It's no secret that heavy drinking can wreak havoc on your stomach. But, in addition to running to the bathroom to puke when you're hungover, you may also find that you need to use the toilet ASAP to go, you know, poop.
Was it the pitcher of beer you drank? The tequila shots you ordered right after that? Or, was it the slices of pizza you housed at 3 a.m. on your way home from the bar? Unfortunately, when it comes to hangover poops, it's probably a combination of all of those factors.
Starting from the top, here's why your bowel movements are different during a hangover: When you drink alcohol, it irritates your stomach lining, which can cause a burning stomach upset, explains Alexis Halpern, MD, emergency medicine physician at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. From there, alcohol can "increase the rate of transit" of food from your stomach into your small intestines, then your large intestines, Dr. Halpern says. "So, it's pushing everything through faster."
When you drink alcohol, vasopressin, the hormone that helps your kidneys hold onto water, doesn't do what it's supposed to do. "You're not keeping in the water, which is why you pee out so much," Dr. Halpern says. Without vasopressin, your body also isn't able to reabsorb water in your intestines or gut, she says. "Now, it's pushing out a watery substance, because the water is staying in your intestines and moving out faster," she says. And, that's why you end up with diarrhea.
In addition to having looser or more watery stool, you may also feel uncomfortably bloated. That's because the bacteria in your colon feeds off alcohol, especially if it's carbonated, Dr. Halpern says. "Now, you're all bloated because the bacteria is having a field day," she says. "It's just a bad combination."
If you've found yourself in the midst of this particular "bad combination," the best thing you can do is hydrate, Dr. Halpern says. "If it's really, really bad, and you're sure that you don't have any other illness to be scared of, taking an anti-diarrheal can help just to stop losing so much water," she says. But, be careful when you're using any medication when you've been drinking, because acetaminophen (like Tylenol) can be toxic to your liver, she says. "If you want to take something for a headache, take a NSAID ibuprofen product," she says.
Diarrhea and hangover poops are just one more way that alcohol messes with your body. While it might seem like no big deal the day after a party, it's important to remember that "alcohol is really toxic," Dr. Halpern says. "The more I read about it, I'm like, Wow this stuff is really bad for us."
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