How come when you puke from food poisoning from bad food you’ll avoid that food (even if you know it’s not bad) for a long, long time but when you throw up from alcohol it’s usually only a couple of days before you’re willing to try again?


If you have some bad lasagna it can give you a pretty rough time for about 24 hours. It’s not unusual afterward for it to take ages before you’re able to even look at lasagna again. If you go on a bender there’s a pretty good possibility it’s going to make you feel the same way as the lasagna did for about the same length of time, but the chances are you’ll be ready to drink alcohol again within a couple of days. Why is that? Why does our body “learn” to protect itself from spoiled food that makes you sick but not from too much alcohol which does the same?

In: Biology

Because alcohol hits those addiction/pleasure centers in the brain differently than bad lasagna, lol. Also if you think about it, whatever the root cause of the drinking is, is still there.

I’m not sure this is always true, I still can’t drink Jack after a night of drinking too much of it and throwing up. This was 10+ years ago.

Because early humans didn’t have the luxury of abstaining from beverages that made them sick, so we are not as likely to develop that aversion. If one became sick from contaminated water and abstained from water as a result, he/she would die of thirst.

Instead, we developed alternative ways to avoid bad liquids- even today, we generally don’t like drinking warm water because warmth breeds stagnation.

In contrast, we have a lot of choices when it comes to food, so aversion to one specific food that caused an illness would actually have some benefits or at least fewer drawbacks.

I think because when you get hungry, you want to eat food but there are a large number of different foods that will satisfy your hunger. Since you have bad associations with that food, you’ll choose a different food to satisfy that hunger, until those bad associations fade. But if you feel like getting drunk, then only alcohol will satisfy that urge. So you *have* to drink. You don’t have another option. But you might try a different type of alcohol. If you’re drinking enough to throw up, though, then that puts you high up on the scale of being a drinker, as few people drink enough to get sick. So you’re probably going to feel a particular fondness for alcohol already. It’s a self-selected group. So your desire for alcohol overpowers any negative associations you might have from throwing up. And your memory of being sick is likely muted or even entirely forgotten by the blackout and memory impairing effects of the alcohol to begin with.

I cannot tell you how it works but I do know the mechanism may be pretty old because some animals have it too. Even though rats are physically incapable of vomiting, they will avoid food that has made them sick in the past.