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How do you stop puking from a hangover? If you’re on this page, chances are you're having a rough morning.
It’s a surprisingly common question and one that doesn’t exactly have a straightforward answer.
Vomiting (or puking) when hungover is probably one of the worst symptoms of a hangover. And if you’ve ever been unfortunate enough to experience it, you’ll know that you’d do anything to make it stop.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at the causes of puking when hungover. And then, we’ll focus on all the things you can do to help you stop and recover.
Puking when hungover: why does it happen?
Puking while you’re drinking is different from puking when you’re hungover. That’s because the latter usually occurs in the morning after a night out, at which point, your blood alcohol levels should be low or close to zero.
In fact, hangover symptoms usually start when your blood alcohol concentration reaches close to zero.(1)
This explains why the hair of the dog method of supposedly "curing" a hangover (i.e drinking more alcohol) can delay hangovers. But it's a sure-fire way of guaranteeing an even worse hangover later so it's best avoided!
If you start puking on a night out because you’ve had too many drinks, it’s an early sign of alcohol poisoning as your blood alcohol concentrations are at dangerously high levels. This is an important distinction because it's very different from feeling sick after a night out when you've not had any alcohol for several hours.
When it comes to puking when hungover, there's no specific reason for it. Rather, it's a combination of different factors that bring on nausea which we will cover next:
1. Alcohol can increase stomach acid production
2. Alcohol causes inflammation of the stomach lining
Alcohol is a toxin. It’s an irritant and inflames the stomach lining leaving it in a fragile and delicate state.(3)
3. Congeners in alcohol
Darker-colored drinks such as bourbon and red wine contain higher concentrations of congeners. These are naturally occurring by-products that give these types of alcohol their distinctive aroma and taste. Unfortunately, they also make hangovers a lot worse by fuelling inflammation. Some people are particularly sensitive to congeners including tannins, esters, and acetone, and this may trigger an upset stomach after drinking. You can read more about this in our article about congeners.
4. Alcohol slows down gut motility
Alcohol prolongs “gastric emptying”. In simple terms, it slows down how fast your gut works. As a result, food sits in your stomach for longer.(4)
In summary: The reasons for puking when hungover are multifactorial. Meaning it's usually not a signle cause, rather a combination of factors including inflammation and irritation caused by alcohol and its by-products.
How to stop puking from a hangover
Now that we’ve got the science out the way, we can concentrate on all the things you can do to stop puking when hungover.
If you’re feeling nauseous, there are a few things you can do to try and settle your symptoms:
1. Have an Ice lolly
Ever been told to get some “fresh air” or open a window if you’re feeling queasy? Although it’s not completely understood why this helps, studies have shown that exposure to cold helps.(5)
In fact, some researchers have given ice lollies instead of anti-sickness medications to people experiencing nausea from anesthetic agents following surgery. They found Ice pops work just as well as medicines.(6)
You could also try sucking on ice as an alternative. This will have a soothing effect as well as hydrate you slowly.
Ginger is a research-backed natural anti-sickness remedy. Making yourself a ginger tea or taking ginger supplements could help settle your symptoms. Obviously, it depends if you’re able to hold it down in the first place and whether you actually like the taste of ginger!
There are studies that have shown that peppermint can settle upset stomachs. It’s commonly used to help with abdominal cramps which you may have if you’ve been puking.
Although it’s a contentious area of science, there is some (albeit limited) evidence that has shown acupressure can reduce nausea. In any case, it's an easy thing to try with no real downsides.
Things to avoid
Now that we’ve gone through all the things you can do to help you stop puking when hungover, we thought it’s important to go over some things you should avoid as well.
Eating food if you’re puking or feeling nauseous when hungover should be avoided. It may seem like the logical step to take, but it’s unlikely to help and could make matters worse.
It’s best to wait until you’re feeling better to start eating again. To boost your sugar levels and provide your body with some fuel, you could sip on a sugary drink instead of trying to eat.
2. Making yourself puke more
You may have heard that making yourself puke, even more, is good to rid your body of “toxins”. However, there is no scientific basis for this. There is absolutely no need to make yourself puke when hungover and it will only do more harm. More on this in the next section.
Is puking good for a hangover?
Puking when hungover causes further stress on your body because you’ll be losing more fluid and electrolytes from your stomach.
Forcing yourself to puke is not recommended and will make matters worse. In some cases, it can even be dangerous as forceful and unnecessary vomiting can tear small blood vessels in your stomach and esophagus causing bleeds.
Anything else to consider?
If you’re puking when you’ve got a hangover, it’s a good sign from your body that you’ve had way too much for your body to handle. The best way to prevent it from happening in the future is to reduce your alcohol intake.
Other than this, eating before drinking as well as ensuring that you're properly hydrated throughout the night can also help.
It’s also important to bear in mind that puking can be a sign of other illnesses such as food poisoning. If you’re puking persistently throughout the day, it’s a sign that it may not just be from your hangover. At this point, it’s important to get on the phone with your doctor.
Puking when hungover – Final words
That brings us to the end of our look into why hangovers cause some people to puke and all the things you can do to stop it.
We’ve walked you through the basic things that you need to know about why drinking too much can cause you to puke when hungover. In addition, we’ve gone through some things to avoid in order to prevent things from getting worse.
If you’re puking is persistent throughout the day, it’s a reason to think twice about blaming only the hangover as a cause. In which case you should speak to your doctor for advice.