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VERIFIED CONTENTAuthor: lek. Katarzyna Banaszczyk

Although the side effects of alcohol are mainly associated with a hangover and the accompanying headache, we can also deal with gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhea. What are the causes of alcohol-induced diarrhea and how can we help our body in such a situation? Can alcohol-induced diarrhea lead to dehydration?

Diarrheafrom a medical point of view, we refer to a situation in which a patient passes stools of abnormal consistency at least 3 times a day. We can divide diarrhea into:

  • acute diarrhea - when symptoms do not last longer than two weeks;
  • chronic diarrhea - in this situation, loose stools last longer than 14 days.

Acute diarrhea not only after alcohol

Alcohol consumption typically contributes to acute diarrhea, which usually disappears within a few days. What other factors are responsible for the occurrence of acute diarrhea? They mainly include:

  • gastrointestinal infections caused by pathogenic microorganisms (bacteria, viruses) - this is the most common cause of acute diarrhea,
  • Taking medications - Many medications have side effects, including diarrhea. Examples include antibiotics, some medications used in the treatment of arterial hypertension, beta-blockers, used in the treatment of arrhythmias, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and antidepressants,
  • poisoning - fungi or insecticides,
  • food allergies,
  • acute diverticulitis,
  • as well as intestinal ischemia.

Diarrhea after alcohol - causes of loose stools

Many of us wonder what causes diarrhea after consuming ethyl alcohol. More common symptoms that we associate with alcohol consumption are:

  • headache,
  • feeling broken,
  • or sleepiness that disrupts the functioning.

These are the symptoms of the so-called hangover, which are caused by the toxic effect on the body of the product of metabolism of ethyl alcohol - i.e. acetaldehyde.

But what is the reason for the appearance of diarrhea? You should be aware that alcohol damages and destroys enterocytes, i.e. cellsintestinal epithelium. This significantly worsens the digestion of carbohydrates and proteins, because these cells are responsible for the production of enzymes that break down these compounds. It is digestive disorders and malabsorption disorders that cause loose stools.

Diarrhea after alcohol - the consequences of losing water

Diarrhea causes loss of water and important electrolytes such as sodium and potassium, leading to dehydration and a worsened patient well-being. In the case of taking alcohol, we are typically dealing with mild dehydration, because diarrhea is not as severe as in the course of internal diseases.

The most common symptoms of mild dehydration are:

  • headaches and dizziness,
  • weakness,
  • fatigue,
  • sleepiness,
  • increased thirst,
  • dark urine,
  • dry mouth.

Alcohol and water loss

It is worth being aware that alcohol itself indirectly also influences the increased loss of water with urine. Ethyl alcohol inhibits the activity of a hormone produced by the hypothalamus - vasopressin here.

This hormone is responsible, inter alia, for the reabsorption of water in the kidneys and its retention in the body. This mechanism is conducive to the development of dehydration in situations where alcohol consumption is accompanied by diarrhea.

Diarrhea after alcohol - treatment

In the case of mild dehydration, the most important thing is to consume fluids by mouth - preferably mineral water, which also contains ions important for our body, lost through the digestive tract.

In the pharmacy, we can obtain special powders for the preparation of oral fluids, which accelerate the balance of the body's water and electrolyte balance. Such products include, among others :

  • glucose,
  • sodium chloride,
  • potassium chloride,
  • and also potassium citrate.

It is worth thinking about them when we feel weak after diarrhea.

Diarrhea after alcohol - when is hospitalization necessary?

In a situation of significant dehydration, treatment in a hospital may be necessary. Indications for referring a patient with dehydration after diarrhea to the hospital include:

  • significant weight loss - this is one that exceeds 9% of the patient's current weight,
  • the appearance of disturbing symptoms, which include: increased heart rate, drop in blood pressure, as well as decreased urine output - i.e. oliguria and dry, pale skin - such clinical symptoms may indicate a developing hypovolemic shock, one of which of the most commonthe causes is dehydration,
  • the presence of other ailments in a given patient related to chronic diseases, e.g. diabetes or heart failure,
  • not being able to drink fluids orally.

In hospitals, it is necessary to supplement fluids intravenously, and sometimes also to compensate for electrolyte balance with the supply of appropriate ions - most often potassium.

Diarrhea after alcohol - summary

In conclusion, diarrhea is a mild complication of ethyl alcohol intake. In most cases, adequate oral hydration is enough to replace the fluid deficiency and return to normal functioning.

However, in some cases, alcohol-induced diarrhea can lead to severe dehydration and dangerous complications.

It is worth bearing in mind the symptoms that indicate significant dehydration and the situation of their occurrence, see a doctor who, after examining the patient, will decide on the next steps.

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