Does Water Help with Alcohol Detox?

Robert Gerchalk

Robert is our health care professional reviewer of this website. He worked for many years in mental health and substance abuse facilities in Florida, as well as in home health (medical and psychiatric), and took care of people with medical and addictions problems at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. He has a nursing and business/technology degrees from The Johns Hopkins University.

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The Role of Water in Alcohol Detox

Alcohol use disorder affects people from all walks of life. Once you realize you have a problem, detoxing is the next step on the path to recovery. Whether you are going through detox now or plan to start soon, preparation is critical for helping you overcome your addiction and live the life you have always wanted.

Many people wonder about water and its ability to help with alcohol detox. Although everyone knows water is vital for sustaining life, you may be surprised to learn the role it can play in your recovery. Water helps flush toxins from the body and keeps you from dehydrating.

Many people who have alcohol use disorder suffer from chronic dehydration because alcohol is a diuretic. It causes your kidneys to flush urine from your body at a faster rate.

How Does Water Help With Alcohol Detox?

Flushes Toxins

Drinking water helps flush the toxins brought into your body by consuming too much alcohol. No matter the type of drink you consume, alcohol is toxic to the body, and the liver is the organ it primarily impacts. 

There are two main toxins the body must work to rid itself of when you drink alcohol: acetaldehyde and acetic acid. These toxins are byproducts that result from alcohol breakdown in the body. 

Rehydrates the Tissues

Symptoms of dehydration include dry mouth, less urine production, increased blood pressure, and heart rate. In the most severe cases, chronic dehydration can lead to kidney and brain damage. Getting rehydrated is essential, but you should not overdo it. While rare, drinking too much water too quickly can flush electrolytes from your body, which can impede your normal heart rate and overwhelm your body systems.

Reduces Dry Mouth

Excessive alcohol consumption leads to dry mouth. When people detox from alcohol, dry mouth and extreme thirst are common. Water lubricates all the tissues of the body, including the mouth.

In addition to drinking water, you can also suck on ice chips to ease the discomfort. Ice will help cool your mouth and prevent it from getting sore because of dehydration.

Eases Headaches

You can expect to get frequent headaches when going through alcohol withdrawal because your body is dependent and wants more. Headaches often cause people to relapse because they know once they drink again, the headache will be gone. 

The severe headaches accompanying withdrawal may also come from dehydration. Many people are surprised to learn dehydration causes the brain to shrink and pull away from the skull, putting pressure on the nerves and blood vessels and causing headaches.

Even mild dehydration levels can cause head pain. When you increase your water intake, the brain returns to its normal volume, relieving your dehydration headache without medication intervention.

What Are the Signs of Dehydration

It is important to know the signs of dehydration as you detox from alcohol so you can prepare to take action. Consider the following symptoms:

  • Feeling thirsty
  • Dark-yellow urine
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Dry mouth, lips, and tongue
  • Decreased urination
  • Dry skin

Once you start noticing the signs and symptoms of dehydration, your condition might already be moderate to severe. Increased fluids are critical when you have symptoms of dehydration. Unfortunately, some beverages, such as alcohol and those with caffeine, can further dehydrate you.

Water Is Critical During Alcohol Detox

Around 60% of the human body is water. In fact, the brain and heart are made up of approximately 73% water. Even your bones are comprised of 31% water. 

Since your body is already under stress while detoxing, you must be mindful of your water intake. A healthy male needs about 3 liters of water daily while females need around 2.2. Of course, the amount of water you require will also depend on other factors, including your age, weight, activity level, kidney function, and degree of dehydration.

You may be wondering why water is so critical to the function of your body. Consider the following as you take action to protect your health during alcohol detox.

Cellular Health

Water is necessary for the normal function of every cell in the human body. It is a solvent that helps cells use and transport oxygen and vital nutrients. Water also fills the cells to give them volume and a proper, functional shape. Finally, it helps form the barrier that protects each cell.

Temperature Regulation

Fever is a common symptom of alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Only about 14% of people going through alcohol withdrawal will not develop an increased temperature.

Fevers dehydrate the body, but drinking water helps rehydrate the tissues and keep the body at a cooler temperature. Avoid drinking ice-cold water if you are running a fever because it can produce esophageal spasms.

In addition, soaking in water can combat an elevated temperature due to alcohol withdrawal. Soak in tepid water to reduce your temperature and help you feel more comfortable as you recover.

Kidney Protection

Alcohol places significant strain on the kidneys, especially if you drink too much or too often. Alcohol damages the kidneys and causes them to be less efficient at filtering blood. Alcohol also impacts the kidneys’ ability to regulate your electrolyte levels.

Water helps remove the waste products from the blood in the form of urine. The most common waste products are creatine and urea. Creatine is a normal byproduct of muscle function, and urea is a byproduct of amino acid and protein breakdown.

Tips for Increasing Your Water Intake During Alcohol Detox

Most people do not drink enough water. Knowing how much to drink is challenging, and there is no one-size-fits-all answer.

As you are going through alcohol detox, sip on water throughout the day, putting it ahead of juices, sodas, coffee, tea, or other beverages. The following tips should help you increase your hydration as you rid your body of alcohol toxins during detox.

Use a Reusable Water Bottle

Keeping a water bottle with you at all times is a great way to stay hydrated during detox. Although reaching for a sugary beverage can be tempting, it won’t be as effective at rehydrating you as water.

Sugary beverages can dehydrate you further because of the way sugar interacts with the body’s cells. Pure water is essential for your kidneys because they filter around 200 quarts of fluid daily. 

Set Alarms on Your Phone

Even if you have access to water throughout the day, it’s easy to get busy and forget to drink. Alcohol detox causes short-term memory loss. Setting multiple alarms on your phone reminding you to drink water will help you stay hydrated properly so that detox will be less taxing on your body.

Put Up Reminders in Noticeable Places

Since forgetfulness is common during alcohol detox, sticky notes or other paper reminders can help you stay on track with your water consumption. Stick the notes in your car, at work, and at home. Take a sip every time you see one of these reminders.

Drink Water With Meals

Drinking water with meals can help ensure you stay hydrated during alcohol detox. Accompany each meal with a large glass of refreshing water. You should at least be able to consume three cups of water by drinking it at meals alone.

Substitute Fresh Water for Sugary Drinks

People with alcohol use disorder will often crave sugar during the detox process. In fact, one study showed around 40% of individuals going through alcohol withdrawal craved sugar.

Sugary drinks and foods are not the best choices when detoxing because they lack essential nutrients and add empty calories to your diet. Some research even shows addictive properties in sugar. Clear your body of toxins and avoid consuming too many calories by substituting water for sugary beverages during alcohol detox.

Should You Seek Medically Supervised Detox?

Adequate water consumption is an essential part of detoxing from alcohol, but it isn’t enough alone. Most people need further intervention to help them be successful at quitting alcohol and progressing through detox.

Although a select few can stop alcohol cold turkey and never deal with significant withdrawal symptoms, this is not the norm. Most people struggle with detoxing from alcohol and may go back to drinking in the absence of a medically supervised plan.

Medical detox is an essential initial step in recovering from alcohol use disorder. Some alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening for those with signs of psychological or physical dependence on alcohol.

Medical detox involves ridding the body of the toxins produced by drinking excessive alcohol amounts. If you go through medical detox, you will have a team of medical professionals helping you get through the process safely and effectively with monitoring, medications, and other interventions. This team stands by to help you manage the withdrawal symptoms and make detoxing from alcohol less stressful on your body.

Medical detox is a part of residential addiction treatment. Studies have proven those who go through medical detox are more likely to stay sober than those who go through it alone.

Are you ready to begin your journey toward sobriety? Do you have questions about how to detox and maintain an alcohol-free lifestyle effectively? At Alcohol Awareness, our hotline is free of charge and available 24/7. Call 855-955-0771 to learn more about resources available to those with alcohol use disorder.