To flush alcohol from the body, consider drinking more water.
Although the liver processes most of the alcohol in the body, drinking water may help combat dehydration and dilute alcohol concentrations in surrounding body tissues.
The amount of water that may be beneficial depends on (e.g.) blood alcohol concentration, liver processing time, history of alcohol consumption, gender, and other factors described below.
To "flush out" alcohol, usually means to drink as many non-alcoholic fluids as possible in an attempt to excrete the alcohol out through urine.
90% of alcohol in the body is eliminated by the liver.
Although only 2-5% is excreted in urine, alcohol is distributed easily in the water throughout the body. Therefore, most tissues are exposed to the same concentration of alcohol as the bloodstream.
Since alcohol has a diuretic effect, drinking a high volume of fluids helps combat the dehydration caused by alcohol in the blood, brain, heart, and muscles.
The body also excretes alcohol through sweat and breath, although this process is much slower.
Flushing alcohol out of the body is different from the internal liver metabolism required to break it down into by-products ready for excretion.
How To Flush Alcohol Out
Drinking water before, during and after alcohol consumption can reduce dehydration, although this depends on how much alcohol has been consumed.
A few drinks taken with at least as much water, can reduce the amount of alcohol absorbed into surrounding body tissues.
Adding lemon or lime to your water can also assist liver processing and reduce BAC (blood alcohol concentration). Avoid drinks containing sweeteners.
Drink Green Tea
This form of tea is an antioxidant and can effectively flush toxins that have formed from the use of alcohol out of the body. It is actually a great way of getting rid of alcohol poisoning.
Drink Lower Strength Drinks, In Moderation
The amount of water lost from the system increases as alcohol strength increases.
The liver processes alcohol for excretion at a rate of 0.015 g/100mL/hour.
Heavy or binge drinking will damage the liver. Alcohol abuse could also be thought of, as liver abuse, indirectly.
Have Rest Days
Days off alcohol use can allow the liver to process alcohol metabolites and by-products without additional load of further alcohol in the system.
Eat Probiotic Foods And Green Vegetables
Probiotics such as kefir, kombucha or sauerkraut, as well as green vegetables and fruit, can aid liver metabolism as well as help remove dietary fats.
This assists the liver function in processing of alcohol too.
Exercise that involves sweating will assist in the removal of alcohol. Remember the body will remove toxins through sweating, urinating, and breathing. (stay well hydrated if exercising as it may have the opposite effect if you become dehydrated)
Does Water Flush Out Alcohol?
Yes. Water does help flush out alcohol but only after the liver has metabolised it all.
Since blood alcohol concentration reduces over time, the extent to which water intake helps processing, will depend on how long alcohol has been in the body and how much remains in the bloodstream at that time.
The process the liver undertakes cannot be rushed, and this is why the government guidelines surrounding daily and weekly intake of alcohol units is in place.
The new government recommendation is that both men and women should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week over 3 days.
14 units are equivalent to 10 small glasses of low strength wine per week over 3 out of 7 days or 6 pints of average strength beer.
A daily intake of fluids is crucial for the body to function. The recommended amount of water or fluid to be taken each day is around 8 pints. However, the average human will struggle to drink that much.
Fluids perform many important roles throughout the body such as:
- Regulating body temperature
- Lubricating joints
- Maintaining healthy blood pressure
- Carrying nutrients to cells
- Allowing organs to perform their vital roles
If a person who is already partially dehydrated (without knowing that they are) starts to drink alcohol, the effect of the ‘morning after’ can be an intense craving for fluids to restore the body to its natural state.
When our bodies detect alcohol, they start finding ways of flushing alcohol out of our system in order to manage the blood alcohol content and maintain the body's ability.
It's important for the blood alcohol concentration in a person's body to be as low as possible, if not zero.
However, an increase in fluids will not make the body detect alcohol and metabolise it faster.
Hence the following guidance:
- Drink one alcoholic drink per hour
- Do not drink alcohol on an empty stomach
- Alternate alcoholic drinks with water or an alternative
- Take rest days to allow the body to fully metabolise all the alcohol consumed
The concept of flushing alcohol out of the body is not entirely accurate - fluids will rehydrate the body and improve physical symptoms, but only once the liver has processed all the remaining alcohol into acetaldehyde, and later, acetate.
Alcohol Metabolisation In The Body
The factors contributing to the break-down of alcohol in the body are:
- The amount of alcohol consumed
- The percentage strength of alcohol consumed (average beer 4.5, wine 11.6 and spirits 37 percent)
- Bodyweight and percentage of body fat
- Food consumed
- Consuming alcohol on an empty/full stomach
- Alcohol poisoning
- Heavy drinking
- Liver disease
Amount Of Alcohol Consumed & Strength
The greater the volume of alcohol consumed, the harder the liver needs to work to process it.
For example, a small shot of spirits may take one hour to convert to metabolites, but a large glass of wine 3 hours.
In these examples, the amount of alcohol consumed, plays a greater role than the alcohol strength percentage, in determining the time taken to process it.
Body Weight & Percentage Body Fat
Bodyweight is important in alcohol processing. Alcohol is not absorbed into fat.
Hence the greater the percentage of fat composition in the body, the more alcohol remains in surrounding tissues, increasing the level of intoxication.
Gender affects alcohol metabolism as males metabolise more effectively than females.
This is due to the enzyme responsible for this process to occur known as Alcohol Dehydrogenase ADH.
Males have an active form of ADH in the liver and stomach whereas females have practically none. ADH in larger amounts can break down alcohol quicker i.e. a female consuming the same amount of alcohol as a man will feel the drug’s effects much quicker.
However new government guidance recommends both men and women only drink 14 units per week, this guidance remains consistent for both genders.
The type of food consumed is an important factor in the breaking down of alcohol. Probiotic foods eliminate toxins from the gut. Green vegetables and fruit also assist aid liver metabolism.
Asparagus in particular protects the liver and can help reduce hangover symptoms.
Medications can play a part in the speed of metabolism of alcohol.
For example, opiate medication can be dangerous if taken with alcohol, as both together can reduce respiration and lead to respiratory arrest. Aspirin and alcohol can cause stomach problems or internal bleeding.
Age affects the ability to metabolise alcohol as when older, the body stores less water.
Dehydration rates are higher, as alcohol draws the water from the body.
Liver disease can occur after long term moderate to heavy alcohol consumption. There is no precise time frame for liver cirrhosis to occur.
Cirrhosis impairs the liver’s ability to metabolise alcohol effectively, as areas of the liver incur scarring following repeated attempts to heal.
How Much Water Should I Drink To Get Rid Of Alcohol?
There is no exact science regarding how much water a person should drink to flush alcohol from the body.
Alcohol has a diuretic effect, especially at higher strengths. Drinking water can help to reduce the dehydration effects of alcohol.
Urine carries toxins out of the body, including metabolites of alcohol. A good way to recognise dehydration is the colour of the urine.
If urine is dark, then there is a strong chance the body is dehydrated. The aim is to reduce the intensity of the color as the lighter the urine the more hydrated the body is.
After drinking alcohol, if urine appears dark, start drinking water or other non-alcoholic drinks as soon as possible.
Drink water slowly but consistently over a 12 hour period, say at least one glass per hour.
Drinking too much water can have an adverse effect known as water poisoning so care should be taken not to drink too much, too soon, regardless of your blood alcohol concentration.
How Long Does Alcohol Stay In Your System?
There are individual variables, e.g.
Urine tests or hair tests may be able to confirm intoxication levels, or other effects of alcohol.
How much alcohol are you drinking? Do you drink 8 Pint glasses of water per day?
If worried about your alcohol intake and your blood alcohol levels, support is available.
Appropriate medical and psychosocial interventions are available at Abbeycare Scotland, and Abbeycare Gloucester.
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be considered advice. When considering flushing alcohol from your system, always consult your qualified healthcare professional in the first instance.