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Alcohol and Dehydration: Does Alcohol Dehydrate You?

Author: Kevin Olsen

Last Updated: 9/13/2022

Alcohol has been found to dehydrate the body. More than half of the human body is made up of water. When alcohol is consumed it soaks up some of the water that the body needs.This means that the water needs to be replenished so that a person does not become dehydrated. When alcohol is abused it can become hard to recharge the body, which could lead to hospitalization.

A person should drink about a few liters a day of water. The average person does not reach this goal. The body is made up of so much water because it is necessary for proper daily function. When alcohol is added into the mix, the necessary hydration is affected.

What is Alcohol Dehydration?

Alcohol dehydration is when alcohol enters the bloodstream and starts to break down the water throughout the body. The fluid is withdrawn, causing numerous symptoms ranging from moderate to severe. This is why it is very important to drink water when having an alcoholic beverage and to not drink on an empty stomach.

Dehydration also occurs from alcohol because it causes the bladder and kidneys to release more urine. As a diuretic, this is one of alcohol’s properties.

What are the Symptoms of Dehydration?

Symptoms of dehydration include exhaustion, migraine, vertigo, thirst, and upset stomach. Symptoms will vary depending on the person and the level of dehydration. Some people don’t associate their feelings to be due to a lack of fluid as they are similar to symptoms of the flu, which is when a hospital visit may become necessary.

Medical attention may be needed when you go too long without the water that you need. When a person recognizes their symptoms of dehydration early on, they can often drink a lot of water or an electrolyte beverage and be able to hydrate the body at home.

What are the Causes of Dehydration?

Dehydration from alcohol can start from one alcoholic beverage. The more alcohol consumed, the greater the risk becomes. Causes of dehydration include: drinking on an empty stomach, not hydrating with water, and abusing the recommended amount of alcohol.

A recommended amount of alcohol is about one drink for women a day, and two drinks a day for men. Although, no consumption of alcohol is the best way to prevent dehydration and other illnesses.

What Effects Does Alcohol Have on Your Body?

Alcohol has several effects on the body. It causes changes to blood pressure and impacts organs like the liver. Alcohol also damages the brain and other organs in the body.

Below we list the effects of alcohol on the body.

  • High Blood Pressure: High blood pressure is when the blood poses a threat to the vessels at a great level, putting the heart at risk. High blood pressure is pressure higher than 130/80, putting the body under stress. There are numerous reasons why people develop high blood pressure. Some causes are genetics, stress, poor diet, lack of exercise, and consuming large amounts of alcohol. Alcohol abuse raises blood pressure making it dangerous to drink regularly.
  • Heart Disease: Heart disease is when the arteries, veins, and blood are infected. There are several different forms of heart disease. Some forms of heart disease are stroke, congestive heart failure, and high blood pressure. There are many different reasons why someone may have heart disease. Some causes are high cholesterol, fatty diet, lack of movement, smoking, and alcohol. Alcohol contributes to heart disease as it compromises the heart from beating properly.
  • Stroke: A stroke occurs because the blood is being barricaded from the neck or brain. When the brain is not receiving the oxygen it can cause the body to shut down and stop it from performing correctly. This often leads to difficulties in speech, loss of feeling, lack of motor skills, and problems with vision. Some reasons for a stroke to happen are: heart disease, diabetes, and alcohol abuse. Alcohol has been linked to the occurrence of stroke as it causes plaque in the blood.
  • Liver Disease: Liver disease is when the liver is corroded or harmed, causing it to perform inadequately. The liver is essential to the human body as it is an organ that you cannot live without. Liver disease can develop from too much alcohol consumption, as it kills off the cells that make up the liver. Liver disease can also occur from infection and poor nutrition.
  • Digestive Problems: Digestion issues are when the stomach and intestines do not work functionally leading to problems with going to the bathroom and sensitivity to certain foods. Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a common digestive problem that can happen from daily anxieties, unknown allergies to foods, and drinking large amounts of alcohol. Digestive problems may appear from alcohol, as it contains a lot of acidic ingredients, making it harsh on the stomach.
  • Cancer: Cancer is when cells develop throughout the body and strongly break it down, harming everything in its path. There are various forms of cancer and many different reasons why someone may have it. Some causes of cancer include: genetics, smoking, and a lot of direct sunlight, but also from alcohol. Alcohol affects the body tissue, which results in harm to cells.

These are only some of the effects of alcohol on the body.

Why Does Alcohol Consumption Cause Dehydration?

Alcohol consumption causes dehydration because it removes the necessary water from the body. The body needs its makeup of water along with the recommended daily amount. When alcohol is consumed, the necessary hydration is affected. With every alcoholic beverage, more internal water is soaked up.

How Does Alcohol Dehydrate You?

Alcohol dehydrates you by entering the bloodstream and breaking down the general makeup of the body. The body is made up of large amounts of water, minerals, and proteins. Consumption of alcohol affects the function of fluids throughout the body.

Alcohol is also a diuretic. Diuretics cause the kidneys to release more water into the bladder. When the bladder fills with water, it’s released as urine. Excessive urination leads to dehydration.

How Much Alcohol Will Dehydrate You?

As stated earlier dehydration from alcohol can start from one alcoholic beverage.

The more alcohol consumed, the greater risk becomes for dehydration and the symptoms that come along with it. For men, more than two drinks will cause dehydration. On the other hand, only one drink causes dehydration in women.

What are the Studies Between Alcohol Consumption and Dehydration?

Studies show that alcohol consumption leads to dehydration, which causes an abundance of symptoms. Feelings of being overly tired, headaches, faintness, and nausea can all occur. Symptoms become more severe with each alcoholic beverage consumed. 

Studies also show that alcohol causes dehydration because of its diuretic properties. Diuretics cause the kidneys and bladder to release more water.

What is the Best Way to Rehydrate After Drinking?

The best way to rehydrate after drinking alcohol is to drink a lot of water. Beverages with electrolytes have also been found to be effective in rehydration. Food is also a great way to get the body back to its normal state. Sleep has also been shown to relieve you from exhaustion caused by dehydration. 

Medical attention or even hospitalization may become necessary if these actions do not occur after drinking alcohol. Ways to prevent dehydration would be to drink on a full stomach and to drink water with each beverage.

Below are some other ways that help you rehydrate.

  • Drinking more water
  • IV water consumption 
  • Eating foods high in water
  • Having enough sodium in the body 
  • Ensuring the body has the right micronutrients and minerals 
  • Drinking sports drinks

That said, the best way to rehydrate after drinking alcohol is to stop drinking alcohol.