Sunday, June 12, 2011

Alcohol Tolerance

Friday night was a fun night.  An old work friend dropped in for a visit from Vancouver and a few colleagues and I went out to meet him for drinks.  It was a night of greasy bar food, alcohol and my first karaoke experience.

I had one cranberry vodka and a shot of jaggermeister early that night followed by the wings.  I enjoyed my mild buzz and the rest of the night was glasses of ice water and some awesome karaoke.  I know, not very primal/paleo, but sometimes it's nice to cut loose and just relax with friends. 

This was my second drink of alcohol this year and I've decided that it's going to be my last.  My first experience was a few months ago.  My husband and I celebrated our five year anniversary in February and I purchased a nice bottle of white wine to go with our dinner.  I had two champagne flutes (I actually don't own wine glasses) of wine and my husband polished off the rest of the bottle.  A few hours later I spent several hours with violent shakes and vomiting.  I got very little sleep and spent the next day dry heaving and completely ill.  I was very embarrassed of my reaction and my husband thought that it may have been something I had eaten earlier that day.  Being such a small amount of alcohol, we weren't sure that it could have made me so violently ill.  I felt better after 24 hours and went on with my life.  (My husband was fine, by the way, after drinking the rest of the bottle).

Back to Friday night.  One vodka cranberry and a shot of jagger followed by water the rest of the night.  I felt fine by the time we got to the karaoke bar and got home safe and feeling well a few hours later.  My husband was still up when I got home and we chatted for a bit.  I drank more water and had a cup of peppermint tea, watched a tv show and then went to bed.  There were no "spins" or nausea when I lied down, so I felt that everything was pretty good.  A few hours later I woke up with terrible nausea.  My body felt like it wanted to reject every organ inside of me and I spent the next hour or so trying to find a position that didn't make me feel like throwing up.  That position was curled up on the cool bathroom floor, my two cats hanging around me to keep me company. 

I realized that night that I had a zero alcohol tolerance.  I wasn't drunk, at least not by the typical symptoms that I've had in the past.  I didn't understand how I could feel fine for hours, successfully go to bed feeling well and then wake up with painful nausea.  I thought about some of the things I consumed that night besides the alcohol.  There were the greasy wings and a couple of nachos, but I've indulged in these things on other occasions when in social situations and never had a reaction like this. 

The next day I googled "paleo and alcohol tolerance" and read other people's accounts of similar experiences, but there are also others that say they gained a higher tolerance for alcohol.  It's mixed bag of info, but I seem to be in the company of majority.

I can honestly say I won't miss alcohol.  Sure, I have a favourite beer (Früli) and there are some pretty tasty cocktails out there.  I can count the number of times I consume alcohol in a year on one hand.   My chances with small amounts of alcohol are sending me into terrible sleepless fits of pain and nausea now and that's not how I want to experience life.  It's just not worth it anymore.

Has anyone else noticed their tolerance for alcohol diminish?  Do you limit yourself to social drinks or still enjoy a glass of wine with dinner or have you completely cut it out?  Let me know in the comments :)


  1. My tolerance for certain types of alcohol has definitely changed. I do well with clear liquors (generally straight up), but if I drink 1) anything sugary (including white wine, champagne, etc), or 2) beer, I have massive, debilitating hangovers, even if I don't drink very much.

    It's probably not be worth experimenting with, given how extreme your reactions were--sympathies for those terrible experiences. But it's a thought.

  2. Thanks for the suggestion. It's an interesting thought, but I think I'll keep the booze at bay for a long time. I'll have to keep some mocktails in mind for myself when I'm in social situations.

  3. So crazy - I am laying here reading blogs with a migraine and depleted energy from a night of drinking a whopping glass of wine, sugary cocktail, and a gluten free beer. I used to be able to drink a lot more and not really notice it. I was thinking that my decreased tolerance was from clean eating/paleo diet and wondered if there was some connection to blood sugar. I have been having the same reactions that you describe. I have been staying up a few hours after my last drink of the night - and I notice this nausea kicks in and I get this like 'waking' hangover - without having gone to sleep. I am certain there is some sugar glucose metabolization of some kind going on there.
    I am happy I stumbled on this post. I was laying here thinking I would rather be a non-drinker than feel like this and lose entire days of my life laying in bed.
    I tried clear drinks with soda - but the same thing happened. I'm with you for now, K. Booze free.

  4. Mine definitely diminished, a lot in fact. I used to be the guy that you thought would bury the rest of the gang.. but now, after one month of paleo... I can hardly stand a half a bottle of wine... I just can't believe how much of a pussy I

    Probably not a bad thing though... I am reducing the amount of alcohol I am drinking quite a bit since I started on the paleo lifestyle... and don't regret any of it....

    Something happens with your liver in paleo.. all good though...