Hangover Diarrhea: The Science Behind Boozy Bowel Movements
The list of horrors to confront after waking up with a hangover is unending: a blaring headache, a major dent in your bank account, the shame of a desperate DM. But if you’re reading this, chances are the most urgent problem is unfolding on the toilet.
Yep, we’re talking about the dreaded hangover diarrhea.
Also known as beer shits, rum bum, and DADS (day-after-drinking shits), hangover diarrhea is the cost millions of people pay after pushing the limits at the bar. Alcohol affects every organ, from your brain to your bowels.
You might be wondering: why exactly does alcohol cause diarrhea? Fortunately, we’re about to answer that question in a manner that even your booze soaked brain can comprehend.
Stay with us.
What Causes Hangover Diarrhea?
Normally, your colon muscles work in a synchronized fashion to transport last night’s dinner out of your butt and into the toilet. But as you’re about to find out, there are two main ways alcohol throws a wrench into this otherwise stable system.
1. Alcohol Speeds Up Digestion
Alcohol irritates the lining of your large intestine, which can disrupt the muscle contractions that tell you when it’s time to drop a deuce. Specifically, the contractions get stronger and more frequent.
2. Alcohol Releases Excess Water In Your Gut
Alcohol inhibits (or limits) the production of vasopressin: a hormone that helps your kidneys regulate the amount of water your body retains. When the levels get thrown out of whack, your body struggles to hold on to water and releases what it can’t absorb. Hello, diarrhea.
Aside from the alcohol itself, there are two more culprits that have the potential to wreak havoc on your digestive system—and your toilet.
Pay attention to the mixers you’re adding to your alcohol. Swapping sugary soda for diet soda in your mixed drinks might cut calories, but you should be prepared to pay the price on the toilet.
Artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose have been known to disrupt digestive patterns and cause diarrhea. Artificial sweeteners are found in diet sodas and sparkling water, two of the most common mixers. Guzzling these two liquids together is basically a poop potion.
4. Late-Night Munchies
Remember that Crunchwrap Supreme you crushed at 3 a.m.? Or that XL pizza that you finished alone because you’re not a quitter? Yeah, that late night greasy grub isn’t exactly optimal for your digestive system (shocker).
Fried, greasy, and fatty foods are notorious for causing indigestion. Couple that with a night full of heavy drinking and you’ve created the perfect storm for a monstrous morning poo.
Is It Normal to Have Diarrhea When You’re Hungover?
Spare yourself the panic attack—diarrhea is a very common side effect of drinking alcohol (especially binge drinking). Most people don’t talk openly about unleashing a sloppy deuce the morning after a party, understandably so.
This might lead you to believe you’re alone on the toilet, gazing in horror at what just came out of your butt. But rest assured almost everybody who gets hangovers has surely dealt with hangover diarrhea at some point. Yes, even that dime you spotted last night.
It’s also worth noting that digestive health issues may have a higher risk of alcohol-induced diarrhea. These include:
- Celiac disease (beer is loaded with gluten)
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Crohn’s disease
These conditions make the digestive tract sensitive to begin with, and the effects of alcohol trigger more inflammation, cramping, bloating, and diarrhea.
People with weird sleep schedules may be more prone to hangover diarrhea too. A 2016 study found that a lack of sleep makes the gastrointestinal tract more sensitive to alcohol, since it has less time to recover.
How Long Does Hangover Diarrhea Last?
A case of hangover diarrhea resolves itself after 1-2 days. Remember, booze affects everyone differently. Some people are ready to rally the next day, while lightweights need a full week to recover.
If your hangover diarrhea lasts more than 48 hours, you might want to take a trip to the doctor, especially if you have other symptoms like dry mouth, dizziness, lightheadedness, or bloody stool.
How to Cure Your Hangover Diarrhea
If you’re battling a bout of hangover diarrhea, the two most important things you can do are hydrate and eat easily digestible foods. Whatever you do, avoid alcohol consumption. A little hair of the dog won’t do your gut any good.
Drink plenty of water, and consider an electrolyte supplement. Just make sure you avoid sugary drinks, as these can make your poop problems even worse.
In terms of food, nibble on some easily-digestible snacks like crackers, toast, rice, and bananas. These will settle your stomach and get your digestive process back on track.
Tempted as you may be to chug coffee to bring yourself back to life, caffeine is notorious for revving up your digestive system and making you poop ASAP. Stick with clear fluids until the storm passes.
How to Prevent Hangover Diarrhea
Pooping daily is obviously necessary for a healthy life. But hangover diarrhea is a whole different animal.
The easiest way to prevent hangover diarrhea is (you guessed it) to stop drinking so much. But we’re gonna guess that’s not what you wanted to hear. If you want the best of both worlds—a night of drinking and normal bowel movements—here are three tips to keep in mind before you hit the bar.
1. Sip Water Between Drinks
Dehydration is a common culprit of diarrhea. Accordingly, you should alternate each alcoholic beverage with a cup of water. This will dilute your boozy bloodstream and ultimately aid your digestive system.
(Pro tip: order water in a cocktail glass with a lime—nobody will know the difference).
2. Don’t Drink On An Empty Stomach
Drinking alcohol increases the amount of acid in your GI tract and creates an abrasive effect in your small intestine. But eating food beforehand can fight this effect by slowing down the digestive system. Turns out there’s a reason for that bowl of peanuts at the bar.
3. Resist the Munchies
It’s fine to eat a solid meal before drinking—but consuming a day’s worth of calories at 2 a.m. is a different story.
Scarfing down pizza or hitting the Taco Bell drive thru after a long night of drinking only adds fuel to the fire. If you’re dying for something to eat, grab some foods that are high in fiber: whole grain bread, rice, or crackers. These will help soak up the alcohol and bulk up your turds.
DUDE Wipes: A Bar Essential
There’s no telling when the beer shits will strike. It could be in your significant other’s bed the morning after a party or in the midst of a bar crawl. Either way, you can’t afford to get stuck in a bathroom with one-ply sandpaper—or worse, no wiping material at all.
We’re one step ahead of you here at DUDE HQ. Our portable, flushable wipes are designed to fit discreetly in your pocket, so you can party in confidence knowing your ass is always covered.
DUDE Wipes are extra large, just like the dump you’ll take after bottomless mimosas.