Drinking alcohol in excess or, in some cases, small amounts can cause a person to throw up.

Throwing up when drunk or in the morning after a night of drinking is not a disease. Instead, it signifies that the body is getting rid of toxins in the alcohol.

Typically, a person will naturally feel better after throwing up from drinking. However, vomiting can cause bodily damage, and a person should not try to make themselves sick on purpose.

Whether intentionally or naturally, vomiting can trigger signs and symptoms in people differently.

Keep reading to learn more about the causes, risks, and benefits of throwing up after drinking alcohol. This article also covers remedies and treatments for throwing up from drinking alcohol.

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Binge drinking or consuming excessive amounts of alcohol within a short period can cause vomiting.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), binge drinking is when someone has a pattern of drinking enough alcohol to bring their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08% or higher. For a typical male, this would require five or more drinks within 2 hours and four or more drinks for a typical female over the same period.

Throwing up or vomiting after drinking alcohol is the body’s natural way of removing potentially harmful material.

When the body processes alcohol, the liver converts it into a highly reactive, toxic chemical called acetaldehyde.

Acetaldehyde can cause tissue damage and may trigger the onset of health conditions. The liver then converts the acetaldehyde into acetate, which the body can remove by converting it to water and carbon dioxide.

However, the liver can only process a certain amount of acetaldehyde at a time. If the acetaldehyde levels are higher than the liver can convert, the body will remove the excess chemical by vomiting.

This high rate of elimination of toxic chemicals can be due to a high level of activity from enzyme systems.

There are other reasons a person may throw up after drinking alcohol, including the following factors:

Gastritis

Drinking alcohol can also cause a person’s stomach to produce more acid than it would typically. This acid buildup can irritate and erode the stomach lining, causing mucosal inflammation known as gastritis.

A primary symptom of alcohol-induced gastritis is heartburn or recurrent stomach pain, ranging from a burning ache to stabbing pain after drinking.

Gastritis can cause:

  • stomach pain
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • bloating
  • ulcers
  • gastrointestinal bleeding

Gastritis can increase a person’s chances of developing long-term medical complications, such as sepsis, peritonitis, a stomach tumor, and multiple organ failure.

Alcoholic ketoacidosis

Another possible cause of vomiting after drinking is alcoholic ketoacidosis (AKA). AKA typically occurs in people with chronic alcohol use disorder and people who binge drink, particularly after a bout of heavy drinking.

Following a stretch of heavy drinking, people with AKA often cannot tolerate food for 1–3 days. During this period, low glycogen stores and a lack of oral intake can shift the body from metabolizing carbohydrates to fats and lipids.

This increases lipid metabolism and hormone-sensitive lipase activity, leading to the accumulation of ketoacids.

People with AKA may have other symptoms, including:

Without prompt treatment, AKA can be life threatening. Anyone who thinks they might have AKA should contact a doctor immediately.

Alcohol poisoning

Vomiting after drinking can help prevent alcohol poisoning, a potentially fatal consequence of drinking too much alcohol over a shorter period. Alcohol poisoning can cause a person’s blood alcohol level to spike, causing areas of their brain that support essential life functions to begin to shut down.

According to the NIAAA, signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:

  • mental confusion
  • difficulty remaining conscious or blacking out
  • vomiting
  • seizures
  • bradypnea, or slow breathing, meaning fewer than eight breaths per minute
  • irregular breathing, with 10 seconds or more between breaths
  • a slow heart rate
  • wet or clammy skin
  • dulled responses
  • no gag reflex
  • an extremely low body temperature
  • blue or pale skin

Without treatment, alcohol poisoning can cause permanent brain damage or death.

If a person is with someone exhibiting any of these symptoms after drinking a large amount of alcohol, they should immediately dial 911 for medical assistance.

Throwing up naturally after drinking may help relieve symptoms of excess alcohol in the bloodstream. Generally, a person may feel better after throwing up the alcohol.

If a person throws up shortly after drinking, the body may not have absorbed the alcohol, potentially lessening its effects.

However, the drawbacks and risks of throwing up after drinking alcohol outweigh any possible benefits, whether someone vomits intentionally or naturally.

Hangover symptoms should stop about 24 hours after a person stops drinking. As such, feelings of nausea should stop within 24 hours.

However, if a person still feels nauseated more than a day after drinking alcohol, it may signify the onset or progression of a medical condition, and they should speak with a doctor immediately. A doctor can help rule out an underlying cause.

While vomiting can be discomforting, it is the body’s natural protective reflex against poisonous substances.

Toxins produced by excess alcohol in the body can stimulate the release of emetic neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, histamine, serotonin, and acetylcholine.

These neurotransmitters stimulate the contraction of the diaphragm and abdominal muscles to forcefully evacuate the excess toxins through the mouth until the body feels satisfied that it has gotten rid of them.

After vomiting, the body releases endorphins to help cope with stress and reduce discomfort. In response to vomiting, endorphins further elicit pleasurable sensations that make a person feel better.

As with other causes of vomiting, a person who vomits after drinking is at risk of potentially serious side effects. These include:

Malnutrition

While vomiting, a person can expel any ingested food in the stomach with the excess alcohol. People who vomit may experience malnutrition since they can have difficulty keeping food down.

Common symptoms of malnutrition may include dizziness, fatigue, loss of muscle, and a lack of appetite for food and drink.

Lung aspiration

By forcefully ejecting fluids through the mouth, gastroesophageal reflux can reroute gastric contents through the trachea and into the lungs. If a person breathes in their vomit, they can develop aspiration pneumonia.

Lung aspiration can increase a person’s risk of lung infection and hepatic tissue damage.

Also, if someone passes out due to alcohol poisoning during or after vomiting, they can unknowingly inhale their vomit into their lungs and choke to death.

Gastrointestinal issues

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) notes that drinking alcohol can damage the stomach lining with or without inflammation. This can lead to gastrointestinal complications, such as gastritis, gastropathy, peptic ulcers, and stomach cancer.

Dehydration

Prolonged vomiting can cause a person to lose more fluids than they can sufficiently replace. This means that a person will not have enough water for their body to function properly. Symptoms of dehydration include:

  • a dry, sticky mouth
  • a swollen tongue
  • fatigue
  • irritability
  • dizziness
  • lightheadedness
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • a headache
  • constipation
  • dry skin
  • weight loss
  • dark, yellow urine

Although a person may think it seems like a good idea to trigger their gag reflex when feeling nauseated, health experts warn that people should not make themselves throw up without first consulting a medical professional.

People who induce vomiting by sticking an object down their throat risk scratching or puncturing their esophagus.

A person who regularly makes themselves throw up may experience symptoms, such as:

  • an electrolyte imbalance
  • ulcers
  • throat damage
  • tooth decay
  • dehydration

However, if a person naturally feels as though they need to vomit, they should not stop the feeling or try to prevent themselves from throwing up if they feel the need to do so.

Occasionally, a person may have a preexisting condition that can cause them to vomit after drinking only small amounts of alcohol. These conditions include:

Alcohol intolerance

Alcohol intolerance is a condition that prevents a person from processing alcohol properly.

Symptoms of alcohol intolerance that may appear when drinking include:

A person may also be intolerant of certain ingredients in the alcohol, such as grains, sulfites, and preservatives.

Combining substances

Mixing alcohol with other drugs, including prescription, over-the-counter, and recreational drugs can be very dangerous. Alcohol can amplify the side effects of certain medications, making a person feel drowsy and lightheaded.

Taking alcohol with other drugs can cause the following reactions:

According to the NIAAA, mixing some drugs with alcohol may put a person at risk of internal bleeding, heart problems, and difficulty breathing.

A person should always ask a doctor or read the enclosed leaflets from any drugs they are taking before drinking alcohol.

Recreational drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, can cause severe damage and even death when a person mixes them with alcohol.

Additional health issues

Specific health conditions can cause a person to feel sick and vomit when they drink alcohol. Alcohol can irritate the lining of the stomach, causing preexisting conditions, such as gastritis or stomach ulcers, to flare up.

The best thing a person can do to decrease the effects of alcohol is to drink in moderation or abstain from drinking altogether. Drinking no more than 14 units of alcohol per week can help reduce a person’s risk. The limit of 14 units of alcohol is equivalent to about six pints of beer or 10 glasses of wine.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) recommends that males limit their daily alcohol intake to two drinks or less while females limit their alcohol intake to one drink or less per day.

Eating before drinking alcohol can help slow the rate at which the body absorbs alcohol, reducing its effects. Drinking water or soda between alcoholic drinks may also lessen the alcohol’s effects.

Some people claim that various remedies and treatments help them become sober. However, the methods people often use to sober up, including drinking coffee, taking a cold shower, or “walking it off,” can do more harm than good.

Caffeine, for example, may further aggravate alcohol-induced dehydration. If a person is drunk, they may have trouble balancing, so walking it off may lead to accidents and severe injury. Alcohol decreases a person’s body temperature, which a cold shower could lower even further, possibly leading to hypothermia.

There are many reasons why a person may vomit after drinking alcohol. Although it may help a person feel better, throwing up from drinking can cause serious health problems.

A person should not force themselves to vomit during or after drinking, even if they feel nauseated.

Anyone who experiences any of the symptoms of alcohol poisoning should contact a doctor immediately.