dehydration and alcohol

Alcohol and dehydration: how does dehydration occur from excess alcohol?

Excess alcohol consumption can cause dehydration in a variety of ways. Firstly, alcohol decreases the body's production of anti-diuretic hormone, which is used by the body to reabsorb water. With less anti-diuretic hormone available, your body loses more fluid than normal through increased urination. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can also cause vomiting, which depletes the body of fluids and can cause further dehydration.1 The effects of alcohol vary from person to person, but in general the less a person weighs the less alcohol it takes to cause dehydration or vomiting.1 The National Health and Medical Research Council recommends that men and women drink no more than four standard drinks on any single occasion. Drinking more than this amount is considered excessive, and can increase the risk of alcohol‐related injury.2

What are the signs and symptoms I should be aware of?

If you are concerned that you may become dehydrated while consuming alcohol, look out for the following symptoms:3
  • A dry, sticky mouth
  • Sleepiness or tiredness
  • Thirst
  • Decreased urination
  • Headache
  • Dizziness or light headedness

How can I prevent dehydration if I know I will be drinking alcohol?

Drinking water along with alcoholic beverages can help to prevent dehydration. Have a glass of water before you start drinking alcohol and alternate alcoholic beverages with water throughout the evening. Drinking a glass of water before you go to bed will also help to relieve dehydration.4 A good alternative to water is an electrolyte solution which provides not only the water but valuable electrolytes.

How do I treat the symptoms of dehydration after I've had excess alcohol?

Even if you feel fine the morning after heavy drinking, alcohol has long lasting effects that will reduce your ability to function at your best. Electrolyte replacement solutions and broths are ideal for replacing the sodium and potassium that is lost during alcohol consumption. Drink plenty of fluids, especially rehydration drinks and try to rest as much as possible.5