While vomiting may make you feel awful, the risks from excess toxins can be damaging to your system. That’s why it’s best to let your body do its thing, while taking steps to prevent complications like dehydration.
Keep reading to find out why the alcohol you drank made you throw up, and what you can do about it.
Throwing up is your body’s way of ridding itself of a toxin — in this case, alcohol. Instead of stopping yourself from throwing up, it’s best to simply help yourself feel better until your body’s gotten rid of all the alcohol.
Here are some ways to minimize the nausea and side effects from vomiting:
- Drink small sips of clear liquids to rehydrate. Wait until about 30 minutes after you last vomited. Examples of clear liquid include water, Pedialyte, Gatorade, or Powerade. Low sugar ginger ale does the trick as well.
- Get plenty of rest. Don’t try to overdo it on the day of a hangover (not that your body will let you). Sleeping it off can help you feel better.
- Refrain from “hair of the dog” or drinking more to “feel better.” Give your stomach and body a break and don’t drink again the night after a vomiting episode.
- Take ibuprofen to relieve pain. Most doctors suggest ibuprofen over acetaminophen because the liver breaks down acetaminophen, and the liver is already busy breaking down the excess alcohol by-products. However, ibuprofen can cause stomach upset in some people, so take it with small bites of food.
- Eat small bites of bland foods, such as toast, crackers, or applesauce to keep your energy up. Again, wait a little while after you’ve vomited to reduce the chance you’ll trigger the vomiting reflex again.
You’ll probably notice one suggestion that didn’t make the above list: intentionally making yourself throw up after a night of drinking.
While you may have a friend that swears by this approach, it’s a dangerous one. Making yourself throw up can put greater strain on your esophagus. This can make it more likely you’ll experience small tears that can damage the esophagus and potentially lead to bleeding.
Intentional vomiting also increases your risk for acid reflux, damage to your teeth, and aspiration. This is when your stomach contents accidentally go into your lungs.
If you feel like you’re going to vomit, it’s best to let it happen naturally. You’ll retch less and reduce your risk for additional health problems that can happen when you make yourself throw up.
Complications of throwing up after drinking alcohol
Throwing up after drinking can make you feel awful. In addition to nausea and vomiting, you may have other hangover symptoms like body aches and a headache.
One of the most significant complications is dehydration. This can affect your body’s ability to function, and can even damage your kidneys. Drinking even small sips of fluids periodically can help to prevent dehydration from occurring.
Other potential, but rarer complications from throwing up after drinking include:
- damage to the lining of the stomach or esophagus
- gastrointestinal bleeding due to irritation or tears in the esophageal lining
- aspiration of vomit into the lungs, which can lead to pneumonia
Ideally, these will not occur after a night of drinking, but if you make binge drinking a habit, the likelihood of more severe complications increases.
While it doesn’t always feel like it, vomiting is one of your body’s protective reflexes against toxins. When you drink alcohol, your body breaks it down into acetaldehyde, a by-product of alcohol.
Your body can’t keep up
If you don’t overdo it on the drinking, your body (specifically, your liver) neutralizes acetaldehyde with a substance it makes called glutathione. Your body processes the two compounds, and you’re fine.
Except when you drink too much. Then, your liver can’t make enough glutathione to keep up with what you’re drinking. Eventually, your body realizes the liver isn’t going to be able to keep up with how much acetaldehyde is present and gets rid of it another way — through vomiting.
Alcohol irritates the stomach lining
There are other factors at play that can make you vomit after drinking heavily. In addition to the buildup of acetaldehyde, excess alcohol can irritate the stomach lining. This causes a buildup of acid that makes you feel more nauseated.
Chronic alcohol exposure may cause gastritis
People who drink alcohol to excess on a regular basis are at increased risk for a condition called alcohol gastritis. This is when chronic alcohol exposure irritates the stomach lining and damages it.
People with alcohol gastritis can experience frequent stomach-related concerns, such as ulcers, nausea, and acid reflux. Chronic alcohol interferes with absorption of nutrients and is linked to cancer, diabetes, pancreatitis, cirrhosis, and more.
There are times when throwing up after a night of drinking turns from something you’ll get over to something you need to see a doctor for.
Seek medical treatment if you:
- have been continuously vomiting for more than 24 hours
- can’t keep fluids or food down
- have signs of dehydration, such as dizziness, dark urine, or inability to pee for some time
- see blood in your vomit
- start to have problems breathing
- have a temperature greater than 101.5°F
Usually, hangover symptoms like vomiting will go away
Taking steps to prevent dehydration can help you feel better once the alcohol toxins are out of your body. If your vomiting continues or you start to get dehydrated, seek immediate medical attention.