who have eaten.  

To slow down alcohol digestion, avoid eating foods, including those that are very greasy, fibrous, or anything hard for the body.  

After the body has completely absorbed the alcohol content, the excess will be washed out from the body through urine and stool. The muscles in one's stomach move harmoniously to thrust the stool out from the body.  

The alcohol speeds up the process of squeezing out the stool. This means that a person's body will not require water anymore to be fully absorbed by his colon.

This is the reason a drinker's stool turns out to be diarrhoea. It moves out at a fast rate and usually comes with lots of excess water.   

According to scientists, consuming even a small amount of alcoholic beverage can result in faster digestion, leading to diarrhoea. On the other hand, a person who drinks lots of alcohol can result in delayed digestion, leading to constipation.  

Besides that, alcohol content can also damage a person's digestive system, making diarrhoea worse.

Many professionals concluded that this usually happens because of too much consumption of wine, which could mitigate the good bacteria inside one's stomach.  

After drinking alcohol and removing its excess content from the body, the good bacteria will start to recolonize, resulting in normal digestion.

A person can also bring back his normal digestion by eating healthily after diarrhoea.  

What are the reasons drinking alcohol can make a person vomit? 

Aside from diarrhoea, vomiting is also a common mechanism of the body to remove the alcohol toxins inside the body after drinking alcohol.

When a person consumes alcohol, his body will convert it into acetaldehyde – a product produced by alcohol inside the body.  

The following are the common reasons drinking alcohol can cause a person to throw up. 

The Body Cannot Hold It 

If drinking alcohol is done in moderation, the liver and other parts of a person's stomach will defuse the by-product of the alcohol with glutathione – a substance that acetaldehyde produces.

When the body processes these two products, the person is less likely to vomit.  

But, there is an exception, especially if you consume alcohol a lot. If a person drinks a large amount of alcohol, his liver cannot produce sufficient glutathione to neutralize the alcohol content he digests.

Ultimately, the person's body will find out that the liver is not strong enough to hold a huge amount of acetaldehyde and find another way to remove it, which is through throwing up.  

Alcohol Damages the Lining of a Person’s Stomach 

Several factors come into play and cause a person to throw up after heavy alcohol drinking.

Aside from producing lots of acetaldehyde, alcohol can also damage a person's stomach lining. That's why heavy drinkers are more likely to vomit because of the acid build-up inside the stomach.  

Development of Gastritis Because of Too Much Consumption of Alcohol 

A person who drinks too much alcohol regularly is more susceptible to develop alcohol gastritis. That is why heavy drinkers usually have an irritated stomach lining, which causes chronic damages over time.  

Individuals suffering from alcohol gastritis usually experience and develop stomach-related problems, including acid reflux, nausea, and even ulcers.

Chronic alcohol exposure can affect how the stomach absorbs nutrients and is usually related to the development of cirrhosis, pancreatitis, diabetes, cancer, and a lot more. 

What are the ways to treat diarrhoea caused by alcohol at home? 

Cutting out alcohol is the first thing a person could do to treat diarrhoea after or while drinking.

It is also important to ensure that a person's digestion is normal before consuming alcohol, but this time, in moderation. If a person starts to drink excessive alcohol again, diarrhoea may return.  

If a person completely stops from alcohol drinking, most cases of diarrhoea triggered by alcohol will start to clear up within days.

But there are several things a person may consider to ease symptoms of diarrhoea.  

When a person experiences diarrhoea, he needs to eat only foods that are soft for one's stomach and can be digested easily. 

Some of these foods are the following: 

  • Chicken 
  • Rice 
  • Eggs 
  • Bananas 
  • Toast 
  • Soda crackers 

Aside from the mentioned foods, it is also important to drink clear fluids like juice, broth, and water. This will serve as the replacer of the liquids a person lost while having diarrhoea.  

On the other hand, there are some drinks and foods a person with alcohol-caused diarrhoea should avoid. 

These are the following: 

  • Caffeine 
  • Foods rich in fibre, including cereals and whole-grain bread 
  • Curries and other highly seasoned or spiced foods 
  • Foods that are rich in fats, which includes cheese and beef 
  • Dairy, including ice cream and milk (eating some amount of yoghurt is essential) 

How to stop vomiting after drinking alcohol at home? 

As mentioned, vomiting is the typical way for a person's body to eliminate the toxins coming from the alcohol.

Rather than forcing a person to stop vomiting, it is essential to make himself feel better until his body has eliminated the alcohol content.

The following are some of the effective ways to ease one’s self from vomiting and its aftereffects.  

Keep Hydrated by Drinking Clear Liquids 

Before sipping water, it is essential to wait for at least 30 minutes after the last vomit. Some examples of liquids a person could drink are Powerade, Gatorade, and Pedialyte.

Aside from these products, ginger ale without much sugar can also keep a person hydrated after throwing up several times.  

Rest. Rest. Rest 

Getting enough rest can help a person feel better after throwing up. It is important to avoid doing something during the day of a hangover to prevent risks of improving the symptoms of vomiting. 

Do Not Drink More Alcohol 

A person with a hangover needs to refrain from drinking again to give his whole body and stomach a break. Do not forget to avoid drinking again after days of vomiting.  

Use Pain Relievers, Such as Ibuprofen 

Some would think that acetaminophen is way better to give relief from pain caused by vomiting than ibuprofen. But it goes the other way around.

Ibuprofen is the most recommended pain reliever by doctors than acetaminophen because the liver is breaking the latter into pieces, which leads the liver to push out the by-products of alcohol from the body slower.

On the other hand, some individuals experience stomach upset after taking ibuprofen. That's why it is best to take it after taking a meal. 

Eat Bland Foods 

Persons who vomited because of drinking alcohol are recommended to eat some bland foods, including applesauce, crackers, and toast.

These foods help to restore the energy a person lost after vomiting. Eat these foods 30 minutes after the last vomiting to avoid inducing vomiting again.  

When to seek attention of medical professionals?

In most cases, diarrhoea and vomiting after excessive alcohol exposure are common mechanisms of the body to eliminate the excess toxins from the body.

The signs and symptoms of these two mechanisms will refrain after a few days without going to the doctor. A person may also experience vomiting after alcohol drinking that could make them feel that they need the assistance of a doctor.  

Even though vomiting and diarrhoea can be treated at home, they are still considered serious, and especially if the signs are persistent and severe.

Throwing up together with diarrhoea can make a person dehydrated, and if left untreated, it could lead to a life-threatening condition.  

The following are the common signs a person around a drunk person should pay attention to where he/she needs medical treatment: 

  • Experience persistent throw-ups for over one day.  
  • Has a fever or the body temperature is more than 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit 
  • Start to show signs of breathing problems 
  • There is blood included in the vomit 
  • Dehydration symptoms, which includes dark urine, dizziness, and inability to release urine.  
  • Excessive thirst 
  • Infrequent urination 
  • Little to no urine at all 
  • Dry skin and mouth 
  • Fatigue or tiredness 
  • Light-headedness 

As mentioned, dehydration can cause more serious health problems. This is why medical attention is necessary, especially if a person shows signs and symptoms of dehydration.

A person needs to seek the assistance of a medical expert if he exhibits dehydration symptoms together with the following: 

  • The stool is colour black or has some traces of blood 
  • Experience severe pain in stomach and rectal area 
  • Diarrhoea is still persistent for over two days and does not see any improvement despite trying the at-home treatments mentioned above

If a person still experiences diarrhoea and vomiting every after consuming alcohol regularly, he needs to think about his alcohol drinking habits.

A person knows how to handle the signs and symptoms of diarrhoea and vomiting after excessive alcohol exposure would help him to feel better.  

Final Thoughts 

In most cases, signs and symptoms of a hangover, such as vomiting and diarrhoea, usually clear up after a day. Suppose a person still experiences vomiting and diarrhoea whenever he drinks alcohol, even in moderation.

In that case, he should consider refraining from his drinking habits or enrol himself on a rehabilitation program if he does not know how to stop his drinking habits.  

Keeping yourself hydrated whenever he experiences vomiting and diarrhoea will help him feel better after releasing all the toxins of alcohol inside his body.

If hangover symptoms become more persistent, seeking immediate medical attention is always recommended. 

We at Abbeycare (Gloucester Clinic and Scotland Clinic) provide clinically managed detoxification from alcohol and drugs. The sooner you visit us, the better it will be for you or your alcoholic loved ones.

About the author

Peter Szczepanski

Pete has been on the GPhC register for 29 years. He holds a Clinical Diploma in Advanced Clinical Practice and he is a Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Misuse for Abbeycare Gloucester and works as the Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Use in Worcestershire. To read more about Pete visit his LinkedIn profile.