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What is the Connection Between Alcohol and Dehydration?

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  • Written By: Ken Black
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 22 August 2016
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Alcohol and dehydration often seem to go hand in hand, and are thought by some to be one of the major complicating factors in a hangover. In fact, many attribute many of the uncomfortable feelings associated with hangovers to dehydration. Others feel, however, that a strong connection between alcohol and dehydration has never been definitively proven. Despite this, most medical professionals warn against drinking alcohol excessively for many reasons, including the risk of dehydration.

The reason why alcohol and dehydration may be so commonly associated is because many feel that alcohol is a diuretic. A diuretic is anything, especially a drug, that promotes the formation of urine in the kidney. If a liquid, such as alcohol, promotes more urine production than liquid taken in, the net result is a case of dehydration. This is bolstered by anecdotal evidence that suggests those who drink more tend to urinate more.

Not all doctors are convinced that alcohol acts as a diuretic, however. Some experts feel that the connection between alcohol and dehydration, or at least significant dehydration, has never been proven. Rather, they suggest the feelings associated with hangovers may be caused by other chemical imbalances caused by alcohol and a subsequent lack of sleep.

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Even if alcohol is not a diuretic, which is in contrast with what most of the medical community believes, the connection between alcohol and dehydration can be established in other ways. Excessive drinking could lead to a case of alcohol poisoning, which often includes nausea and vomiting. Vomiting is responsible for many cases of dehydration each year, as a great deal of liquids are expelled during the process. Therefore, alcohol can be directly or indirectly responsible for an abnormal loss of liquids.

The connection between alcohol and dehydration has become a special concern in recent years, with more highly-caffeinated drinks being added to alcoholic beverages. Much like alcohol, there is still a debate about whether caffeine is a true diuretic. Still, even with a lack of scientific consensus, significantly increasing caffeine and alcohol intake at the same time may put at least some people at greater risk of dehydration.

To avoid any complications with alcohol and dehydration, a drinker can take a number of precautions. First, always drink in moderation and at a reasonable pace. Second, those planning on a night of drinking should make sure they are well hydrated beforehand, and take time during the night to drink water or other non-alcoholic and non-caffeinated beverages.

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serenesurface
Post 3

@fify-- There are studies that show that alcohol increases urine output. So it's definitely a diuretic and dehydration can be a side effect of diuretics. So in a way, it is proven.

fify
Post 2

@ddljohn-- But what you're experiencing after drinking are dehydration symptoms. That's what dehydration does, it makes you extremely thirsty. Your mouth will feel very dry and you will start going to the bathroom less frequently after a while.

I don't understand why it is not proven that caffeine and alcohol cause dehydration. Anyone who has caffeine and alcohol regularly knows this. Alcohol makes us urinate more frequently at first and then less frequently. It makes us thirsty and nauseated. That's called dehydration!

You're doing the right thing by drinking plenty of water after drinking alcohol.

ddljohn
Post 1

I don't know if alcohol causes dehydration or not but I do know that alcohol makes me drink a lot of water. The day after heavy drinking, I feel extremely thirsty. I usually have regular water and vitamin water throughout the day to satiate my thirst.

It might be because alcohol is dehydrating or it might be because my body is trying to take in more water to flush the alcohol out of my system. Either way, water is a must after alcohol.

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