Drinking Makes You Thirsty – And That is a Good Thing!


By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder

At some point, you may have been told that alcohol does not really dehydrate you. This is simply not true. Today, I want to talk about the dehydrating effects of alcohol, why it’s important to know about them and what you can do to counter dehydration and its risks when and if you decide to drink alcohol.

Alcohol can and does dehydrate you! And you may be asking how taking in a liquid can cause you to lose liquids to the point of dehydration. Well, there are many reasons.   

The first is that alcohol, along with other beverages such as coffee, has a diuretic effect on your body. This basically means it will cause your body to eliminate more water than it should through your urine. It does this by blocking the release of a hormone that is needed for water reabsorption.  

How Significant is its Diuretic Effect?  

Some studies have shown that drinking four 2-ounce shots of liquor can result in the elimination of up to one quart of liquid as urine.  

Yes, eight ounces (one cup) can result in a four-fold increase in liquid eliminated. This is why you may often find yourself going to the bathroom more frequently when you drink than you do, say, while sitting at the office. And to complicate matters, if you are also taking any medication that has a diuretic effect, such as for high blood pressure, the amount of dehydration may be increased even more.

And if you overdo it, alcohol can trigger the vomiting response. Vomiting, among its other risk factors, depletes your body of fluids and makes whatever dehydration you may be experiencing from the diuretic effect of alcohol even worse.

Lastly, there is a condition called urinary frequency which causes you to feel that you need to empty your bladder more frequently than usual. This condition can exacerbate the already dehydrating effects of alcohol.

The Signs and Risks of Dehydration

While extreme symptoms of dehydration, such as fainting, are hard to miss, it’s more likely that you will first have far more subtle signs that you’re not getting enough fluids while you’re drinking.

Some of these may also be an effect of the alcohol itself, so keep an eye out both on yourself and on your friends. And have them do the same for you. These include:

  • A dry, sticky mouth (the famous “cotton mouth”)
  • Sleepiness or tiredness
  • Headache
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Dark color to your urine
  • Thirst
  • Dry skin

Knowing the signs of dehydration is especially important given that up to 75% of us are dehydrated and don’t even know it. This means that increasing this dehydration by even a small amount can have negative health consequences, including:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Ulcers
  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney stones and kidney disease
  • Nutritional imbalances, especially magnesium and iron
  • Constipation
  • Stroke and coronary artery disease
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Venous thromboembolism

How Can You be Proactive?

1. One of the best ways to combat alcohol-related dehydration is to listen to your body.  Recent research suggests that while alcohol does make you lose fluids faster than you otherwise would, it also works to compensate for this loss by stimulating the thirst center of your brain. 

So, if you feel more thirsty while drinking or afterward, be sure to drink some water. One trick that will help keep you hydrated is to drink a glass of water before you start drinking and then alternating an alcoholic beverage with water or a non-alcoholic beverage.  

2. You also need to remember that being hydrated is more than just drinking water. It’s also important to know if you have the right balance of water both throughout your body as well as inside and outside of your cells. Water inside your cells is called intracellular water (ICW). Water outside your cells is called extracellular water (ECW).

Having too little water inside your cells is not healthy. 

3. Also keep in mind you can get part of your daily water needs from some of the foods you eat. In the United States it is estimated that about 22% of water comes from our food. Eat water-rich foods, like cucumbers (which are about 95% water) and watermelon (which is about 90% water). Not only will you be helping yourself get your daily water needs, but you will also be getting critical vitamins and minerals your body needs to stay healthy. As a general rule of thumb, fresh fruits and vegetables have a higher water content than most foods. Eating soups, preferably homemade (canned soups have a lot of added sodium), are also a great option for “eating” your water.

4. Finally, if you find yourself drinking a lot, it might be wise to get  periodic nutritional tests so you can identify nutrients you might be deficient in like zinc, iron or magnesium.  

Enjoy your healthy life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.


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