Sweating after Drinking Alcohol

Sweating after drinking alcohol is a common symptom of drinking too much alcohol, alcohol intolerance and alcohol withdrawal. Learn more about why people have excessive sweats or night sweats after alcohol intake and how to treat the condition.

Drinking alcohol affects the body and mind in many ways. One of the common side effects of alcohol drinking is sweating or perspiring, a physiologic process where sweat glands in the skin produce fluid.

Reasons of Sweating after Drinking Alcohol

Alcohol metabolism. Why do people sweat after drinking alcohol? Like all other food and drinks, alcohol is metabolized after being ingested and absorbed in the intestines. Alcohol metabolism takes place in the liver which produces enzymes to break down alcohol before the molecules are absorbed by the cells. This process takes time, and the liver can only break down a limited amount of alcohol in an hour - approximately one 12-ounce serving of beer or about 5 ounces of wine. When one consumes alcohol at a faster rate than this, accumulation of the substance takes place in the blood, leading to side effects such as sweating.

Alcohol is a chemical substance that can cause vasodilation, or the widening of blood vessels. When blood vessels near the skin dilate or enlarge the skin becomes warm and this triggers the sweat glands to produce the fluid which is called sweat. This process, which is also known as perspiration, is a physiologic or normal reaction which is normally associated with other events such as physical exercise that also causes blood vessels to dilate.

Night sweating. Drinking a small amount of alcohol at a slow rate may not induce perspiration, but drinking large amounts may lead to accumulation of the substance that may continue to dilate vessels after drinking, causing night sweats. Excessive perspiration at night or night sweats are commonly accompanied by hot flashes.  Night sweats related to alcohol consumption is prevalent in individuals suffering from alcohol dependence. However, binge drinking on occasion may also cause this symptom even when one is not addicted to alcohol.

Alcohol intolerance. Some people however, cannot tolerate even small amounts of alcohol. This condition, known as alcohol intolerance, may be due to a lack of aldehyde dehydrogenase, an enzyme necessary to break down alcohol. Symptoms include skin flushing, excessive sweating and gastrointestinal distress. It is commonly seen among women and people of Asian descent.

Alcohol withdrawal. People who are physically dependent on alcohol may also experience excessive sweating when they suddenly stop taking the substance. This is a classical symptom associated with withdrawal from alcohol and may be accompanied by sleep disturbances, fast heart beat, tremors, seizure, vomiting, anxiety and even hallucinations. The severity of one's symptoms is proportionate to the level of alcohol dependence.

Functions of Sweating after Drinking Alcohol

Keep optimal temperature. Too much alcohol intake can increase the body temperature, leading to vasodilation and sweating, which are the body's means of maintaining optimal temperature. When the core temperature rises, the blood vessels enlarge to allow more blood flow to the surface of the body, thus releasing heat. This also triggers the sweat glands to produce sweat which further decreases body temperature.

Balance sugar level. Alcoholic beverages may contain a lot of sugar and this causes a sudden increase in blood sugar levels. The body reacts by releasing insulin, a hormone that reduces blood sugar levels. A spike in insulin levels causes hypoglycemia or low blood sugar and this is usually accompanied by sweating.

Flush alcohol out of body. The body has natural mechanisms to protect itself from harm, and since excess alcohol intake is perceived by the body as harmful, it tries to flush out the substance by increasing blood circulation, urination and sweating.   

Treatment for Excessive Sweating after Drinking Alcohol

Nights sweat associated with alcohol is a temporary condition that can be effectively treated by simply avoiding alcohol consumption. It will not only relieve the symptom, it will also prevent other potential problems like liver, heart and kidney disease.

For night sweating. Home remedies for excessive sweating due to alcohol include:

  • Proper hydration - Take lots of water and keep a water bottle by your bed to replace lost fluids. To replace electrolytes, one may also take an energy drink which contains vitamins, minerals and electrolytes.
  • Sage tea, or tea made from black cohosh or red clover can provide relief from night sweats.
  • Add some soy products like soy milk or tofu to your diet, since these contain phytoestrogen, a compound that helps relieve the symptom. Women may also use flaxseed oil which helps increase estrogen levels.
  • Evening primrose oil is a good source of gamma linoleic acid, and also remedies night sweats due to alcohol.
  • Maintain a comfortable, cool temperature in the room with proper ventilation. Remove blankets which may not be needed.
  • Wear loose garments when sleeping, preferably made from wicking material (polyester microfiber) which helps keep moisture from the skin.

For alcohol intolerance. People who cannot tolerate alcohol must avoid the substance, or otherwise try to find out and avoid what specific substance he is allergic to, such as grapes in wine or yeast in beer. Limiting alcohol intake and taking antihistamines to relieve symptoms are also recommended.

For alcohol  withdrawal. Alcohol withdrawal may be treated pharmacologically under a physician's guidance. This involves alcohol detoxification and taking medications such as benzodiazepines (Valium, Ativan), carbamazepines (Tegretol, Depakote), valproic acid, or other types of drugs.


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