A blurry image of a person pouring a alcohol into a glass.

Why does drinking alcohol make you dizzy?

Most people who have had a drink of alcohol (or two or three) have experienced “the spins” - or an impaired sense of balance. Do you know why this happens? The answer is fascinating and has everything to do with your ears.

A photo of a woman's ear.


The Sober Inner Ear

The presence of alcohol in the blood affects how the inner ear system works. There are three small fluid-filled structures in the inner ear called canals, and inner ear fluid called endolymph.

There is also a gelatinous structure called the cupula, which is filled with hair-like cells called stereocilia

When you are sober, moving around moves the endolymph, which distorts the shape of the cupula and moves the stereocilia, which in turn sends electrical signals to the brain regarding movement, balance, and more.

The inside of a human ear.


Alcohol Impacts the Inner Ear

When a person drinks, this system changes. Alcohol thins the blood, which creates a difference in the density between the fluid in the canals and the cupula. The shape of the cupula is then distorted in ways that are completely unassociated with how you are moving.

The stereocilia tells the brain that the body is moving much more than it actually is, so the person may feel like the room is spinning or the ground is moving.

In essence, alcohol causes your inner ear to make adjustments to your sense of balance that don’t need to be made, causing dizziness and loss of balance.

Here’s where it gets even more interesting - this sensation can begin at a fairly low blood alcohol concentration of about 0.08 - which contributes to this being the legal cutoff for when someone is no longer safe to drive.

A person pouring a scoop of electrolytes into a glass of water.

Natural ingredients & alcohol consumption:

7 Natural Ingredients to Help You Process Alcohol

So… what can you do now that you are armed with all this knowledge?

While there aren’t any magical solutions for curing a hangover (come on, science!) there are some known natural ingredients that can help:

8 Natural Products Containing These Ingredients: