I know, you're not my doctor, but...
December 8, 2012 6:01 AM   Subscribe

Why, all of a sudden, does a small glass of wine make me feel drunk?

...And I'm not a light drinker, either. Last Sunday, I went to a football game and tailgated with friends. Over the course of 10 hours, I had seven drinks, mostly beer (one vodka drink). Afterwards I definitely wasn't sober, but I wasn't out of control drunk, either. I had a light to medium hangover the next day, Monday, and by Monday night felt better.

On Tuesday I went to the gym for the first time in months. I worked out with a trainer. I worked too hard and didn't drink enough water, but didn't really notice either until later.

Tuesday night I had a glass of wine with dinner and a glass of wine after dinner. I felt so drunk that the room was spinning and fell asleep at 8:30 p.m. I woke up the next morning still feeling dizzy.

I worked out again on Wednesday morning. This time I drank a liter of water (began drinking it during my workout, mostly cardio, and then finished it afterwards). I felt mostly normal the rest of the day.

Wednesday night, I thought, what the hell, I'm hydrated again. So, I had one glass of wine with dinner. I got drunk. Dizzy, uncoordinated, drunk.

Here's where I start to get worried: On Thursday morning, I woke up and still felt dizzy. That triggered some anxiety, because what the hell? I deliberately ate more than I usually eat on Thursday and also drank two liters of full-calorie gatorade throughout the day. Also, I didn't work out or exercise at all on Thursday.

On Friday, I'm feeling more like myself. And because I can't leave well enough alone, I decide to experiment. I pour myself a splash of red wine, and I drink it, with my filling dinner (chicken paprikash -- it was demanding some good red wine). And I feel a little buzzed after I drink it.

Now, on Saturday morning, I woke up again, still feeling a little dizzy. And that's worrying me.

But I don't want to call my doctor at this point because what on earth would he say? "You're saying wine is making you not feel good? Have you considered not drinking wine?" But that's not the point. The point is, I'm concerned about this sudden change. Can I still be dehydrated?
posted by Buffaload to Health & Fitness (32 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Or your liver could be failing. Doctor ASAP.
posted by bq at 6:14 AM on December 8, 2012

Call your doctor.
posted by brennen at 6:16 AM on December 8, 2012

Thirding doctor.
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:18 AM on December 8, 2012

Could also be mono, which stresses your liver so it can't process alcohol efficiently. But my first thought was also liver failing. Call your doctor and tell him what you told us. It's concerning. Let the doctor decide how concerning.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:22 AM on December 8, 2012

Yeah, I'm otherwise healthy and have no other symptoms. I have a hard time believing my liver is failing all of a sudden. I will call the doc, though. I was waiting for someone to say, "You're still dehydrated, don't sweat it." Or, more reassuringly, "That happened to me and it was X." Not hearing that, I will seek professional advice.
posted by Buffaload at 6:29 AM on December 8, 2012

Are you eating a low-carb diet? The "full calorie Gatorade" part makes me think you're not, but I can tell you that low-carb diets make you a super lightweight, though perhaps not enough to make you feel buzzed after a splash.
posted by lizzicide at 6:32 AM on December 8, 2012

Yes, I am watching my carbs (not religiously -- I still consume some carbs daily). But that doesn't explain why I felt fine on Sunday (which was the most alcohol I've had in one sitting in a year), but was shitface-drunk later in the week after two glasses.
posted by Buffaload at 6:37 AM on December 8, 2012

If you're drinking water frequently and your urine is fairly clear, you're probably not dehydrated. See a doctor.
posted by tommasz at 6:42 AM on December 8, 2012

Not that I expect anyone to maintain interest in my petty health concerns, but I thought of one other variable. My infant son has an ear infection, and I was just noticing the other day that my own ear felt a little sore when I stuck my finger in there to scratch it. My new theory is that my liver isn't failing, but maybe I have an ear infection? That would explain the dizziness and pain in the earhole, yes?
posted by Buffaload at 7:17 AM on December 8, 2012

Maybe you have an ear infection, maybe you don't. Maybe you liver is failing, maybe not. Maybe it's something entirely unrelated to either, maybe it's nothing at all.

There has been a very significant change in your body's reaction to alcohol. Why not call your doctor's office, ask to speak to a nurse, tell the nurse about the change, and let the nurse decide if you need to see the doctor? If your doctor's office is closed today, your insurance or the nearest hospital probably has a 24-hour nurse hotline.
posted by insectosaurus at 7:25 AM on December 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

7 drinks over 10 hours is a fairly slow pace - I wouldn't even be buzzed. It seems like the wine was drunk over a much shorter period of time. So far the reaction has only been to wine, have you tried drinking an equivalent amount of alcohol in beer form over a similar period of time?
Waking up dizzy could be an ear infection but that wouldn't explain getting drunk/dizzy only on the evenings you've drunk wine with dinner.
posted by missmagenta at 7:38 AM on December 8, 2012

Talking to a doctor seems like the best idea but I was also wondering if you've had any changes in medications recently. On one occasion, a new medication seemed to increase my sensitivity to alcohol.
posted by XMLicious at 7:41 AM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

I did call my doctor -- nurse said someone would get back to me. I always feel stupid calling the doctor unless I'm vomiting up an organ. So, I go hunting around on the internet first, which makes me feel stupid. Maybe "feeling stupid" is a symptom? Anyway.
posted by Buffaload at 7:44 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Look at it this way - it's a lot better for the doctor if you call them early instead of waiting until you ARE vomiting up an organ, because it's a lot easier for a doctor to write you a prescription than it is to surgically re-insert the organ you vomited up. So by calling them more often, you are saving them work.

I mean, you're also saving your own health by catching things early, but if that argument isn't convincing enough, think of the doctor too.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:05 AM on December 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

7 drinks over 10 hours is a fairly slow pace - I wouldn't even be buzzed.

This was my thought. I don't think it's something just with the wine; I'd say that your big drinking day and the wine days are both getting you stronger reactions to alcohol than sounds normal. Talk to the doctor, though I wouldn't be totally surprised if they give you an unhelpful answer like "don't drink".
posted by Forktine at 8:10 AM on December 8, 2012

If I'm understanding correctly, the dizziness/unpleasant reaction is specifically to wine, not to all alcohol-containing beverages? Perhaps you've become sensitive to nitrates? Food sensitivities can develop suddenly after hever having experienced them previously.

Also, I second XMLicious' suggestion of possible medication interaction. A number of years ago, I took Paxil for a few months, and I felt HORRIBLY dizzy and unwell (not drunk, but just nauseous/unwell) after less than a glass of wine. This happened twice on different occasions and I was not working out or dehydrated; it was definitely due to the medication. Could not drink wine for the entire 8 months or so that I took the Paxil. I actually didn't try drinking any other alcoholic beverages during that time so can't say if the interaction was specific to wine. But within a week after discontinuing the Paxil, I was able to enjoy wine again.
posted by RRgal at 8:22 AM on December 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

Some people get heart palpitations with alcohol intake. You may or may not feel them occurring. This can cause a drop in blood pressure and dizziness. Just another diagnosis to add to your catalog. Just pay a visit to your doc.
posted by takoukla at 8:30 AM on December 8, 2012

This is a long shot but it could be a candida overgrowth, in which case the gatorade or any other sugars would have made it worse.
posted by Neekee at 8:48 AM on December 8, 2012

oops! I meant to say sulfites, not nitrates. I know a number of people who get migraines or other reactions from the sulfites in wines, but have no problems with other alcoholic beverages in moderation.
posted by RRgal at 9:04 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Go to the doctor, period. If you're looking for something scary enough to give you a reason: your liver could be changing how it metabolizes alcohol, and nothing that causes this should be treated with delay. Go to your doctor.
posted by blueplasticfish at 9:26 AM on December 8, 2012

Doc said probably just a virus that's going around. Told the nurse who called .e back about my ear infection idea. She said "uh huh?" In a way that made me blush. Dammit I hate condescending health care people.
posted by Buffaload at 10:16 AM on December 8, 2012

Don't be embarrassed for yourself, be embarrassed for the incompetent, condescending idiot who needs to get a new job outside of healthcare, because making worried people feel stupid about having valid health concerns = complete asshole who should be shoveling shit from a ditch somewhere.
posted by elizardbits at 10:58 AM on December 8, 2012 [9 favorites]

Are you eating enough? It sounds like you are dieting (controlling your carbs). Booze and low calorie intake can easily cause the problems you are having. Count your calories for a while and make sure you are eating enough every day (not just eating one day and then not so much the next).
posted by srboisvert at 11:03 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Maybe it has nothing to do with the alcohol, just coincidence, and something else is making you dizzy.
posted by bongo_x at 11:06 AM on December 8, 2012

I'm not aware of a virus whose sole effect is to drastically lower a person's alcohol tolerance. Are you feeling shitty in other ways, or do you basically feel fine (except for that possible ear infection I guess) except when you have had something to drink?

If the latter, I would press my doctor for more information. It kinda sounds (though it's hard to tell from your reply so maybe I'm off base) as if he/she is being sort of dismissive of your concerns and is just kinda handwaving them away as "some virus that's going around". Maybe you got more information than that but I would press.

Also I would probably make an appointment to see the doctor in person so that you can get more attention than just having a receptionist give him/her your symptoms secondhand (while he/she is no doubt trying to concentrate on other things) and then relay the distracted response back to you over the phone.

I agree with others in this thread that a sudden precipitous drop in alcohol tolerance could potentially betoken a serious problem and that you should get checked out. I'm not a doctor but I'd be wanting them to run some blood tests including a liver enzyme analysis, just to make sure that my ol' liver and onions were working right. Your liver is important; you need it to be working properly.
posted by Scientist at 12:20 PM on December 8, 2012

a sudden precipitous drop in alcohol tolerance

But the OP said he had a "light hangover" from which he quickly recovered, after having 7 drinks (none of which were wine), which did not make him sick at the time he drank them. The bad reaction was to ONE glass of wine, immediately after drinking it. This does not sound like a "sudden precipitous drop in alcohol tolerance" to me, it sounds like a bad reaction to WINE. I could be misunderstanding, of course. Perhaps the OP could clarify whether alcoholic beverages in moderation, other than wine, make him ill?
posted by RRgal at 12:40 PM on December 8, 2012

Is this the same bottle (or box) of wine doing this to you? I suggest pouring it down the sink, taking it easy and not drinking for a couple weeks then trying again with a different bottle. You can get off chemicals making or storing booze and that shit'll poison you.
posted by fshgrl at 1:01 PM on December 8, 2012

Did you happen to take any tylenol (a.k.a. acetaminophen or paracetamol) to help ease your hangover symptoms? Sometimes people do this to get rid of the hangover headache, but it's really bad for your overworked liver.
posted by vytae at 2:47 PM on December 8, 2012

You need to drink more water when you are not exercising or drinking.

I think you are severely dehydrated. When dehydrated you get low blood pressure, when you drink on top of that, you get even lower blood pressure (while booze is in the blood system) Additionally, booze used to have a profoundly stronger affect on me when I was dehydrated.
posted by couchdive at 3:10 PM on December 8, 2012

You know, the fact that the nurse kind of blew off my concerns could be taken as reassuring. For example, if I were to say, "Hey, I'm having chest pains and shortness of breath," she might have said, "Holy cow get to the emergency room." The fact that I got a "meh" at least means that between her and the doc, there were no red flags raised. I was very clear. I said I've experienced dizziness all week, that seemed to follow drinking small amounts of alcohol, which is very unusual for me." I'm going to spend the next few days drinking plenty of fluids (no booze) and eating a healthy amount of food. If I'm still feeling weird next week, I'll swallow my pride and make an appointment.

A side note: The public message of health care providers is "If you're feeling sick, call! Be proactive!" But in practice, I've found you tend to get treated like a hypochondriac or like a child if you take that approach. Thanks for the discussion, folks.
posted by Buffaload at 3:19 PM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

IANAHealth Care Professional
Liver functions tests require a blood test. Ask your doctor if it would be a good idea(as in, hey doc, can you set my mind at rest and give this a go?). I don't think it's crazy expensive.
Liver failure:
Early symptoms include:
Nausea, Loss of appetite, Fatigue, Diarrhea

However, as liver failure progresses, the symptoms become more serious, requiring urgent care. These symptoms include:
Jaundice, Bleeding easily, Swollen abdomen, Mental disorientation or confusion (known as hepatic encephalopathy), Sleepiness, Coma

Other articles mention dark urine and itchiness as signs of liver trouble. Be as kind to your liver as possible: no acetaminophen(tylenol), no alcohol, no drugs at all unless they are critical to your health. Try that for a week or 2, and see if things improve. I had liver trouble when my liver decided that a medication I had taken for a while was toxic; tell your doctor about any medicine, vitamins, supplements, etc., you may take.
posted by theora55 at 10:52 PM on December 8, 2012

It sounds like your dr's office sucks. I would just tell them you need an appointment. If they are very condescending then honestly in the long run try to get a new dr. You need someone who you feel comfortable expressing your concerns with--you know your own body!

In the meantime between now and your appt, really drink tons of water, don't low-carb it so much, and stop drinking wine. Or at least that particular type of wine. Good luck!
posted by manicure12 at 12:04 AM on December 9, 2012

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