Does Alcohol Withdrawal Cause Nausea?

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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Can Alcohol Withdrawal Make You Nauseous?

When a person goes through alcohol withdrawal, they can experience any number of uncomfortable and debilitating symptoms. One of the more common is nausea. Other symptoms may include vomiting, shaky hands, and a headache. 

Experiencing withdrawal symptoms is a warning sign that you may have developed an alcohol use disorder (AUD). Alcohol use disorder is commonly referred to as alcoholism and is a mental health disorder. People with this condition have become dependent on alcohol to function. They will continue to drink even though their alcohol consumption is causing negative consequences in their lives. These results of having an AUD may include financial difficulties and relationship problems. In the United States, one in 10 people over the age of 12 have an alcohol use disorder. 

An Alcohol Withdrawal Overview

If someone drinks a significant amount of alcohol for a period of weeks, months, or years and then cuts back a lot or stops drinking alcohol completely, this can cause them to have physical and mental issues. There are those problems that are considered to be mild, while there are others that are much more serious. 

In addition, an individual who experienced alcohol withdrawal is more likely to have withdrawal in the future. It can be a frustrating cycle, and it’s all due to how alcohol affects your body’s system. 

Changes in the Body After Alcohol Consumption and Withdrawal

One of the major things that happens when you drink alcohol is that it slows your brain function and changes how your nerves send messages to each other. Since your central nervous system adjusts to having alcohol in your body so often, your body has to work harder to maintain an awake state and get your nerves to communicate normally. When you quit taking in alcohol or cut back a lot, your brain remains in this heightened state, and it leads to withdrawal. 

Nausea and Alcohol Withdrawal

You may be wondering how bad your nausea will be after you stop drinking. Unfortunately, there is not a definitive answer to this question. Symptoms from alcohol withdrawal, including nausea, are different for every person. The severity of symptoms can depend on age, how much you have been drinking, how long you have been consuming alcohol, and any medical conditions you have. The peak of withdrawal symptoms is about 24 to 72 hours after having your last drink, and this is when your nausea may become more severe.

It’s difficult to know exactly what symptoms you’re going to experience. If you end up having nausea, it may show up as a mild symptom about six hours after you have had your last drink. However, there is a chance you will have severe nausea along with other symptoms that may endanger your health. This is why experts suggest that people who have been drinking heavily for a long time enter a hospital or treatment center for a professionally supervised detox.

Besides nausea, some of the other symptoms a person dealing with alcohol withdrawal may experience include both psychological and physical ones.

Psychological symptoms:

  • Nightmares
  • Rapid mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Nervousness
  • Foggy thinking
  • Depression

Physical Symptoms

  • Loss of appetite
  • Excessive sweating
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Headaches
  • Shaky hands
  • Pale skin

How to Deal with Your Nausea During Alcohol Withdrawal

In certain circumstances, you can go through alcohol withdrawal at home. It’s necessary to do this under the supervision of your doctor, but this isn’t recommended if you’ve been a heavy drinker for a long time. Make sure to go for regular check-ins with your doctor. Also, find someone who you trust to check in with you and get medical attention for you if you have seizures or other health problems that can be life-threatening.

Maintain a Relaxing Environment

The initial time period of alcohol withdrawal feels anything but calm and peaceful. Even though this is the case, you can try to minimize distractions and obligations before you quit drinking. When preparing to quit drinking, you should schedule time off from work, school, or other commitments. Plan on staying home or with someone you trust and relax as much as possible. Dim your lights and avoid anything that has strong smells as well as loud music. 

Hydration

Nausea often goes along with vomiting. If it gets to this level, you’ll be in better shape if you aren’t dehydrated. Make sure to drink small amounts of water and other clear drinks throughout the day. 

Get Your Electrolytes

Along the same lines, you might lose electrolytes if you have nausea and related symptoms. This is why it’s a good idea to keep some beverages around that contain electrolytes so that you can replenish them in your body. If you aren’t able to buy any, you can put a teaspoon of sugar and a teaspoon of salt in about two liters of water to make your own. 

The BRAT Diet

Nausea can really play havoc with your appetite. You might decide you want to avoid eating until you’re through with your nausea phase of withdrawal. However, you’ll need to keep up your energy, so you should get some types of food that you can eat whenever you feel as though you’re able to do so. 

The BRAT diet is a commonly used diet when people are sick or have some issue that affects their digestion. This stands for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. Do your best to avoid eating foods that are spicy, fatty, or salty. Eat these in small amounts more frequently rather than eating big meals. 

Medications

You don’t want to complicate things by taking any serious medications that can alter your body, but over-the-counter medications such as a common antacid can offer some relief. For other options that may be available to you, reach out to your doctor to get recommendations. 

Natural Nausea Remedies

Ginger is one natural thing that is said to prevent nausea and vomiting, and you can make ginger tea in hot water with a teaspoon of dried ginger root. Cumin, peppermint, cinnamon, and lemon juice added to water are also good for easing the stomach. 

Recognize When Symptoms Get Severe

Nausea typically is something that you can deal with at home on your own for the most part. However, nausea is a health concern when you end up vomiting frequently and can’t keep down any liquids at all. If this happens, you’ll need medical help. You also should contact a medical professional or go straight to your doctor or emergency department if you have any blood in your vomit. 

Treatment Available for Alcohol Withdrawal Nausea and More

Even though you can deal with many of these withdrawal symptoms at home, many people benefit from detoxing at a recovery facility. The staff at such facilities are well-equipped to treat your alcohol withdrawal. They can employ a variety of techniques to help with your nausea and the other issues you experience after you have stopped drinking alcohol. Remember that if you have been drinking heavily for a long time, it can be dangerous to go through severe alcohol withdrawal at home. 

Medical Detox

You probably require a medical detox if you are questioning your ability to detox at home. Even if you don’t experience a severe level of withdrawal, it can help you get through the process in a safer and faster way. This involves the use of a few medications to decrease cravings and reduce symptoms, such as antipsychotics, beta blockers, alpha-adrenergic agonists, and anticonvulsants.

The other advantage of detoxing at a treatment center is that a professional will talk to you about your next steps once you feel better. They can work with you to create a treatment plan that will facilitate maintaining a sober lifestyle. There are several types of treatment available.

Inpatient Treatment

During inpatient treatment, you live at a treatment center. This type of program may be appropriate for people who have been drinking for a prolonged period, may have tried treatment in the past, and need a more structured environment to avoid relapse. It is also recommended for people who have medical conditions or mental health disorders that will make treatment more complex.

Outpatient Treatment

During outpatient treatment, you can stay at home and continue going to work or school. Treatment outside of a facility may work for people who have a strong support network, have never attended a treatment program before, and have not been drinking for a long time. Clients who choose this type of treatment will participate in therapy at the treatment center, usually several days per week or more. Many treatment centers offer the option to switch to an inpatient program if you find that you need more structure to maintain your sobriety. 

Other Common Types of Treatment

Some other resources that can help you after you’ve been through a program at a treatment center include the following: 

  • Support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Free online support groups
  • Ongoing therapy with an alcohol use disorder specialist

The Alcohol Awareness Hotline Can Help

You may have realized that you no longer want the negative consequences that drinking has caused in your life. No one should have to suffer through the fear, isolation, and discomfort that comes with stopping alcohol use alone. In addition, if you are about to quit drinking, you have a better chance of success if you have a plan of action. 

At Alcohol Awareness, we know how hard it is to find support when deciding to get sober because we are recovering alcoholics ourselves. Our mission is to increase awareness about alcoholism and support people who are trying to achieve a healthier lifestyle. We have a hotline you can call to find a treatment center and other alcohol disorder resources like support groups to help you start your recovery journey. Our hotline is available around the clock. Contact us today at (855) 955-0771 so that we can help you figure out your next steps.

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