How to Get Alcohol Out of Your System

Alcohol does some ugly things to the body that tend to linger long after you stop drinking. If your goal is to get alcohol out of your system for a month or you want to get and stay sober, know that you’re in for some uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal has a way of keeping you drinking even when you want to stop.

If you’re a social drinker or only consume large amounts of alcohol every now and then, it shouldn’t be too hard to clean out your system. On the other hand, someone with a long history of alcohol abuse will likely have a tougher time. When this is the case, alcohol treatment can provide the level of support you need to accomplish your goal. Keep reading to find out what factors determine how long the effects of alcohol stay with you along with some tips on how to clean out your system.

The Alcohol Detox Process

Alcohol detox happens in stages, starting with harsh acute withdrawal effects followed by a gradual easing of symptoms. The human body houses its own detoxification system that naturally flushes out toxins and harmful materials. The process and the length of the process vary from person to person. Factors that determine how difficult or smooth detox will include:

  • How long you’ve been drinking (months, years)
  • How much you usually drink in one sitting
  • Whether or not you engaged in binge drinking and how often
  • How many attempts at detoxing you made in the past
  • Family history of alcoholism

Alcohol slows down the body’s central nervous system, which affects major systems in the body. During the course of drinking, alcohol’s effects can disrupt your brain’s natural chemical balance as well as weaken the body’s systems. All of these issues can impact how long it takes to get alcohol out of your system.

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The Alcohol Detox Timeline 

The first step to flush alcohol out of your system is to stop drinking. While this may seem fairly obvious, it can be harder to do than you might think; especially if you drink regularly. Knowing what to expect during the alcohol detox process can help you feel more in control as withdrawal effects run their course.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the alcohol detox timeline:

  • Week One – Withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, anxiousness, headaches, insomnia, fatigue, shakiness, and irritability start to develop. Symptoms become more severe as the week progresses. For people coming off a history of chronic drinking, hallucinations, panic attacks, disorientation, and even seizures may occur as well.
  • Week Two – At this point, some symptoms start to taper off while others may persist for a few weeks, such as fatigue, headaches, and insomnia.
  • Week Three and Onward – For chronic drinkers, a stage known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome or PAWS may last for several months to a year. Symptoms typically experienced during PAWS include problems sleeping, anxiety, fatigue, and depression. While mild, they can still make it difficult to abstain from alcohol.

Tips on How to Get Alcohol Out of Your System

Drink Lots of Water

It’s your liver’s job to metabolize and filter alcohol, but your kidneys need water to actually flush it out. During the process of metabolizing alcohol, a highly toxic byproduct called acetaldehyde is created. In large amounts, this byproduct causes extensive damage to the liver, which can slow down the detox process.

Drinking lots of water helps supply your kidneys with the fluid it needs to flush alcohol and its toxins out of the body. When first starting detox, it helps to drink as much water as you can stand. This helps push alcohol out of your system faster.

Exercise

While exercise may be the last thing you want to do during detox, it works wonders at lifting your mood and helping your body’s natural detox system do its job. Finding an exercise routine that works for you can make this step more bearable. Exercise offers a range of health benefits that can help ease the discomfort of withdrawal in a big way. These benefits include:

  • Improves sleep
  • Speeds up circulation, which aids in flushing alcohol out of your system
  • Increased energy
  • Reduces stress levels, anxiousness, and depression
  • Promotes mental alertness and a clear head

Get Plenty of Sleep

As hard as sleep may be to come by during detox, getting a good night’s rest is essential. The brain needs this time to recharge and also clear out waste byproducts that accumulate throughout the day. If the body doesn’t get the sleep it needs, toxins start to build up, which slows the process of flushing alcohol out of your system.

Ways to help sleep come a little easier include:

  • Eliminate caffeinated drinks and sugar from your diet
  • Stick to a sleep schedule
  • Limit your exposure to blue light from computer displays and mobile devices

Make Some Changes to Your Diet

Alcohol’s ability to slow down the body’s processes causes damage to your cells and major systems over time. Also, in the case of frequent or chronic drinking, the loss of appetite that results can actually cause nutrient deficiencies to develop. Eating a healthy diet goes a long way towards easing withdrawal comfort and also helps your metabolism processes work more efficiently.

Foods to consider adding or subtracting from your diet include:

  • Antioxidant-rich foods, such as vegetables, fruits, berries, nuts, and green tea
  • Foods rich in whole grains
  • Foods containing high levels of vitamin B, such as salmon, romaine lettuce, and asparagus
  • Eliminate sugary and salty foods
  • Eliminate highly processed foods, such as lunch meats, potato chips, and cereals

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When to Consider Getting Treatment Help

While it’s possible to successfully complete alcohol detox on your own, there are situations where doing so can be dangerous or even fatal. Someone coming off a long history of chronic drinking can expect to experience severe withdrawal along the lines of convulsions, paranoia, and even psychosis. Under these conditions, round-the-clock medical care and monitoring are needed.

Even if you’re coming off a history of moderate drinking, detox treatment gives you a better chance of making it through the detox stage and preventing relapse. Ultimately, it’s the withdrawal experience that poses the greatest challenge to getting alcohol out of your system. If you’re apprehensive about quitting drinking because of what withdrawal may hold, alcohol detox rehab can provide the supports needed to ease the process along.

Sources –

  • ncbi.nlm.nih.gov – National Center for Biotechnology Information, “Alcohol Withdrawal”
  • semel.ucla.edu – Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, “Post-Acute Withdrawal (PAWS)
  • ncbi.nlm.nih.gov – Behavior Modification Journal, “Aerobic Exercise for Alcohol Recovery: Rationale, Program Description, and Preliminary Findings”

Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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