Why does a little bit of alcohol make me vomit hours later?
February 26, 2009 8:15 PM   Subscribe

I have a sensitive stomach and 1 drink can make me throw up 6 hours later. Help me find a way to combat this!

When I was a teenager, I could drink whatever alcohol I liked, and the only thing that could make me throw up was excessive consumption. Now I'm in my 20s a cocktail or 2 will make me throw up the next morning (I pretty much stick to vodka). The only thing that keeps me from vomiting is smoking pot. When the pot starts to wear off (1-2 hours later) I go back to being nauseous.

If I don't have any pot around, I throw up yellow egg-yolk-like bile (apologies for the image).

Recently I drank (probably a little too much) and threw up every 10 minutes for 4 hours. I could not figure out how to stop it. Drinking a tiny bit of water or sprite didn't do a thing. Eating bread didn't help either.

Why do I always throw up hours after drinking? Does anyone know of a way to prevent this?

Also, if I start throwing up for hours after drinking too much, what can I do to end the vomiting after there is obviously nothing left to vomit up?

posted by wannaknow to Health & Fitness (28 answers total)
I know this is the obvious answer, but is there a good reason why you have to keep drinking? It sounds like your system just can't take it.
posted by Electrius at 8:20 PM on February 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

First, a doctor is probably the better place to go for answers to this sort of thing, second, the answer seems to be "don't drink". There's never a good reason to drink if it makes you ill and if the people you hang with won't hang if you DON'T drink with them, well, find new people. Club soda with a twist of lemon works as a "cover" if you must look like you are drinking for some strange reason.
posted by legotech at 8:21 PM on February 26, 2009

I know two people that have exactly these symptoms. If it's relevant, they're both women and don't have any diagnosed thing that would explain the problem. Is there some reason you want to continue drinking when it does that to you? This may come off as too blunt, but often the best response to "That hurts" is to stop doing what you're doing.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:23 PM on February 26, 2009

Maybe you're getting more alcohol than your system can handle, in too short a period, and your body is telling you this. How much alcohol (in ounces/shots) are you getting with those 1 - 2 cocktails?
posted by zippy at 8:23 PM on February 26, 2009

Your body doesn't seem to be able to metabolize one or two vodka cocktails. Depending on what you're drinking, it's very possible that you can switch to some other alcoholic beverage with a lower alcoholic content. Vodka is usually 35% to 50%. Wine is usually around 10% to 15%. Beer is generally 5% (ish). Cider is usually between 5% and 10%.

Are you keeping yourself hydrated (in general, not just when you have a drink)? Are you eating so that there's some food in your stomach before you have a cocktail? Do you have a grain/gluten allergy? Vodka is probably not the best thing for that. Perhaps a cider or wine would be better. Are you taking any meds or vitamins that might be interacting with the vodka?
posted by kirstk at 8:36 PM on February 26, 2009

Throwing up repeatedly hours and hours after drinking small amounts of liquor is a big red flag, that shouldn't happen. Don't play fast and loose with your digestive system, you can make a small problem bigger. See a doctor and stop drinking alcohol at all until you do.
posted by bluejayk at 8:45 PM on February 26, 2009

I'd head to the doctor. Throwing up every ten minutes for four hours after a night of drinking is not normal. Maybe you've developed an allergy to alcohol or something in your mix? Maybe there's something up with your liver? Only real way to find out is to see the doc.

I'll also agree with the obvious answer of stop drinking. It's not worth what you're doing to your body.

I think the only thing you can do when you're throwing up that heavily is try to keep drinking water to stay hydrated and lessen the dry heaves a bit.
posted by Relic at 8:49 PM on February 26, 2009

I have a 100% foolproof method of preventing this: stop drinking. If alcohol causes you to vomit and you still can't quit, consider whether you have a drinking problem.
posted by Justinian at 8:54 PM on February 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Vodka tampons maybe? Gross, but people do it and say it prevents the stomach issues surrounding normal drinking. However, your reactions are not normal at all, go to a doctor.
posted by jellywerker at 9:07 PM on February 26, 2009

Wild guess here - lack of the enzyme needed to metabolize alcohol? If your body can't metabolize a substance, it will try to expel it. (I have fructose intolerance and if I accidentally ingest fructose, I have similar reactions.)
posted by chez shoes at 9:31 PM on February 26, 2009

Read this, regarding potential symptoms of alcohol intolerance and see a doctor.
posted by Asherah at 9:32 PM on February 26, 2009

Thanks all, but I've gone to 2 doctors. We've ruled out gastroenteritis and ulcers.

And in answer to the "stop drinking"-- I don't seem to have any horrible lasting side effects to all of this. Throwing up is bad, but if I have pot around I can fight it off. 1-2 drinks doesn't lead to 4 hours of throwing up--that night it was probably 5 or 6 drinks. 1-2 drinks without pot around means I'll probably throw up once or twice the next morning.

And I'm a single girl in my 20s. I enjoy drinking for the same reasons most people my age do. For me, 5 or 6 drinks isn't a normal night, but I'd like to be able to have 2 drinks.

I'm trying to be responsible by getting to the bottom of this and solving the problem. Obviously I don't enjoy throwing up, so I'm not drinking often right now.
posted by wannaknow at 9:52 PM on February 26, 2009

The obvious answer is stop drinking, but since everyone else mentioned it, here are some other thoughts.

First: are you taking any medication or anything? Is there a chance that your drinking is clashing with some medication or something? Put another way, has your tendency to vomit after drinking gradually increased, or did it start one day out of the blue? If the answer is the latter, it would seem to me that there's some external influence.

Also, have you tried eating before you start drinking? A few pieces of bread, some pasta, or some other relatively bland food might help ease your discomfort.
posted by gchucky at 10:20 PM on February 26, 2009

What you're experiencing sounds something like what happens when you try to drink while taking Antabuse. I assume you are not, however.

Antabuse is an antagonist for the enzyme acetaldehyde dehydrogenase. But some people naturally are deficient in that enzyme because of their genes. It's common among people of east-Asian descent, particularly the Japanese.

Usually that's a lifetime thing; I don't think I've ever heard of it changing. But if that's your problem, there is no cure or treatment except... don't drink alcohol.

There's also a drug called Metronidazole (Flagyl) which has the side effect of interfering with alcohol metabolism. (It is sometimes used to treat colitis.) And some antibiotics cause problems with alcohol metabolism.

You didn't mention if you were taking any prescriptions. If you are, have you looked at the package inserts to see if any of them state that alcohol consumption is a problem?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:37 PM on February 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

Nthing what Chocolate Pickle and others have said that it sounds like you may be deficient in the enzyme that helps you metabolize alcohol. A friend of mine is, and she pretty much can't drink, or rather, if she tries she will stick to half a drink of something with a lower alcohol content.
posted by gudrun at 11:31 PM on February 26, 2009

Well, I've experienced the same symptoms as you did (repeated throwing-up hours after consumption). I needed a slightly higher dose than you do, but the results were the same. Kirstk is right : I now limit myself to beverages with less alcohol : wine, beer... and almost never drink two glasses of a beverage with a content of more than 30 % of alcohol in a row. Considering the outcome, I find it much more enjoyable that way. There's no way around that I think.
posted by nicolin at 4:35 AM on February 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Throwing up regularly is bad -- to put it mildly -- for your esophagus and teeth.

Let me get this straight: you puke enough to to to a doctor, then to ask the green, and then you say, "well it's not so bad."

Look within, hon.
posted by jgirl at 6:08 AM on February 27, 2009 [3 favorites]

Also a woman in my twenties. Generally, I'm a lighweight--two drinks is normally more than enough to get me drunk. As I've gotten older, my stomach's gotten touchier with alcohol, though I don't puke (have only ever done that once, ever, after a bottle of wine and a few vodka shots. Bad, bad idea). These days, three to four drinks is enough to make me nauseous. Half of the time, those three to four drinks will give me a wicked hang over as well.

I think it bears repeating that you are not consuming only one or two servings of alcohol in those vodka cocktails. Most restaurants will include more than a single shot of vodka in a mixed drink, and there will often be other alcohol mixed in as well. The mixers (whether alcoholic or not) are usually sugary and not great for your stomach when mixed with booze either. And I know very, very few lightweights like me who can handle more than a drink of hard liquor.

And the fact that you're throwing up bile suggests that you're not eating before drinking, which only amplifies the effects of alcohol. These might be bad drinking habits picked up in your teens when you could "drink whatever you want", but you need to eat a substantial meal before a night of drinking, and you should be alternating water with booze if you want to be nice to your body and stay properly hydrated.

Anyway, you need to avoid sugary cocktails and hard alcohol first and see if that has any effect on your stomach. Red wine is also bad. The quality of the alcohol you drink also makes a difference. I've found that ciders and white wine are generally safe for me, but only if I eat a substantial meal first and remember to drink water throughout the night and right before bed.

But really, why are you still doing this if it's making you vomit so regularly, especially without altering your behavior (IE, the alcohol you drink) at all? Our bodies do change as we get older. You can't party hard forever.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:52 AM on February 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Also, based on your previous post, if you've been given any seizure medications, mixing them with alcohol is a bad, bad, bad idea. And while I'm a fan of occasional celebratory sottishness, the fact that you smoke daily, combined with your attachment to drinking on top of that, despite the fact that it makes you sick, is troubling. If alcohol has a bad effect on you, why not just smoke pot instead? If you can't because you smoke up daily, and it no longer seems like a way to participate in a "night out", you could look into cutting back on your pot use as well.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:18 AM on February 27, 2009

You have seizures and vomit on a regular basis? You need to go to a doctor and tell her/him everything. These are not minor symptoms, and you need to find out what's wrong with you and take steps to get this under control. DOCTOR, NOW.
posted by decathecting at 7:23 AM on February 27, 2009

This doesn't sound like acetaldehyde dehydrogenase deficiency. That's usually accompanied by a flushed face and occurs within 15-30 minutes of drinking.

BTW, Chocolate Pickle, many people (including me) find that famatodine (Pepcid AC), will prevent the symptoms of acetaldehyde dehydrogenase deficiency.
posted by jefftang at 8:32 AM on February 27, 2009

Pfft.... quitters never win...

Eat a full meal before you go out. Splurge for top shelf hooch. Drink slower. If all else fails, go for something lower octane. Figure out your limits and work within them. A little Pepto might help calm things down too.
posted by spilon at 9:37 AM on February 27, 2009

Also, IIRC, from bulimics I've known, puking regularly really fucks with your cardiac health.

Dehydration and resulting electrolyte imbalance fucks up your kidneys.

I'll bet it shows in your skin, too.
posted by jgirl at 10:36 AM on February 27, 2009

What about Pancreatitis?

- Chronic, heavy alcohol use is also a common cause. Acute pancreatitis can occur within hours or as long as 2 days after consuming alcohol.

- The most common cause of chronic pancreatitis is many years of heavy alcohol use. The chronic form of pancreatitis can be triggered by one acute attack that damages the pancreatic duct. The damaged duct causes the pancreas to become inflamed. Scar tissue develops and the pancreas is slowly destroyed.

- Chronic pancreatitis, like acute pancreatitis, occurs when digestive enzymes attack the pancreas and nearby tissues, causing episodes of pain.

- Most people with chronic pancreatitis experience upper abdominal pain, although some people have no pain at all.

And then something about Pseudocysts. I'm not sure how they factor into my hypothesis?
Oh and not mentioned but - 18/19 yr old binge drinking forms a nice solid basis.(Pancreatitis is not just for 40yr old alcoholics!!)

(Sorry.. by pure chance the page I linked happened to be the very last thing I'd read before I reading your question.)

Oh and to stop throwing up - go to the emergency room and get them to give you a jab. (...I forget what it's called?) Or you can get Maxillon tablets (huh... Possibly the same thing as the injection??) but obviously the big difference is with the tablets you have to get down and wait for them to take effect. :(
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 2:19 AM on February 28, 2009

Jeez, talk about judgment.
I'm not a heavy drinker, on average I drink about 2-3 times a month. I'd probably drink more often if it wasn't for the stomach issues, as being in my twenties means a lot of social events with alcohol.

I think I'm done with meta. especially with posters like jgirl. You've added nothing here.
posted by secretsecret at 4:22 PM on February 28, 2009

sorry, forgot to add my remedy:

The posters who recommended water are right: throwing up can often be because of dehydration, in addition to causing it.

Don't just eat before drinking--eat after! Before bed, try to get down something bready to absorb acolohol in your stomach.
posted by secretsecret at 4:27 PM on February 28, 2009

Dude, I'm not judging a thing.

I've known a lot of bulimics and a whole lot of alcoholics. I thus know what lots of puking can do to your system.

If you do it while passed out, well, guess what can happen then?

I'd like to be able to drink more. But I can't; what happens isn't worth it.
posted by jgirl at 10:55 AM on March 1, 2009

Just wanted to add : since you're ok with pot, why do you bother with alcohol ?
posted by nicolin at 1:17 AM on March 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

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