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Alcohol and Health

Why Is My Throat Sore After Drinking?

July 20, 2023
10 min read
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Written by
Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
July 20, 2023
10 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
July 20, 2023
10 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
July 20, 2023
10 min read
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Reframe Content Team
July 20, 2023
10 min read

It's the end of a long, tiring week, and we're celebrating the arrival of the weekend with our friends. The atmosphere is vibrant, punctuated by hearty laughter, spirited conversation, and glasses of our favorite alcoholic beverages. It's a beautiful time, a moment of relaxation and enjoyment that many of us cherish. But come the next morning, along with the notorious hangover, we're often greeted by an uncomfortable sensation — a dry, scratchy, sore throat. Could our beloved beverages be the cause? Unfortunately, the answer is yes.

Alcohol's Dehydrating Design

Woman in bed, holding her throat in pain

One primary reason behind our post-drinking sore throat is the dehydrating effect of alcohol, which acts as a potent diuretic. It increases the production of urine, a process that can result in the body losing more fluid than it's taking in, leading to dehydration. Dehydration affects various bodily systems, and our throat is no exception.

Our throat is lined with mucus, a slimy substance that serves many protective functions. It lubricates the throat, helping us swallow our food with ease. It also traps dust and microbes, preventing them from entering our respiratory system. When we're dehydrated, our body lacks the fluid necessary to produce this protective layer of mucus. The consequence? A dry, irritated throat that feels scratchy and sore. That delightful alcoholic drink might be setting the stage for the not-so-delightful scratchy sensation we experience the next day.

The Acid Reflux Issue

The next piece of the puzzle is the impact of alcohol on our digestive system, particularly a condition known as acid reflux. Our stomach is a highly acidic environment — it has to be, to digest our food. This acidity is usually confined to the stomach, thanks to a band of muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The LES acts like a trap door, allowing food to enter the stomach while preventing stomach acid from flowing back into the esophagus.

Alcohol can interfere with this finely-tuned system. It relaxes the LES, reducing its ability to prevent the backflow of stomach acid. When we drink alcohol, we might be paving the way for acid reflux: stomach acid travels back up into the esophagus, causing a burning sensation commonly known as heartburn. But the repercussions don't end there. If this acidic content reaches our throat, it can cause inflammation and damage to the throat lining. The result? A painful, sore throat that can last for hours or even days after drinking.

Why Is My Throat Sore After Drinking

The Immune System Intrusion

Another fascinating aspect of alcohol's effect on our body is its influence on our immune system. We usually associate alcohol with relaxation and enjoyment, rarely considering its impacts on our body's defense mechanisms. Unfortunately, alcohol can weaken our immune function, leaving us more vulnerable to infections.

This immune system disruption is particularly relevant when we consider the sore throat scenario. Alcohol, especially in excessive amounts, inhibits our immune system's ability to fend off infections. At the same time, alcohol alters the environment in our throat, potentially allowing bacteria to thrive. Consequently, we might find ourselves dealing with bacterial infections like strep throat, manifesting as a painful sore throat the morning after a drinking session. A boozy night out might inadvertently open the doors to unwelcome microbial guests in our throat.

The Irritation Situation

Finally, it's important to consider that alcohol is an irritant. Whether it's a smooth glass of wine, a hoppy pint of beer, or a potent shot of spirits, when we consume alcoholic beverages, they inevitably come into direct contact with the lining of our throat.

This contact can cause irritation, leading to inflammation and a subsequent sore throat. The extent of this irritation can vary based on several factors, such as the alcohol content of the beverage and the presence of certain mixers, which might exacerbate the throat's inflammatory response.

Soothing Strategies for an Alcohol-Induced Sore Throat

Having unraveled the mystery of why our throats feel sore after drinking alcohol, let's shift our attention to possible remedies:

  • Rehydration is crucial. Drinking plenty of water, herbal tea, or other non-alcoholic beverages can help replenish lost fluids, soothe the throat, and combat the effects of dehydration.
  • A warm saltwater gargle can also be an effective relief strategy. Salt has anti-inflammatory properties, and gargling with warm saltwater can help reduce throat inflammation and provide comfort. If the throat pain persists, over-the-counter pain relievers or throat lozenges can offer symptomatic relief.
  • Medical advice may be necessary. Of course, if the symptoms continue for an extended period or are accompanied by other concerning signs, it's wise to seek medical advice. Healthcare professionals can provide appropriate treatment based on the underlying cause of the sore throat.

Our beloved social gatherings punctuated with alcoholic beverages can sometimes have unwelcome consequences, like a sore throat. However, understanding why this happens allows us to better manage, and even prevent, the discomfort. By drinking mindfully, we can continue to enjoy our social occasions — without the dreaded morning-after sore throat. So the next time we're raising our glasses together, let's do so intentionally, with a focus on our well-being.

Tips To Prevent a Sore Throat

Finally, here are some tips to keep that throat from getting sore.

  1. Hydrate. That’s by far the most important — drinking plenty of water is key when it comes to keeping your throat healthy and moist. Not a fan of water? Warm tea or broth will do the trick. 
  2. Keep germs away. You know how parents always tell kids to wash their hands? Let’s not forget this as adults! Keeping your hands clean is the key to avoiding infections that can harm your throat.
  3. Avoid irritants. Smoke, cleaning products, and other airborne irritants can make throat discomfort worse, so stay away from them as much as you can.
  4. Use a humidifier. Dry air can irritate your throat, and using a humidifier in your home can be an easy way to keep the air moist.
  5. Watch what you eat. Foods that are too spicy or acidic might irritate the throat. Opt for soft, neutral foods if you’re experiencing throat pain. And, of course, cut back on booze as much as you can!
  6. Give your voice a rest. Talking too much, yelling, or speaking in a high pitch can strain your vocal cords and irritate your throat. Plus, it’s good manners anyway.

With these tips, you’ll be feeling better in no time. After all, it’s hard to focus on enjoying life with a nagging pain in your throat — or anywhere else for that matter. And remember, with less alcohol in your life, it’s not just your throat that will be feeling its best — the rest of your body will, too!

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